Sunday, February 13, 2011

Session 3

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:
Daily Chatter
Sharing Informations/URLs, and
Reporting News
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:
Information Seeking/Exchange
Social Support
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 <> 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.


  1. Hey Jude,

    I chucked when I read your Twitter article comment because I felt the same way. The article seemed like it was only stating the obvious, but then I read Jade Moon's article in the Midweek about how helpful Twitter can be and I got it. I kicked myself for being so unimpressed with Twitter initially. Ms. Moon shared how she follows a woman in Kuwait who has been transferring voice messages made from land line in Egypt into tweets and sharing them around the world. Another person Ms. Moon follows mentioned a ruling in California civil courts, while another person tweeted about the construction and traffic delays on Kalakaua. Seen from this perspective, where a person in Honolulu can get updated on what is happening in another country, another state and down the street seems remarkable. Her article tempered the technology as she mentioned how overwhelming Twitter's incessant nature of concise posts can be.

    Kudos to you for trying a gaming community. Good thing you have a friend to guide you through...I wonder, though. Was your friend helping you on line or in person?

  2. I think the ways that a website uses to encourage its participants to keep contributing should be “flexible”. If the website just adopts the same strategy to motivate its participants, the participants might be numb about the strategy eventually. The ways to get the participants to keep participating or contributing, in my mind, can be increasing the magnitude of the same strategy and using another strategy. For example, some virtual forums give contributors a certain amount of virtual money every time when they contribute. When times goes by; however, some participants may stop devoting themselves to the community simply because of being tired of the fixed pattern of contribution. So, giving more virtual money can be a stimulus to encourage participants to keep contributing. However, Tedjamulia (2005) has warned that financial reinforcers should be used with caution because they may lead to crowding-out effect. Another way is to give other stimuli to boost contribution. For example, instead of giving virtual money, virtual forums can let other online community users to rate the quality of contribution and give feedback. Giving feedback is a good way to turn extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation. Just like what you said, the feeling of “someone needs me” probably is the reason that drives your friend to keep contributing.

    You also mentioned that you had your friend help you to understand the game terms. I wonder whether other new members also have a “professional” friend to help them out. So, I think the designers of the website should make the rules of games easier to be understood. For example, the new users are always able to search the meaning of the terms and get the accurate information.

  3. I liked it when you included an article from the highly reputable ONN website as part the twitter article summary. yes, it was empirically stating the obvious - perhaps it was not that obvious when twitter just started but now after a few years, we can see how different users use twitter differently.

    on your Shrock's article question: the majority in the study is not statistically important and just an error from the study’s sampling process?

    as I mentioned in another comment field, the statement made as a result of this study show have better clearer parameter rather than a sweeping generalization of user composition/demography. if Shrock took users of a gaming forum, then he could easily find the opposite result - if the game is World of Warcraft or something similar. He could reproduce his result if the survey used samples from a barbie OC.

  4. Jude,

    I had the same confusion concerning the gender evaluation in the Examining Social Media Usage article. I expect that there is no way of really knowing what this data means or how to accurately measure it. Plus I wonder how many of the females on SNSs are actually males.

    Also as you were stating your data from the Privateer Press community I began to wonder if one motivation for helping and retaining new members is because of the potential of new competition. Having only dipped my big toe into the gaming world I have little knowledge of how quickly new comers become potential competition but it seems like it is in the interest of the community to keep the stakes high by encouraging growth in this manner.

  5. Thats an interesting comment that Philip made "Plus I wonder how many of the females on SNSs are actually males"... how true is that? Like anyother item seen on the web, we really need to take a moment and analzyze the validity and source behind the comment or the "log-on" name.

    I would believe that the allure for many people of OC or SNSs is the ability to project a different image or personality from reality.

  6. First of all, I didn't know what wargaming is, but after finding out I thought it was interesting and I think there is a lot of value in having an online community for these types of games (which is evident in the number of users you saw online). You said you were surprised to find that the majority of posts dealt with asking for information which countered what Ridings and Gefen wrote. I still don't completely understand this type of game, but maybe it is possible that games that are more inherently social would have more members trying to befriend each other. For example, forums may have members looking for others to play with in an online game like World of Warcraft.

