Understanding social costs in online question asking

Haiwei Ma, Hao Fei Cheng, Bowen Yu, Haiyi Zhu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations


Various social media sites and online communities provide new channels for people in need to ask questions and seek help. However, individuals may still encounter psychological barriers that deter solicitation for assistance, which is more formally described as “social costs”. For example, it can be the concerns of burdening others, the obligation of reciprocation, etc. To understand what could reduce social costs, we conducted a study in the context of Question-Answering (QA) and investigated the following three factors inspired by literature: anonymity (posting a question anonymously), recommendation (having the system handle the question routing), and ephemerality (allowing questions to be visible only for a short period). We built a QA platform to support these three features and conducted a randomized within-subject experiment to test their effects on social costs of posting questions. Results suggest the presence of anonymity, recommendation, and ephemerality reduces the social costs which provides design implications for future community building.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCHI EA 2019 - Extended Abstracts of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
ISBN (Electronic)9781450359719
StatePublished - May 2 2019
Event2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI EA 2019 - Glasgow, United Kingdom
Duration: May 4 2019May 9 2019

Publication series

NameConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings


Conference2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, CHI EA 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Anonymity
  • Ephemerality
  • Online Question Asking
  • Recommendation
  • Social Costs
  • System Building


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