I've noted before that the idea of a participative, red/write web2.0 is a myth - that most people simply aren't contributing, just consuming.
Jakob Nielsen's research last year showed that participation inequality is the sin qua non of supposedly participative media, with a Zipf curve describing the relationship between the 1% who regularly contribute, the 9% who do so occasionally and the 90% who merely consume.
Today's new Hitwise research (ZDnet) tells us that the pattern holds true for video and photosharing also - around two-tenths of one percent of visits to both YouTube and Flickr are to post content.
The idea - the myth - of an open web to which anyone can contribute seems hugely compelling for many people. Yet the reality seems to be that the new media is practically no more participative than the old: it remains that there were more major contributors to the 1911 Britannica than there are to Wikipedia and the front page of Digg is controlled by fewer people than the front page of the New York Times. Which raises an interesting question. Given it is a myth, what is it about the myth of participation that is so alluring? We already know that the truth of the wisdom of crowds is counter-intuitive and that the human mind naturally recoils from probabilistic results (LongTail). So what is the big appeal of user-generated, user-edited or user-controlled systems - given that almost none of the users are bothering (or in some cases able) to generate, edit or control them?
Update: Adrian Monck is so much better at coming up with titles than I am that for the second time this year I have simply
stolen borrowed his del.icio.us tag for this post and retitled the post accordingly. Thanks Adrian!