[Air-l] gini coefficients for measuring participation?

Karim R. Lakhani lakhani at MIT.EDU
Thu Dec 4 03:35:26 PST 2003

The Gini coefficient is a nice way to summarize the overall 
participation in the online community.  However, I would caution you to 
draw conclusions about egalitarianism/elitism based on just the number 

In my work, I have seen extremely high Gini numbers (very few people 
contributing most of the messages to the list) - and it may not be 
neccessarily "bad."  Two things to consider:

- what is your underlying theory about this group and how they operate. 
one may think that equal participation is a "good" thing.  but the group 
may have been structured to provide "expert" help and thus you would see 
  high GINI numbers.  so you need to really think about what the group 
is for - interview some key and peripheral members and then build a 
theory about GINI.

- there are also practicalities to consider.  a low GINI number in a 
list serv may mean that there is just a ton of noise.  imagine being on 
a list where every one wanted to chime in and give their $0.02.  it 
would get pretty noisy, pretty fast.  and maybe not very effective.

since all of us are on this list - it may be fun to figure out our Gini 
number!!!  list admins?


Karim R. Lakhani
MIT Sloan School of Management
The Boston Consulting Group, Strategy Practice Initiative
e-mail: karim.lakhani at sloan.mit.edu | lakhani.karim at bcg.com
voice:  617-851-1224
fax:    617-344-0403
http://opensource.mit.edu | http://freesoftware.mit.edu

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