on visualizing online discussions

For my MSc thesis research, I’m working with a bunch of data collected through online discussions during a blended course. Part of the discussions took place using Blackboard’s discussion board feature, part took place on students’ blogs. One of the things I need to do is to document how the discussions played out, to try and tease out any differences between the two venues. I’ll be using the Community of Inquiry model to describe the social/teaching/cognitive components of posts, but I’ve been wanting to describe the flow of discussion as well. How do the discussions occur? Are there patterns of activity, in time or size of responses? I’ve been struggling with how to document these. In my thesis, it’s really just a glorified case study, so I’ve had to constantly force myself to stop thinking of it as controlled experimental data. What I’m doing is describing the activity within a single course, in 2 venues of online discussion.

I had a bit of an epiphany this afternoon, while working through some preliminary work to prep for CoI coding. I thought about Hans Rosling’s statistic visualizations and how he was able to incorporate several axes of data into a graph by using size, colour, shape, etc…

And then it hit me – it would be relatively straightforward to apply that approach to the data documenting an online discussion. The timestamp data is there. The info about the individual is there. Basic “demographic” data is there (number of words, types of things included – images, links, attachments, media, etc…), and if I combine those, I get something like this:

On this rough mockup visualization, time is the vertical axis, transformed into a simple “number of days” integer. The horizontal axis is “threads of discussion.” This displays the discussion in a “FAQ” discussion board used in the course. There were 9 primary threads (plus one forked thread).

Each circle represents a post. The size of the circle represents the number of words in a post or response – in this mockup, I just did a simple conversion where the number of words directly translated into the width of the circle (a post with 100 words is 1.00″, a post with 50 words is .50″, a post with 150 words is 1.50″ etc…). The colour of the circle indicates the person who posted it. White circles are the instructor. Black circles are anonymous students (who did not provide consent to participate in the research, so the content of their posts was deleted from my working archive), and other colours indicating individual students.

This is a very rough mockup. I’m hoping to refine it a bit more, to include a way to represent the CoI coding for each message – an indicator of the relative social/cognitive/teaching aspect of the post, as well as a way to indicate other interesting things about a post (how many images/links/attachments/embedded media were included? etc…)

Problems with the mockup:

  1. It’s messy when posts occur close together. Overlap makes the circles obscure each other.
  2. The literal translation of wordcount to size means larger posts overwhelm the other posts in the diagram, in a way that over-represents the difference as seen in the actual discussion (a post that is 5x the size of another post doesn’t necessarily drown out the other posts, but it is given prominent emphasis in the diagram…)
  3. Forking of threads could get confusing – how to best indicate the branch points? I tried with a dotted line, but it’s unclear which post/circle it originates from…
  4. threads that are displayed beside each other may not be directly related, but they may appear to be intertwined because of the overlap of circles (a large post in thread 6 overlaps threads 5 and 7, etc…)

I’d like to extend the mockup, after figuring out ways to get around these issues, to show all posts in all discussions in the entire course. It should be interesting to see the temporal overlap between discussions, and see some data about patterns of interaction from participants across the entire thing – does a given participant start most threads? do they respond with giant posts? do they stay in one CoI aspect, or do they cover the whole thing? etc…

I would love to see a large visualization, with vertical lanes for each thread in an entire course, across all venues of online discussion, with posts displayed as shown above, and with the CoI coding indicated. What better way to compare activity across discussions in a course?

It strikes me that this visualization is extremely simple – perhaps too simple? perhaps so obvious in hindsight that someone else has already come up with a solution? Scott Leslie sent me a link to Boardtracker, which looks extremely interesting, but it looks like it’s strictly based on time and not threads, and doesn’t appear to handle representing individual contributions. Also, it appears to be under construction…

update: I was thinking about the overly-large-circle problem, and wondered what the diagram would look like if it was laid out more like an autoradiogram, with opacity of a block indicating the “size” of a contribution, and symbols overlaid to represent data like contributor and potentially coding info…

Size of contribution (wordcount) is the opacity of each block. The coloured circle represents the contributor (white is instructor, black is anonymous, etc…) This representation makes it harder to see at a glance, but probably displays the conversation more accurately.

