Academic study - motivations to answer on Q&A sites November 1, 2011 12:12 PM   Subscribe

AcademicStudyFilter: What motivates answers on a Q&A site?

While not conducted in AskMe, this study of motivations to answer health questions on Yahoo! Answers is pretty interesting.

What motivated people to answer (quantitatively)? #1 was altruism, followed by: enjoyment, efficacy, empathy, social engagement, community interest, reputation, reciprocity, and personal gain.

Qualitatively was a bit more interesting: correcting incorrect medical information, boredom, help without being responsible, and those that had "observed the needs of desperate people suffering health and life issues and had taken action by providing answers, considering it a responsibility of health professionals or as someone who had experienced or suffered from a particular situation."

I'd imagine that replicating this study on AskMe (although I would do the qualitative first to find emergent motivation categories and THEN do a survey) would be interesting - how does the $5 barrier to entry impact both the population of the site (as compared to Yahoo! Answers) and the motivations?

*I know that lots of people don't care for my posting of MeFi-tangentially-related academic studies. Sorry in advance.

** PS is AnswerBag older than AskMe? This study says yes.
posted by k8t to MetaFilter-Related at 12:12 PM (56 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, and on the flip - motivations to ask!
posted by k8t at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2011

Narcissism not an option?
posted by JPD at 12:30 PM on November 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

posted by someone is wrong on the internet at 12:35 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

just dialogue that's part of my ongoing space-opera that spans across the entire internet. Parts of the prologue are available on askjeeves.
posted by Think_Long at 12:48 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

** Wikipedia says AnswerBag was started in July 2003. AskMe launched December 8, 2003.
posted by carsonb at 1:01 PM on November 1, 2011

The money, the power, the spandex outfits.
posted by The Whelk at 1:04 PM on November 1, 2011

The cabal motivates me to answer. Only 43,762 more answers to go and they have promised to release me unharmed and let me return to my family.

There is no cabal. I have said to much.

It puts the lotion on its skin!
posted by pixlboi at 1:10 PM on November 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Everything I write on this site contains a subliminally coded message designed to slowly brainwash the masses to become my unthinking minions. When the time is right, I will write the proper activation comment and the world will bow to me.

Also, I'm bored at work.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:11 PM on November 1, 2011

Is no one else getting the bi-weekly checks?

I mean what bi-weekly checks? Is someone getting checks? STONE THEM.
posted by griphus at 1:12 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

With me, it's almost entirely empathy. If somebody seems troubled about something I know about, or have experienced, I feel very drawn to sharing my experience in the hope it may make them feel a bit easier. Because even though I'm a bastardly curmudgeon who hates human beings and existence I still get upset when I see someone suffering or unhappy. Unless they're a conservative. Or religious. Or they have tattoos. Or they like Coldplay. Or Lady Gaga. No, especially if they like Lady Gaga. And even more especially if they are Lady Gaga. You know what? Fuck everybody.
posted by Decani at 1:17 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

What, there's not a bag of golden dukats waiting for me at the end? Curses, foiled again!

(I lurked for a long while and then spent my five bucks because I 1) felt I had finally come past some of my most acute axe-grinding issues and hence, 2) thought I could actually occasionally be of help. Of course, from then on, you're FREE to do whatever you want to do. Including indulging in narcissism and stuff. )
posted by Namlit at 1:23 PM on November 1, 2011

Narcissism not an option?

Well maybe not for you.
posted by litleozy at 1:29 PM on November 1, 2011

That made me smile.
posted by Namlit at 1:32 PM on November 1, 2011

Decani: "You know what? Fuck everybody."

Thank you, Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged.
posted by zarq at 1:50 PM on November 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I made a New Year's resolution to stop giving unsolicited advice. The only way I can keep it is to give solicited advice on a regular basis. Otherwise I end up having conversations that go like this:

"I'm tired."
"You should take an iron supp- DAMMIT MY RESOLUTION."

"My boyfriend did an annoying thing."
"That's bullshit, break up with- DAMMIT MY RESOLUTION."

"My boss is a jerk."
"Start polishing your resume so you can- DAMMIT MY RESOLUTION."

It's a very awkward tic. Especially at parties.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:52 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm so lazy I don't want to do the search, but we just had a lengthy MeTa discussion about what makes people want to answer.
posted by Miko at 1:57 PM on November 1, 2011

It's good that they mention Naver and AskMeFi, but the omission of StackOverflow, currently ranked 109 by Alexa and probably the fastest growing Q&A site for the past few years is curious. The methodology seems a bit shaky too, but I look forward to reading it in more detail - thanks, k8t.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 2:00 PM on November 1, 2011

It's a very awkward tic. Especially at parties.

