Can Badges Foster a More Welcoming Culture on Q&A Boards?
Thriving online communities rely on a steady stream of newcomers to contribute new content. However, retaining newcomers has proven challenging. In this paper, we measure the success of an intervention used by Stack Exchange question-answering communities to create a more welcoming environment for newcomers. That intervention consisted in highlighting contributions by new users with a special indicator. We hypothesize that Stack Exchange's new policy would reduce negative reactions to new users and, ultimately, increase new user retention. We leverage causal modeling to assess the introduction of the so-called “new contributor indicator”, and we find it did not counter user retention decline in the short- and long-terms. However, our results indicate it did reduce unwelcoming reactions towards newcomers in the short-term. Our work has practical implications for online community managers aiming to improve their onboarding processes.