Supporting Newcomer Socialization in Online Production Communities


Research areas

Social Computing

Online production communities are becoming increasingly important, because they are creating the software that drives the Internet, generating valuable scientific data and building history’s largest encyclopedia. In the face of inevitable turnover, every online community must incorporate successive generations of newcomers to survive. Newcomers are a source of content, labor, new ideas, and an audience. However, attracting and incorporating newcomers into existing communities can be difficult. Socialization is the process of teaching newcomers the behaviors and attitudes essential to playing their roles in the group. Communities have available a variety of socialization tactics. Research from offline organizations shows that organizations’ use of institutionalized socialization tactics and newcomers’ active information seeking are effective in increasing newcomers’ commitment to the organization, their satisfaction and their productivity.

However, those tactics are not commonly used in online communities and seem to have different effects when they are used. The goals of our research are:

  1. To understand ways of recruiting and socializing volunteers to online production communities like Wikipedia,
  2. To design processes and tools that assist the newcomers’ information-seeking as part of their socialization, and
  3. To build processes and tools to support the interpersonal processes of socialization, including peer mentorship and mentorship with more senior community members.