On the Internet, Wikipedia says that:

1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.

Is this true for the Stack Exchange network?

  • No. We have far more people creating content than editing. Of course, if you don't count asking questions as creating content, the picture is different. Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 0:38
  • 1
    – random
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 0:39
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    @Daniel Fischer Data is available. This question can be answered.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 0:43
  • @bobobobo But I don't have the data, so I don't answer but just throw out a comment according to my unscientific observations. Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 0:47
  • It depends how you define "people" -- are we talking about "internet users" or "registered users of the site?" The latter can be answered (approximately) using Data Explorer.
    – Jon Seigel
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 0:59
  • 31%, 24% and 50% aprrox.
    – phwd
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 1:12
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    @Jon - People as in people. :) I presume the vast majority of people who just view content (i.e. the 90%) are not registered users, regardless of the site. Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 3:21
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    OCCUPY.... somethingorother. Can you occupy a website? Sniz, I need to think about this.
    – user1228
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


That conjecture is not true for Stack Overflow, the site with more data than all other Stack Exchange sites, combined.

Stack Overflow tracks over a million users, Here is post-edit versus creation data from the current SEDE snapshot:

                            Number          Percent
                            ---------       -------
Users                       1,045,590           100
Made Edits                    244,960            23
Created Posts of any type     686,089            66
Created Questions             509,085            49
Created Answers               364,366            35
Created Wikis, etc.               616             0
Created ONLY Questions        321,722            31

Right away, we see that about triple the number of users create posts as do edit them. Even if we declare questions as "not (worthy) content", we still have 1.5 times as many "creators" as editors.
Conjecture busted. busted

Of course, many more people view the content without either contributing or being tracked as a user, and identifying the number of people who "View" content is difficult.

As of the last SEDE data, Stack Overflow had 1.8 billion "unique views", but it is not clear how that is calculated. Many repeat-views are filtered but many aren't.

Of those 1.8 billion views, only 1 out of x views is a unique person. If we set x to 651, that gives us the magic "9% of people edit content". In that case, the numbers become:

                            Number          Percent
                            ---------       -------
Users                       2,722,627           100
Tracked Users               1,045,590            38
Made Edits                    244,960             9
Created Posts of any type     686,089            25
Created Questions             509,085            19
Created Answers               364,366            13
Created Wikis, etc.               616             0
Created ONLY Questions        321,722            12

(Note that "1.8 billion" was 1,772,430,030 and 1,772,430,030 / 651 = 2,722,627)

So, if that ratio (651) held on average, then we would have 9% of people editing, 13 to 25% (depending on if you counted questions as "created content") creating content, and as few as 66% to 78% not contributing -- Assuming no overlap between those who "create" and those who edit.

Since that is not a plausible assumption, the "not contributing" percentage would more realistically be 75% to 87%.

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    My, what a very long tail we have indeed :)
    – user50049
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 5:47
  • According to your numbers for tracked users, it looks like SE inspires a higher level of participation than is predicted by the 1% rule. This likely holds even if we account for untracked users, as long as x is not much larger than 651, correct? Commented May 1, 2012 at 16:39
  • I'd say that SE does inspire more participation, by design. Also the design encourages a user to be a "creator" before he can edit too easily. ... Note that "participation rate" goes up as x gets bigger and goes down as x gets smaller. At x = 1, the participation rate would be rounded to 0 percent. x = 651 is probably not too far off and still yields as many as 87% "freeloaders" -- close enough to the predicted 90%. What x actually means is that the given IP address or user viewed 651 pages on average. This seems plausible. I've viewed 1000's but many have only viewed only 1 or 2 Commented May 1, 2012 at 17:00
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    rule of thumb for our view count, it is at least 2x the number of actual views versus what is counted, because we are very strict. Last time I calculated it was closer to 3x if you look at Google Analytics and perhaps Quantcast: quantcast.com/stackoverflow.com Commented May 4, 2012 at 20:28

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