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2018

Santos Tiago, Walk Simon, Kern Roman, Strohmaier M., Helic Denis

Activity in Questions & Answers Websites

ACM Transactions on Social Computing, 2018

Journal
Millions of users on the Internet discuss a variety of topics on Question and Answer (Q&A) instances. However, not all instances and topics receive the same amount of attention, as some thrive and achieve self-sustaining levels of activity while others fail to attract users and either never grow beyond being a small niche community or become inactive. Hence, it is imperative to not only better understand but also to distill deciding factors and rules that define and govern sustainable Q&A instances. We aim to empower community managers with quantitative methods for them to better understand, control and foster their communities, and thus contribute to making the Web a more efficient place to exchange information. To that end, we extract, model and cluster user activity-based time series from 50 randomly selected Q&A instances from the StackExchange network to characterize user behavior. We find four distinct types of user activity temporal patterns, which vary primarily according to the users' activity frequency. Finally, by breaking down total activity in our 50 Q&A instances by the previously identified user activity profiles, we classify those 50 Q&A instances into three different activity profiles. Our categorization of Q&A instances aligns with the stage of development and maturity of the underlying communities, which can potentially help operators of such instances not only to quantitatively assess status and progress, but also allow them to optimize community building efforts
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