Date of Original Version
Abstract or Table of Contents
Many small online communities would benefit from increased diversity or activity in their membership. Some communities run the risk of dying out due to lack of participation. Others struggle to achieve the critical mass necessary for diverse and engaging conversation. But what tools are available to these communities to increase participation? Our goal in this research was to spark contributions to the movielens.org discussion forum, where only 2% of the members write posts. We developed personalized invitations, messages designed to entice users to visit or contribute to the forum. In two field experiments, we ask (1) if personalized invitations increase activity in a discussion forum, (2) how the choice of algorithm for intelligently choosing content to emphasize in the invitation affects participation, and (3) how the suggestion made to the user affects their willingness to act. We find that invitations lead to increased participation, as measured by levels of reading and posting. More surprisingly, we find that invitations emphasizing the social nature of the discussion forum are effective, while invitations emphasizing non-social aspects of the discussion are less so.