You should probably not- DAMMIT YOUR RESOLUTION.
posted by Think_Long at 2:01 PM on November 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

It's fun when you can help someone out, especially if the question is something that's been bugging them for years (or hours).
posted by jquinby at 2:02 PM on November 1, 2011

"My new monitor is displaying things all funny."

"I have the same one. Try setting it to 1152 by- DAMMIT MY RESOLUTION."
posted by griphus at 2:06 PM on November 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

Well, I can say money is not a motivator for good answers, based on some Google Answers studies I worked on way back when.

Health is a peculiar topic area, in that studies of people's information seeking behavior have found that health information seeking has characteristics similar to academic or research information seeking, but very different from information seeking for consumer activities such as buying something or looking for travel information. In a different study I worked on with my advisor we also found that health-related online information activities were markedly different from other types of activities. So some caution is recommended generalizing to other topic areas.

If anybody's interested in doing such an AskMe study, I would recommend breaking out by topic area, as well as question type as identified in another Yahoo! Answers study, which found three question categories: those where people shoot the shit, those that can have many valid answers (e.g. advice), and those that have a factual answer (you may note AskMe discourages the first category).

And while rambling on this, this study of Naver found altruism, learning, and competency to be motivators.

Or maybe I should stop reading MetaFilter and get started on an AskMe study myself.
posted by research monkey at 2:18 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

At some point in time, every single thing we have written online will be easily findable by our children.

I answer because I want to leave behind a record of who her dad was day-to-day for my daughter. Some of it is good, some of it is ugly and unfortunate. But it is a way of taking a relatively convenient Polaroid of myself for her. That it is strung out across time and my responses are to questions that are not hers or my own seems (to me anyway) to make it more "objective." A way of letting her hear me talk to other people...which might paint me as a more complete person that if she were always just hearing me talk to her directly.
posted by nickjadlowe at 2:18 PM on November 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Male answer syndrome.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:35 PM on November 1, 2011

Wait, you mean we don't have to meet our quota of answers every day?
posted by dg at 3:07 PM on November 1, 2011

Male answer syndrome.

I don't know if my questions are too wordy, but I get the sense that some people feel an instinctual compulsion to answer questions without even bothering to read them, most of the time. I'd vote for MAS.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:48 PM on November 1, 2011

griphus, click on "make it stop".
posted by zoinks at 3:52 PM on November 1, 2011

The desire to help people not make all the mistakes I've made.
posted by cashman at 4:41 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of a know-it-all. It's nice that in Ask.Me, it's okay, even welcome.
posted by theora55 at 4:43 PM on November 1, 2011

I like to ask questions when I'm stumped, so I feel compelled to answer things when I have a clue. Seems like the only way to let the circle be unbroken.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:57 PM on November 1, 2011

Male answer syndrome.

Isn't that what prompt manswers?
posted by maryr at 7:20 PM on November 1, 2011

dg: "Wait, you mean we don't have to meet our quota of answers every day?"

There's a quota? *starts typing furiously*
posted by arcticseal at 7:29 PM on November 1, 2011

This study is on Yahoo Answers?!

The motivations of those who respond to online queries with "LOL idk" are of academic interest? Or "basically, there isnt that much u can do"? Or "They need to do way instain mother>"?

Liberal artists are really something. Rock on.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:13 PM on November 1, 2011

I have a head full of almost useless information, and sharing it now and again makes it just a little bit less useless. I got to ID a David Bowie song for a young couple with two kids that was playing over the muzak system at my grocery store on Sunday morning, and they were all like "That's right! It's from that movie, right?" and then I got to ID the movie, Cat People, soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder. They smiled, and thanked me. I felt not useless at all for a moment, there. AskMe does that same thing, now and again.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:13 PM on November 1, 2011

I answer because it disgusts me how stupid people are, and if I can spend 5 seconds using one millionth of my brilliance to make you poor sops slightly less ignorant then it makes me feel just that tiny bit less hopeless for the future, and it's worth the almost insignificant investment of my brain energy fixing your pathetic problems.

Huh? I've never even been invited to a party why do you ask?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:29 PM on November 1, 2011

"My new monitor is displaying things all funny."

