Mapping online community management practices: can I have a little help with my thesis?

I know: I am quite old to be a student (I am 52, if you like numbers). Still, learning is a lifetime thing, and in this period of my life I am doing part of my learning as a Ph.D. student at University of Alicante.

My thesis concerns online communities. I view them in a network perspective; I model them as networks of interactions, and study the network topology in search of the signs of collective intelligence. My real interest, however, are societies at large: I view online communities as “toy societies”, complex enough to be interesting but simple enough for rigorous empirical analysis. In the end, I would like to be part of the adventure of modelling social dynamics. I think that is important, because, if we figure it out, we can use the knowledge to build better online communities, and, in the end, better societies.

It is a fantastic journey: along the way, I learned Python, NetLogo, some R, and quite a lot of network math. I also brushed up on my statistics and econometrics. I also took brilliant courses and wrote neat stuff. But now it is time for this journey to end, and for me to move to the next phase. The good news is that my thesis is almost finished. The bad news is that it is not quite finished. For that, I need your help.

I have been reading up on the literature on online community management, in search of what I am calling policies. These are simple rules of the type “to obtain x, do y“. Which policies does the literature on online communities recommend? I ended up with the following list:

  1. Invite users to join.
  2. Welcome new users when they sign up.
  3. Engage with users, to encourage them to be more active and make them feel welcome.
  4. Mediate conflict.
  5. Tweak and optimize the user experience (if you consider this to be part of community management).
  6. Encourage interaction between members.
  7. Organize real-world meetings.
  8. Acknowledge members for their contribution.
  9. Support volunteers.
  10. Other?

So, here’s how you can help.

  • If you are yourself stewarding an online community, no matter how large or small, please fill in the survey below.
  • If you know someone that does, please send him/her my way.
  • Reshare this link on your Facebook/Twitter: (redirects back to this page).

You will earn the gratitude of an aging student that really wants to grow up to be a scholar!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.