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May 16, 2006

Here's something you can do to cultivate community

Shocking confirmation of the obvious: Simply responding to a newbie's first post to an online community increases the likelihood that they'll post again. The interesting thing is, it doesn't seem to matter whether the response is helpful or not...

Predicting Continued Participation in Newsgroups: "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."
The full report from the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication has plenty of good information for anyone interested in virtualization or anyone with responsibilities for cultivating online communities.

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eschipul said...

Great article. Shirky worthy stuff.

It is interesting that the "tone" of response is not a causal factor of future participation. This seems counter to the natural tendency to only say something nice to not scare off the new guys. Of course that is why research is important!



Ben said...

Consider this a license to flame the newbie, then. :-) I have a feeling some of these dynamics are the result of their samples being newsgroups, and not bulletin boards or listservs or other more accessible types of online communities. Newsgroups are typically for the techies.