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Virtual Communities Gilad Ravid 2009

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1 Virtual Communities Gilad Ravid 2009

2 What is Community? Esther Dyson (1997) characterizes communities as… “…unit in which people live, work, and play” Most individuals “live” in several communities concurrently Communities may be either Formal or Informal

3 ‘Virtual’ Communities & Internet… “…the Internet can be a powerful enabling technology fostering the development of communities because it supports the very thing that creates community — human interaction…” Esther Dyson, Release 2.0

4 ‘Virtual’ Communities & Internet… Characteristics of ‘Virtual’ Communities… They are independent of geography (place): Community is defined by “like mindedness”, not proximity They overcome the barriers of time: Communities may be global (across time zones, synchronous limitations) They share a common need: Communities communicate with each other for encouragement, emotional support, etc.

5 The Four ‘States’ of Electronic Communication… When we deal with communication, we can conceptualize the various technologies as being an interaction of Time and Space…

6 The Communication ‘States’… Same Time Any Place Same Time Same Place Any Time Same Place Any Time Any Place Communication

7 The Communication ‘States’… Same Time, Same Place – Synchronous Communication – Examples: Traditional face-to-face contacts that have been common to Service-Learning activities involving Agencies, Students, Faculty & University personnel Contact occurs in “real” time — dependent on scheduling effectiveness – Very Personal contact of all participants

8 The Communication ‘States’… Same Time, Same Place (Cont’d) – Low Tech… Does not require any specific technology unless the nature of the activity is technology-related (e.g., creation of web sites) – High Touch… High levels of personal contact required, especially between the students and community agencies Community building occurs as an by-product of the Service- Learning process, if the students become involved beyond the basic level of service

9 The Communication ‘States’… Same Time, Any Place – Synchronous Communication – Examples: Chat (IRC, Chat, Instant Messenger, etc.) Virtual Environments (MUDs, MOOs, Tapped-In, etc.) Video and/or Audio Conferencing – More personal, but requires all parties to be present at same time…

10 The Communication ‘States’… Same Time, Any Place (Cont’d) – High Tech… Synchronous communication requires a computer with some type of online connection with which to join in community activity… – Medium Touch… Due to the highly interactive nature of synchronous communication, individuals within the community interact in “real” time and approximate the feel of face-to-face conversations

11 The Communication ‘States’… Any Time, Same Place – Asynchronous Communication – Examples: Web Sites with Resource Links Online Archives (from Message Boards, Email, and/or Newsgroups) Online Library Resources (CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, etc.) – While impersonal, these resources are available on a 24/7 basis; the archives can preserve the “oral history” of the ‘virtual’ community

12 The Communication ‘States’… Any Time, Same Place (Cont’d) – High Tech… Asynchronous Communications requires the computer, Internet Connection & Browser for access Access Privileges may be required at some library resource sites – Medium Touch… At its roots, this is relatively Low Touch, but due to the “shared memory & vision” that it represents, the level of Touch is increased Necessary for the formation of ‘virtual’ communities

13 The Communication ‘States’… Any Time, Any Place – Asynchronous Communications – Examples: Email (especially web-based email) Mailing Lists/Listserv processors Newsgroups Message Boards/Threaded Discussions – Less personal (based upon words in messages), but available whenever and wherever the sender or recipient is has time available

14 The Communication ‘States’… Any Time, Any Place (Cont’d) – High Tech… Asynchronous communications requires a computer connected to the Internet Some specialized software may also be required, depending on the exact operation being performed – Low Touch… Reflects about the same level of “Touch” as a form letter Taking special care in the use of wording and other conventions, increased personalization may occur

15 Methods for Information transformation Documents DataBases IntrAnet Groupware Face to Face meeting Communication Placement Workshops Training Technical writing 3 rd Party Product support

16 “In the new economy, conversations are the most important form of work. Conversations are the way knowledge workers discover what they know, share it with their colleagues, and in the process create new knowledge for the organization” what's so new about the new economy?, Alan Webber

17 Obstacles for Information transformation Trust Culture differences, language, point of reference Narrow point of view on 'production process' Status of information owners Difficulties in information absorption Knowledge belong to “special group” No tolerance for mistakes and help requests

