When Interaction is Valuable: Feedback, Churn and Survival on Community Question and Answer Sites: The case of Stack Exchange

AbstractDoes feedback contribute to collaboration? As in most open participation and contribution platforms, churn is an issue. The highest churn and dropout rates follow the initial posting of a single answer. According to feedback theories, contributors are sensitive to feedback. Votes and comments are common feedback mechanisms in such platforms. Prior studies on the effect of these mechanisms in different platforms have produced conflicting results. This study reports a longitudinal analysis of the feedback effect on newcomer answer provider retention in five Stack Exchange communities, including over a million users and their answers. We find that feedback in the form of votes and comments provided to the first answer is strongly correlated with newcomer retention. Thus, interaction is valuable. The findings have implications for the design of Q&A websites and for testing the theory of feedback arrangements' impact on persistence.


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