Heavy Medal: The Consequences of Introducing Symbolic Awards on Contribution Behavior in Online Communities

Alexander Staub, Tom Grad, Christopher Ulrich Lettl

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Online communities, like Wikipedia and Stack Overflow, have made a vast repository of knowledge available as a public good. However, they suffer from under-contribution in terms of quantity and quality. To tackle this issue, online communities have increasingly been relying on gamification, the use of game elements in non-game settings, to incentivize their members. The consequences of introducing such features on members’ behavior have remained elusive—partly due to the lack of controlled experiments. Herein, we take advantage of a natural experiment in which a technical online community introduced gamified rewards, which are awarded contingent on performance thresholds—termed performance contingent symbolic awards. Employing a difference-in-differences design using a comparable online community as a control group, we find that the introduction of performance contingent symbolic awards has a negative impact on the contribution behavior overall and that experienced members reduce their contribution quantity while inexperienced members reduce their contribution quality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 43 International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS) : Digitization for the Next Generation
EditorsTilo Böhmann, Kai-Lung Hui, Viswanath Venkatesh
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationAtlanta, GA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems. AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Publication date12 Dec 2022
Article number2393
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2022
EventThe 43rd International Conference on Information Systems: ICIS 2022: Digitization for the Next Generation - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 9 Dec 202214 Dec 2022
Conference number: 43


ConferenceThe 43rd International Conference on Information Systems: ICIS 2022
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the International Conference on Information Systems


  • Online Community
  • Gamification
  • Symbolic awards
  • User behavior
  • Natural experiment

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