Motivations of hybrid wireless community participants a qualitative analysis of Swiss FON members

Camponovo, Giovanni and Picco-Schwendener, Anna (2012) Motivations of hybrid wireless community participants a qualitative analysis of Swiss FON members. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Mobile Business. 10th International Conference on Mobile Business., Como.

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The development of wireless communities has accelerated with the emergence of firms that incorporate this concept into a commercial business model. This hybrid community approach, where a company supports a community of individuals sharing their access points with each other, shows great promise to reach a global status as shown by the example of FON and the millions of members it has attracted. The key success factor for a community is attaining a critical mass of active members and it is thus vital to understand their motivations and develop suitable incentives to foster their participation. Because existing research is mostly limited to pure communities, this paper intends to study motivations of members in a hybrid community. To explore and understand them, it employs a qualitative approach based on 30 interviews with FON members in Switzerland. Tangible rewards appear to be the biggest motivation: the possibility to get free Internet access from other members is seen as the strongest incentive. Other utilitarian aspects like getting economical hardware or revenue sharing were also mentioned at times. A second strong motivation that emerges is the appeal of the concept of sharing, though members see it with various nuances like a reciprocal exchange, a purely altruistic act, or a way to better use existing infrastructure. Other less frequently cited motivations were idealistic (to promote free Internet or support alternatives to commercial operators) or related to technical interest and curiosity (to see how it works and experiment). On the other hand, social and intrinsic motivations are weak: members do not really feel part of a community as cooperative aspects are restricted to sharing resources and social interaction is limited. Finally, members are generally aware of potential risks such as security, abuse and legality, but they are not really concerned by them as the presence of a firm supporting the community plays a major role in reassuring members.

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