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  1. Platforms often host multiple online groups with overlapping topics and members. How can researchers and designers understand how related groups affect each other? Inspired by population ecology, prior research in social computing and human-computer interaction has studied related groups by correlating group size with degrees of overlap in content and membership, but has produced puzzling results: overlap is associated with competition in some contexts but with mutual-ism in others. We suggest that this inconsistency results from aggregating intergroup relationships into an overall environmental effect that obscures the diversity of competition and mutualism among related groups. Drawing on the framework of community ecology, we introduce a time-series method for inferring competition and mutualism. We then use this frame-work to inform a large-scale analysis of clusters of subreddits that all have high user overlap. We find that mutualism is more common than competition.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 31, 2023
  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 31, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 31, 2023
  4. Why do some peer production projects do a better job at engaging potential contributors than others? We address this question by comparing three Indian language Wikipedias, namely, Malayalam, Marathi, and Kannada. We found that although the three projects share goals, technological infrastructure, and a similar set of challenges, Malayalam Wikipedia’s community engages language speakers in contributing at a much higher rate than the others. Drawing from a grounded theory analysis of interviews with 18 community participants from the three projects, we found that experience with participatory governance and free/open-source software in the Malayalam community supported high engagement of contributors. Counterintuitively, we found that financial resources intended to increase participation in the Marathi and Kannada communities hindered the growth of these communities. Our findings underscore the importance of social and cultural context in the trajectories of peer production communities.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 27, 2023
  5. Large-scale quantitative analyses have shown that individuals frequently talk to each other about similar things in different online spaces. Why do these overlapping communities exist? We provide an answer grounded in the analysis of 20 interviews with active participants in clusters of highly related subreddits. Within a broad topical area, there are a diversity of benefits an online community can confer. These include (a) specific information and discussion, (b) socialization with similar others, and (c) attention from the largest possible audience. A single community cannot meet all three needs. Our findings suggest that topical areas within an online community platform tend to become populated by groups of specialized communities with diverse sizes, topical boundaries, and rules. Compared with any single community, such systems of overlapping communities are able to provide a greater range of benefits.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 30, 2023
  6. Adopting new technology is challenging for volunteer moderation teams of online communities. Challenges are aggravated when communities increase in size. In a prior qualitative study, Kiene et al. found evidence that moderator teams adapted to challenges by relying on their experience in other technological platforms to guide the creation and adoption of innovative custom moderation "bots." In this study, we test three hypotheses on the social correlates of user innovated bot usage drawn from a previous qualitative study. We find strong evidence of the proposed relationship between community size and the use of user innovated bots. Although previous work suggests that smaller teams of moderators will be more likely to use these bots and that users with experience moderating in the previous platform will be more likely to do so, we find little evidence in support of either proposition.
  7. User-generated content sites routinely block contributions from users of privacy-enhancing proxies like Tor because of a perception that proxies are a source of vandalism, spam, and abuse. Although these blocks might be effective, collateral damage in the form of unrealized valuable contributions from anonymity seekers is invisible. One of the largest and most important user-generated content sites, Wikipedia, has attempted to block contributions from Tor users since as early as 2005. We demonstrate that these blocks have been imperfect and that thousands of attempts to edit on Wikipedia through Tor have been successful. We draw upon several data sources and analytical techniques to measure and describe the history of Tor editing on Wikipedia over time and to compare contributions from Tor users to those from other groups of Wikipedia users. Our analysis suggests that although Tor users who slip through Wikipedia's ban contribute content that is more likely to be reverted and to revert others, their contributions are otherwise similar in quality to those from other unregistered participants and to the initial contributions of registered users.
  8. Online communities, like Wikipedia, produce valuable public information goods. Whereas some of these communities require would-be contributors to create accounts, many do not. Does this requirement catalyze cooperation or inhibit participation? Prior research provides divergent predictions but little causal evidence. We conduct an empirical test using longitudinal data from 136 natural experiments where would-be contributors to wikis were suddenly required to log in to contribute. Requiring accounts leads to a small increase in account creation, but reduces both high- and low-quality contributions from registered and unregistered participants. Although the change deters a large portion of low-quality participation, the vast majority of deterred contributions are of higher quality. We conclude that requiring accounts introduces an undertheorized tradeoff for public goods production in interactive communication systems.
  9. User-generated content sites routinely block contributions from users of privacy-enhancing proxies like Tor because of a perception that proxies are a source of vandalism, spam, and abuse. Although these blocks might be effective, collateral damage in the form of unrealized valuable contributions from anonymity seekers is invisible. One of the largest and most important user-generated content sites, Wikipedia, has attempted to block contributions from Tor users since as early as 2005. We demonstrate that these blocks have been imperfect and that thousands of attempts to edit on Wikipedia through Tor have been successful. We draw upon several data sources and analytical techniques to measure and describe the history of Tor editing on Wikipedia over time and to compare contributions from Tor users to those from other groups of Wikipedia users. Our analysis suggests that although Tor users who slip through Wikipedia's ban contribute content that is more likely to be reverted and to revert others, their contributions are otherwise similar in quality to those from other unregistered participants and to the initial contributions of registered users.