1% Rule: A Digital Voyeur’s World

The human species are a curious kind.

1% Pie.pngWe are curious by stories and by the life of others. Our fascination of celebrity culture is a prime example of wanting to observe a better dream-like world. This fascination has, however, spread into the personal life of our friends, family and ourselves. “Stalking” in an informal digital surveillance term is the act of searching and looking at online information about someone usually (and easily) obtained from their personal social media accounts. The voyeuristic action has become embedded among our digital world and with no surprise considering a majority of users are considered lurkers.


The online world of user-generated sites can be split into three types of users: creators, contributors and lurkers. According to the 1% rule, coined by Ben McConnell, only 1% of users create content on user generated sites with 9% contributing to the original content and the rest are left just watching. (McConnell, 2006) To learn more about this concept, listen to my podcast below

So if 90% of users are lurkers then that is a lot of stalking! It’s a testament to how social media sites are being used. This rule has been proven by statistics where the creator to consumer breakdown for YouTube was as low as 0.5% and 0.7% for Wikipedia. Researcher, Trevor van Mierlo (2014), investigated the phenomenon across four separate Digital Health Social Networks where the rule of thumb also stood true though contributors were as high as an average of 24% and lurkers were only 74.7%. However, this is still a telling story of how a majority of users are just watching, lurking and “stalking”.


Lurking hoodie engaged.

So if a large majority of people are just consuming information without adding their own user generated content, what does this say about the sort of online world that have and the information that is out there?


Is it participatory if only 1% do the heavy lifting?

Well for one, we live in a world full of digital voyeurs who are just observing the rest and two, a majority of content comes from a very small percentage of people. This is can be considered a concern in a participatory culture with only a small number who are actually contributing. Ultimately, this can mean that any information online is only represents a few. Moreover, it brings into question whether or not we live in participatory culture if not everyone is actively contributing in someway.

I would contest that we are closer to being in an omnopticion culture where everybody is watching everyone. (Chalkley, 2012) Of course, there are going to be some who use today’s voyeuristic culture innocently, like a mum scrolling through her Facebook news feed to see what her kids are up to after leaving the nest, while some will use it for malicious reasons such as to keep surveillance on when people are away on holidays as to rob them.

The best thing we can do is understand that there is always somebody watching what we do online whether if like it or not. Heck, you could even by one of those lurkers who has been stalking me or better yet you can be a contributor and leave your comments below.


Or maybe you’ll even by inspired to create something from this….

after all, ALC205 students are an exception to this rule of thumb.

549 Words


Chalkley, T 2012 ‘Surveillance: Why is everybody staring?’ in T Chalkley et al. Communication, New Media and Everyday Life, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, pp201-214

McConnell, B 2006, ‘The 1% Rule: Charting citizen participation’, Church of the Customer Blog, 3 May, Retrieved 28 August 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20100511081141/http://www.churchofthecustomer.com/blog/2006/05/charting_wiki_p.html

Van Mierlo, T 2014, ‘The 1% Rule in Four Digital Health Social Networks: An Observational Study’, Journal of Medical Internet Research, Vol. 16, No. 2, Retrieved 30 August 2016, http://www.jmir.org/2014/2/e33/

Music in podcast: Blackout White by Young Autumn


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