Phantom authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: the case of Wikipedia

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Phantom authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: the case of Wikipedia
Authors: Andrea Ciffolilli [edit item]
Citation: First Monday 8 (12): . 2003 December.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
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Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Added on initial load
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Phantom authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: the case of Wikipedia is a publication by Andrea Ciffolilli.


[edit] Abstract

Virtual communities constitute a building block of the information society. These organizations appear capable to guarantee unique outcomes in voluntary association since they cancel physical distance and ease the process of searching for like-minded individuals. In particular, open source communities, devoted to the collective production of public goods, show efficiency properties far superior to the traditional institutional solutions to the public goods issue (e.g. property rights enforcement and secrecy). We employ team and club good theory as well as transaction cost economics to analyse the Wikipedia online community, which is devoted to the creation of a free encyclopaedia. An interpretative framework explains the outstanding success of Wikipedia thanks to a novel solution to the problem of graffiti attacks-the submission of undesirable pieces of information. Indeed, Wiki technology reduces the transaction cost of erasing graffiti and therefore prevents attackers from posting unwanted contributions. The issue of the sporadic intervention of the highest authority in the system is examined, and the relatively more frequent local interaction between users is emphasized. The constellation of different motivations that participants may have is discussed, and the barriers-free recruitment process analysed. A few suggestions, meant to encourage long term sustainability of knowledge assemblages, such as Wikipedia, are provided. Open issues and possible directions for future research are also discussed.

[edit] Research questions

"This paper is to explain the success factors of Wikipedia"

Research details

Topics: Contributor motivation, Social order, Vandalism [edit item]
Domains: Economics, Sociology [edit item]
Theory type: Explanation [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "This paper employs "team theory" and "club good theory" as well as "transaction cost economics" to analyse the Wikipedia online community, which is devoted to the creation of a free encyclopaedia. An interpretative framework explains the outstanding success of Wikipedia thanks to a novel solution to the problem of graffiti attacks — the submission of undesirable pieces of information. Indeed, Wiki technology reduces the transaction cost of erasing graffiti and therefore prevents attackers from posting unwanted contributions." [edit item]
Research design: Conceptual [edit item]
Data source: N/A [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: N/A [edit item]
Unit of analysis: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: N/A [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"This paper has dealt mainly with the issues of authority, reputation, recruitment and retention of members in purpose–built virtual communities, engaged in creating horizontal collections of information goods. Some key ideas, drawn from theories describing teams and clubs, have been explored.

The case of Wikipedia, a successful project committed to the creation of a free online encyclopaedia, was examined. The principal reasons for the success of Wikipedia — namely, the drop in the transaction costs of submitting contributions and erasing graffiti — were described. It was shown how procedural and institutional authorities work for this site. In particular, the importance of reputation, as a source of authority, was emphasized. Reputation is accumulated through participation and that shapes a system of distributed authority in which every participant potentially may have a role in the development of the project.

The free/open encyclopaedia — an "impossible" public good — challenges some economic premises. The claims of club theory that excludible goods are more efficiently produced in small associations, whose boundaries are necessarily circumscribed by crowding, and that the public sector should have no role in the provision of clubs, are contradicted by the observed case.

This apparent mismatch however may be explained by observing that club theory deals with exclusive efforts, whereas open source and open content projects — of which Wikipedia represents an example — are in general non–exclusive. In their case, the positive externality generated by increasing the size of the network provides a stronger incentive that outweighs the assumption of club theory that there is value in exclusivity.

While closed affinity–based communities are exclusive efforts and may be expected to be spontaneously provided, open source and open content projects are generally non–exclusive. Financial support from universities, foundations and governments appears to be crucial.

Despite their positive aspects, virtual communities such as Wikipedia are not absolutely free of troubles. While the processes of recruitment and retention have been working quite well so far, but will they continue to operate in the future? Are the mechanisms that allow accumulation of reputation and hence, authority distribution, strong enough to guarantee medium–term sustainability, and to maintain the sense of trust and identity among members? Some instruments for entry selection, such as a compulsory registration, may further improve the quality of recruitment and therefore the outcome of the cooperative effort, without being detrimental to the community’s momentum. At the same time, more intense use of personal profile pages and a direct recognition of the contribution made by each user could foster a sense of trust and help retain retain participants. Finally, let me mention another problem related to the exercise of authority. If the number of administrators, retaining a certain degree of institutional authority, continues to grow over time, will a new complexity make it necessary to increase the number of hierarchical layers in the structure and discourage participation? This issue will need to be resolved at some point in the future."

