Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

The Hidden Costs of Requiring Accounts Online: Quasiexperimental Evidence From Peer Production

Sat, May 27, 9:30 to 10:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, Floor: 4, Sapphire 411 AB


Peer production communities like Wikipedia and OpenStreetMap generate public information goods of immense value. Some communities require participants to create accounts and login before contributing whereas others do not. Do these user accounts catalyze cooperation or inhibit greater participation? Prior literature makes divergent predictions, but lacks observational evidence capable of identifying causal effects. We report the results of an empirical test using exhaustive longitudinal data from 136 natural experiments in a population of wiki communities where would-be contributors were suddenly required to create and login with a user account in order to participate. We estimate the impact of the change and find that requiring user accounts dramatically reduces the number of low quality contributions, deters higher quality participation, and leads to a small increase in the number of contributors creating new accounts. We conclude that user accounts are costly barriers to entry that introduce tradeoffs for public goods production.