Online Motivational Factors: Incentives for participation & contribution in Wikipedia:
Sheizaf Rafaeli & Yaron Ariel
Cyberspace has introduced new and intriguing means for knowledge sharing as well as new structures of mediated
Wikipedia is an online collaboratively written encyclopedia. It has unique aspects of users’ involvement in the
production of content and its function as a community. Wikipedia’s existence and success rely on users’ inputs. Our
chapter focuses on Wikipedians’ incentives for contributing to Wikipedia. How does Wikipedia mobilize the levels
of participation that make it “work in practice”(as you do it)?
According to Alexa.com traffic rankings, Wikipedia is among the top fifteen most visited sites. Google “top
searches” of 2006 report that “Wikipedia” and “wiki” are tied for the tenth position in the list of most searched
words. Furthermore, Wikipedia content is widely replicated on other websites (answer.com). In trying to understand
contribution dynamics, we focus on the individuals who write Wikipedia, the so-called Wikipedians.
Wikis are group-editing tools that allow the formation and maintenance of online linked webpages, created by a
group of users(wikipedia-ask.com). In a wiki, all users are potential authors and editors.At the core of this chapter
stands Wikipedia, an online wiki-based ency- clopedia. Contrary to encyclopedias published in other formats,
professional editors do not review Wikipedia content before material is published; instead, visitors to the online site
monitor its content. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a website is an exciting notion because it
encourages democratic use of the web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users.
As indicated by Table 11.1, research has focused on Wikipedia (content quality and authority) and its technological
structure and users (Wikipedians motivations, community aspects, and learning process). Ciffolilli (2003) describes
Wikipedia as a community.Surveying Wikipedia-related studies, we find only a limited scope of studies that
mention incentives for contributing content and other participatory elements. Why do people make the
Wikipedia is probably one of the most salient examples of user-generated content. The notion of peer-produced
content, in a “Wisdom of Crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004) setting, has captured both the imagination and headlines in
recent scholarly and popular discourse of online behavior.
marketing-oriented literature even terms the phenomena one of “prosumerism,” a confusion or amalgam of the
provider and recipient along the value creation chain (recipients add on). Our understanding of sociological and
psychological aspects of Wikipedia should, therefore, investigate motivations to participate.
Perhaps the single most important insight about contributors to Wikipedia is that, in spite of their popular image and
in possible conflict with some of the “democratic” rhetoric, they are neither equal nor uniform.The content on
individual users pages, and the commitment made by the more deeply involved Wikipedians to particular areas of
content reflect heavily on the continuity of coverage and community action. Thereby, identification is likely highly
tied to motivation (politician writes about politics).
Gaved, Heath, and Eisenstadt (2006) suggest a typology of wiki users by the nature of their activity or type of
contribution.The categories of the typology include three types: placeholders, completers, and housekeepers.
Placeholders are users who prefer making many sparse entries (ensuring some coverage on every entry). Completers
prefer to make fewer but more complete entries. Housekeepers enlist in the service of ensuring the completeness of
entries and crosslinks. Another categorization offered by Majchrzak, Wagner, and Yates (2006) surveyed corporate
Wiki users. They found a significant difference between the factors that motivated “synthesizers” and
“adders” in contributing a corporate wiki. Synthesizers were concerned more with their own reputation and their
effect on the wiki-related process, wiki users, and the whole organization. In contrast, Adders were more
utilitarian(Designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive) and interested in completing immediate work
responsibilities and less concerned with their own reputation.
In a much-cited blog on the topic, Bosworth (2006) suggests that despite Wikipedia’s claims to egalitarianism the
motivations to contribute in a wiki community constitute a two-stage reward system dividing between “new”
(regular) users that gain small but satisfying rewards for basic participation and “fanatics” (administrators) who get
the larger rewards through competition for special status.
Although there is a lot of enthusiasm over online communities, many, or even most, fail. The virtual environment is
overloaded with empty communities or communities where many of the participants are “lurkers” or “free riders”
(Adar & Huberman, 2000). Furthermore, even when virtual communities do persist, it is usually only a small ratio of
the more vigorous contributors that keep the community active. Peddibhotla and Subramani (2007) refer to the notion of “critical mass,” indicating the disproportionate contributions of the minority of contributors to public
We propose that Wikipedians’ participation should be examined from several distinct perspectives:
1. Professional versus nonprofessional participation
2. Constructive, confrontational, and vandalistic participation
3. Continuous versus one-time participation
4. Anonymous versus identifiable participation
5. Content contribution, community involvement, and (silent) participation in the form of lurking.
As we will detail, early examinations of Wikipedians’ moti- vations have taken aim at the psychological,
sociological, community-oriented, economical, gratificational, and interactional aspects of potential sources for
motivation. In the following, we will review the work in each of these areas to date.
Online Motivational Factors: Incentives for Participation and Contribution in Wikipedia.Is participation in
Wikipedia solely self-actualization?
Deci (1975) underlines a distinction between “intrinsic motivation”(internal/psychological) and “external
rewards”(compensation/other recognition). Thompson, Meriac, and Cope (2002) indicate that extrinsic rewards
might actually decrease intrinsic motivations. Thus, users who were never offered extrinsic rewards were more self-
From a psychological perspective, Joyce and Kraut (2006) found that users who contribute more content to an online
community were more likely to repeat their participation in that community. They suggest that some users are self-
motivated to write more in general, while some users who invest time or effort in the community continue to
participate in it to maintain their self- presentation. Ling et al. (2005) report that users will contribute more to the
community if they believe that their contributions are important to the group’s performance, if they believe that their
contributions will be identifiable, and if they like the group they are working with.
According to a functionalist perspective in psychology, individuals perform certain activities because they
serve one or more functions. Snyder and Cantor (1998) suggest four clusters of functions:
1. Value-expressive: a way of expressing one’s values about altruistic concern for others.
2. Utilitarian: rewards from the person’s external environment; a person might contribute to a repository to
receive monetary or other rewards.
3. Social adjustive: doing a certain thing may lead an individual to better
fit in with the peer group.
4. Knowledge: by engaging in particular task, an individual might have a new learning experience and be
able to exercise one’s knowledge, skills, and other abilities.
Kollock suggests several possible motivations for contribution to online communities among them:
anticipated reciprocity, sense of efficacy, and attachment or commitment. Anticipated reciprocity refers to
person’s motivation to contribute in the expectation that one will receive useful help and information in return. Both
identity persistence and group boundaries are factors of the anticipated reciprocity as the online community.
A sense of efficacy refers to a person who contributes valuable information to an online community because
influencing this community may support her own self-image as an efficacious person. Attachment or commitment to
online community refers to a person who contributes to the group when individu