Voluntary Engagement in an Open Web-based Encyclopedia: Wikipedians, and Why They Do It

TitleVoluntary Engagement in an Open Web-based Encyclopedia: Wikipedians, and Why They Do It
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsSchroer, J, Hertel, G
Date PublishedJanuary

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia can be considered as a highly successful Open Content project, written and maintained completely by volunteers. Little is known, however, about the motives and interests of these volunteers. Results from an online survey among 106 contributors to the German Wikipedia project are presented. As potential predictors of contributors??? engagement and satisfaction, both motives derived from social sciences (e.g., costs-benefits, valence of the Wikipedia goals, identification with Wikipedia, etc.) as well as perceived task characteristics (e.g., task significance, autonomy, skill variety, etc.) were measured. The results reveal that satisfaction ratings of contributors are determined by perceived benefits, identification with the Wikipedia community, and task characteristics. Contributors??? engagement (e.g., hours per week) was particularly determined by their tolerance for opportunity costs and the experienced characteristics of their tasks, the latter effect being partially mediated by intrinsic motivation. Most relevant task characteristics both for contributors??? engagement and satisfaction were autonomy, task significance, and skill variety. Additional motives reported by Wikipedia contributors suggest the importance of generativity.

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