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Researchers at the University of Georgia analyzed six years’ worth of Usenet posts, and you know what they discovered? Life isn’t fair. The most popular two percent of Usenet publishers who started discussion threads enjoyed 50 percent of all replies, while everyone else struggled for feedback.

What made some post-starters more attractive than others? Thankfully it wasn’t rampant flaming. The distinguishing trait was actually how factual they were: only 12 percent of posts by popular posters contained personal opinions or comments. However, posting a bit of news isn’t all it takes to win followers.

In a related experiment, 200 volunteers were unleashed onto “simulated” discussion forums and their behavior revealed an even more important factor. The slightly flummoxed researchers called it a “preferential attachment”, which pulled readers towards posters who already had an excess of followers. In other words, life still isn’t fair.


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