Conference paper Open Access

A Contingency View of Transferring and Adapting Best Practices within Online Communities

Zhu, Haiyi; Kraut, Robert E.; Kittur, Aniket

Online communities, like companies in the business world, often need to transfer "best practices" internally from one unit to another to improve their performance. Organizational scholars disagree about how much a recipient site should modify a best practice when incorporating it. Some evidence indicates that modifying a practice that has been successful in one environment will introduce problems, undercut its effectiveness and harm the performance of the recipient community. Other evidence, though, suggests that recipients need to adapt the practice to fit their local environment. The current research introduces a contingency perspective on practice transfer, holding that the value of modifications depends on when they are introduced and who introduces them. Empirical research on the transfer of a quality-improvement practice between projects within Wikipedia shows that modifications are more helpful if they are introduced after the receiving project has had experience with the imported practice. Furthermore, modifications are more effective if they are introduced by members who have experience in a variety of other projects.
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