update 2: working in some of Tim’s suggestions via his comment, I came up with this version. It’s a little closer to Rosling’s work. Now, I need to figure out how to indicate the CoI coding for each post…

update 3: I put all of the metadata from the Blackboard discussions, and one WordPress site, into OmniGraphSketcher to see what it would look like. Some interesting things become apparent:

Blackboard posts (and responses) are circles, WordPress posts (and comments) are diamonds. At a glance, discussion board interactions appear to be briefer – fewer words – and more immediate (posts usually occur within a few days, and then stop). Blog posts appear to be longer (more words), and extend conversation over a longer period – with several days being common between post and comment. The WordPress blog posts also appear to have elicited longer responses via comments (at least in the first WordPress site I entered data for…)

Visualization tools that may be useful:

  • SNAPP – works with major LMS applications, but appears to not like our old version of Blackboard (Bb8), and doesn’t grok WordPress, so couldn’t be used to visualize my entire data set.
  • Meerkat – sounds like it might support custom data imports. I’ve signed up for an account so I can try it out.
  • AGNA
  • DiscoverText

Notes: Xin (2012): A Critique of the Community of Inquiry Framework

Xin, C. (2012). A Critique of the Community of Inquiry Framework. The Journal of Distance Education, 26(1). Retrieved from http://www.jofde.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/755/1333

Thanks to Stephen Downes for pointing this paper out. I’m up to my eyeballs, processing data for my Community of Inquiry based MSc research, and could have missed this.

The Community of Inquiry model provides a framework for describing interactions within a community or classroom environment. It involves using textual analysis and coding of messages to interpret the type of interaction for each message – whether it involves social, teaching, or cognitive components. As I’ve been coding the data for my thesis, I’ve been adding as many types of “presences” as are appropriate – a message may include a number of things, indicating social, teaching and cognitive presences in a non-exclusive manner. I’m imagining each message having its own little Venn diagram for Social/Teaching/Cognitive component, as per the CoI model. It’s a simplification and abstraction, certainly, but looking at the coded output, I think it’s still got a fair bit of fidelity to describe the interactions at a high level. In my data, I’m also adding coding to describe the type of content (links, images, attachments, embedded media, etc…) as well as how involved the message is (is it a simple one-liner? a 2 paragraph response? a multi-page essay?) – and I’m thinking about how to include data on the timeline of the discussion (how rapid were the responses? staccato rapidfire conversation, or long drawn-out periods of silence?) I’m still thinking about how to represent that kind of data for an online discussion, but I think there’s something there, there.

Continue reading “Notes: Xin (2012): A Critique of the Community of Inquiry Framework”

Notes: O’Donnell (2006): Blogging as pedagogic practice: Artefact and ecology

O’Donnell, M. (2006). Blogging as pedagogic practice: Artefact and ecology. Asia Pacific Media Educator.

A really interesting paper based on a conference presentation. Talks about some of the promise of blogging as an agent of pedagogical change, but actually goes into some of the reasons why the change might happen (as opposed to other articles that leave it up to BECAUSE… MAGIC! BLOGS!)

Basically – blogging changes the nature of discourse, making it idiosyncratic and reflective. It also changes the ownership of the discourse to being student-centric.

On blogging as just one part of a student’s “cybercultural practices”:

…we need to look at blogging, not as an isolated phenomenon, but as part of a broad palette of cybercultural practices, which provide us with both new ways of doing and new ways of thinking.

on what is different in blogging, compared to LMS-y stuff:

blogging is a form of personal publishing that shapes authorship through its structured yet flexible forms and its immersion in a hypertextual ecology of the link. It is conversational, setting up and supporting conversations with both self and others.

but… isn’t that all possible within a discussion board? what’s really different in blogging? Perhaps, this:

A blog is personal publishing not just in the sense of its expressive or emotional or idiosyncratic tone but also in the sense that it operates at the core of a personal network or set of personal relationships.


Weblogs combine two oppositional principles: monologue and dialogue.

