micro-elites: how to get the best user-generated content

Andy Oram has a good idea

The idea of micro-elites actually came to me when looking at the Peer to Patent project. There are currently 1611 signed-up contributors searching for prior art on patent applications. But you don’t want 1611 people examining each patent. You want the 20 people who understand the subject deeply and intimately. A different 20 people on each patent adds up to 1611 (and hopefully the project will continue, and grow to a hundred or a thousands times that number).

Even Wikipedia follows this rule in some cases. There are some subjects where everybody in the world holds an opinion and a huge number actually know some facts. But other subjects would never see articles unless a couple of the few dozen experts in the world took time to write it.

A corollary of the micro-elite principle is that one of the best ways to help a project requiring a micro-elite is to find the right contributors and persuade them to help out. We should also examine the rewards that such projects offer to see whether they offer enough incentives to draw the micro-elite. The key prerequisite for good writing is good writers.