Leadership and Contribution Behavior in Online Communities
52 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2019
Date Written: October 11, 2018
Voluntary contributions from active members are critical for the sustainability of online communities (OCs). Yet how contributions evolve when active OC members transition to OC leaders is not well understood. We study this phenomenon in the context of the Wikipedia Request for Adminship (RfA) process, where any Wikipedia editor can seek promotion to admin status. Using data on 3664 RfA events held between 2004 - 2013 and the user contribution data of the 2768 unique candidates involved, we employ a regression discontinuity design to identify and estimate the causal impact of becoming an admin on candidates' subsequent contributions. We find that one month after RfAs, candidates who barely won their RfA bids contribute more than the counterfactual scenario where they do not win their RfA. However, the observed difference in contribution may be due to a disproportionately negative impact on unsuccessful candidates compared to successful candidates. We discuss implications of these results for leadership and sustainability of online communities.
Keywords: online communities, contribution behavior, regression discontinuity design
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