This was of particular interest to me given the great deal of work and research we have done at ChaCha building a scalable online workforce of knowledgeable people who are motivated to help others. The article is focused entirely on the motivations and corresponding contribution levels among those who write and edit articles on Wikipedia.
One extremely important factor that is not addressed at all in the findings is that of the credibility and accuracy of information that is delivered. Wikipedia has been banned in at least one case as a credible source for definitive information which indicates that the investigation into what motivates those who provide user-generated content lacks sufficient depth. To make this data truly meaningful it seems that one must also look into what motivates those who provide accurate contributions to user-generated content projects. For now, let's just focus on the analysis in Oded's article as it is interesting and useful.
Oded asserts that user-generated content is simply another form of volunteering. And, as such, the factors underpinning volunteering activity can help explain why people contribute to Wikipedia. Those factors are fun, ideology, values, understanding, enhancement, protective, career, and social. In looking at the correlation between these factors and user contribution levels, the following key observations were made:
- Fun ("Writing and editing in Wikipedia is fun") proved to have the strongest correlation between the level of motivation and the level of contribution.
- Although survey respondents listed ideology ("I think information should be free") as an important motivator, there was a negative correlation between level of contribution and ideology as a motivator. Oded postulates that the best reason for this is "talk is cheap". In other words, people say they care about ideology but in reality it is not much of a motivator after all.
- The older people are, the more they are motivated by enhancement ("Writing/editing in Wikipedia makes me feel needed"), fun, and protective ("By writing/editing in Wikipedia I feel less lonely") factors.
In addition to the credibility and accuracy questions I raise above, I also wonder in which cases the content is merely shared for entertainment purposes vs. a true desire to share knowledge or answer important questions.
What do you think? Send me comments to let me know.