Predicting Continued Participation in Newsgroups

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Abstract

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.

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