A persistence paradox

  • Fang Wu Hewlett Packard Laboratories
  • Bernardo Huberman Hewlett Packard Laboratories


It is widely believed that persistence in most endeavors is essential to their success. By its very nature, persistence enhances both the quality of an outcome and its probability of success because people are willing to endure failures before achieving a desired goal. To test this hypothesis on a massive scale, we studied the production histories and success dynamics of 10 million videos uploaded to a popular video Web site. Our results reveal that while the average quality of submissions does increase with the number of uploads, the more frequently an individual uploads content the less likely it is that it will reach a popularity threshold. These paradoxical findings, which hold both at the aggregate and individual levels, throw light on the act of production in the attention economy.

Author Biographies

Fang Wu, Hewlett Packard Laboratories
Researcher, Social Computing Lab, HP Labs
Bernardo Huberman, Hewlett Packard Laboratories
Senior Fellow and Director, Social Computing Lab, HP Labs
How to Cite
Wu, F., & Huberman, B. (2009). A persistence paradox. First Monday, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v15i1.2776