Mining Social Theory to Build Member-Maintained Communities

Dan Cosley

Online communities need regular maintenance activities such as moderation and data input, tasks that typically fall to community owners. Allowing all members to perform maintenance might make communities more robust and valuable. A key challenge in creating member-maintained communities is that we have little knowledge of how to design interfaces to motivate contributors. Social science theories of motivation may be helpful for making and evaluating design choices. We have used Karau and Williams’ collective effort model to develop and evaluate designs that motivate members by making salient the unique contributions they could offer to a group. We also show that using oversight to check contributions to a community database of movies increases members’ motivation to contribute and that peers can provide motivation as well as experts in this domain. Our experiments suggest a number of design elements and guidelines for increasing members’ motivation to maintain their communities.


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