The importance of sharing

After compiling my own list of the biggest stories of 2008, I was asked about which was the most read story of the year

Tags: InventionPhysicsSocial networkingWeb 2.0
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By  Mark Sutton Published  January 4, 2009

After compiling my own list of the biggest stories of 2008, I was asked about which was the most read story of the year. It's worth taking a look at, as our most read story of last year, is a powerful example of how social networking and information sharing can create effects that are way off the scale.

The story is a fairly innocuous look at the high speed computing network that has been established to process the data that should be generated by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment. The then deputy editor of Comms MEA, Derek Francis, spoke to Ian Bird, project leader at the LHC Computing Grid Project, and while the story didn't reveal much that hadn't already been disclosed publicly, it was a subject that hadn't been written about a lot, and interest in the LHC overall was growing.

The story first appeared in Comms MEA magazine in June, and then went live on the site on 11th June. But it wasn't until a week later, that things took off. I noticed that the usual site analytics graph was showing a very unusual pattern - one great big spike of site visits. A bit of investigating showed that it wasn't in fact an error, but really was showing a huge number of people reading just one story - the story got as many readers in one day as we normally see for the whole site for the week. A bit more investigating showed that 85% of this traffic was coming from one source - the content sharing network Digg.

What had happened was that someone had recommended the story to an IT and science group on Digg, sending new readers to the site, who in turn had rated the story positively, bringing in more readers. After a couple of days of people reading the story, interest trailed off.

All of which illustrates the power of social networks and what Forrester called the Groundswell, and just how influential online communities can be to any business.

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