Summarizing the articles, or how I was tired and not in a charitable mood:
“Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities”
This article makes the shocking observation that “users participate in communities which share similar interests.” It also categorizes the different user intentions for twitter as:
Sharing Informations/URLs, and
I can’t help but want to group the first two and second two categories together.
For a conclusion, the article states that there are high levels of close mutual connections on this social networking site and that determining the user intentions of individuals is difficult.
“Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities”
Mentions that under contribution is a problem for online communities, and devised and completed several inconclusive experiments to test social psychology theories and their application to increasing contribution to online communities. There were several variables that were tested in the experiments. One variable was the user’s feeling of uniqueness of their contribution. The experiments seemed to conclude that increasing this feeling would lead to greater participation by the user. It seemed to me that giving the users a feeling of having unique contributions was a bit like patting a dog on the head for rolling over. It works for getting the dog to roll over, but requires you to continue patting the dog’s head each time you want it to roll over. I’m sure it is possible to create a program, for these online communities, that occasionally pats each contributing member on the head, but I wonder if a computer response will continue to get the same effect over time. I wonder what a more long term experiment would find.
This article also points out that one reason why their experiments failed to agree with the social theory predictions is poor implementation. They found that similar groups did not participate as much as dissimilar groups in experiment #1, but later realize that all the groups are in fact similar, as all were composed of movie buffs. It seems correct to assume that people need a similar ground to beginning conversing, but if you’re too similar the conversation just ends up being “I agree. <silence>” “<silence>”…
“Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online”
This article gives the following reasons for joining an online community:
The article also connects those reasons for joining an online community to the type of online community, noting that more serious topic communities (such as professional communities or health and welfare communities) are more likely to have member that joined for information seeking/exchange or social support. On the other hand, more recreational communities, like forums about pets, are more likely to have people join for recreational or friendship reasons. As I mentioned in my previous blog, I joined the Missy USA site, which has an area for health and welfare, mostly for information seeking or social support reasons, so this article did match with my own experiences.
“Examining social media usage: Technology clusters and social network site membership”
This article was interesting partially for being dated to 2009, but still mentioning MySpace so much. It seems like a very good example of how quickly times change and the issues researchers face in publishing their findings. The article even mentions this fact in the conclusion as it mentions the moving target of SNSs.
The article notes that previous findings, in other studies, found extroverts to be unlikely to substitute internet interactions for real-life interactions. This seems to be another example of the moving target of the internet and SNSs. The study in this article found that extroverts are more comfortable in the newer SNSs, where they can post pictures and videos of themselves. It seems to simply be a movement of their extroverted ways from real-life to the internet. The study also notes that computer anxiety was negatively correlated with information seeking and downloading but had no effect on the use of one-to-one or many-to-many “clusters.” The article states this, and I agree, that many one-to-one or many-to-many “clusters” such as email and SNSs like Facebook are relatively easy to use and therefore people who are not good with computers can still use them without fear.
One interesting point from the article is that women are more likely to use SNSs than men are. I wonder why this is? Part of me wants to say that the stereotype that women are better at interpersonal relationships is the reason why we flock to SNSs. Perhaps the answer is even more sexist and has to do with having more free time. Or perhaps, the majority in the study is not statistically important and just an error from the study’s sampling process?
“Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory”
This article, like the first is trying to determine ways to increase online community contributions and keep the communities alive and thriving. One item this article touches on that the first ignored is the idea of types/levels of participants in the community. In the Missy USA community I joined, I would call myself a type two lurker. I typically just search for the information I want and if I can’t find it I may post a questions. I don’t usually respond to other members when they ask questions. I do have a friend who spends a lot of time on certain “forums” and probably considers himself a type four contributor. He sometimes brags about threads on one forum specifically asking for his response/help. I wonder if this “they need me” feeling is one of those intrinsic motives or if the praise it gathers counts as an extrinsic motive.
This article talks about personality characteristics and environmental factors as part of the equation in determining/affecting contribution levels. It also mentions reinforcement factors as an area that online community organizers might use to help increase contributions.
Part 2, or watching over my friend’s shoulder:
I would never join a site on wargaming, but as my friend is a type 3 or 4 contributor to a site, I followed his lead to < http://privateerpressforums.com/> an online community dedicated to wargames produced by the company Privateer Press.
