Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I've Entered the One Percent

I got this rather breathless email from Otis at Goodreads today:

On behalf of the Goodreads team, I want to say thank you. You’re in the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads! Your many thoughtful book reviews help make us a vibrant place for book lovers.
And our community has been growing! We now number more than 20 million members on Goodreads.
Every day readers from all over the world are connecting over a love of books. And our 25 million reviews – including yours – are a big part of that conversation.
Thank you for your support of Goodreads, and keep reading! I’m looking forward to seeing what you think of your next book!
Now, everyone who knows me knows I'm rather lacking in the math skills department. So forgive me if I mess this arithmetic up.
Goodreads brags in this email that they have over 20 million members. I am, by their own admission, in the top 1 percent of reviewers, assuming, I mean, that based on the number of reviews I've completed, I have entered that sacrosanct 1 percent territory.
So, how high of a threshold do you have to cross before you get a similar email?
Well, I've done 183 reviews.
This hits upon something familiar in the social networking department: the long tail. Clay Shirky and other internet gurus show that most reviewers fall within the long tail of participants: Offering little by way of input. It's a site's smallest number of contributors that makes up the bulk of the site's contributions. So with only 183 reviews, I've hit the cream of Goodreads' crop.

But that number doesn't make sense. Because the email also says they've got more than 25 million reviews from those 20 million users. That means an average of about 2.5 reviews per person. If 183 reviews or thereabouts is the threshold to enter the 1 percent, that would mean that 1 percent would have written 36 million reviews. So there are more variable and unknowns here than I'm aware of. Or I'm just that bad at math and really should stick to English major stuff like this.
Social networks have to gather hundreds of thousands of readers in order to amass the numbers they need to get the content they need to keep their site going. So of that 20 million membership, 200,000 are in the top 1 percent -- and the threshold of reviews is, well, not high.
So I'll soldier on. Reading and writing little weenie reviews is something I can do. Hopefully, I'll be reviewing one of my own books there soon enough.

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