In the past few weeks I have been involved in a number of different virtual, web teaming activities most of which involve one or more of the following activities: the use of chat groups, uploading of documents to share, editing of a shared document using collaborative software, creation and editing of a wiki, telephone conference calling and webinars. It struck me through this process that the virtual world is no different to the face-to-face world. Some people are contributors, some are consumers and some are conduits.
There is a rule of thumb (rough, as I haven't found any research evidence to prove it) that for online chat groups you can expect around 1% of the signups to be active contributors in the sense they provide information, resources and editing effort, 10% to be participants in that they will discuss and use what is made available to them, while the rest, if they engage at all, will be passive. A small number of those who engage may also act as conduits of information for those outside of the participating system.
For online groups there are a number of techniques to improve and increase the rates of participation and good virtual facilitators and moderators will use these. Similarly in conference calls and other virtual web teaming tools there needs to be guidance and leadership to help those who may be unfamiliar with the techniques.
However, let's look at regular communication.
To spread good practice we need people who will contribute to the generation of new ideas, who will help adapt existing practices to new contexts. This takes effort. We also need conduits who pass information along. Then there needs to be willing consumers of the messages sent out. I'm not sure what to call those who are not contributors, conduits or comsumers - I know some people will fall into that category!
For the next project I'm working on in spreading good practice and encouraging others to adopt better ideas I'll do some analysis on how many and who we think in the specific system are contributors, conduits and consumers of the ideas. And then develop communication and action plans accordingly.
Creative Commons 2008 Sarah Fraser Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derviative