In his recent New York Times article, "Customer Service? Ask a Volunteer," Steve Lohr describes a trend in which organizations seek out super-users to voluntarily contribute insights and advice in their online communities, speaking specifically about a trial project at Verizon.
As a scholar, the discussion of research on the different classes of users was helpful: a class of super-users who provide expert advice to others and suggest improvements to product design (sometimes making the improvements themselves), who comprise about 1 percent of a user community; a second group of users that actively participants as raters of experts' advice (about 9 percent), and the majority (as much as 90 percent of users), who simply read the contributions of the other 10 percent.
As a teacher of future creators of content, however, the Verizon trial (and other projects like it) seem like the embodiment of the "informal learning future" that so many in training and instructional design describe. But this vision of the future doesn't really hold much room for company staff, except to reward the 1 percent who contribute.
View the entire article at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/business/26unbox.html?_r=1&hpw.