Session 7–Management and conflict

by richgazan

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,