The Motivation Paradox: Understanding Contradictory Effects of Awards on Contribution Quantity versus Quality in Virtual Community

User contribution to virtual communities (e.g., Yelp, Quora, etc.) is mostly voluntary. Awards (badges, leaderboard ranks, etc.) are widely employed to encourage sustained contributions. These awards typically hold no real-life benefits for the awardee. So, it is interesting to find out how and why awards work in virtual environments. The study reveals that the overall impact of the award is contingent upon the aspect of contribution (quantity vs. quality) and novelty of the award (first time vs. repeated). A first-time award feels novel and motivates people to contribute more (e.g., write more reviews on Yelp). But it tends to lose its effect if administered again and again. Interestingly, the quality of contribution (e.g., how well you write a review on Yelp) is weakly determined by award. Quality is an intrinsically motivated performance parameter. People inherently get better at a task with practice, which awards do supplement, only slightly. Virtual community managers may find the study insightful. 

Journal: Information & Management

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