Xia, Duan, Huang and Whinston (2006)
|Xia, Duan, Huang and Whinston (2006)
|Unravel the drivers of online sharing communities: An empirical investigation
|Xia, M., Duan, W., Huang, Y., Whinston, A. B.
|Xia, M., Duan, W., Huang, Y., & Whinston, A. B. (2006). Unravel the drivers of online sharing communities: An empirical investigation. Working Paper No. IROM-09-06. Available at SSRN 935004.
|Definitive,Definitive , Open Access,Open Access
|Key Related Studies:
|About the Data
|Large data set of 300 million individual activities in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) sharing channels from March 2001 to May 2006.
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|Cross Country Study?:
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Recently user-oriented online sharing communities have seen explosive growth. Two characteristics of these communities set them apart from traditional online message-based communities such as online forums. First, users have no social ties before joining the community. Second, there is little or no "verbal" communication between users. This research investigates the structure and dynamics of online sharing communities using data collected from an IRC music channel from 2001 to 2006, covering all five years of the post-Napster age. We have collected more than three hundred million individual activities, capturing 0.05% of the global music sharing volume. We find that sharers are an essential part of the community and their activities have a dominant impact on the growth of the community. By contrast, free riders have two opposite impacts on sharer retention. More free riders in number make it more likely for a sharer to keep sharing, while more free rider activities discourage sharers from contributing. That is, the existence of free riders, despite the congestion caused by their download activities, does to some degree stabilize the community. Most previous literature examines the online community only from the aggregate level. Our study, nevertheless, distinguish the influence and behavior of different members in the community. Instead of paying only attention to the total number of users, our results suggest that understanding the impact of their core members is critical in investigating the dynamics and the sustainability of online sharing communities.
Main Results of the Study
- In non-verbal sharing communities, there are two types of users, sharers and free riders. These two types of users have different roles in the community; sharers are the core part of the community, since the value of a community is in its resource, which is solely provided by sharers.
- The disproportional network congestion caused by sharers’ own intensive use shows that sharers also contribute to negative network externalities of a community. Moreover, the more sharers are involved in a community, the more likely the sharers continue to contribute content.
- Fee riders’ are at the exact opposites in retaining sharers; the more free rider download activities, the more likely a sharer will stop sharing.
- Sharer size is responsible for both sharer gain and loss. The dual effect may be due to the fact that sharer size represents three conflicting community factors: total resources available, sharer download (their own benefit), and congestion generated by sharers.
Policy Implications as Stated By Author
This study has several managerial implications:
- For entrepreneurs, when designing non-verbal communities, the creator should encourage all types of users to join, even if some of them may not contribute any content—their mere existence will be a reason for potential contributors to join. At the same time, the community operator should carefully monitor free riders’ download activities, maybe to go as far as imposing an upper limit to free riders’ download volume or bandwidth, so as to ensure that the sharers’ downloads are smooth and not affected by the often excessive free riders’ traffic. To retain sharers, it is also helpful for the community to provide more features for sharers to interact with other users.
- For people who need to evaluate non-verbal sharing communities such as investors, they should not only look at the total number of registered users in a community, but also different user types and their often conflicting forces.
Coverage of Study
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