The “Participation Premium”

Data: Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, said in an article yesterday that he has 10177 people subscribed to him on FriendFeed, about half of the number of followers he has on Twitter.

Data: Allen Stern, founder of Centernetworks, said in an article today that Mike and I are one of the nine people that FriendFeed recommends (we’re right next to each other).

Data: Mike Arrington, according to FriendFeed, is my favorite user on that service. I like more of his posts than any other person, is what that means. So, everyone who is following me sees Mike Arrington’s posts and has an option to subscribe to them.

Data: 15,053 are following me on FriendFeed.

Data: Arrington’s blog is about 10x more popular than mine is.

Data: Arrington was named to Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people list.

So, why do I have 5,000 more followers on FriendFeed than Mike Arrington does? Especially since he has more advantages than I do (10x more people listen to him on his blog everyday than listen to me — hence he should be able to get thousands to join a new service simply by saying “it’s cool”).

I call this difference the “Participation Premium.”

Let’s look at how Mike and I participate on FriendFeed:

1. Comments. Mike has only left 17 comments, while I’ve left 2,356 comments over the same time period.
2. Likes. These are votes on different items, they basically are telling other people that you think this item is important to read for some reason. Mike has only done 6 likes, while I’ve left 3,625 likes.

What this is telling you is that you can easily get noticed in any community simply by participating. Yes, other factors do matter, but just by participating you’ll build an audience that “the popular kids” can’t get to.

In fact, this is exactly why Mike is at the top of TechMeme today. He participates in the blog world more than anyone. Holds parties. Takes his followers to the movies. Links to them. Argues with them, both on blog and on panels. He’s often seen here on my comments participating.

If you want to be Mike you’ve got to participate. There’s no other way.

Now, the question is, why am I participating in FriendFeed more than I’m participating in the blogosphere lately?

Easy: I think the community over there is geekier and more technology savvy (not to mention friendlier) than any other I watch (and I watch a bunch). It’s amazing how fast FriendFeed is growing, too. Remember, I’ve only been on FriendFeed four months. After being on Twitter four months I only had a few hundred followers. FriendFeed is a very viral community and is changing daily as new people discover it.

107 thoughts on “The “Participation Premium”

  1. Great post! I admit, I’m a newbie, and follow you on Twitter and FriendFeed — at least you’re not one of these guys who says “who are these people, I don’t want them following me!” They are not getting it.

    Keep up the good work, and setting such a good example!

    ~H

  2. Great post! I admit, I’m a newbie, and follow you on Twitter and FriendFeed — at least you’re not one of these guys who says “who are these people, I don’t want them following me!” They are not getting it.

    Keep up the good work, and setting such a good example!

    ~H

  3. Robert- I agree with your participation premium theory.Also, I have also noticed that you have followers without claiming to be a guru.And I feel that is a necessary attribute to have in addition to participation. I would like to call it ‘participation humility’. Not claiming to have all the answers, but rather willing to discuss and listen to different viewpoints. This is what makes your writing and views interesting.

    An example of Robert’s ‘paicipation humility’
    For Robert’s followers, recently I ran into Robert at the DC bash(hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk) and asked him innocently why he does not use a skin(template) for his blog. Anyone else, with half of Robert’s reputation would have looked at me like I have committed a sin or perhaps arrogantly ignored my comment. Instead, he simply said that he did use a skin. Later I realized that his skin did not load at my workplace due to filters(where I usually read the Scoblelizer). When I logged in from home, I could see the blog template in all its glory.

  4. Robert- I agree with your participation premium theory.Also, I have also noticed that you have followers without claiming to be a guru.And I feel that is a necessary attribute to have in addition to participation. I would like to call it ‘participation humility’. Not claiming to have all the answers, but rather willing to discuss and listen to different viewpoints. This is what makes your writing and views interesting.

    An example of Robert’s ‘paicipation humility’
    For Robert’s followers, recently I ran into Robert at the DC bash(hosted by Gary Vaynerchuk) and asked him innocently why he does not use a skin(template) for his blog. Anyone else, with half of Robert’s reputation would have looked at me like I have committed a sin or perhaps arrogantly ignored my comment. Instead, he simply said that he did use a skin. Later I realized that his skin did not load at my workplace due to filters(where I usually read the Scoblelizer). When I logged in from home, I could see the blog template in all its glory.

