Preferential behavior in online groups

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


WSDM '08: Proceedings of the international conference on Web search and web data mining, ACM, New York, NY, USA, p.117–128 (2008)




groups, incentives


Online communities in the form of message boards, listservs, and newsgroups continue to represent a considerable amount of the social activity on the Internet. Every year thousands of groups ourish while others decline into relative obscurity; likewise, millions of members join a new community every year, some of whom will come to manage or moderate the conversation while others simply sit by the sidelines and observe. These processes of group formation, growth, and dissolution are central in social science, and in an online venue they have ramifications for the design and development of community software In this paper we explore a large corpus of thriving online communities. These groups vary widely in size, moderation and privacy, and cover an equally diverse set of subject matter. We present a broad range of descriptive statistics of these groups. Using metadata from groups, members, and individual messages, we identify users who post and are replied-to frequently by multiple group members; we classify these high-engagement users based on the longevity of their engagements. We show that users who will go on to become long-lived, highly-engaged users experience significantly better treatment than other users from the moment they join the group, well before there is an opportunity for them to develop a long-standing relationship with members of the group We present a simple model explaining long-term heavy engagement as a combination of user-dependent and group-dependent factors. Using this model as an analytical tool, we show that properties of the user alone are sufficient to explain 95% of all memberships, but introducing a small amount of per-group information dramatically improves our ability to model users belonging to multiple groups.