My name is Dan and as part of my bachelor degree in cognitive sciences I'm taking a course called Human Altruism. It's a very interesting one, that asks what are the reasons people will incur loss on themselves in order to increase the gain of others, where the other is usually a stranger and that the altruistic act does not give an (immediate) gain to the altruistic person (as in reputation, etc..).

For my final paper I chose to study the roots of online altruism - mainly stating that it is much more prevalent to notice people taking time and effort to help a total stranger on the web, and that StackExchange sites (like StackOverflow) and the open source movement is a very clear case of this.

I'm wondering what are the reasons such altruistic acts that don't seem to expand to many fields outside the web (you don't usually about an accountant coming back from work to help other people from around the world to do their taxes for free [no offence to accountants :]).

In kind of meta way, I thought it would be cool to put this question here and ask you guys - for instance, I've heard that the gamification of StackExchange sites (the uproots and points we get for answering questions) is a big motivator, or that in many cases (like sub-reddits) the feeling of community can drive you to extend help to others.

Would greatly appreciate your thoughts, Dan