Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Week2_3 What is online communities

Task for Week 2 & 3:
Write a post to your blog with your thoughts about the meaning of an online community and its uses. Include a list of identifying features that YOU would look for when assessing an online group or network for features which make it a community.

According the definition from (what is virtual commuinty?, 2006), online community, (also called virtual community) is a community of people sharing common interests, ideas, and feelings over the Internet or other collaborative networks. As we know community is a group of people, maybe variable in size, who come together around a common purpose, goal, or interest. They come to online community for certain reasons. Some come for same goal, or share their interests, exchange information, feeling be cared by others, etc.

Rheingold (2000) gives his definition about online community as a
“social aggregations that emerge from the Internet when enough people carry on public discussions long enough and with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.”
Online community is consisted of people coming from different places or countries. There’s no geographic limitation like our traditional communities. Through the Internet technology people can form any community from different countries with different cultural background. They could communicate either synchronously, e.g. live chat online. The communication may occur asynchronously, for example, sending emails, posting on discussion forum, or leaving comments on blogs, etc.

Here are some types of activities people have enjoyed through these online connections.

  • Socialize – People come to online community to meet others, playing around, sharing stories and just taking interest in each other. Such communities may focus using bulletin boards and chat rooms, etc.

  • Information exchange - Online community attract people with same interest to form a group, where members can get more information from others. They share the information and support each other. Groups for people dealing with certain diseases, people studying together, all can form a nucleus for an online community.

  • Group together – Online community offers local communities (geographic) ways to communicate and work together. Community groups such as school groups and others have used online community to provide forums for information and discussion, helping bring groups together and creating closer connection.

  • Work together – Work groups within companies and between companies use online community to build their team, keep in touch and even work on projects together.

Thinking about online community, especially thinking of the course, facilitating online community, maybe the first question we are facing is: how to create an online community? How to motivate members engaged in community activities and discussion? Hope I will find the answers through further study.


Rheingold. (2000). Howard Rheingold's - The Virtual Community. Retrieved Aug. 18, 2008, from

what is virtual commuinty? (2006, Sep. 22). Retrieved Aug. 28, 2008, from,,sid9_gci213295,00.html


Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Joy.. hmm, how to create online community.. one way is to set up an open access 'course', accepting anyone into it, and then to work hard at inclusiveness and acceptance. Another way might be a more direct, shoulder tapping way, start small and build up over a longer period of time. From my experience, the 1%-10% rule always applies, even in face to face settings. If you have 20 people, you can rely of 2 people contributing and carrying the day. If you have 100, you can rely on 1 - 10 people. In this course, we have a little over 100 initially. This dropped quickly to a little over 60 with blogs, and if you've been following the email forum and blogs, we seem to have about 15% contributing - which is pretty good. This is not to say the rest are not involved, they are no doubt looking, watching, reading - as do most people in the face to face sense. It just feels more lonely online when people stay in the back.

So, I think I'm getting at a suggestion of numbers. Draw in as many as possible and use the 1-10% rule as a guide.

The rest is your personal aptitude and online communication skills, which we are practicing together over the next several weeks.

Joy said...

Thanks Leigh. It's really interesting that there are only about 10% of students keep active. Is there any reason that why the other 90% of students are silent?

Really would like to know does the 1%-10% rule apples to small groups, such as a group under 10 students, or even 5?

Some research shows small group can develop a very well cooperative learning environment. In a large group student's post is easily buried among hundreds of others. Also nobody will notice whether you "speak" or not. Do you think that partly leads to the situation that 90% of students keep silence and only "watching" and reading?

Maybe a stupid question :-) If we compare a group with 10 students and another with 100, from which one students will benefit more on their online learning? Thanks *_^

artie said...

Hello Joy and Leigh -
Obviously, from reading these blogs, there are many ideas about different communities.
I like the numbers way of looking at this. That's a good reminder. It's a numbers racket whatever you do. The more you pitch, the more likely something will hit. So if you want to get a project going with 5 people, you might need to try about 50 to get a good working relationship. With that kind of "looking" we can have nmore realistic expectations.
Also, I feel very relieved that there are not going to be 60 bloggers like I thought the course was going to have. I was not going to even be in the course if it was going to have 60 people. 15 is fine with me. Besides, there are going to be hundreds of readers who may be influenced by the ideas presented here and that could have impacts all over the different parts of the web.

artie said...