Personal publishing enabling the monologue? Monologues are technically possible in a traditional discussion board – simply as orphaned threads – but do they happen? Is monologuing a unique thing here? Interesting…

More on the monological aspect of blogging:

The personal conversation or the monologic aspect of blogging can be simply left to grow spontaneously or the author can learn to work with a blog as an evolving hypertext essay by thoughtfully linking backwards and forwards to their own as well as others’ posts. In fact new software plug-ins encourage this type of practice by allowing authors to display a series of related-post-links with each entry.

Interesting. On a side note, I use the related-posts stuff to mine my own blog by following loosely associated threads of topics throughout. Is that even possible in a discussion board?

On the flexibility of blogging:

Part of the freedom of blogging is its immediacy and its flexibility: it is a space where anything from brief notes, first thoughts and links, to more worked-up essay style postings can live together.

Is that kind of flexibility seen in discussion board postings, or do participants more closely follow ordained criteria for posting, as it’s not their own space?

On the integrative use of blowguns:

where blogging truly comes into its own is when it is able to integrate all three modes into a coherent whole.

(the three modes are Personal, Knowledge Management and Community/Social)

But, isn’t that all the same as what’s done in traditional online course websites? Perhaps not:

Blogging broadly developed is not merely a writing exercise, it is not just journal keeping, it is not an online discussion group, it is not a class intranet even though
it can include elements of all of these. If we are to take educational advantage of blogging it is vital that we assist our students to come to their own view of blogging and that we help them situate this within a wider view of cyberdiscursivity.

Cyberdiscursivity. Interesting. Sounds a lot like Brian Lamb’s course at UBC. Or DS106. (Everything sounds like DS106. Dammit.)

On blogging and pedagogical change:

The initial enthusiasm about blogging in higher education arose because it seemed to easily fall within a progressive view of educational practice. It offers a socially situated, student centred, contemporary, technical solution. However blogging cannot easily be modelled on other forms of teaching and learning technology. Threaded discussion boards for example, are essentially an asynchronous version of synchronous face-to-face tutorial groups and call for a similar set of parameters such as discussion prompts and norms that encourage vigorous yet civil interaction. Blogging requires students and teachers to explore a different set of strategies. Many of these strategies are not unfamiliar but they need to be brought together in new and different ways.

on the networked and ecological model used to describe blogging:

In a linked or networked approach to learning the sense of agency and individuality is powerful but it is not isolating or egocentric. Each node in a dynamic network has the ability to both send and receive therefore this metaphor better accounts for both the given (or contextual) and the constructed aspects of the learning process.

On the limitation of blogging within a single course:

While blogs can be useful in individual subjects I am becoming increasingly convinced that blogs used across classes over the duration of a degree course, rather than blogs focused on specific assignment tasks or blogs developed for single semester units are a more congruent use of this technology.

As I have argued blogging is both the construction of a personal knowledge artefact and an ecological practice, which reveals emergent knowledges as a series of dynamically linked spaces, this immediately focuses any pedagogy of blogging on questions of connectivity and the evolution of ideas over time.

Which makes it painfully obvious, of course, that my use of a single course to gather data is somewhat… limited. (but I knew that going in). How to balance logistics (how in hell do you attempt to gather data from cross-course, cross-discipline, multi-year blogging by individuals? oy.)

Notes: Top, E. (2011). Blogging as a social medium in undergraduate courses: Sense of community best predictor of perceived learning

Top, E. (2011). Blogging as a social medium in undergraduate courses: Sense of community best predictor of perceived learning. The Internet and Higher Education. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.02.001


The purpose of the study was to examine pre-service teachers’ sense of community, perception of collaborative learning, and perceived learning. Fifty pre-service teachers from two undergraduate ICT courses which incorporated blogs participated in this study. The data were obtained via three online questionnaires (Collaborative Learning scale, Sense of Community scale, and Perceived Learning scale) administered throughout Fall 2009–2010. The research questions were answered by using Pearson Product-Moment Correlation and multiple linear regressions. Results indicated that the pre-service teachers had positive feelings about the collaborative learning and perceived learning; also, they had moderate feelings related to sense of community in the classes which incorporated blogs. Additionally, to a great extent sense of community and to a much lesser extent of computer knowledge level were the predictors of explaining their learning perceptions.


things that can interfere with sense of community:

Indeed, while trying to build up a sense of community on the one hand, various factors might actually be weakening the process, on the other hand. Such factors may include authoritative tones of some students, demonstration of mistrust, competition among students, threat of privacy, or exclusion of some students (Rovai, 20011, 20022; Xie & Sharma, 20043 ).


