Most of What You Read on the Internet is Written by Insane People

Interesting observation by reddit user DinoInNameOnly – a computer science student.

So I wrote: Read this interesting observation – NB: By ‘insane’ this writer means ‘NOT NORMAL’ – and I must agree with him – AND I think that’s fine! (my comments in bold)

97-99% of users rarely contribute to the discussion, they just passively consume the content generated by the other 1-3%. This is a pretty consistent trend in Internet communities and is known as the [1% rule]

Take wikipedia:

More than 99% of users are lurkers. Or just users. Only 68,000 people are active contributors, which is 0.2% of the 32 million unique visitors wikipedia has in the U.S. alone.

As an occasional contributor to wikipedia I say that’s OK, those people are adding their bit. If they’re adding bias (and of course they are) that’s what the links are for, plus any additional research you want to do. To diss wikipedia is wrong; It’s a fantastically useful site; And, of course, to totally accept every wikipedia entry as the sum of knowledge is also wrong. Do your homework; Check the links; They are the ‘evidence’ you base your decision on. They will vary. They will contradict each other. Read  more than one. Decide.

One of Wikipedia’s power users, Justin Knapp, had been submitting an average of 385 edits per day since signing up in 2005. Assuming he doesn’t sleep or eat or do anything else, that’s still one edit every four minutes. He hasn’t slowed down either; he hit his one millionth edit after seven years of editing and is nearing his two millionth now at 13 years. This man has been editing a Wikipedia article every four minutes for 13 years. He is ‘insane,’ and he has had a huge impact on what you and I read every day when we need more information about literally anything. My theory: He’s a bright, focused savant / prodigy / OCD nerd. And I like that!

Amazon book reviews:

One book reviewer, Grady Harp, has written 20 800 reviews since 2011. That’s just under 3,000 reviews per year, which comes out to around eight per day. This man has written an average of eight book reviews on Amazon per day every day for seven years. I thought it might be some bot account writing fake reviews in exchange for money, but if it is then it’s a really good bot because Grady Harp is a real person whose job matches that account’s description. And my skimming of some reviews looked like they were all relevant to the book, and he has the “verified purchase” tag on all of them, which also means he’s probably actually reading them.

The only explanation for this behavior is that he is ‘insane.’ I mean, ‘normal’ people don’t do that. We read maybe twenty books a year, tops, and we probably don’t write reviews on Amazon for all of them.

So – 
If you read reviews on book sites like Amazon, you’re mostly reading reviews written by people like Grady Harp;
If you read Wikipedia, you’re mostly reading articles written by people like Justin Knapp.
If you consume any content on the Internet, you’re mostly consuming content created by people who for some reason spend most of their time and energy creating content on the Internet. And those people clearly differ from the general population in important ways.

– as always, xkcd nails it –

DinoInNameOnly muses, ‘I don’t really know what to do with this observation except to note that it seems like it’s worth keeping in mind when using the Internet.’ He emphasises again that his use of the word ‘insane’ is intended as tongue-in-cheek and ‘I did not mean to imply that any of them literally have diagnosable mental illnesses. (Me: I think ‘obsessed’ would be closer). I have a lot of respect for all of the individuals I listed and they seem like nice people, I was just trying to make a point about how unusual their behavior is.’

If you think about it: Pre-internet, if you wanted to know about Mars or Alpha Centauri you would have asked a cosmologist – hardly a ‘normal’ person; a person ‘insanely’ – or my word ‘obsessively’ – interested in what you happen to be asking about. I think that’s OK. In fact I think that’s great.

Myself, I’ve written about 900 blog posts over 13 years. That’s three posts every two weeks. That’s a sane rate, see. Perfectly sane.

And if you ous didn’t do crazy things I’d have less to write about, so it’s not me.


Jon Taylor replied: That’s way above the average sane lurkers output, so I would say borderline insanity in your case and in need of close surveillance . 👁👁

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s