Disentangling the effect of Reciprocity on Online Knowledge Sharing Communities

Image credit: Longhua District, Shenzhen


Researchers have studied reciprocity as a motivation for users to share knowledge online. In this study, we focus on two different types of reciprocity as drivers of online contribution: ex post and ex ante reciprocity. Ex post reciprocity refers to users who receive help from others in the past, paying back by helping others. Using a quasi-experiment performed via the instrumental variable method as the identification strategy, we test whether users who receive more answers last week answer more questions in the current week on StackOverflow.com. We find a significant positive relationship between ex post reciprocity and knowledge contribution, and such a reciprocal motivation diminishes with time. Ex ante reciprocity refers to people helping others in expectation of future help from others. Using data from StackOverflow.com, we take advantage of a natural experiment with a difference-in-differences analysis and find evidence supporting the existence of ex ante reciprocity. This study offers a new taxonomy for reciprocity and new insights on how reciprocity drives online knowledge sharing.

Jun 30, 2019 1:30 PM
CSWIM 2019
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Shenzhen Longhua
8 E Ring 2nd R, Longhua, Shenzhen, Guangdong, 518131, China
Hongfei Li
Assistant Professor

Hongfei Li is an assistant professor from the Department of Decision Sciences and Managerial Economics (DSME) of School of Business, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His current research focuses on business analytics in emerging online platforms, applications of artificial intelligence and machine Learning, and statistical methodology.