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Communication in a Newsgroup | 5 comments
[new] lots of models, varies depending on the community (Avg. Score: 3.00 / Raters: 1) (#1)
by amy on Sat Sep 27th, 2003 at 07:42:58 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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I've found that the optimum structure and ideal degree of autonomy vs. control of online communities vary widely by the community.

For example, some communities do very well with the wiki format, such as the one in the original wiki, WikiWikiWeb. The WikiWiki structure is extremely open, and content is generated entirely by the users. Anyone may add, edit, or delete content, without so much as a login. If someone does something malicious or content is deemed inappropriate, it is repaired by other users. This works, overall, because there are more "constructive" members of the community than "destructive" ones.

Why won't an autonomous/anarchist system like that work everywhere? It requires two things: 1) a user base with a strong commitment to actively maintaining the site - which means first, learning about the structure and culture, and then, actively taking individual responsibility for maintaining the communal grounds. 2) A tolerance for flexibility and imperfection. WikiWiki is full of strange and surrendipitous tangents created by others' streams of consciousness. For many, these relationships enhance and extend the content. But if you're used to a very structured, predictable, information flow, this can be daunting.

So it really depends on the community. The WikiWikiWeb site mentioned above is largely a community of programmers - although no significant technical skill is required to participate, programmers have a culture of spending time to learn the ropes - both operational and cultural - of both technology and online communities (since programmers were the first folks using newsgroups, etc., and many bemoan the poor etiquette that "ruined" them when the masses got Internet access.) So programmers culturally - rather than technically - tend to work well in online communities where more active participation is expected of members.

The question is, how do we characterize other groups with whom we work, and what sorts of structures can work best for groups who desire less active participation in maintenance of the community itself? E-mail lists with moderation have been one solution for the past several years, but lately we have heard rumblings that many list members now feel too much control is extered over content in these situations. Will these users then agree to become more active in maintaining an online community in exchange for greater autonomy? Or will other models be found?

# begin amy's sig
-- Discordia is nice.
# end amy's sig


Communication in a Newsgroup | 5 comments


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