  5. Twitter shouldn’t really be compared to FriendFeed since FriendFeed aggregates your activity from everywhere else and Twitter is basically a Facebook status update. I just gave in and setup my FriendFeed account I had registered months ago and I think I finally get it. I am setting up a new blog today and I thought about using WordPress but settled on MovableType simply because of the integrated FriendFeed comments feature. I figured if WordPress had something similar, you would have it.

  6. Twitter shouldn’t really be compared to FriendFeed since FriendFeed aggregates your activity from everywhere else and Twitter is basically a Facebook status update. I just gave in and setup my FriendFeed account I had registered months ago and I think I finally get it. I am setting up a new blog today and I thought about using WordPress but settled on MovableType simply because of the integrated FriendFeed comments feature. I figured if WordPress had something similar, you would have it.

  7. It sure seems that Twitter set the table for Friendfeed by getting people used to such a service, hooking them, and then becoming so flakey that people looked to Friendfeed to feel the void. What if Friendfeed had arrived before Twitter? Would Twitter even exist or did it take the simplicity of Twitter to turn people on and hook them?

  8. It sure seems that Twitter set the table for Friendfeed by getting people used to such a service, hooking them, and then becoming so flakey that people looked to Friendfeed to feel the void. What if Friendfeed had arrived before Twitter? Would Twitter even exist or did it take the simplicity of Twitter to turn people on and hook them?

  9. Oh … and also Techmeme is a game, and Monsieur Arrington knows the rules.

    Still doesn’t make him likeable.

  10. Oh … and also Techmeme is a game, and Monsieur Arrington knows the rules.

    Still doesn’t make him likeable.

  11. Scoble I have written a long and elaborate comment… I guess it has been caught up in moderation since it had two links in it as well. Hope you that it will pass through your scrutiny sooon :)

  12. Scoble I have written a long and elaborate comment… I guess it has been caught up in moderation since it had two links in it as well. Hope you that it will pass through your scrutiny sooon :)

  13. Nice article Scoble. However you are missing the default factor here. Default is immense power see my article on it (http://startupmeme.com/2007/04/08/startup-advice-default-is-power/). This is how IBM allowed Microsoft to become a desktop monopoly i.e. by bundling its OS by default on IBM PCs. This is how Microsoft destroyed Netscape i.e. by bundling by default on Windows Operating Systems. This is why Google, and no one else, gets the most search traffic from Firefox Searchbar because Google is the default search option over there….

    You guys are recommended by default to everyone who signs up for Friendfeed. This makes you guys feel that Friendfeed is growing like a weed, and than suddenly you start talking about it. Which in turn will attract more bloggers to it. So this perception of viral growth over at Friendfeed will eventually lead to real growth over there (Read David Hornik’s article to understand the phenomena of perceived success leading to real success http://ventureblog.com/articles/2004/06/sillywood_part_1.php). So clearly Friendfeed was intelligent enough to carefully handpick some good bloggers as default. This has transformed you guys into their marketing team. And in return you are getting lots of subscribers aka lots of readers and page views. Good for both.

  14. Nice article Scoble. However you are missing the default factor here. Default is immense power see my article on it (http://startupmeme.com/2007/04/08/startup-advice-default-is-power/). This is how IBM allowed Microsoft to become a desktop monopoly i.e. by bundling its OS by default on IBM PCs. This is how Microsoft destroyed Netscape i.e. by bundling by default on Windows Operating Systems. This is why Google, and no one else, gets the most search traffic from Firefox Searchbar because Google is the default search option over there….

    You guys are recommended by default to everyone who signs up for Friendfeed. This makes you guys feel that Friendfeed is growing like a weed, and than suddenly you start talking about it. Which in turn will attract more bloggers to it. So this perception of viral growth over at Friendfeed will eventually lead to real growth over there (Read David Hornik’s article to understand the phenomena of perceived success leading to real success http://ventureblog.com/articles/2004/06/sillywood_part_1.php). So clearly Friendfeed was intelligent enough to carefully handpick some good bloggers as default. This has transformed you guys into their marketing team. And in return you are getting lots of subscribers aka lots of readers and page views. Good for both.

  15. >here’s no way you’re participating the way the rest of us are participating.

    I don’t know. How are the rest of you participating? I’m watching thousands of you and I’m keeping up with you in both quality and quantity. But maybe I’m missing something. How are you participating in a way that I’m not?

  16. >here’s no way you’re participating the way the rest of us are participating.

    I don’t know. How are the rest of you participating? I’m watching thousands of you and I’m keeping up with you in both quality and quantity. But maybe I’m missing something. How are you participating in a way that I’m not?