They used 3 surveys to gather responses from 50 students in 2 education preservice courses in a post-secondary education setting.

data collection:

Data were collected through online surveys at the end of the courses. The following online instruments helped to collect relevant data: Collaborative Learning scale4, Sense of Community scale5, and Perceived Learning scale6.


Pre-service teachers’ sense of community was in significant positive correlation with pre-service teachers’ perceived learning.

so… they feel like they’re in a community, and then they feel like they learned something? correlation != causation, again. maybe they feel the sense of community because they feel like they’re learning?

Even though the pre-service teachers had positive feelings about the collaborative learning experiences during the courses, they did not rate this experience as a significant effect for their perceived learning. In collaboration activities, groups were required to complete an instructional project with five major phases and to publish these phase reports on their group blogs in this study.

wait. community and learning happens offline too? that’s unpossible!


Several pre-service teacher characteristics and perceptions correlated with their perceived learning, but, sense of community was the main predictor of explaining their learning perceptions. To improve students’ learning experiences, creating a classroom community and increasing students’ computer expertise could be the focus of instructors.

so… back to students who feel like they belong to a community say they learn something. community is important. cause, or effect?

  1. Rovai, A. P. (2001). Building classroom community at a distance: A case study. Educational Technology Research and Development Journal, 49(4), 33−48. []
  2. Rovai, A. P. (2002). Development of an instrument to measure classroom community. Internet and Higher Education, 5(3), 197−211. []
  3. Xie, Y., & Sharma, P. (2004). Students’ lived experience of using weblogs in a class: An exploratory study. Paper presented at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Chicago, IL. []
  4. So, H. -J., & Brush, T. A. (2008). Student perceptions of collaborative learning, social presence and satisfaction in a blended learning environment: Relationships and critical factors. Computers & Education, 51(1), 318−336. []
  5. Halic, O., Lee, D., Paulus, T., & Spence, M. (2010). To blog or not to blog: Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. Internet and Higher Education, 13(4), 206−213. []
  6. Halic, O., Lee, D., Paulus, T., & Spence, M. (2010). To blog or not to blog: Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. Internet and Higher Education, 13(4), 206−213. []

Notes: Jyothy, McAvinia & Keating: A visualisation tool to aid exploration of students’ interactions in asynchronous online communication

Jyothi, S., McAvinia, C., & Keating, J. (2012). A visualisation tool to aid exploration of students’ interactions in asynchronous online communication. Computers & Education, 58(1), 30–42. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.08.026


This paper describes a visualisation tool to aid the analysis of online communication. The tool has two purposes: first, it can be used on a day-to-day basis by teachers or forum moderators to review the development of a discussion and to support appropriate interventions. Second, the tool can support research activities since the visualisations generated provide the basis for further qualitative and quantitative analysis of online dialogue.

The visualisation software is designed to encode interaction types simply and quickly. The software was tested and then used to analyse data from a sample of forums within the Moodle VLE. The paper discusses both the method of visualisation and analysis of the online interactions as a pilot for further research analysing interaction in discussion forums.


This paper describes the design and implementation of a diagnostic tool which provides simple visual representations of the exchanges in asynchronous discussion forum threads. The visual representation is shown within a webpage, with hyperlinked nodes displaying the body text of messages posted to discussion forums. These graphical images might assist a teacher or moderator to intervene in the discussions whenever necessary, and the visual representations of online discussions can support researchers undertaking further analysis1.