18 The Shannon-Weaver theory encoderdecoder

19 Audience size and information age model גיל המידע Face to Face conversation Telephone conversation Radio broadcasts TV broadcasts Cable TV broadcasts Lecture Book Newspapers Theater Gravestone, monument letters Heritage, oral law ? millions few size new Old/ classic age

20 Metcalfe’s Law The utility (usefulness) of a network equals the square of the number of users

21 Star Network Y Network Chain Network Circle Network All-Channel Network Five Possible Communication Networks for a Four-Person Group


23 Degree of centralization Very high FACTOR STAR Y CHAINCIRCLE ALL- CHANNEL Very high Low High Leadership predictability Average group satisfaction Range in individual member satisfaction High Low High ModerateVery low Moderate Very low High Very low Low Moderate Low Effects of Five Communication Networks Y

24 Media Richness

25 Face-to-face dialogue * Videoconference * Telephone conversation * * Voice mail * E-mail * Informal letters/memos * Organization’s own videos * Formal written documents * Formal numerical documents Source: Adapted from Daft, R.L., and Lengel, R.H. Organizational information requirements, media richness, and structural design. Management Science, 1986, 32, 554-571. Single Standard Multiple Varied HighRapid LowSlow Feedback Personalization Cues Language Examples of Media Richness for Sending and Receiving Messages

26 Extended Team Support ExternalInformationServices CorporateDatabase Group to to Group Group FTF FTF Meeting Meeting Room RoomVirtual Meeting Meeting (office) (office) Information generated between group-to-group and distributed meetings Different Time Same Time Small Group Large Group Adapted from J. Morrison, 1992 UofAZMIS

27 Whether you run a public Web site or a private intranet, a discussion server is a must-have to create a sense of community. Listserv majordomo IRC, ICQ Usenet, NNTP UToK, Odigo ThirdVoice iMarkUp Napster, Gnutella Icast, Jabber, Everybuddy, Bantu Bloggers




31 Collaboration tools and technology Peer to Peer (P2P) - napster, Gnutella –Kazaa Data and file sharing –DocSpace –I-drive –FreeBack Collaborative presentations and meetings –Webex –Centra Buddy list – ICQ – Odigo IM – ICQ – YAHOO – AOL – – Everybuddy – Bantu – Tribal Voice

32 Collaboration tools and technology (2) Web annotations – Odigo – ThirdVoice – Ubique – UtoK – IMarkUp – Icast Collaborative surfing – Net2gether Collaborative shopping – Mercata – Mobshop Interactive commerce – Membiz – Bet and chat Interactive commerce technologies – human click Voice/Visual chat – Videonet – Hi-Res

33 Collaboration tools and technology 3 “WebLogs” – Blogger, Plastic, Manilasites, Pitas, GreyMatter, Slashdot WebCams Netmeeting, webcamnow, etc. E-Groups: –,, E-Groups: – Accessboards, Beseen, – Coollist, CustomPost, – Delphi Forums, Ezboard,,, Topica, World Crossing

34 Dimensions of interest Proprietary or public ownership? Read Only vs. Read/Write Synchronous vs. A- Synchronous Structure: Threaded vs. non-threaded Structure: moderator? Structure: Automatic censoring? text only vs. rich media Specific vs. Open or General topic Identity: history, anonymity Summarizing tools and procedures Openness? View counts Availability of finger, buddy lists Cusomizability by owner, user Cost Speed, updates

35 Synchronous choices Talk, n-talk, y-talk IRC, Netmeeting. See ICQ Web-based synchronous tools, “chats” Stand alone, CGI-based, and Java-based – see White-boards, Pow-wow

36 A-Synchronous tools Usenet (for listserv) …. But then there is the Web…. Forum One:

37 One-third of all users but two-thirds of sales

38 Users of community features are twice as loyal

39 How community features enhance content sites

40 Peer to Peer (P2P) computing A dramatic shift of the Internet landscape away from exaggerated focus on the WWW. Peer-to-peer will permeate the enterprise and consumer applications. P2P concentrates on distributed applications and "edge computing."

