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Web Community Social Roles - Which Are You?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 08:06 PM

There's an interesting article out where forums members posting habits were measured called Web Community Social Roles

Answer people were readily identifiable due to a lack of thread starts (most activity was below the horizontal axis) and a lot of small bubbles. The behavior of these members was to respond to the questions and comments of others, typically in relatively brief posts. Discussion people, as illustrated above, had a markedly different look: they started threads, and as a result often had as much activity above the line as below; in addition, they had quite a few larger bubbles, indicating that some of their posts were much longer than others.

The researchers also plotted relationships between community members. Answer people tended to have simple, star (or hub and spoke) relationships, indicating quick, one-time interactions with members (many of whom may have been passing through). Discussion people had more dense networks of relationships.


Which are you? An Answer person or Discussion person? :)

#2 A.N.Onym

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 09:00 PM

As a forum owner, you should know better :) Have you been slacking lately? :D

P.S. I guess this thread already tells who is who for the first two posters :D

Edited by A.N.Onym, 04 October 2007 - 09:00 PM.


#3 iamlost

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Posted 04 October 2007 - 09:42 PM

I just come for the coffee :)

#4 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 05:21 AM

There's coffee?
Any biscuits with that?


Nice idea... but it could be broken down a lot more with barely any effort... what about;
constructors/desctructors or DIY'rs/presenters ?

#5 Ron Carnell

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 10:54 AM

(They) analyzed data from several discussion forums and represented the posting activity of members in graphical form. A column of bubbles represents the posting activity for each day, while the size of the bubbles represents the length of each post. The researchers then categorized members with similar charts into groups, notably “answer people” and “discussion people”.


While I applaud the effort, I think the researchers injected their own biases (see bolded quotation) and unjustifiably simplified the complexities of human relationships on-line. Clearly, not all forums (and digital communities extend far beyond the forum format) are about asking for help; many more are about sharing or having a showcase for one's work or hobby. Less clearly perhaps, but I think equally true, even forums that concentrate on answering questions (like Cre8) are not JUST about helping people. Within every community, I suspect, can be found many communities.

Interestingly, by the criteria of the researchers, I would almost certainly be classified as an "answer person." After more than four years at Cre8, the number of threads I've started could be counted on one hand (and all but one of those, I think, was started in the backroom). Yet, ironically, I rarely directly answer questions? And goodness knows I've never learned to respond in "relatively brief posts." :)

See, already they need a new classification. Since I'm probably most likely to jump into a thread when I disagree or believe others are being led astray, I think I should be classified as a curmudgeon. :)

#6 Respree

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 12:59 PM

Interesting article. Don't think I've ever read anything on the subject before.

I can't judge the results too harshly. Research is one thing, but without 'exhaustive' research (like living in the forums for years); its easy to miss certain subtleties of forum culture.

For example...

Ever been to a forum that gets spammed? They are part of the community, albeit only for a short time for most of them. While, for the most part, members are spared the unpleasantries of their posting efforts, moderators know these unwelcome 'guests' all too well.

I think the 'discussion' versus 'answer' groups is a bit oversimplified. I can think of many people, myself included that would really fit into both groups. The study, I think would have been more thorough by discussing quality of posts. Bill, by a large margin, is the biggest bubble. I forget the numbers, but a while back I think he had more than ten percent of the posts here. He's one of the rare exceptions where there is both quality and quantity. There are others with large numbers, but if you post "me too" a hundred times a day, I would necessarily put them in same category as Bill. Ron has been around for a long time, but comparative to Bill, doesn't have nearly as much posts. You can be sure, however, that when it he posts something, its always of high quality and well thought out.

Another group, noticeably omitted, was the group of moderators that manage the forums. These are the people who decide forum policy, set the tone, keep the peace, police spam, welcome new members and have other forum administrative functions. I'd consider this group part of the "glue," as the author likes to refer to it. Again, as with any community, quality varies from the superb to the not-so-superb. I just joined one unrelated forum. Haven't seen a moderator yet.

Anyway, I better stop here before this post becomes longer than the article we're talking about (as you can see, I'm in the 'big' bubble :) ).

Edited by Respree, 05 October 2007 - 04:45 PM.


#7 Guest_Autocrat_*

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 01:21 PM

Hmmm - see, I go to the effort of a short succinct post... and everyone else starts bloggs :)

The idea is a nice one, but at the end of the day, labelling such as that is always going to be open to interpretation and often called into question.
Anything to do with communications and social interaction is going to be hard to quantify in a manner that everyone agrees with, which means making it statistical etc. is not going to work.
Trying to make it qualified is just as hard, for the same reasons, there is no real metric for such a thing.

The problem is, as ...Ron Carnell... correctly (IMO) pointed out, there is the issue of bias. where do you decide the measueremntents are, where are the mode levels and demographic margins etc.


That aside, it is possible to apply such things loosely and genericly, at least enough so that trends can be spotted.



Always worth a laugh though :)

#8 tambre

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 04:34 PM

:) I generally ask a lot of questions... then reply with more questions or a simple thanks. :)

Personally, I find the categorization of people to be difficult. No person acts one way all the time so it's hard to put a "label" on person. Plus, peoples personalities can put someone in the wrong area. I enjoy answering questions but I'm shy when it comes to replying in certain areas of a forum, or I think someone else would explain it better or know more about it than I would. But, I have no problems asking questions.
I suppose if it's a generality then generally you can be lumped one way or another but I believe its in peoples nature to both question and answer... it really depends upon what people are good at.

I enjoy replying to questions in the Website Hospital thread or more social and open threads like this. I don't reply often in the SEO threads because I feel that one of the main people I see answering questions would be best suited for it and I know they'll offer an experienced and well explained answer.
I harbor a deep love for website design (i got into web professionally because i wanted to save the web from not-so-pretty designs) so I like to reply in any form to a design related area (not that i do it often...). Plus, I like to talk so social areas are good for me there too.

The idea is a nice one, but at the end of the day, labelling such as that is always going to be open to interpretation and often called into question.

Like what I just did, yeah? I think I butchered and probably killed the entire conversation. *insert crickets chirping* :)



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