[edit] Comments


Further notes[edit]

Facts about "Phantom authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: the case of Wikipedia"RDF feed
AbstractVirtual communities constitute a building Virtual communities constitute a building block of the information society. These organizations appear capable to guarantee unique outcomes in voluntary association since they cancel physical distance and ease the process of searching for like-minded individuals. In particular, open source communities, devoted to the collective production of public goods, show efficiency properties far superior to the traditional institutional solutions to the public goods issue (e.g. property rights enforcement and secrecy). We employ team and club good theory as well as transaction cost economics to analyse the Wikipedia online community, which is devoted to the creation of a free encyclopaedia. An interpretative framework explains the outstanding success of Wikipedia thanks to a novel solution to the problem of graffiti attacks-the submission of undesirable pieces of information. Indeed, Wiki technology reduces the transaction cost of erasing graffiti and therefore prevents attackers from posting unwanted contributions. The issue of the sporadic intervention of the highest authority in the system is examined, and the relatively more frequent local interaction between users is emphasized. The constellation of different motivations that participants may have is discussed, and the barriers-free recruitment process analysed. A few suggestions, meant to encourage long term sustainability of knowledge assemblages, such as Wikipedia, are provided. Open issues and possible directions for future research are also discussed.ns for future research are also discussed.
Added by wikilit teamAdded on initial load +
Collected data time dimensionN/A +
ConclusionThis paper has dealt mainly with the issueThis paper has dealt mainly with the issues of authority, reputation, recruitment and retention of members in purpose–built virtual communities, engaged in creating horizontal collections of information goods. Some key ideas, drawn from theories describing teams and clubs, have been explored.

The case of Wikipedia, a successful project committed to the creation of a free online encyclopaedia, was examined. The principal reasons for the success of Wikipedia — namely, the drop in the transaction costs of submitting contributions and erasing graffiti — were described. It was shown how procedural and institutional authorities work for this site. In particular, the importance of reputation, as a source of authority, was emphasized. Reputation is accumulated through participation and that shapes a system of distributed authority in which every participant potentially may have a role in the development of the project.

The free/open encyclopaedia — an "impossible" public good — challenges some economic premises. The claims of club theory that excludible goods are more efficiently produced in small associations, whose boundaries are necessarily circumscribed by crowding, and that the public sector should have no role in the provision of clubs, are contradicted by the observed case.

This apparent mismatch however may be explained by observing that club theory deals with exclusive efforts, whereas open source and open content projects — of which Wikipedia represents an example — are in general non–exclusive. In their case, the positive externality generated by increasing the size of the network provides a stronger incentive that outweighs the assumption of club theory that there is value in exclusivity.

While closed affinity–based communities are exclusive efforts and may be expected to be spontaneously provided, open source and open content projects are generally non–exclusive. Financial support from universities, foundations and governments appears to be crucial.

Despite their positive aspects, virtual communities such as Wikipedia are not absolutely free of troubles. While the processes of recruitment and retention have been working quite well so far, but will they continue to operate in the future? Are the mechanisms that allow accumulation of reputation and hence, authority distribution, strong enough to guarantee medium–term sustainability, and to maintain the sense of trust and identity among members? Some instruments for entry selection, such as a compulsory registration, may further improve the quality of recruitment and therefore the outcome of the cooperative effort, without being detrimental to the community’s momentum. At the same time, more intense use of personal profile pages and a direct recognition of the contribution made by each user could foster a sense of trust and help retain retain participants. Finally, let me mention another problem related to the exercise of authority. If the number of administrators, retaining a certain degree of institutional authority, continues to grow over time, will a new complexity make it necessary to increase the number of hierarchical layers in the structure and discourage participation? This issue will need to be resolved at some point in the future.
o be resolved at some point in the future.
Data sourceN/A +
Google scholar urlhttp://scholar.google.com/scholar?ie=UTF-8&q=%22Phantom%2Bauthority%2C%2Bself-selective%2Brecruitment%2Band%2Bretention%2Bof%2Bmembers%2Bin%2Bvirtual%2Bcommunities%3A%2Bthe%2Bcase%2Bof%2BWikipedia%22 +
Has authorAndrea Ciffolilli +
Has domainEconomics + and Sociology +
Has topicContributor motivation +, Social order + and Vandalism +
Issue12 +
MonthDecember +
Peer reviewedYes +
Publication typeJournal article +
Published inFirst Monday +
Research designConceptual +
Research questionsThis paper is to explain the success factors of Wikipedia
Revid10,905 +
TheoriesThis paper employs "team theory" and "clubThis paper employs "team theory" and "club good theory" as well as "transaction cost economics" to analyse the Wikipedia online community, which is devoted to the creation of a free encyclopaedia. An interpretative framework explains the outstanding success of Wikipedia thanks to a novel solution to the problem of graffiti attacks — the submission of undesirable pieces of information. Indeed, Wiki technology reduces the transaction cost of erasing graffiti and therefore prevents attackers from posting unwanted contributions.ckers from posting unwanted contributions.
Theory typeExplanation +
TitlePhantom authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: the case of Wikipedia
Unit of analysisN/A +
Urlhttp://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/1108 +
Volume8 +
Wikipedia coverageMain topic +
Wikipedia data extractionN/A +
Wikipedia languageN/A +
Wikipedia page typeN/A +
Year2003 +