Teaching Examples


Why people post content (when it’s not their job)
December 14, 2006, 4:00 pm
Filed under: citizen journalism, community, online, participation

I was thinking about writing about what motivates people to contribute photos, stories, etc. You can call it citizen journalism or whatever, that’s not the point.

Limor Peer (research director for the Media Management Center and Readership Institute at Northwestern University) saved me the trouble. She wrote a thoughtful, intelligent post (but it’s not overlong) that covers just about everything you should be thinking about when you try to set up the kind of environment (or community) that encourages people to share stuff. Like YouTube. Or MySpace.

What I have to add (two things):

(1) There is a long and detailed article about Incentives for Participation that examines these “fixed and fluid models”:

  • Fixed: BlogBurst, Current.tv, NewAssignment.Net
  • Fluid: Google, GroundReport, Newsvine
  • Hybrid: OhmyNews

Tobias Assmann wrote the article.

(2) Yochai Benkler, in his 2006 book, The Wealth of Networks, discusses extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in Chapter 4. Extrinsic motivations are imposed on us from outside (“Be good”), while intrinsic motivations come from inside (“I believe this is right”). Payment can have a negative effect on intrinsic motivation: You might not want to do it, because taking money for doing it seems “wrong” to you.

Payment can increase or create an extrinsic motivation (“I would not normally do that, but if they pay me, I will do it”).

We should not ignore social relations as a form of “payment.” If I gain face (or social standing) by doing something, then that might motivate me to do it. If I lose face (or social standing), then that might motivate me to avoid doing it.

There are probably some things you will only do for free.

Bottom line: “Money-oriented motivations are different from socially oriented motivations” (p. 97).

I posted a presentation about Benkler’s chapter on this topic on SlideShare. (This provides a really clean, easy way to share and view a PowerPoint presentation online without a big download. It employs a cool little Flash-based viewer on the Web page, and it’s free.) This is an example of social sharing. What is my motivation? I think what Benkler says in this chapter is very important. I think people should be able to get the gist of it in a relatively quick and painless way. And I had the PowerPoint made anyway, for my class. SlideShare is free. So all it cost me was about 15 or 20 minutes of my time.

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3 Comments so far
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Very timely post, Mindy, with all the current talk of pay-per-digg, payperpost and the variants in between. Most existing blogs seem to come from a combination of motivations.
On the one hand there’s the attitude ‘I love this stuff and I want to write about it’ or ‘I love the recognition this is getting me’, on the other, you might think, ‘Google Adsense might give me some money’ or ‘This might help with my career’. I kind of think this combined motivation is actually better, not worse. It gives people two quite different reasons to develop a good blog as opposed to one.

Comment by Ian Delaney

Here’s another bit of excellent reading: Tara Hunt has written a great “how to engage your community” article for ThinkVitamin.com: http://www.thinkvitamin.com/features/webapps/the-rules-of-engagement

The article is geared toward the web developer crowd, but it still rings very true for any newspaper’s citizen journalism efforts.

Comment by Danny Sanchez

I see the author addresses “What is that magic ingredient that turns people from ‘consumers’ of your software into active and enthusiastic evangelists?” Thanks for the link, Danny!

Comment by Mindy McAdams




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