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Sustainability of open collaborative communities: Analyzing recruitment efficiency


JULLIEN Nicolas1,3, CROWSTON Kevin2, ORTEGA Felipe4

Type de document

Article de revue avec comité de lecture


Technology Innovation Management Review, january 2013, pp. 20-26




Extensive research has been conducted over the past years to improve our understanding of sustainability conditions for large-scale collaborative projects, especially from an economic and governance perspective. However, the influence of recruitment and retention of participants in these projects has received comparatively less attention from researchers. Nevertheless, these concerns are significant for practitioners, especially regarding the apparently decreasing ability of the main open online projects to attract and retain new contributors. A possible explanation for this decrease is that those projects have simply reached a mature state of development. (Marwell & Oliver, 1993), (Oliver, Marwell & Teixeira, 1985) note that at the initial stage in collective projects participants are few and efforts costly; in the diffusion phase, the number of participants grows, as their efforts are rewarding; and in the mature phase, some inefficiency may appear as the number of contributors is more than required for the work. However, a less positive interpretation is that the projects have become inefficient in their practices, affecting both output and ability to recruit and retain participants.
In this paper we use original data from 36 Wikipedias in different languages to compare their efficiency. We chose Wikipedia because the projects are at different states of development, but are quite comparable on the other aspects, providing a test of the impact of development on efficiency. Results confirm that most of the largest Wikipedias seem to be characterized by a reduced return to scale. As a result, we can draw interesting conclusions that can be useful for practitioners, facilitators and managers of collaborative projects in order to identify key factors potentially influencing the adequate development of their communities over the mid to long term.


1 : LUSSI(TB) - Dépt. Logique des Usages, Sciences Sociales et de l'Information (Institut Mines-Télécom-Télécom Bretagne-UBL)
2 : iSchool - School of Information Studies (Syracuse University)
3 : M@rsouin(TB) - Môle armoricain de recherche sur la société de l'information et les usages d'internet (Groupement d'intérêt scientifique)
4 : Dept. of Statistics and Operational Investigation (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos)

Mots clés

Wikipedia, Efficiency measurement, Data Envelopment Analysis



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