This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Motivation of Wikipedians

There was another interesting article in the November 2007 Communications of the ACM, What Motivates Wikipedians by Oded Nov.  I particularly like what he is going after with this study: why do people participate.

In order to increase and enhance user-generated content contributions, it is important to understand the factors that lead people to freely share their time and knowledge with others.

In the background work, he uncovered some likely motivating factors associated with volunteer activity and some additions from the study of open source projects.

  • Protective: do it to protect the ego / assuaging guilt
  • Values: do it for altruistic and humanitarian concerns
  • Career: do it for career advancement, to make connections
  • Social: do it to connect with others of like mind
  • Understanding: do it to understand to topic better / differently
  • Enhancement: do it to stroke the ego and feel needed / important
  • Fun: doing it is fun
  • Ideology: do it because providing the information is the right thing to do

Nov surveyed 151 heavy users of Wikipedia (from the ~3000 people who have setup personal user pages).  And the biggest motivations are the "open source" motivations of Fun and Ideology, with Social, Career and Protective motivations being fairly low.  They also discovered that while ideology is high, it does not correlate with the number of contributions that people make.

So, is the conclusion here that a social site will get high usage / participation if you make a site fun and connect to the ideology of the community?  The author didn't say that - maybe it is too obvious to say.

One catch here is that these are people operating on a public, open wiki.  I wonder how these motivations change when a wiki is setup inside an organization and people are asked / required to participate?  The motivations around career would clearly be higher, and I could speculate on several of the others.

Funny aside: I write this as I listen to the TWiT episode 121 joke about adding odd interesting facts to the profiles of this week's panelists.  (i.e, Jason Calacanis dated Sharon Stone in the mid 1990's.)

Jack's new adventure - Boston and Aspen Technology

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