Analysing asynchronous discussions in online environments

Given the importance ascribed to dialogue and CMC in educational theory, it follows that a means of reviewing and potentially analysing CMC interactions would therefore be useful to teachers and researchers, and research would benefit from an evidence base showing that online interactions had positive effects on students’ learning. However, the best ways of analysing CMC are not clear. Studies that have analysed the content of the online discussions are also limited. This may be due to the time required to perform such analyses (Hara, Bonk, & Angeli, 2000) and the lack of a reliable instrument or an analytical framework to analyse the online discussions. As Goodyear (2001) notes:

Analysing the content of networked learning discussions is a troublesome research area and several commentators have remarked on the difficulty of connecting online texts to discourse to learning. (Goodyear, cited Mehanna 2004: 283)

on assessing online discussions:

Formal assessment offers one indication of students’ learning, and online dialogue may then be argued to have supported this. However, unless the method of assessment includes the forum discussion in some way, it is not usually clear where and how learning in forums may have happened. Course feedback and evaluation mechanisms, similarly, may highlight the use of discussion forums as a useful supplement or yield examples of how students have used them, but ‘use’ cannot be equated with learning. Some researchers have instead proposed treating forum messages as qualitative data, and thereby draw on qualitative methods for analysis.

why build a tool to automate analysis/visualization of discourse?

Even for people accustomed to using qualitative methods as part of their research activities, they may be time-consuming to use in the context of evaluating learning in CMC. The methodological difficulties of analysing discussion forum data are therefore compounded by the practical constraints of time and experience. These issues have wider implications for the evidence base in e- learning: it is difficult to build up case studies of appropriate and effective use of technology to enhance learning, where practitioners lack the tools to make these studies.

Screen Shot 2011 11 19 at 1 52 35 PM

So, VIMS looks pretty awesome at this… Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a fracking thing about the tool itself…

WTF is VIMS? No project website found, but the paper describes it:

VIMS provides real-time, radial-tree visualisation of the forum interactions, realised using a combination of SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) using Perl with JavaScript. Visualisation maps are presented as interactive scalable images, viewable using most web browsers; the version described here can be seamlessly incorporated into Moodle. The technologies combined in VIMS allow the visualisation to have ‘hot spots’, on which the mouse can hover to access full details of a message. There is a continuous link between the image and the web server, implemented using AJAX, which means that the visualisation will change according as new messages are sent to the forum. An algorithm within the software depicts borders, differentiating between the threads of a discussion forum.

and the visualizations look something like:

Screen Shot 2011 11 19 at 1 58 34 PM

on the role of VIMS:

VIMS has considerable advantages as a visualisation tool. First, the discussions are shown in a systematic way, with the people starting the discussion placed at the first level. There is no on-screen clutter from message text and all threads in a discussion forum can be viewed at a glance. Navigation on-screen allows the discussion to be viewed as a whole, or for the viewer to zoom in on certain areas. One or more threads can be compared easily. This visual aid could help the instructor develop a collaborative environment, by aiding him/her to visualise the active and inactive participants, and therefore inform appropriate interventions.

It is important to acknowledge the limitations of the VIMS tool too: it is in essence a support for coding and management of the data, rather than offering in and of itself a new method for analysing that data. For such analysis, we need to consider the wider model used by Schrire or indeed to pursue existing qualitative methods. VIMS does not yet allow us a way to analyse the multi-modal nature of the student discourse in unmoderated Forums, and the inclusion of images, sounds and other media which students are now accustomed to using. This is a further area of work we need to address, but one for which the other visualisation tools described in this paper are (similarly) unsuited.

Lots of other interesting papers cited in this one. Mine it.

But, I don’t understand how VIMS doesn’t appear to have a project website or information available. Is it secret sauce?

  1. I’m wondering if this might be a useful way to display the discourse in the data I’m gathering… []

Notes: Zydney, deNoyelles & Kyeong-Ju Seo (2012) – Creating a community of inquiry in online environments…

Zydney, J. M., deNoyelles, A., & Kyeong-Ju Seo, K. (2012). Creating a community of inquiry in online environments: An exploratory study on the effect of a protocol on interactions within asynchronous discussions. Computers & Education, 58(1), 77–87. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.07.009


The purpose of our research was to examine the influence of an online protocol on asynchronous discussions. A mixed-methods study compared two online graduate classes: one that used a protocol and one that did not use a protocol for the same discussion about a complex reading. Analysis of the data revealed that the online protocol more evenly distributed the presence of cognitive, social, and teaching elements necessary to create and sustain an online community of inquiry. Use of the protocol also promoted more shared group cognition and more student ownership of the discussion and empowered students to facilitate themselves, helping to reduce the instructor workload. These findings may enable educators to provide more dynamic interaction and richer learning experiences in asynchronous online environments.