"I have the same one. Try setting it to 1152 by- DAMMIT MY RESOLUTION."

Just to be straight with you all, it took me six hours to get this joke, and when I did I laughed out loud even though there was no one else within 20 feet of me. It's really awesome that I think I can give advice to others.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:03 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mefites think they know better than everyone else and Askme gives us a perfect opportunity to show that we don't.
posted by joannemullen at 9:06 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yay! I know the author; she's awesome, and her work is awesome. Glad to see this on the grey.
posted by k8lin at 9:11 PM on November 1, 2011

I answer Ask questions because I've had a lot of weird, bad experiences in my life...(and a lot of good ones.) But I feel like those bad ones are just sitting there, stewing, unless I give them a purpose. So I assign them the purpose of serving as a lesson to other people or at least allowing them to feel less alone. It's cathartic to me in a way.

I thought about saying something like "I like helping people" - which is true, I suppose, but in complete honestly, that's not really the primary reason, or at least it's too simplified.
posted by Nixy at 9:13 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by WalterMitty at 9:34 PM on November 1, 2011

Knowing the answer. Next.
posted by iotic at 12:06 AM on November 2, 2011

I am compelled to answer questions asked of me. This is probably why I am a librarian.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:37 AM on November 2, 2011

I enjoy answering the questions and helping out fellow mefites. The question is "Why am I compelled to read questions?".
posted by DaddyNewt at 12:40 AM on November 2, 2011

What motivates answers on a Q&A site? - As if answering your question, the Dalai Lama said, "We are essentially social animals who depend on others to meet our needs. We achieve happiness, prosperity and progress through social interaction. Therefore, having a kind and helpful attitude contributes to our own and others' happiness."
posted by crunchland at 5:05 AM on November 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's a marvelous way to feel productive while avoiding real work.
posted by miyabo at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I answered your question, I'd have to analyze why I was answering it, in order to answer it properly. Which would make my brain hurt.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:46 AM on November 2, 2011

It depends partially on the kind of question it is, I think! "What should I do" type questions are fundamentally different, to me, than "how does this work", "what is this", or "how did you deal with this" type question.
posted by clockzero at 11:13 AM on November 2, 2011

Because the library closes at night and I am still itchy for questions.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:31 AM on November 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Because one time at a meetup I overheard people I thought were cool talking about somebody giving good advice and I liked what they were saying about that person, and then I was later told they were talking about me, and I really, really liked the way that felt.

Actually, that's a reward so far removed from the actual action that there's no way that drives me. Because I'm way, way too simple for that.* I really have no idea why I do, but I'm going to start giving it a lot more thought.

* That's why favorites wouldn't work to motive me either unless they were actually real time exchangeable for sweets or special touches. That said, I've spent many hours in the last week playing Glitch, so apparently collecting points for no apparent reason is some kind of motivator.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:13 PM on November 2, 2011

Yes, AskMe is like crack for librarians, I swear. (Or at least this librarian.) I don't answer tons of questions because of time constraints (and timeliness - you guys are fast off the mark), but I do really like uncovering information for people.
posted by clerestory at 3:22 PM on November 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feel weird about the fact that I very rarely answer questions in askme. It's a logical by-product of me not really reading askme either on any kind of regular basis, and maybe it's just a feedback loop where I don't answer because I don't read. But beyond that, I don't feel like I often get to questions that I have a substantially helpful answer for that hasn't already had that answer more or less proffered, and well, by someone else.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:04 PM on November 2, 2011

Karma. I lurked for some time and read a lot of very good things that helped me.

I think we like to play being the 'wise old man person on the mountain' figure that we wish we had in our own life. Answering someone else's question seems to ease the inner lack of answers. It's reassuring.

Plus, getting a hit of feeling smart on days when the world is determined to point out how average you are.
posted by griselda at 10:59 AM on November 3, 2011

posted by umbĂș at 1:27 PM on November 3, 2011

If you can learn from my mistakes with whole wheat flour, then I feel as though those mistakes have served a purpose. (This is perhaps similar in theme to what Nixy says, only she says it with far more meaning and grace.) Plus the questions-are-crack-for-librarians thing.
posted by lillygog at 7:26 PM on November 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am compelled to answer questions asked of me.

I didn't know you could get net access in the Deeper Well.
posted by stebulus at 9:59 AM on November 4, 2011

55 comments and no one's linked that xkcd yet?
posted by fragmede at 11:02 AM on November 4, 2011

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