No praise without effort: Experimental evidence on how rewards affect Wikipedia's contributor community
|No praise without effort: Experimental evidence on how rewards affect Wikipedia's contributor community|
|Author(s)||Restivo M., van de Rijt A.|
|Published in||Information Communication and Society|
|Keyword(s)||collective action, peer production, reputation, status, volunteering, Wikipedia|
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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.
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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