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

Alexander Staub*, Tom Grad, Christopher Lettl

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Chapter in book/Conference proceedingContribution to conference proceedings


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDigitization for the Next Generation
PublisherAIS Association for Information Systems
ISBN (Print)978-1-7336325-9-1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2022

Publication series

SeriesProceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS)


  • online community
  • gamification
  • symbolic awards
  • user behavior
  • natural experiment

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