Open Source Support Reward Mechanisms

Does a Gold Star Make People Answer Questions?

In the last few weeks I have participated in several meetings on the topic of adding a reward system to community forums. As an example, some online forums give people points for answering questions and as the user obtains more points they are given various badges to demonstrate their status to the community. I will present the two arguments I have heard for and against this model and ask my readers to give their thoughts. As of right now, I am neither for nor against but am trying to decide the value of reward systems. Positive ArgumentHaving a reward system allows contributors a way to shine within the forum community as they are recognized for their efforts. This reinforcement via rewards will drive participants to engage further and help more members with questions. The reward system also clearly highlights active participants in the community who can then be engaged with directly via community leadership for recognition, feedback, and leadership opportunities. The reward system gives community leadership and members an easy way to identify those with the answers, a valuable group of members that is critical to the success of any open source project. The important value of an online forum and community is for people to share ideas and answers with each other in a searchable format so others can benefit from shared knowledge. The reward system adds a new layer of complexity to that basic concept as participants try to be the highest reward recipient. The introduction of this new layer draws focus from simply sharing information to people getting involved in how points are given out, how they are valued by the community, and what “gifts” can I get for the points. In fact, an entire new task is created for the forum manager to ensure that points are properly being credited and that people are providing valuable answers and not just nonsense to get points. Is a reward system really worth the addition of all this overheard? ConclusionAs I said earlier, I struggle with this issue and have worked on projects with and without rewards systems and still can’t determine the best solution. I look forward to your comments on this subject and hope that someone can convince me why I should or shouldn’t run a rewards based support forum.

Negative Argument

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