June 24, 2005
Phantom Authority, self-selective recruitment and retention of members in virtual communities: The case of Wikipedia
Ciffolilli, Andrea. “Phantom authority, self-selective recruitment, and retention of members in virtual communities: The case of Wikipedia.” First Monday. 8.12 (Dec. 2003). http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_12/ciffolilli/. 24 June 2005.
This article explores team and club theory within the context of production-based communities such as Wikipedia. Krishnamurthy’s idea that large, or “crowded,” communities are a poor fit for production is initially noted. However, the author argues that heterogeneous crowding is a positive feature in such communities, since it allows for variety of talents and skills that will move production forward. The evidence demonstrated in Wikipedia’s successful production rate runs counter to existing club theories concerning crowding. Wikipedia is also remarkable for the self-selection of its participants. Therefore, club theory (which places value on exclusivity) may not be applicable to wiki-like environments.
Ciffolilli also suggests that part of Wikipedia’s success is due to lowering transaction costs for editing and changing information to the point that they are nearly cancelled. These reduced costs allow for full exploitation of community strengths and provide an incentive for participation. Because fixes are so simple, there is more incentive for “creative construction” than “creative destruction” (5). Authority within the community is gained through accumulated reputations, and motivation for participation may also be tied to reputation. A host of other motivations are also posited (6).