Fostering Public Good Contributions with Symbolic Awards: A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment at Wikipedia

Management Science, Forthcoming

36 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2015 Last revised: 29 Sep 2016

Date Written: February 1, 2016

Abstract

This natural field experiment tests the effects of purely symbolic awards on volunteer retention in a public goods context. The experiment is conducted at Wikipedia, which faces declining editor retention rates, particularly among newcomers. Randomization assures that award receipt is orthogonal to previous performance. The analysis reveals that awards have a sizeable effect on newcomer retention, which persists over the four quarters following the initial intervention. This is noteworthy for indicating that awards for volunteers can be effective even if they have no impact on the volunteers' future career opportunities. The awards are purely symbolic, and the status increment they produce is limited to the recipients' pseudonymous online identities in a community they have just recently joined. The results can be explained by enhanced self-identification with the community, but they are also in line with recent findings on the role of status and reputation, recognition, and evaluation potential in online communities.

Note: The paper was previously entitled "Fostering Voluntary Contributions to a Public Good: A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment at Wikipedia".

Keywords: Field Experiment, Symbolic awards, Awards, Public Goods, Wikipedia, Retention

JEL Classification: C93, M52, H41

Suggested Citation

Gallus, Jana, Fostering Public Good Contributions with Symbolic Awards: A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment at Wikipedia (February 1, 2016). Management Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2579118 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2579118

Jana Gallus (Contact Author)

UCLA Anderson ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.janagallus.com/

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
241
rank
119,453
Abstract Views
1,561
PlumX Metrics