Motivating Expertise-Sharing in Online Communities: Altruism or Self-Interest?

This paper examines motivations of workers to contribute to online expertise-sharing communities in the workplace, and presents the findings of a survey and experimental study. Results indicate that younger workers, and those new to the organization, are motivated more by selfinterest, such as gaining name recognition and impressing management, while older workers, and those with a longer tenure, are motivated by more altruistic factors such as sharing and mentoring. Results suggest that HCI designers include aspects that emphasize ‘belongingness’, and that bring newcomers into the community fold as quickly as possible since a sense of community results in greater participation and contribution.

By: David Huffaker; Jennifer Lai

Published in: RC24114 in 2006


This Research Report is available. This report has been submitted for publication outside of IBM and will probably be copyrighted if accepted for publication. It has been issued as a Research Report for early dissemination of its contents. In view of the transfer of copyright to the outside publisher, its distribution outside of IBM prior to publication should be limited to peer communications and specific requests. After outside publication, requests should be filled only by reprints or legally obtained copies of the article (e.g., payment of royalties). I have read and understand this notice and am a member of the scientific community outside or inside of IBM seeking a single copy only.


Questions about this service can be mailed to .