If you’re in charge of overseeing an online community and are frustrated because you cannot get more folks to participate, get over it! That’s just the way things are. It’s not your fault. In fact, it’s the very nature of communities, online or not.

“90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action,” writes international usability superstar Jakob Nielsen in Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. “On any given user-participation site, you almost always hear from the same 1% of users, who almost certainly differ from the 90% you never hear from.”

How do you overcome “participation inequality”? You don’t, says Nielsen. Recognize that this phenomena “will always be with us. It’s existed in every online community and multi-user service that has ever been studied.”

Read the article for insight into meaningful ways you can encourage participation that require little or no effort on the part of participants. As usual, Nielsen provides references to back up his assertions.

Now all we need is a bit of research into why some “community leaders” believe they need to control the communities they oversee. Ideas?