While people tend to contribute more to a virtual public good if they see others doing the same, this effect reverses if they become aware too many people are participating, according to research that I conducted over the summer. Public goods are things that many people share. They can be physical, such as highways, clean air and blood banks, or virtual, like free online encyclopedia Wikipedia or mobile traffic app Waze.
Combining methods from geography, urban planning and big-data analysis, my co-authors and I studied millions of postings by users of a mobile navigation app called Waze, in which users voluntarily post traffic-related updates and road conditions in real time. All users of the app benefit as more of them freely contribute information about traffic accidents and road closures. Economists describe this as contributing to a public good.
We found that displaying the “density” of users’ activities on Waze that is, real time information on how many people are on the app in one’s geographic location can encourage participation from others in the area, just as it does in the real world. If you see a lot of people donating blood in your local neighborhood or many parents volunteering in your local school, it may motivate you to do the same.
To read more on the article titled “People may be less likely to contribute to a virtual public good like Wikipedia or Waze if they know many others are already doing it” click here
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