A gentle reminder...
A gentle reminder (hopefully based in research)…
Last week in my Communities of Practice
class we talked about what makes online communities successful. According to Preece, online communities consist of people who interact socially, with a shared purpose, guided by policies (tacit or explicit), using computer systems (2000, 10). Farther on in the book she provides guidelines for sociability and usability and heuristics for evaluating online communities. One thing that struck me, though, is the importance of legitimate peripheral participants – frequently called lurkers
. In some communities, the estimates are that more than 90% of the visitors to the site do not actively participate (the estimate for /. is 98%). When interviewed, some reasons given for this lack of participation include:
- Browsing is enough
- Learning about the group
- Shy about posting
- Nothing to offer
- No requirement to post
- Others said it
- Want to be anonymous (adapted from Andrews et al, IJHCI, 2003; Nonnecke et al, HICSS, 2004; Preece et al, C&HB, 2004 --seen in class presentation by Preece 2005)
Yet online communities fail when people don’t participate. We asked the question: how many lurkers can an online community carry? As always, it depends.
So here’s where we get to the important part. Two online LIS communities are struggling for contributors, one
much more than the other
. Blake of LISnews.com just published a very nice list of 10 ways to make the internet a better place
. I would like to add a little pep talk to that. (No scary talk here about free riding
or the tragedy of the commons
Librarians, information architects, and information science students/researchers/teachers are a well-informed, outspoken group. We are also very diverse in our own backgrounds as well as in our actual jobs and job settings. We belong to many different associations and rarely meet people very different from ourselves at conferences (CIL is perhaps an outlier). The online communities fostered by LISnews and the Carnival of the Infosciences are places we can share our commonalities, experiences, tips, and best practices. They are great resources for ideas (so what if that form of marketing isn’t normally used in an elementary school…). These communities need your contributions to be successful.
If you have a blog, submit a post. It doesn’t have to be a work of art – perhaps you can pose a question or describe a dilemma or problem you’re facing and get some good ideas. If you aren’t a blogger but you see something interesting (to you!) then submit it to either community (or both!). You can even be anonymous if you must, but it’s more fun to see your name in lights.
Your opinion and point of view are important. Browsing is not enough. Thank you and this concludes my pep talk.
updated for clarity 9/27
Preece, Jenny. 2000. Online communities : Designing usability, supporting sociability.
New York: Wiley.