Fascinating piece on what they’re calling “mavens” in usenet — simply defined, people who answer people who dontt answer people.
In the mailing list environments I’ve built over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen the same kind of setup. On any mailing list, you’ll find that about 90% of the mailing list NEVER contributes. they watch. (the whys of this are fascinating, but maybe for another time if there’s interest).
Of the remaining, you’ll almost always find that 90% of your content comes from 2-3% of your users. There’s the usual chunk of people who pop up and post rarely — once a month or less, and most of those are one-shots who ask a question, wait for an answer, and disappear forever. And of that 90%, many times half come from 2-3 key users who’ve committed to being the voices and resources of the list. On large lists, that might grow to half a dozen, sometimes a bit more. But usually, there are a few key contributors, a smaller group of secondary contributors, and a small group of one-shot or very infrequent contributors.
Mailing lists (and USENET groups) live or die on those core contributors. If one gets pissed off and leaves, it can kill the list. They may retire or change over time, as fresh blood comes in and the older ones decide to slow down (or get a life), but if you stop getting the fresh blood, or you break the cycle in some way, yo can disrupt the cycle and end up with an empty echo of a mailing list. The maven exists, and is generally not well-recognized as a key aspect of the viability of the social group you’re building, whatever the technology you bind them with.
neat data proving this.