Paper Number

2393

Paper Type

Complete

Description

Online communities, like Wikipedia and Stack Overflow, have made a vast repository of knowledge available as a public good. However, they suffer from under-contribution in terms of quantity and quality. To tackle this issue, online communities have increasingly been relying on gamification, the use of game elements in non-game settings, to incentivize their members. The consequences of introducing such features on members’ behavior have remained elusive—partly due to the lack of controlled experiments. Herein, we take advantage of a natural experiment in which a technical online community introduced gamified rewards, which are awarded contingent on performance thresholds—termed performance contingent symbolic awards. Employing a difference-in-differences design using a comparable online community as a control group, we find that the introduction of performance contingent symbolic awards has a negative impact on the contribution behavior overall and that experienced members reduce their contribution quantity while inexperienced members reduce their contribution quality.

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Dec 12th, 12:00 AM

Heavy Medal - The Consequences of Introducing Symbolic Awards on Contribution Behavior in Online Communities

Online communities, like Wikipedia and Stack Overflow, have made a vast repository of knowledge available as a public good. However, they suffer from under-contribution in terms of quantity and quality. To tackle this issue, online communities have increasingly been relying on gamification, the use of game elements in non-game settings, to incentivize their members. The consequences of introducing such features on members’ behavior have remained elusive—partly due to the lack of controlled experiments. Herein, we take advantage of a natural experiment in which a technical online community introduced gamified rewards, which are awarded contingent on performance thresholds—termed performance contingent symbolic awards. Employing a difference-in-differences design using a comparable online community as a control group, we find that the introduction of performance contingent symbolic awards has a negative impact on the contribution behavior overall and that experienced members reduce their contribution quantity while inexperienced members reduce their contribution quality.

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