  17. Carl: I didn’t delete your comment. It was caught in moderation, which I turn on for first-time commenters to keep spam down to a dull roar here.

  18. Carl: I didn’t delete your comment. It was caught in moderation, which I turn on for first-time commenters to keep spam down to a dull roar here.

  19. I think the ultimate pitfall of friend feed it it initial learning curve….may users find the features overwhelming as compared to the simple twitter UI. Once FF revamps its fairly intimidating UI, more people will flock to it…until then…it will be us geeks who benefit.

  20. I think the ultimate pitfall of friend feed it it initial learning curve….may users find the features overwhelming as compared to the simple twitter UI. Once FF revamps its fairly intimidating UI, more people will flock to it…until then…it will be us geeks who benefit.

  21. and pieces like this are why those that block Scoble occasionally miss stuff that is ‘right on’. Agree totally with @coachDeb. Important post Robert.

  22. and pieces like this are why those that block Scoble occasionally miss stuff that is ‘right on’. Agree totally with @coachDeb. Important post Robert.

  23. Wow, what exactly did my post do to warrant being deleted? All I did was point out that one reason why you probably have more followers on FriendFeed is because you frequently mention FriendFeed in your blog posts and TechCrunch does not. As a longtime fan and follower of your blog, i’m disappointed to see that happen. All I did was point out that you have probably created more FriendFeed users merely by frequently posting about FriendFeed and TechCrunch does not so they don’t have as many followers on FriendFeed. Care to comment on why the post was deleted? You can do it privately if you would like.

  24. Wow, what exactly did my post do to warrant being deleted? All I did was point out that one reason why you probably have more followers on FriendFeed is because you frequently mention FriendFeed in your blog posts and TechCrunch does not. As a longtime fan and follower of your blog, i’m disappointed to see that happen. All I did was point out that you have probably created more FriendFeed users merely by frequently posting about FriendFeed and TechCrunch does not so they don’t have as many followers on FriendFeed. Care to comment on why the post was deleted? You can do it privately if you would like.

  25. Robert, a lot of good ideas in this post. There’s just one comment that I have, however.

    You compared your subscriber growth on Twitter vs. FriendFeed in your first four months using both services, whereby you had 100 followers on Twitter vs…. well, thousands, I assume, on FriendFeed.

    You wrote the following: “It’s amazing how fast FriendFeed is growing, too. Remember, I’ve only been on FriendFeed four months. After being on Twitter four months I only had a few hundred followers. FriendFeed is a very viral community and is changing daily as new people discover it.”

    Is it reasonable to assume a correlation between your FriendFeed subscriber growth and FriendFeed’s overall subscriber growth? That’s what you’re implying, and I don’t doubt that FriendFeed is growing very rapidly, but there are 8 other default recommended FriendFeed users, plus a number of other users, so the apparent link between the two growths is a bit uncertain.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that a significant portion of your Twitter audience has followed you to FriendFeed, leading to a large number of FriendFeed followers. Also, Twitter really helped lay the groundwork for an application like FriendFeed by popularizing microblogs and lifestreaming/sharing, so the general audience was probably more receptive to FriendFeed today than, say, two years ago.

    I’m just nitpicking on a couple of points, I do think your other observations in this article make sense and I’ve seen them work myself.

  26. Robert, a lot of good ideas in this post. There’s just one comment that I have, however.

    You compared your subscriber growth on Twitter vs. FriendFeed in your first four months using both services, whereby you had 100 followers on Twitter vs…. well, thousands, I assume, on FriendFeed.

    You wrote the following: “It’s amazing how fast FriendFeed is growing, too. Remember, I’ve only been on FriendFeed four months. After being on Twitter four months I only had a few hundred followers. FriendFeed is a very viral community and is changing daily as new people discover it.”

    Is it reasonable to assume a correlation between your FriendFeed subscriber growth and FriendFeed’s overall subscriber growth? That’s what you’re implying, and I don’t doubt that FriendFeed is growing very rapidly, but there are 8 other default recommended FriendFeed users, plus a number of other users, so the apparent link between the two growths is a bit uncertain.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that a significant portion of your Twitter audience has followed you to FriendFeed, leading to a large number of FriendFeed followers. Also, Twitter really helped lay the groundwork for an application like FriendFeed by popularizing microblogs and lifestreaming/sharing, so the general audience was probably more receptive to FriendFeed today than, say, two years ago.

    I’m just nitpicking on a couple of points, I do think your other observations in this article make sense and I’ve seen them work myself.

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