User motivational mechanism for building sustained online communities
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The proliferation of online communities on the Internet nowadays may lead people to the conclusion that the development of custom-made communities for particular purpose is straightforward. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although software providing basic community infrastructure is readily available, it is not enough to ensure that the online community will “take off” and become sustained. Most online communities suffer from the scarcity of the user participation in their initial phase. To address the problem, this thesis proposes a motivational mechanism to encourage user participation. The main idea is to introduce a set of hierarchical memberships into online communities and reward active users with better quality of services. The mechanism has been applied in a small-scale online community called Comtella and evaluated. The results showed that, although the mechanism was able to motivate users to participate more actively and make more contributions, it led to a deteriorating quality of user contributions, catalyzed “information overload” in the community and resulted in a decrease in user participation towards the end of the study. Therefore, to regulate the quality and the quantity of user contributions and ensure a sustainable level of user participation in the online community, the proposed mechanism was improved so that it was able to adapt the rewards for particular forms of participation for individual users depending on their reputation and the current need of the community, thereby influencing their actions of contributing. The improved mechanism was also implemented and evaluated in the Comtella system. The results of evaluation showed that the mechanism can guarantee stable and active user participation and lower the level of information overload in the online community and therefore it can enhance the sustainability of the community.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
CommitteeDeters, Ralph; Cooke, John; Chirkov, Valery I.
Copyright DateSeptember 2005