  7. I thought it was funny that you cited The Onion, then amused when I read the article and found that it, despite being a satirical piece of work, accurately and concisely described what Twitter has become (without the over-the-top additions I'm accustomed to seeing in their articles).

    I was also surprised that the SNS study found that females used SNS services in greater numbers than males. I would assume that, in this day and age, the numbers would be fairly even. It could be due to the fact that some males pose as females online more than females pose as males. On Xbox Live, I have a few friends who have female avatars, despite me knowing that they are most definitely male. I know more males that play as female characters than females who play as male characters (unless not given a choice). Going back to the original study, if I had to form a theory, it would be that some males, for whatever reason, like to see responses and attention that a female would receive. I'm not sure why the reverse would not be true though. That is probably a study in itself.

  8. Palabra - I think I will take more time to understand the attraction of twitter. I can understand keeping in touch with friends who move away, and getting traffic updates would be good, if I lived in Ewa. I guess I can also live with not being the first to know about news. Perhaps I'll find tweeters(?) who put out interesting tweets at a reasonable pace, and then I'll join and follow their tweets. Otherwise I think it might be overload for me.
    As for the gaming community, my friend helped in person. I don't think he would have been able to answer every question if I sent him emails, text messages or even tweets...

    Bug - It's true that these online communities would have to change up their motivation strategies to keep them fresh. It would be kind of like advertising campaigns on TV or Radio. Some really good advertisments can keep running for a long time, or spin off advertisements can run in their place for a long time, but after a while a company needs to update their commercials and keep them fresh, or other companies might take their place. The caveman commercials for Geico appear to have run their course, and I'm waiting for the day their "did the little pig cry wee wee wee" commercials to finally stop playing...
    As for having "professional" help, my friend pointed out that there are certain members of the Privateer Press forum, who are not employees, but have special titles on the forums. One set of these members are the moderators, who can delete posts and stop threads to keep things friendly. Another set of these special member are called "Pressgangers" These pressgangers are sort of like leaders of the different "real life" gaming groups spread all over the world. They introduce new players to the game and run special events for their local "real life" groups. On the forum, they are considered to be a level of authority by other members. Some of these pressgangers are also moderators, and they have an even higher status. Both pressgangers and moderators try to help new gamers and new forum members fit into the online community. The "cookie and plushie" welcome I mentioned in my blog was written by one of these moderators and it seems he greets all new members with this welcome.

    Erenst - When it is election time and the news stations report that in a certain poll politician #1 is leading by 5% there is usually small print saying that there is a certain percent error in the poll. I think it is usually about 5%. After the poll, sometimes Politician #2 wins.
    I was thinking that the difference in percentage of male and female MySpace users was a small amount and maybe it could be an error like how the polls say politician #1 will win, but politician #2 wins instead.

  9. Philip - My friend agrees with your statement about retaining new members and gaining new competition. He says the game is very competitive and old members seem to enjoy writing articles on tactics to help their fellow gamers win, even if those fellow gamers might end up playing the tactics article writer. My friend also mentioned that there are several annual conventions for gaming, so many members online meet in person even though they live states apart. It makes sense that the online community would actively try to grow and be friendly to each other if there is a chance to meet in person.

    Caloha & Guy - I believe there are some men pretending to be women online. It also happens the other way. I remember reading about the teenage girl who killed herself over online bullying. It started out that she was flirting with a teenage "boy" online, but "he" later dumped her and said mean things to her. It was later found out that the teenage "boy" was actually a middle aged woman. It might be fun for some people to pretend to be what they are not. I could pretend to be an amazingly beautiful and sexy twenty-one year old girl or even a handsome daredevil guy who climbs mountains and jumps out of planes. On the otherhand, it can be dangerous for people who fall for other people's lies online.