purpose and context of the study:

Given the literature concerning online discussions, the use of protocols could prove particularly powerful to support both students and teachers. Concerning instructional design and organization, protocols may provide a very structured discussion prompt, which let students know their role, giving built-in supports leading to a progression in thought. However, it is still open-ended enough so that students can select their own topic, experiencing more ownership of the discussion. Protocols may reduce the instance of discussion monologues, since the protocol explicitly requires interaction. Because the protocol spells out who should post and who should respond at a given time, there is no need for a specific facilitator, as the participants essentially facilitate themselves.

they looked at 2 fully-online grad-level classes in a higher-ed setting. n=12 and n=14.

on protocol vs. non-protocol:

The protocol class received the “Save the Last Word for Me” protocol (McDonald et al., 2003), which was modified for an online discussion forum. In this protocol, at the beginning of the week, half the students were asked to post a quote from the reading, which they thought was important but particularly complex. They were told not to reveal the reasoning behind their selection of the quote. Then during the middle of the week, two students posted a reaction to each quote. At the end of the week, the students who posted the quote revealed their original interest in the passage and what they learned from reading the reactions from the other two students. This discussion was then repeated the following week with the other half of the students posting the quotes for discussion.
The non-protocol class received the open-ended discussion question: “How does thinking about a concept from multiple perspectives help or hinder the learner from gaining a deeper understanding?” The students responded to this initial prompt based on their readings and then replied to at least one other student’s response.


Overall, there was a more even distribution for the protocol group among cognitive, social, and teaching presences than in the non- protocol group, as shown in Table 2. Further analysis was done for the categories within each of these elements as described in the following sections.

so, with protocol, more people were more actively engaged, rather than a few keeners hogging all the fun.

Based on our analysis of this data, there were several interesting differences between the protocol and non-protocol discussions. For example, the protocol group had a more balanced distribution of the three presences than the non-protocol group. This is more reflective of the COI model, which emphasizes that all three presences have to meaningfully interact in order to facilitate a successful learning community (Garrison et al., 2000, 2010). The protocol group also demonstrated more shared group cognition than individual cognition. This increased interaction likely resulted from the structure of the activity and the defined roles for communication that prompted students to reply to one another to problem solve how to interpret the quotes selected.

This would be handy to look at differences in discourse between 2 different classes. Less relevant for my research, since both groups are in the same class, with the same instructor, doing the same activities. But if they weren’t, perhaps varying protocol used by different instructors could explain varying levels of engagement…

There’s a PROTOCOL to be followed!

The Whale and the Reactor: Mythinformation

More notes on Langdon Winner’s *The Whale and the Reactor*, published in 1986. A decade before the internet really began to take off.

Chapter 6 deals with “mythinformation” or the myth that increased access to information via computers and networks leads to increased individual democratic power.

On the great equalizer:

> The computer romantics are also correct in noting that computerization alters relationships of social power and control, although they misrepresent the direction this development is likely to take. Those who stand to benefit most obviously are large transnational corporations. While their “global reach” does not arise solely from the application of information technologies, such organizations are uniquely situated to exploit the efficiency, productivity, command, and control the new electronics make available. Other notable beneficiaries of the systematic use of vast amounts of digitized information are public bureaucracies, intelligence agencies, and an ever-expanding military, organizations that would operate less effectively at their present scale were it not for the use of computer power.

on conservatism rather than revolution in the computer age:

> Current developments in the information age suggest an increase in power by those who already had a great deal of power, an enhanced centralization of control by those already prepared for control, an augmentation of wealth by the already wealthy. Far from demonstrating a revolution in patterns of social and political influence, empirical studies of computers and social change usually show powerful groups adapting computerized methods to retain control.

on political arguments for digitization:

> The political arguments of computer romantics draw upon a number of key assumptions: (1) people are bereft of information; (2) information is knowledge; (3) knowledge is power; and (4) increasing access to information enhances democracy and equalizes social power. Taken as separate assertions and in combination, these beliefs provide a woefully distorted picture of the role of electronic systems in social life.

