An Exploration of Collaborative Act Distributions on the Stack exchange Network

Open Access
Friedenberg, Evan Mitchell
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 01, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Xiaolong Zhang, Thesis Advisor
  • Social Q&A
  • Collaborative Acts
  • Stack Exchange
Social question and answering (social Q&A) services have evolved from digital reference services and expert services, which have connected information seekers with experts or librarians for several decades. Social Q&A services provide the ability to combine the knowledge of many and create an indexable knowledge repository that can be accessed by search engines. They allow users to pose questions and then work with the community to find answers to those questions. Use social Q&A sites have grown immensely in recent years as people turn more frequently to the Internet to find information. Popular services in the United States include Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Stack Exchange. Motivating this research, collaboration in the process of information seeking results in answers that are better than the sum of the individual answers. Understanding the nature of collaboration on social Q&A services can inform design changes that improves the quality of the information that the sites contain. To investigate the types of collaborations that occur on these sites, a comparison of the collaborative acts occurring on Stack Exchange was conducted, extending the work of Tausczik, Kittur, & Kraut (2014). Stack Exchange exists as a network of identically designed sites federated by topic, with each developing its own community. Coding of existing threads on Stack Exchange, using Stack Overflow, DIY, and Parenting as samples, was completed and the distributions were compared in order to understand the differences in collaboration and provide design recommendations. Findings indicate that the distributions of collaborative acts on Stack Overflow differ significantly from those of DIY and Parenting. Contributions of this research 1) a more inclusive schema of collaborative acts on Stack Exchange, 2) a method for collaborative coding and comparing distributions of collaborative acts, 3) evidence that not all sites on the network share the same distribution, and 4) design recommendations based on the findings.