Note from the editor: These next few days, we will be re-publishing note-worthy content from the Wisdump archive. This particular article was originally posted by Paul Scrivens on November 8th, 2006.
The overjustification effect (also called the undermining effect) is the effect whereby giving someone an incentive (monetary or otherwise) to do something that they already enjoy doing decreases their intrinsic motivation to do it. As a result of the extrinsic incentive, the person views his or her actions as externally controlled rather than intrinsically appealing. According to Self-perception theory, people undergo overjustification effect because by observing what they do and why they did it, the extrinsic motivation appears to be the main cause and so undermines their intrinsic motivation.
And no, the irony of using Wikipedia, a user-generated content site, for a definition to a term has not escaped me.
The issue of rewarding users for helping your site grow and producing content is a very interesting one. Digg is one of the fastest growing sites this year due to the amount of content people are putting on it. More content = more pageviews = more money. Kevin Rose gets a profile of himself done on BusinessWeek and is labeled as the “$60M Kid” because of the work of a couple hundred thousand people that he doesn’t even know. Do they deserve a piece of the pie when Digg gets bought?
How do Reddit users feel about their work being scooped up by Conde Nast? Netscape has offered to pay its top users and while that works for some it doesn’t work for all. If Digg took the same approach it would more than likely fail because the value of the site that users receive has been replaced with rewards.
9rules doesn’t offer its members money for the content they produce or false promises of thousands of new pageviews a day for getting on our frontpage. We know very well the benefits of joining 9rules and do not try to offer anymore incentives than reaching a larger audience than before. You might get 10 new readers or you might get 10,000, but you also get to join a private community where you can build relationships that might not have been possible otherwise. Many people take their admission to the Network as a sign of the great work they have done over the past months and years.
Squidoo moved too soon by sharing its revenue with members because there really was no other incentive to write on the site versus creating your own blog. It doesn’t hide the fact that some people will try to get a quick buck, but communities will never be based around such things. We all know that passion drives any community and if you are a community leader you must be careful of the incentives you offer people.
Many times you can’t even predict the incentives that people will find in your site, you just have to hope that you are providing the right platform for them to find them. It has been argued that to dethrone YouTube you simply have to offer a revenue sharing scheme, but how often do you hear about anyone even coming close to offering what YouTube does in intrinsic value? You have a huge community that fights, bickers, acts immature and is downright rude to each other, but continues to grow and come back. Sounds just like Digg to me.
For 9rules Notes, there isn’t much value to our Users beyond joining a mature community where you can join in on some great discussions, but how often are people looking for more than that? To some that’s all the value you need so by me saying “isn’t much” I am greatly downplaying the values of many of our Notes Users. I am the Top Notes User not because I help run the company, but because I get great satisfaction out of hearing what others think. That’s what makes blogging such a wonderful process and why many of the top blogs are independently run. When the money follows the intrinsic rewards it is so much sweeter than having the money try to push you towards intrinsic satisfaction.
Looking at Digg and their recent changes you can see a split in opinion of whether the recent algorithm changes are a good or bad thing. The real issue you have to look at is whether the changes not only make the site better, but also increase the intrinsic value of Digg’s users. Many people post on Digg not to get traffic to their sites, but because they want to be a top Digg user because of the feeling of power they receive from it. That is their intrinsic value and sure it is selfish, but that is what intrinsic values are based around.
Start to offer them monetary rewards and they start to question whether they are posting for the intrinsic value or the reward and this is when they start to lose interest. Blogging is scary to Mainstream Media not only because it can be done quicker (and sometimes with little regard to fact-checking), but also provides more value from doing something for free versus getting paid for it. The trick is to give your users something that they value more than money. Good luck.
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