Designing for Dabblers and Deterring Drop-Outs in Citizen Science
In most online citizen science projects, a large proportion of participants contribute in small quantities. To investigate how low contributors differ from committed volunteers, we distributed a survey to members of the Old Weather project, followed by interviews with respondents selected according to a range of contribution levels. The studies reveal a complex relationship between motivations and contribution. Whilst high contributors were deeply engaged by social or competitive features, low contributors described a solitary experience of 'dabbling' in projects for short periods. Since the majority of participants exhibit this small-scale contribution pattern, there is great potential value in designing interfaces to tempt lone workers to complete 'just another page', or to lure early drop-outs back into participation. This includes breaking the work into components which can be tackled without a major commitment of time and effort, and providing feedback on the quality and value of these contributions.