No praise without effort: Experimental evidence on how rewards affect Wikipedia's contributor community

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No praise without effort: Experimental evidence on how rewards affect Wikipedia's contributor community is a 2014 journal article written in English by Restivo M., van de Rijt A. and published in Information Communication and Society.

[edit] Abstract

The successful provision of public goods through mass volunteering over the Internet poses a puzzle to classic social science theories of human cooperation. A solution suggested by recent studies proposes that informal rewards (e.g. a thumbs-up, a badge, an editing award, etc.) can motivate participants by raising their status in the community, which acts as a select incentive to continue contributing. Indeed, a recent study of Wikipedia found that receiving a reward had a large positive effect on the subsequent contribution levels of highly-active contributors. While these findings are suggestive, they only pertained to already highly-active contributors. Can informal rewards also serve as a mechanism to increase participation among less-active contributors by initiating a virtuous cycle of work and reward? We conduct a field experiment on the online encyclopedia Wikipedia in which we bestowed rewards to randomly selected editors of varying productivity levels. Analysis of post-treatment activity shows that despite greater room for less-active contributors to increase their productive efforts, rewards yielded increases in work only among already highly-productive editors. On the other hand, rewards were associated with lower retention of less-active contributors. These findings suggest that the incentive structure in peer production is broadly meritocratic, as highly-active contributors accumulate the most rewards. However, this may also contribute to the divide between the stable core of highly-prodigious producers and a peripheral population of less-active contributors with shorter volunteer tenures.

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