Level Up: How symbolic incentives affect online community members‘ contributions

Alexander Staub, Christopher Lettl, Tom Grad

Publication: Other publicationsOther scientific publications


Online communities frequently suffer from the under-contribution of knowledge in terms of bothamount as well as quality. A common method to incentivize contribution behavior by members are non-monetary rewards, more specifically performance contingent symbolic awards. However, deepunderstanding of how performance contingent symbolic awards affect existing community membersthat differ in their experience, and by extension natural propensity to contribute, is currently lacking. Anatural experiment is exploited herein, and by analyzing user-week panel data, spanning 48 weeks andapproximately 4000 community members, preliminary results show a negative effect of badgeintroduction on contribution numbers and an insignificant effect on contribution quality in aggregate.Including the moderator for experience, we find that low experience members significantly reducetheir contribution quality while not changing their contribution amount, and high experience membersreduce their contribution quantity without decreasing their contribution quality. This researchcontributes to the theory on new forms of organizing, in addition to fostering scholarly discourse onthe literature on symbolic awards and online public goods contributions.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputSTR Doctoral Consortium at AOM Annual Conference
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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