A little background information from my friend: Privateer Press released a game called Warmachine in 2003 and recently went through a complete revision of the game performed via online open playtesting. Participants on the forum were given (for free) the rules for the new version of the game and were requested to play the new rules a provide feedback for the game. Per my friend, during this time (late 2009 early 2010) there were 1000s of posts per day.
As I look at the forum now (near midnight Hawaii time), there are 216 active users, 62 of which are registered members. The forum also tracks certain other statistics and notes that the most ever users online at one times was 898. There are 50,864 threads, 722,045 posts, 39,808 members, of which 4615 are considered active. One interesting thing to note is that there are subforums in: Italian, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Dutch, Scandinavian, and Polish. I did note, however, that these language subforums are fairly empty.
The largest sections are the general “Privateer Press Discussion” sections and the ones dedicated to the various in-game “armies”. Other areas with a large number of posts include the section for “Rules Questions” and a section dedicated to “Miniature Painting and Modeling.”
With so many posts, I clicked on the link “Todays Posts” to narrow down my focus. Because of this, I might not have seen the full picture of these forums. Additionally as I have no knowledge of the game, my friend helped “translate” many gaming terms.
Modes of Participation:
-Members can Post Threads
-Members can Post replies to thread or to other replies
-Members can send each other “Personal Messages” though my friend tells me that the option to send or receive those “PMs” can be turned off.
-Members can upload pictures or other files, which included applications for Android.
-Members can add friends
-Members can join groups within the forum
-Members can flag posts that are against forum rules
-Members can update their personal profile, like a lesser version of Facebook
-Members can search for other members to see what those other members have posted
-Members can subscribe to threads to get email updates
-Non members can read threads and download the uploaded files (as they are hosted offsite)
How is Participation Encouraged:
-Members receive “titles” based on post count, and post count is tracked and publically shown.
-New members who post an introduction in the new members area are greeted by one of the veterans of the forum, who is also a “moderator.” This moderator, who does not work for the company, usually posts a cutesy response such as “Welcome to the Iron Kingdoms! *gives <forum name> a cookie and a Defender plushie* ^_^” According to my friend the “plushie” type depends on the “army” the new member says they are interested in. This shows the personal touch given to new members. I am surprised that a male dominated wargame would use a cutesy welcome greeting, but I did not notice any case where the new member responded poorly. In fact, it seems to be a sort of internet Meme?
-The company Privateer Press, has several employees who post semi-regularly on the forums. It does seem that their posts are highly valued and generate large responses.
-A large number of posts seem to be self-generated by the community, with no attempt by the company or the moderators to encourage greater participation.
-There is also an “off topic” section where members can post about subjects that have nothing to do with the company or the game. I believe this section allows members to stay at the site and blow off steam before contributing more game/company related posts.
Which types of content draw the most responses:
Type of Post: # of threads (total # of posts on counted threads)
Question about army list, what model to take, competitiveness, how to win: 22 (291)
Question on how to play game, rules question: 7 (40)
Posts about Miniatures (pictures of model painted by members): 4 (44)
New information for game (new models releases and speculation): 3 (136)
Reports of games played: 3 (31)
I noted that how to win threads were the most common, but also that these threads could perhaps be split into smaller categories. Threads asking about the competitiveness of a specific army list (collection of game models) were frequent threads but usually had few responses. Threads about the competitiveness of a specific model were not as frequent but had a large number of posts.
Questions about how rules worked were fairly frequent, but they often stopped once the question was answered.
According to my friend, the painting aspect of the game is fairly important, so it wasn’t surprising to see members showing off their painting skills. Some of these threads had many posts by the same person as it appears there is a maximum number of pictures allowed per post, and some had many pictures to show.
Posts about new information for the game were not frequent, but generated a large number of replies. It seems this community responds quite well to teasers.
Finally, in my sample of 50 posts, the 5th most common type of posts were those detailing games played. This seems exhibitionist, and some posts got many responses while others received few.
Oddly enough, despite the claim in “Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online” that recreation type communities gather people who joined for recreation or to gain friends, this forum for gaming seems to be heavily populated with posts asking for or sharing information.
Additionally, it seems that the forum generates contributions primarily through the efforts of the participants in the community, with members trying to make other members better at playing the game. There seems to be a small amount of “play nice” from the moderators, but little extrinsic encouragement. I still find the cutesy greeting to be a bit surprising, and noticed it used outside in new member introductions area of the forum.