on public participation in politics:

>Public participation in voting has steadily declined as television replaced face-to-face politics of precincts and neighborhoods. **Passive monitoring of electronic news and information allows citizens to feel involved while dampening the desire to take an active part.** If people begin to rely on computerized data bases and telecommunications as a primary means of exercising power, it is conceivable that genuine political knowledge based in first-hand experience would vanish altogether.

on social paralysis by ubiquitous monitoring:

>Confronted with omnipresent, all-seeing data banks, the populace may find passivity and compliance the safest route, avoiding activities that once represented political liberty.

on removing social buffers:

>One consequence of these developments is to pare away the kinds of face-to-face contact that once provided important buffers between individuals and organized power. To an increasing extent, people will become even more susceptible to the influence of employers, news media, advertisers, and national political leaders.

I’m guessing the book read like a breathless fringe manifesto. It’s surprising how accurately Winner’s predictions describe modern society. Passivity and complacency, the illusion of connectedness in the face of isolation, real democracy collapsing under the weight of increased media exposure and ubiquitous monitoring of citizens.

Notes: Lin, et al. (2007). An empirical study of web-based knowledge community success

Lin, Hui., Fan, W., & Wallace, L. (2007). [An empirical study of web-based knowledge community success](http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=4076736). Proceedings of the 40th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. pp 1530-1605.

on web-based knowledge communities:

>A Web-based knowledge community can be viewed as a website, a web-based information system, and a community. It is a new form of communication whereby community users share knowledge for mutual learning or problem solving and conduct social interactions. As a website, system quality is important to ensure user satisfaction and participation. As a Web-based information system, information quality is a key component as the purpose of a WKC is knowledge acquisition and exchange. Without high quality information, users are less likely to feel satisfied with the community and to continue using it. Information quality and system quality together form usability factors as in Preece’s community success framework.

on satisfaction, community belonging, and contribution:

>As users become satisfied with a community, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging to the community and identify with other users in the community. This will enhance their participation and communication with other users which in turn increases their usage.

on encouraging sharing (pro-sharing norms):

>One way to encourage knowledge sharing is by forming groups of users with similar interests. This will promote more collaboration among users. Another way to promote knowledge sharing is by offering incentives. Incentives such as bonus points and recognition for frequent contributors can encourage knowledgeable users to share their expertise with novice users. Rewards and recognition can boost user participation which subsequently enhances the pro-sharing norms in the community.

Notes: Juristo et al. (2007). Analysing the impact of usability on software design

Juristo, N., Moreno, A.M. & Sanchez-Segura, M. (2007). [Analysing the impact of usability on software design](http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0164121207000088). The Journal of Systems and Software. 80. 1506-1516.

some basic stuff for the background section on wtf do I care about design/usability in the context of community interaction.

on interface usability and functionality:

>As a result of this analysis we are able to demonstrate that usability really is not confined to the system interface and can affect the system’s core functionality.

on usability (interaction >> interface):

>Usability deals with the whole user–system interaction, not just the user interface. The user interface is the visible part of the system (buttons, pull-down menus, check-boxes, background colour, etc.). Interaction is a wider concept. Interaction is the coordination of information exchange between the user and the system.

Notes: Harper et al. (2007). Social comparisons to motivate contributions to an online community

Harper, F.M., Xin Li, S., Chen, Y. & Konstan, J.A. (2007). [Social comparisons to motivate contributions to an online community](http://www.springerlink.com/index/43m3303081659655.pdf). Persuasive Technology. pp. 148-159.

on designing software to encourage contribution:

>…designers of Web sites can hope to affect the volume of user contributions through design. They might take action to change the costs of the contribution by making contributions easier to make.

on providing comparisons of levels of contribution, compared to peers:

>Online communities wishing to promote contributions of a certain kind may wish to display information that leads members to evaluate their level of contribution. While many Web sites display information about superstar users (such as with Amazon’s “Top Reviewers” list), it is also possible to compare users with their peers in the system. In this way, users may be motivated by the presence of more attainable goals.

*how would the “members” page on a WP class blog site fit with this model of peer comparison? is there something similar in Bb?*