I’m giving a talk as part of a forum on blogging for science publishers later this month and have been digging through the usage numbers for this blog. I was surprised at what I found. From my subjective point of view, I would have assumed that the various posts I’ve done on publishing and Web 2.0 were by far the most read on the site, as those are the ones that have spurred nearly all the discussion here and nearly all the incoming links. The numbers tell a different story. While yes, a few Web 2.0 posts have gotten a lot of attention (they rank 2 and 4 in page hits over the history of this blog), the rest of the top 10 are all science and protocol related (one exception–a post on the 25th anniversary of Molecular Cloning). The most read post on this blog is one about Keller explants (are there really that many Xenopus development labs out there?), number 3 is about BLAST and number 5 is about DNA/RNA Delivery. This was both surprising and gratifying–the main reason we created this blog was to help expose our protocol articles and to help researchers find the material they need to get their experiments done. People are using the blog as a discovery tool. Presumably the entries in this blog turn up in Google searches and are leading readers to CSH Protocols.

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92.5% of the comments left on this blog are on the Web 2.0 articles. This is also interesting, and supports some of the conclusions I’ve reached over time about Web 2.0 and online social interactions. As Jacob Nielsen has pointed out, only a very small percentage of a site’s readers are actually going to contribute any sort of content:

User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

* 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
* 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
* 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

It reinforces the idea that Web 2.0, wikis, blogs, forums, etc., attract particular personality types. While Clay Shirky might like to dream that we’re all going to suddenly spend our spare time editing typos on wiki articles, the reality is that actively participating in these sorts of forums only appeals to limited percentages of the population. I’m not convinced that science is about to be over-run by a generation of Myspace users who are going to behave in a markedly different manner (note that developer interest in Facebook, Myspace’s successor seems to be fading as well).

I enjoy blogging here and really appreciate the comments and discussions that have ensued. But I’m not the norm, and planning a business model around a very vocal but also fairly small minority does not strike me as the ideal path to follow. I do strongly believe that Web 2.0 concepts and behaviors will be adapted for use more and more by scientists, but I think a lot of the “one big happy community” approaches are misguided.