Essays on Stakeholder Outcomes in Crowdsourcing Contests


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date1 Sep 2017


Crowdsourcing contests entail a scenario in which a specified task is made open to an undefined crowd of individuals who provide solutions and compete for specified rewards. While all participants exert effort to create solutions to the task, only a small subset (sometimes a single winner in winner-take-all scenarios) receives the reward. In many cases, such contests are conducted by firms as a means of obtaining high value (innovative) solutions, and offer substantial rewards to attract participants and motivate them to expend their resources towards completing tasks. Rising interest in this area of crowdsourcing has led to the creation of online platforms that function to disseminate open crowdsourcing calls, recruit participants, facilitate exchanges between participants and task givers as well as manage the dissemination of incentives. As with many processes that involve complex computer mediated communications, there are multiple issues that arise – eliciting participation, maximizing stakeholder expectations and sustainability. Existing studies have addressed related concepts from the perspective of online communities (social networks, virtual worlds), ecommerce platforms, open source software communities and online labour markets. Only a few of these studies lend attention to the specific area of software crowdsourcing contests, and even fewer model the impact of incentives and behaviour with respect to different stakeholders in the crowdsourcing ecosystem.
In this dissertation, I argue that software crowdsourcing contests (as interactions within a community of developers) are distinct from other forms of crowdsourcing with unique behaviours, processes and outcomes for stakeholders. I demonstrate this with results from 3 studies that sought to understand the sustainability of crowdsourcing platforms, the impact of incentives on crowdsourcing outcomes, and the problem solving process of participants over the period of crowdsourcing contests.
Study #1 examines the topic of sustainability in software crowdsourcing contests, by examining factors that impact future participation behaviour. Using survey data collected from 138 software developers who participated in a large software crowdsourcing contest, in combination with archival data on their previous contest participation, I assess relationships between motivational dispositions, perceptions of justice (procedural and distributive), satisfaction and intention to participate in future contests. Results show that extrinsic motivation and fairness (process and outcome) are key drivers of satisfaction which in turn is a strong predictor of future participation intention. Findings also highlight the moderating effect of risk on the relationship between distributive fairness and satisfaction. Finally, the study draws attention to the negative impact of previous participation on future intention to participate – a situation with important (albeit unfavourable) implications for the sustainability of software crowdsourcing platforms. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Having noted the importance of extrinsic motivation as seen in Study #1, Study #2 examined how sub dimensions of extrinsic motivation (external regulation and introjected regulation) impacts sub dimensions of outcomes (expression of interest, and contribution) in software crowdsourcing contests. Using data from 197 contests hosted on a popular software crowdsourcing platform between 2010 and 2014, this study assessed the effect of extrinsic motivation on two important dimensions of crowdsourcing outcomes: registration and submission. Specifically, results show that external regulation types of motivation are sufficient to elicit an interest (registration) in but not a submission to crowdsourcing endeavors. Conversely, introjected regulation, an internalized form of extrinsic motivation, is a strong predictor of contributions to as well as an expression of interest in such endeavors. Findings also suggest that when a firm’s expectations from crowdsourcing is to generate interest/awareness, an overall high contest prize is sufficient. Findings contribute to crowdsourcing literature by distinguishing the effects of external regulation and internal regulation on interest and contribution.
Finally, Study #3 seeks to derive an ideological understanding of the aspects of the problem solving process participants engage in as they create solutions in software contests. In this study, I apply a thematic and verbal analysis approach on a corpus of 691 messages posted on a discussion forum associated with a large crowdsourcing contest. My goal is an interpretive realization of themes that characterise participant behaviour as they participate in a contest. Results suggest participants engage with the solution provisioning process via the following activities: idea verification, rule clarification, technical support (request, provision, and gratitude), emotional expression (process, outcome, sense making), and efficacy expression. Further analysis of these activities yield several insights. First it draws attention to the inherent complexity participant’s face in interpreting contest rules. Secondly it highlights the emotional issues that underpin the latter parts of the problem solving process and its impact on stakeholder (seeker, solver and platform owner) goals. Thirdly, it draws attention to a further albeit unrecognized opportunity for further innovation extraction after crowdsourcing contests have been concluded.
In summary, this research contributes by: (1) offering both a rich and practice-informed account of the software crowdsourcing phenomenon (2) explaining the how of repeat participation in crowdsourcing contests, impact of extrinsic motivation on seeker outcomes and the explicitly identifying the problem solving process during a crowdsourcing contest. (3) Offering modest methodological lessons as well as research opportunities for future investigations.