Living in the present: Understanding long-term content referencing in enterprise online communities
Successful online communities accumulate large amounts of long-term content. However there has been little quantitative, theoretically-motivated exploration of how communities organize such content, nor which community members take responsibility for active organization. We examine one aspect of long-term content organization through link behavior, also exploring role differences between enterprise community leaders and members in the context of life-cycle community models. We first classify how content is linked within posts, identifying usage patterns that organize information within and outside communities. We next present an exploratory quantitative analysis of 2,010 communities including 428,476 posts and 1,246,570 links. We show paradoxically that although mature communities accumulate substantial content, organizing that content using links decreases over time. Further analyses suggest that this arises from a recency bias, with communities being focused on current content. Our results also challenge descriptive lifecycle community models, which propose that regular community members adopt greater responsibility over time. We explore explanations for our findings and implications including new tools that encourage responsibility for active organization, as well as methods for members to revisit critical content.