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Joyce06-PredictingContinued Participation-accepted-1

Joyce06-PredictingContinued Participation-accepted-1 -...

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Predicting Continued Participation in Newsgroups Elisabeth Joyce Edinboro University of Pennsylvania [email protected] Robert E. Kraut Human-Computer Interaction Institute Carnegie Mellon University ABSTRACT Turnover in online communities is very high, with most people who initially post a message to an online community never contributing again. In this paper, we test whether the responses that newcomers receive to their first posts influence the extent to which they continue to participate. The data come from initial posts made by 2,777 newcomers to six public newsgroups. We coded the content and valence of the initial post and its first response, if it received one, to see if these factors influenced newcomers’ likelihood of posting again. Approximately 61% of newcomers received a reply to their initial post, and those who got a reply were 12% more likely to post to the community again; their probability of posting again increased from 44% to 56%. They were more likely to receive a response if they asked a question or wrote a longer post. Surprisingly, the quality of the response they received—its emotional tone and whether it answered a newcomer’s question—did not influence the likelihood of the newcomer’s posting again. Keywords newsgroup, group cohesion, attachment, online community
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Predicting continued participation Page 2 Predicting Continued Participation in Newsgroups INTRODUCTION One of the most visible uses of the Internet is to support online groups or communities. These are collections of individuals, typically with a common interest, whose primary method of communicating is exchanging text messages over the Internet. By many criteria, online communities are widely successful. They allow people to exchange information on a wide variety of technical, professional, health-related and recreational topics, provide members with social support and a site to form friendship, and create a source of entertainment and distraction (Ridings & Gefen, 2004). In the United States over 50% of all Internet users regularly stay in contact with an online group. Usenet, perhaps the oldest collection of online communities, continues to grow, and in 2004 had over 190,000 public groups, containing over 250 million messages from over 9 million unique participants (Smith, 2004). Newer offerings, including Google Groups and Yahoo Groups, with hundreds of thousands of groups, support both private groups and newer user interfaces. Despite this success, building and maintaining online communities is difficult. Participation is often sparse and uneven. Butler (1999. Reported in Cummings, Butler & Kraut, 2002), for instance, examined a random sample of listserv-based online groups. One third of all listservers had no communication during a three-month observation period, and among those that were active, traffic was low, with the median list having a message every 3.6 days. In addition, among lists with traffic, participation was very unevenly distributed among subscribers. The
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