Online community analysis project

Your last assignment is to systematically analyze an online community to better understand. You must spend a significant amount of time in the community (at least 10 hours) and take “field notes” on your experience there that includes your observations of community design, norms, codes of conduct, roles, power among others. Those notes will come in handy when you write blog posts analyzing your experience and the community. You will also make contributions to the community. Finally, you will reflect on your experience on the community.

The questions you will be asking as you observe the community include:

• In what ways is the community successful?
• How is it meeting the needs of its members?
• In what ways could the community be better designed?
• How would you change it?

Here are the concepts that you should use to analyze your community. We will develop these more in class.

• Governance
• Roles
• Norms/rules
• Design
• Newcomers

These answers to these questions will be informed by the concepts we discuss in class and that you read about in the coming days, so it is important that you do the assigned readings as you will be required to discuss them in your analysis.


• To better understand the dynamics of online communities, including norms, role
• To be able to critically and systematically analyze how an online community works.
• To critique and analyze online community design

Blog posts

• Proposal (Nov. 11), 250 words + images + links

There are thousands of communities from which to choose – some are nice, friendly and productive and some are not. If you choose to study one of the ones that are not, be prepared. Don’t underestimate the stress involved in studying a site that focuses on destructive or ant-social behavior.

• Update I (Nov. 18), 400 words + images + link
• Update II (Nov. 25), 400 words + images + links
• Final post (Dec. 12), 750 words + images + links

Your final post should include analysis based on the five concepts above (governance, roles etc.). I emphasize analysis. Why, in your estimation, do they use certain design features based on the ethos of the site?

Other requirements

• Small group presentation/peer review (Nov. 30)
• “Ignite” talk (Dec. 7, 9, 12)

Grading criteria

• Quality of writing
• Quality of observations and analysis
• Insight into research concepts of online communities
• Inclusion of course readings and discussion into what you observed
• Blog post design (images, including screen shots, etc.)
• Attention to detail – grammar, spelling, etc.