One size does not fit all: A study of badge behavior in stack overflow

Stav Yanovsky, Nicholas Hoernle, Omer Lev, Kobi Gal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Badges are endemic to online interaction sites, from question and answer (Q&A) websites to ride sharing, as systems for rewarding participants for their contributions. This article studies how badge design affects people's contributions and behavior over time. Past work has shown that badges “steer” people's behavior toward substantially increasing the amount of contributions before obtaining the badge, and immediately decreasing their contributions thereafter, returning to their baseline contribution levels. In contrast, we find that the steering effect depends on the type of user, as modeled by the rate and intensity of the user's contributions. We use these measures to distinguish between different groups of user activity, including users who are not affected by the badge system despite being significant contributors to the site. We provide a predictive model of how users change their activity group over the course of their lifetime in the system. We demonstrate our approach empirically in three different Q&A sites on Stack Exchange with hundreds of thousands of users, for two types of activities (editing and voting on posts).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-345
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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