Designing for serendipity in online knowledge communities: An investigation of tag presentation formats and openness to experience


Users increasingly acquire, share, and create knowledge in online knowledge communities, making them massive dynamic knowledge repositories that spark inspiration. While online knowledge communities provide powerful searching tools, they ignore the potential of serendipity in fostering knowledge acquisition. Against this backdrop, this research investigates whether serendipity can be stimulated by design features of communities. Specifically, we examine whether different tag presentation formats may promote serendipity. Two hundred seven participants were randomly assigned to our experimental website that displays one of three tag formats. Results show that users experienced serendipity more frequently while using tag trees than tag clouds, followed by tag lists. Moreover, tag formats moderate how openness to experience affects serendipity. Although openness did not influence serendipity across tag formats, further analysis shows that it significantly decreases serendipity for tag lists, but significantly increases serendipity for tag clouds and trees. Theoretically, these results provide an in-depth understanding of serendipity that is contingent on the interaction between community design features and personality (e.g., openness to experience). Practically, these findings demonstrate how interface features (e.g., tag presentation formats) facilitate serendipity, thus informing better design of online knowledge communities to improve the efficiency of knowledge acquisition.

Publication Title

Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology