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The Role of Feedback in Managing the Internet-Based Volunteer Work Force


  • Jae Yun Moon

    () (Business School, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

  • Lee S. Sproull

    () (Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, New York 10012)


This paper explores a new phenomenon at the intersection of digital networks and organizations---the Internet-based volunteer work force---people who use Internet applications to pursue a personal interest through volunteering contributions of time and talent that may create value for organizations and their customers or members. This work force is not centrally organized, managed, or measured. It is an emergent phenomenon resulting from discretionary small actions taken by large numbers of people, enabled by technology and human initiative. This paper proposes a general framework for understanding the phenomenon and offers an empirical investigation of one component of it---the role of feedback in producing and sustaining high-quality contributions from this work force. In a comparative study of Internet-based voluntary technical support groups for software problems, we found that in groups who implement systematic quality feedback systems (compared to those that do not), question askers return over a longer duration, answer providers contribute more often, and technical problem resolution is more effective. We also found that with systematic feedback, volunteers who produce higher quality contributions have longer participation duration, and participation duration is positively associated with community maintenance contributions.

Suggested Citation

  • Jae Yun Moon & Lee S. Sproull, 2008. "The Role of Feedback in Managing the Internet-Based Volunteer Work Force," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 19(4), pages 494-515, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:orisre:v:19:y:2008:i:4:p:494-515

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    1. repec:spr:infosf:v:16:y:2014:i:4:d:10.1007_s10796-012-9376-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Xiaoqing Wang & Brian S. Butler & Yuqing Ren, 2013. "The Impact of Membership Overlap on Growth: An Ecological Competition View of Online Groups," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(2), pages 414-431, April.
    3. Natalia Levina & Manuel Arriaga, 2014. "Distinction and Status Production on User-Generated Content Platforms: Using Bourdieu’s Theory of Cultural Production to Understand Social Dynamics in Online Fields," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 25(3), pages 468-488, September.
    4. Xiaohua Zeng & Liyuan Wei, 2013. "Social Ties and User Content Generation: Evidence from Flickr," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 24(1), pages 71-87, March.
    5. Patrick J. Bateman & Peter H. Gray & Brian S. Butler, 2011. "Research Note ---The Impact of Community Commitment on Participation in Online Communities," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 22(4), pages 841-854, December.
    6. Linus Dahlander & Lars Frederiksen, 2012. "The Core and Cosmopolitans: A Relational View of Innovation in User Communities," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 23(4), pages 988-1007, August.
    7. Mingfeng Lin & Henry C. Lucas & Galit Shmueli, 2013. "Research Commentary ---Too Big to Fail: Large Samples and the p -Value Problem," Information Systems Research, INFORMS, vol. 24(4), pages 906-917, December.


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