Many online platforms rely on users to voluntarily provide content. What motivates users to contribute content for free however is not well understood. In this paper, we use a revealed preference approach to show that career concerns play an important role in user contributions to Stack Overflow, the largest online Q&A community. We investigate how activities that can enhance a user’s reputation vary before and after the user finds a new job. We contrast this with activities that do not improve a user’s reputation. After finding a new job, users contribute 23.7% less in reputation-generating activity. By contrast, they reduce their non-reputation-generating activity by only 7.4% after finding a new job. These findings suggest that users contribute to Stack Overflow in part because they perceive this as a way to improve future employment prospects. We provide direct evidence against alternative explanations such as integer constraints, skills mismatch, and dynamic selection effects.
- H41: Public Goods
- D82: Asymmetric and Private Information • Mechanism Design
- D83: Search • Learning • Information and Knowledge • Communication • Belief
- J24: Human Capital • Skills • Occupational Choice • Labor Productivity
- J22: Time Allocation and Labor Supply
- M51: Firm Employment Decisions • Promotions
- L86: Information and Internet Services • Computer Software
Lei XU, Tingting Nian, and Luis Cabral, “What Makes Geeks Tick? A Study of Stack Overflow Careers”, Management Science, 2019, forthcoming.
Management Science, 2019, forthcoming