Ross Mayfield has come up with a way to deconstruct the concept of participation, peeling it back so that is has some granularity. Not all participants participate with an equal level of engagement, as illustrated in the Power Law of Participation Ross came up, below.
An excerpt from his post:
As we engage with the web, we leave behind breadcrumbs of attention. Even when we Read, our patterns are picked up in referral logs (especially with expressly designed tools, like Measure Map), creating a feedback loop. But reading alone isn't enough to fulfill our innate desire to remix our media, consumption is active for consumers turned users.
Digg is the archetype for low threshold participation. Simply Favorite something you find of interest, a one click action. You don't even have to log in to contribute value, you have Permission to Participate. Del.icio.us taps both personal and social incentives for participation through the low threshold activity of tagging. Remembering the URL is the hardest part, and you have to establish an identity in the system. Commenting requires such identity for sake of spam these days and is an under-developed area. Subscribing requires a commitement of sustained attention which greatly surpasses reading alone. Sharing is the principal activity in these communities, but much of it occurs out of band (email still lives). We Network not only to connect, but leverage the social network as a filter to fend off information overload. Some of us Write, as in blog, and some of us even have conversations. But these are all activities that can remain peripheral to community. To Refactor, Collaborate, Moderate and Lead requires a different level of engagement — which makes up the core of a community.