ICS 669 S13 Social Computing

University of Hawaii Dept. of Information & Computer Sciences

Month: April, 2013

Session 7–Management and conflict

Throughout the course we’ve looked at social computing sites and similar online communities as systems with affordances and constraints, and as arenas in which people interact.  In our final session, we’ll look at the people responsible for managing and maintaining online communities once they’re live–whether they’re designers, moderators/admins or users themselves–and what happens when things go wrong.

The readings for this session present a number of perspectives about the ways online communities govern, support and perpetuate themselves.  Kirman et al. find a legitimate role for griefers and trolls, Cosley et al. take an HCI-based approach to online governance, and Grimes et al. focus on the documents that govern online communities.  This Gazan fellow has a few observations about the motivations of rogue users in social Q&A sites, and based on your Session 6 posts some of you have already discovered the page maintained by Reed.  And I know it’s late in the semester, but by all means, don’t miss the Dibbell article.

With the usual end-of-semester chaos, it’s easy to get tunnel vision with your final projects: you’re so focused on your data collection and analysis (and just getting the thing done) that you might not consider broader data that might help explain why you see the data you see.  Considering governing documents, site policies and patterns of transgressions will help contextualize and ground your observations, and make them more effective and actionable. 

By Sunday, April 21, 11:59pm

  1. After completing the readings, find the official rules governing the site(s) you’re studying for your final project.  Keep in mind that relevant information might be found in more than one official document, for example in an FAQ, a sticky admin post, an email delivered at registration, a Terms of Use document etc.  Post a link (or links), with some brief explanatory text.
  2. Find three examples on the site where one or more rules have been broken, specifically in the form of interpersonal conflict (i.e. not just spam posts). Give a brief synopsis of each situation, along with any admin or user reactions if available, and provide a screenshot.
  3. For each of the three situations you describe, put yourself in the position of the administrator of the community, with the ability to take any action or set any policy on the site that you think best, and discuss your response to, and rationale for, each situation. Take time to consider the consequences of your prescriptions: for example, allowing users to remove inappropriate content instead of waiting for admin review risks coordinated suppression of content by motivated users or bots.  Relate your examples and discussion substantively to at least three of the Session 7 readings.
  4. Conclude with a list of five “unwritten rules” for your site, things that are not directly addressed by current policy, and would (recalling session 6) help users get what they came to the site to receive, and reflect the lessons of the readings you cited.

By Friday, April 26, 11:59pm

As you have done so well throughout the course, comment on at least five other students’ posts.

By Sunday, April 28, 11:59pm

Conclude your conversations.

Though I encourage you to email me as you complete your final projects (due May 5), since this is my last post I’d just like to thank you for taking a chance on this course.  This is a uniquely student-driven course, and without your interest, interactions and enthusiasm it would not have worked nearly as well.   I welcome any suggestions, either in the course evaluation or via email, that you think might make this an even better experience for the next group of students.

Thanks and aloha,


Session 6–Online identity and interaction

I hope you enjoyed spring break.  One of the advantages of taking a course that’s been taught several times before is that I’ve seen a few common places where students tend to stumble or get lost.  This is one of those places.  At the end of session 5, I asked you to declare your final project topics, but it’s remotely possible you may not have thought much about projects for this or any class over the break :).  Therefore, I’m requiring you to do what most successful projects do: run a small pilot study, early enough to integrate the results into the design and execution of your final project.

This session will be conducted (and graded) differently than the others.   You can earn some extra credit points this session (max 12 instead of the usual 10), and the report of your pilot study results can be included directly in your final project writeup.

This session’s readings cover topics you’ll need to understand in order to make sense of your results: how people create and express online identities within the context of particular communities.  One of the primary reasons people participate in social computing sites is that they provide the ability to do things and adopt identities we can’t in our offline lives.  Apply some of the concepts and findings from these readings–both what they’ve done, and what they should have done but didn’t–to your final projects.

By Sunday, April 7, 11:59pm

Part 1: Pilot study (5 points):

Before starting, review the final project guidelines posted in the Session 4 blog closely.  Then conduct a small pilot study for your final project following the guidelines below.  Report the following on your blog, even if you’ve mentioned some of this in prior posts:

  • The research question you’re addressing, the site or sites where you’re conducting research, and the method(s) you’ll use to analyze the data
  • Collect and analyze roughly 10% of the data you’re planning for your final project, and discuss your initial findings on your blog.  Does the data address your research question satisfactorily?  Did new questions arise?  Now that you’ve collected and analyzed some data, how will you use this initial experience to create a final project that meets the (admittedly lofty) goals set out in the final project guidelines?
  • I understand everyone’s project is different, and yours may not fit easily into the pilot study requirements above—if that’s the case, email me at least three days before this blog post is due to ask questions and discuss your options.

Part 2: Session 6 readings (5 points):

  • Propose a working definition of online identity as it relates to a site you are studying for your final project, and compare it to one or more of those found in the readings.  Then contrast your definition with Wellman et al.’s sense of networked individualism.
  • Write two informal use scenarios (outlines of common interactions) based on your observations of existing users. In each scenario, describe how an individual with a predictable need enters your community, navigates through common decision points and options step by step, then (ideally) exits with what he or she came for. Include functional interactions (decision points relevant to the user’s goal; you need not exhaustively list all options) and interpersonal interactions. Don’t worry about formal scenario structure, just communicate the information in a paragraph or bulleted list. Write one “sunny day” use scenario (a common interaction where all goes as expected), and one “rainy day” scenario (an uncommon but plausible interaction where it doesn’t).
  • Conclude by discussing how your final project research might help turn a rainy day scenario into a sunny one for the users of the site(s) you’re studying.

By Friday, April 12, 11:59pm

Part 3: Comments (2 points):  Comment on at least five other students’ posts, and remember to make your comments as specific and actionable as possible.  Most of you have done an outstanding job of interacting and helping each other via the comments section throughout the course, and this is probably the last chance you’ll have to make suggestions for other students’ projects.

By Sunday, April 14, 11:59pm

Conclude your conversations.  The Session 7 (final!) blog will be posted Monday April 15.