I'm writing a paper on StackExchange and building a comparison with Elinor Ostrom's principles for governing commons. While I understand most of the principles, I have some problems getting exactly what congruence implies:

A. The distribution of benefits from appropriation rules is roughly proportionate to the costs imposed by provision rules. B. Appropriation rules restricting time, place, technology, and/or quantity of resource units are related to local conditions.

My main problem is that I have problems defining what appropriation rules/provision rules/costs are in the context of StackExchange. Language barrier and the fact I've never studied politics is not helping. I try switching the words around to try and get closer to this reality but to no avail, it just doesn't seem to make any sense. Would anyone have a simple example of how this applies to anything that is voluntary and free?

EDIT: I'm writing this for a Knowledge management class so I'm considering knowledge as a resource here and/or cognitive surplus (time people all over the globe can spend on Stack as a result from technology)... Potentially depleted by "help vampires" or harmed by disruptive behaviors from users or other actors and such. All my readings thus far have led me to Ostrom and Benkler, see for example this article by Ostrom.


I am not sure the analogy will be fruitfull in this case.

To make Stackexchange fit into Oström's framework, you need to clarify in which respect Stackechange is linked to a common-pooled resource. That is, you need to figure out what is the resource associated with Stackexchange websites which

  1. Is depleted if too many people use it
  2. Is difficult to control the usage of

(see http://swfound.org/media/61531/ISUSymposium2012Paper_TChowBWeeden.pdf for more on the definition of a common pooled resource.)

Which resource associated with Stackexchange did you think would fit in this category?

Following edit from OP

  • Isn't the provision cost simply the time and effort people spend answering, asking, editing and moderating questions?
  • I cannot think of any appropriation "rule" stricto sensu, but there are most definitely appropriation mechanism set up on SE. The main ones work through the reputation system. On average, the more you give (in terms of provision costs), the more reputation you accumulate. This reputation can be used to obtain preferential access to some of the common resources. In that matter, the most obvious mechanism is the bounty system through which one can attract attention and answer time to a question by giving away some of her reputation. I know of some user who really employ this as a "time bank" : once they have reached a reputation level they consider decent, they spend any additional reputation points on bounties to get help on some problems they cannot solve or to attract attention on questions they are particularily interested in. I guess one can think of other more indirect advantages one can derive from a higher reputation which could also be viewed as appropriation mechanisms.
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    I've added an edit to make my question more clear + details about resource. I've read all day and found another of her texts explaining the congruence rule in words I could grasp more easily. Starting to make sense of this. I may end up answering my own question in a day or two :-) And thanks for the link, that's one paper I didn't have my hands on! – curious Mar 31 '14 at 4:02
  • Interesting point with rep and bouties. I was thinking of appropriation as usage of the resource by the asker of questions. So the question cap would be something limiting the use of the resource. Wouldn't that make sense too? – curious Mar 31 '14 at 6:07
  • I am afraid I do not know about the question cap system, sorry. – Martin Van der Linden Mar 31 '14 at 13:26
  • It's the limit of questions people can ask on StackExchange, although I believe it's only in effect on the three founding sites, here is a thread about it. – curious Mar 31 '14 at 13:31
  • +1, but you should avoid acknowledging things as "edits" or "responses to edits" in your post. Treat your answer as a living document, and if the OP makes an edit in the question, then you can edit your answer to better match the question. – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Apr 2 '14 at 18:09

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