Explaining Quality in Internet Collective Goods: Zealots and Good Samaritans in the Case of Wikipedia

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Explaining Quality in Internet Collective Goods: Zealots and Good Samaritans in the Case of Wikipedia is a 2005 conference paper by Denise Anthony, Sean Smith, & Tim Williamson and published in Fall 2005 Innovation & Enterpreneurship Seminar at MIT.

[edit] Abstract

One important innovation in information and communication technology developed over the past decade was organizational rather than merely technological. Open source production is remarkable because it converts a private commodity (typically software) into a public good. A number of studies examine the factors motivating contributions to open source production goods, but we argue it is important to understand the causes of high quality contributions to such goods. In this paper, we analyze quality in the open source online encyclopedia Wikipedia. We find that, for users who create an online persona through a registered user name, the quality of contributions increases as the number of contributions increase, consistent with the idea of experts motivated by reputation and committed to the Wikipedia community. Unexpectedly, however, we find the highest quality contributions come from the vast numbers of anonymous “Good Samaritans” who contribute infrequently. Our findings that Good Samaritans as well as committed “Zealots” contribute high quality content to Wikipedia suggest that open source production is remarkable as much for its organizational as its technological innovation that enables vast numbers of anonymous one-time contributors to create high quality, essentially public goods.

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