Many people rely on open collaboration projects to run their computer (Linux), browse the web (Mozilla Firefox), and get information (Wikipedia). Open content web sites are peer production communities which depend on users to produce content. In this thesis, we analyze three types of users in peer production communities: consumers, contributors, and core contributors. Consumers don't edit or add content while contributors add some content. Core contributors edit or contribute much more content than others on the site. The three types of users each serve a different role in the community, receive different benefits from the community, and are important to the survival of a community.We look at users in two communities: Wikipedia and Cyclopath. Wikipedia is the largest and most well-known peer production community. The majority of the work in this dissertation is from Cyclopath, a geowiki for bicyclists developed by GroupLens. Since we built Cyclopath, we have access to data that allowed us to delve much deeper into the divide between the three types of users. First, we wanted to understand what the quantitative differences between core contributors and contributors were. On Wikipedia and Cyclopath, core contributors start editing more intensely from their first day on the site. On Cyclopath we were able to look at pre-registration activity and found equivocal evidence for "educational lurking". Building on this quantitative analysis, we turned to qualitative questions. By surveying and interviewing Cyclopath users, we learned what motivates them to participate and what benefits they derive from participating. While consumers and contributors both benefited by receiving routes, contributors were more likely to say they registered to edit. (Registration was not required to edit.) We also found that the Cyclopath core contributors aren't the most dedicated bicyclists, but they are committed to the values of open content. By providing a holistic view of users on Cyclopath and by looking at Wikipedia editors quantitatively, we discovered opportunities for new forms of participation, such as an outlet for subjective comments and annotations, as well a key to motivating people to contributing objective information, highlighting flaws and easy fixes in the system.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2014. Major: Computer Science. Advisor: Loren G. Terveen. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 158 pages, appendices A-B.
Panciera, Katherine Anne.
Consumers, editors, and power editors at work: diversity of users in Online peer production communities.
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