Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

Improving contribution behavior in web 2.0

January 9th, 2007 by

(in continuation of my post: “Free riding is taking place at web 2.0”)How to overcome free riding ? findings from scientific literature

Scientific research on “Social Dilemmas” and on “Public Goods” is motivated to find the key factors which can positively influence the contribution behavior of individuals. I will try to present basic findings which can have direct implementations to the web 2.0 framework.

1. Communication: when participants of the group were allowed to communicate and discuss the provision of the public goods ? higher rates of contribution were found (Deutch, 1960; Dawes, McTavish & Shaklee, 1977; Liebrand, 1984).

2. Involvement: there is strong evidence showing that the more one feels involved in the group ? the more contribution to the public goods can be found (Dawes et al., 1977).

3. Expectations: Contribution to the public good increase when higher level of expectations regarding others contributions were found (Suleiman & Rapoport, 1992)

4. Anonymous versus known source of contributors: in situations where contributors were anonymous lower rates of contribution were found (Samuelson, 1990). It is suggested that in cases where people were anonymous they felt less accountable for their acts.

5. Group size: Contribution level is higher in small groups than in larger groups of participants.) Liebrand, 1984).

6. Attribution of resources: contributions rates are higher when attributed to the group efforts and not to the environment in which it was set. (Rutte & Wilke, 1987)

How can we implement the above findings into our web 2.0?

The followings are part of my initial attempt to improve contributions of users to web 2.0. I believe that those suggestions can be added to the web 2.0 platform without harming its fundamental philosophy.

Awareness to the problem of “free riding”:

1. Bring the issue to public discussion: It is important to discuss the problem of free riding and to present the notion that web 2.0 can be even more successful if we will all not only participate but also be more active in its creation.

2. Personally address web 2.0 visitors and communicate the critical notion of ones own contribution to the pool she/he enjoys from. It is important not just to emphasize the importance of contributing but also to stress that each individual contribution “makes a difference.”

3. Present examples of contributions and their benefits: sharing thoughts and discoveries of your own (to enrich the knowledge), giving comments to items you view (to feedback on information value), ranking the information you view (as a benchmark for others).

Set norms of contribution and encourage public spirits or “Web 2.0 patriotism”

1. Contributors must enjoy rewards and recognition

a. Put contributors in the spotlight: promote the “contributor” of the day/of the week/ of the month?

b. Add contribution data to the one who submits the information: (this post was submitted by.. who submitted xxx posts, www comments, zzz rankings)

2. Calculate ratings received and even the number of comments evoked as key parameters for popular items. Once visitors internalize this parameter they will be more focused on the importance of rating and commenting on information.

3. As part of your profile claim the number of contributors (from all sorts) to the site.

4. Don’t hesitate to stress the importance of contribution and your expectations for involvement in your philosophy/vision statements.

5. Address your nonmembers with an open straight-forward request to identify themselves. Remember that anonymous identity is one of the basic factors for a non contribution norm.

Encouraging communication between members:

There is strong evidence that direct communication among group members, especially regarding the group identity or its public responsibility, trigger the contribution behavior.

1. Create small groups discussions or forums about the subjects. Encourage users to bring their own ideas and suggestions to the free riding problem.

2. Use the long tail structure to group members with similar interests. This will bring to a higher feeling of involvement.

I will most appreciate your comments and insights on this subject. Remember ? every one of us can make the difference!


Most of the references I used are open for university libraries subscribers only. Though, you can google some of them or freely use the wikis for the terms: public good, free rider problem, collective action, “the tragedy of the common”. In this post – I used the following sources:

  • Dawes, R.M., McTavish, J. and Shaklee, H. (1977). Behavior, communication and assumptions about other people’s behavior in a commons dilem ma situation. Personality and Social Psychology, 35 (1), 1-11.
  • Deutch, M. (1960). The effect of motivational orientation upon trust and suspicion. Human Relations, 13, 122-139.
  • Liebrand, W.B.G. (1984). The effect of social motives, communication and group size on behaviour in an n-person multistage mixed motive game. European Journal of Social Psychology, 14, 239-264.
  • Rutte, C.G. and Wilke, H.A.M. (1987). Scarcity or abundance caused by people or the environment as determinants of behavior in the resource dilemma. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 23, 208-216.
  • Samuelson, C. D. (1990). Energy conservation: A social dilemma approach. Social Behavior, 5, 207-230.
  • Suleiman, R. and Rapoport, A. (1992). Provision of step level public goods with continuous contribution. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 5. 133-153.

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2 Responses

  1. shildkrot Says:

    it is apparent that some sites alledgedly use some of these recommendations, but not all of them and not necessarily out of true conviction.

  2. bowflex 552 Says:

    So much useful content here, bookmarked !
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