Online communities are online interaction spaces for people that break the barriers of time, space, and scale and provide opportunities for companionship and social support, information exchange, retail, and entertainment. Among them are online peer production communities that have a fantastic business model where volunteers come together to produce content and drive traffic to these sites. Although as a class these communities are successful, the success of individual communities greatly varies. To become and remain successful, these communities must meet a number of challenges related to starting communities, retention of members, encouraging commitment, and contribution from their members, regulating the behavior of members and so on. This dissertation focuses on the specific challenge of newcomer retention and productivity in the context of online peer-production communities. Exploring three different communities with entirely different structures and compositions – MovieLens, GitHub, and Wikipedia and building upon prior work in this space, this dissertation offers a number of important predictors of retention and productivity of newcomers. First, this dissertation explores the value of early activity diversity in the presence of the amount of early activity as a predictor of newcomer retention. Second, this dissertation digs into more fundamental psychological traits of newcomers such as personality and presents findings on relationships between personality and newcomer retention, preferences, and productivity. Third, this dissertation explores and presents results on the relationship between community interactions (apart from norms, policies and rigid structures) and newcomer retention. Fourth, this dissertation studies and presents the effects of various kinds of prior experience of newcomers on retention and productivity in a new group they join. This dissertation concludes by offering a number of directions for future research.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2018. Major: Computer Science. Advisor: Joseph Konstan. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 159 pages.
Karumur, Raghav Pavan Srivatsav.
Newcomer Retention and Productivity in Online Peer-Production Communities.
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