Exploring the Relationship between Membership Turnover and Productivity in Online Communities
Keywords:Membership Turnover, Churn, Social Capital Losses, Productivity of Volunteer Groups, Community Health
One of the more disruptive reforms associated with the modern Internet is the emergence of online communities working together on knowledge artefacts such as Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap. Recently it has become clear that these initiatives are vulnerable because of problems with membership turnover. This study presents a longitudinal analysis of 891 WikiProjects where we model the impact of member turnover and social capital losses on project productivity. By examining social capital losses we attempt to provide a more nuanced analysis of member turnover. In this context social capital is modelled from a social network perspective where the loss of more central members has more impact. We find that only a small proportion of WikiProjects are in a relatively healthy state with low levels of membership turnover and social capital losses. The results show that the relationship between social capital losses and project performance is U-shaped, and that member withdrawal has significant negative effect on project outcomes. The results also support the mediation of turnover rate and network density on the curvilinear relationship.