Online communities depend on the persistent contributions of heterogeneous users with diverse motivations and ways of participating. As these online communities exist over time, it is possible that users change the way in which they contribute to the site. Through interviews with 31 long-term members of a user-generated content community who have decreased their participation on the site, we examined the meaning that these users gave to their contribution and how their new participation patterns related to their initial motivations. We complement the reader-to-leader framework (Preece and Shneiderman: AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 13–32, 2009) by propounding the concept of latent user to understand decreasing content contribution and user life-cycles in online communities. We showed that even though latent users decrease their content contribution, their participation becomes more selective and remained consistent with initial motivations to participate.
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We would like to thank members of the BIT Lab at Michigan State University for their feedback on this manuscript. We would also like to thank the members of Everything2 for supporting research in online community participation. This work was supported by NSF grant IIS-HCC-0812429. We would also like to thank Chandan Sarkar and Chris Hamrick for their help and feedback.
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Velasquez, A., Wash, R., Lampe, C. et al. Latent Users in an Online User-Generated Content Community. Comput Supported Coop Work 23, 21–50 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10606-013-9188-4
- content contribution in online communities
- motivations to contribute
- latent users
- online communities
- online participation
- reader-to-leader framework