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What Makes Geeks Tick? A Study of Stack Overflow Careers

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  • Lei Xu

    (TSE-R - Toulouse School of Economics - UT Capitole - Université Toulouse Capitole - UT - Université de Toulouse - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement)

  • Tingting Nian

    (UC Irvine - University of California [Irvine] - UC - University of California)

  • Luis Cabral

    (NYU - New York University [New York] - NYU - NYU System)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Lei Xu & Tingting Nian & Luis Cabral, 2020. "What Makes Geeks Tick? A Study of Stack Overflow Careers," Post-Print hal-03052632, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-03052632
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.2018.3264
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.science/hal-03052632
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    Cited by:

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