Joy -

I think that you are right. The law of diminishing returns applies. As the groups get larger they have less response. It's the small groups that get the highest percentage of involvement. That decreases as the group becomes larger. That's a very good point that we should revisit in this course.

Joy said...

Talking about facilitating online communities, maybe the first reasearch we need to do is about online community. What strategies can be used in creating online community? How to attract people, filter members, control the size of the community, group students etc. We can add more on the list...

Leigh Blackall said...

No such thing as a stupid question Joy :)

In my experience ALL groups follow this rule. Small face to face groups of 10 - nearly always end with 1 maybe 2 contributing a lot more than the others. Groups of 20 - 2.. and so on. So I think the 'drowning out' is always a situation, online, offline, small groups, large groups. There are a few things that a facilitator can do to draw people out, and some are much better at it than I am. But often, drawing the silent out, means silencing the vocal - in more ways than one. It is a difficult balance, and I tend to go with the vocal ones because at least they will generate information that the others can use - especially the less experienced. Along the way I look for ways to bring the silent ones out without silencing the vocal ones, or dumbing down the discussion.

But this is just me talking from my 8 years experience. I observe a lot of interactions both online and offline, and in the educational setting it is more common than not to see the 1-10% rule taking effect. ALthough, I meet a lot of teachers who claim they get better, apart from wondering what it is they rate as engaged, I am yet to see it honestly.

artie said...

Here's a guess-timate I did based on my involvement in one international community that met in small local clubs:

The individual clubd were seldom larger than the average person could absorb. No matter how many people you meet with at whatever level the best group size is about 10-12.

5 small groups in a town = 15-20 people meeting every two weeks

Area meeting of all town clubs and surrounding areas meet every 2 months 50% turnout = appr. 40 people

Statewide of 25 areas meets every 4months 25% turnout = 250 people

The larger the group, the less turnout. In this case, we see the law of diminishing returns. It makes sense because the individual has a greater sense of belonging in the smaller group, so there should be greater involvement.

In this FOC course, 90% choose to remain inactive, yet in the context of the remaining 10%, we may see 90% of those are not goiung to be inactive! We should see 50-75% involvement among a group of 10 or 15 people.

artie said...

Joy asks "How to attract people, filter members, control the size of the community, group students etc. We can add more on the list..."

I'm very interested in this aspect. I want to come up with more objective ways of qualifying members. The size of groups should be controlled. I almost didn't get started with the FOC because there were 100 people o the list! We could handle 100 people but we would need to divide them into manageable groups. So how do you divide people? How do you qualify people for a group?

In traditional communities, we organize around local geography, such as a town or city. It's easy to give people lots of choices within those limits and find a comfort zone.

We are having terrible problems on the Internet trying to organize people according to traditional temporal and ordinal forms. It comes down to "The Time Divide". I think the foundation that is needed is an ordinal form for filtering people according to time.

This is something I am dealing with in depth in my blog now and will be developing over the next weeks.

This whole issue of TIME needs to be settled for once and for all by using a scientific method of evaluation of time on the Internet.

Joy said...

Hi Artie,

It is a good idea to group members by time zone so they are at least geographically "near" to each other and easy for them to communicate synchronously. There should be more ways to group members in online communities, depands on the nature of the community. For example, in a chatting room, we can group people by living area, age, gender. I am thinking for a learning purposed community, maybe we can group people by different levels, in another word build up groups with member in mixed levels. In each group we could have several with advanced skills, several with average level and several newbies, if we get some info from online survey before grouping? Or group by topics, tasks, etc?

Elaine Dittert said...

Hi Joy (and Artie and Leigh)
Really interesting discussion here. I'm really interested in the numbers rule and I see now that my current classes are following this rule to a "T"!
Another interesting comment about grouping large numbers of people: finding a commonality. Division by Time zone does make sense, especially to stop those people having to get up in the middle of the night for "meetings"!
Artie commented on being relieved that the numbers were dwindling to a more manageable level - I have to say I felt quite intimidated when I thought there was over 100 members of this community, all of whom I was sure knew much more than I did! However as time is going on I am feeling a little better about how I can fit into this community.