The Paradox of Novice Contributions to Collective Production: Evidence from Wikipedia
50 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 10, 2014
This study uses the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to examine the links between expert producers of collective goods, demand for such goods, and good quality. Since collective production settings lack a price-like mechanism, producers do not have direct information about demand for goods so they may fail to produce goods that are needed. In this study I identify a social mechanism through which producers receive, and respond to information about consumer needs across a set of heterogeneous collectively produced goods. Using a longitudinal dataset of 187 million contributions to Wikipedia articles and article demand between October 2008 and February 2009, I model the contributions of novice and expert producers to article quality, and evaluate the relationship between consumer need and novice and expert contributions. Findings show that novice contributors have a direct negative effect on good quality, but their participation in producing a good motivates experts to contribute and increase the quality of the good, thus mediating the relationship between need for goods and expert contributions. These results provide evidence that collective goods fail to satisfy consumer needs in the absence of direct information from consumers, and highlight the paradoxical role of novices in providing a cue about these needs.
Keywords: collective goods, non-price alignment mechanism, collective production, expertise, production, collective action
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