41 Reeves & Nass (1996): –Media Equation Theory Sproull, Subramani, Kiesler, Walker & Waters (1996): –Computerized face as an interface Using a face as an interface Technology examples: Microsoft Office tools Microsoft Bob…Agent Ananova NetSage Technology examples: Microsoft Office tools Microsoft Bob…Agent Ananova NetSage

42 Virtual presence Odigo’s Radar displayIBM’s Bubble display

43 Virtual presence Human click’s interactive salesman Imagiland’s visual chat

44 The interpersonal, voice See, e.g.

45 Groupware collaboration tools Lotus Domino Microsoft Exchange, Outlook Netscape’s Collabra Many others

46 Q. Jones, & Rafaeli. S., "Time to Split, Virtually: ‘Discourse Architecture’ and ‘Community Building’ as means to Creating Vibrant Virtual Metropolises". Electronic Markets, The International Journal of Electronic Commerce and Business Media. Vol. 10, No. 4, 2000, Routledge, London. Electronic Markets





51 Design Strategies “Social Scaffolding” Define and Articulate PURPOSE Build flexible, extensible PLACES Create member PROFILES Design for ROLES Develop LEADERSHIP Encourage ETIQUETTE Promote cyclic EVENTS Integrate RITUALS Facilitate SUBGROUPS Based on: Amy Jo Kim’ Community Building on the Web

52 Netiquette issues Remember the Human Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life Know where you are in cyberspace Respect other people's time and bandwidth Make yourself look good online Share expert knowledge Help keep flame wars under control Respect other people's privacy Don't abuse your power Be forgiving of other people's mistakes Media richness (paucity), self presentation, flaming and social control issues


54 Key to Groupware success is synchronous/asynchronous integrated audio/video/data

55 Audio Technology Advantages – in place – easy to use – cheap Disadvantages – low media richness – primarily “same time” – less useful for large groups

56 Video Technology Advantages – personal – fulfills participant expectations – high media richness Disadvantages – not universally available – expensive/lacking standards – potential for cultural confusion

57 Data Technology Advantages – widely available – more time independent – very cheap Disadvantages – impersonal – low media richness – requires extended support

58 CSCW CSCW - work being done between more than one individual where the collaboration is supported by the computer Groupware - software systems that support collaboration

59 Types of Groupware Electronic Mail Electronic Calendar Management Document Management Systems Workflow Computing Systems Electronic Meeting Support Worksharing Systems Work Monitoring Systems

60 What is CSCW? Building software tools that support better communication – electronic mail - Eudora – computer conferencing - Chat Rooms – voice messaging - PhoneMail – media spaces – Netmeeting 3.01 – EMS - Electronic Meeting Systems - Ventana

61 What is CSCW? Building software tools that support better sharing of work tasks and work processes – remote file sharing - Lotus Notes – shared drawing and editing tools, e.g., Netmeeting – shared whiteboards - Netmeeting – screen sharers - Netmeeting – work coordinators - Answer Garden

62 What is CSCW? Determining how to build interfaces that support communication and sharing – studies of electronic meeting systems – studies of how people verbally negotiate work – studies of how people write together – studies of the impact of desktop video conferencing

63 What is CSCW? Performing a systems analysis and design on existing workgroup collaboration in order to determine how to best support it with groupware – studies of the work processes people engage in – studies of the organizational schemes people use – studies of the communication links between people in an organization

64 Software that is Groupware Electronic mail – software supports the asynchronous communication of individuals Electronic meeting rooms – software supports the meeting process Electronic whiteboards – software supports the capability for multiple people to write on the same screen at the same time (and possibly remotely)

65 Software that is Groupware Media Spaces - videoconferencing with computer added features – software supports the video switching in order to set up subgroups of meeting participants and add cooperative features to the video exchange Shared calendar systems – software helps group members plan meetings and share availability information

66 Software that is NOT Groupware Videoconferencing – although software is used to compress the video signal, it is for the purposes of conserving bandwidth not to support collaboration Telephone Communication – basic telephone service uses software for switching not for collaboration, but today’s telephones are becoming more and more collaborative

67 Business Reasons for Groupware Individuals in offices, restaurants, homes, hospitals, etc., perform most of their work by communicating with others

68 Business Reasons for Groupware Groupware allows managers to rethink how they run their businesses – People no longer need to work in the same place – The cost of employee communication is significantly lowered – Getting the status of work in progress is easier

69 Breakdown of Communication Asynchronous Synchronous Same Location Different Location Electronic Post It Notes Electronic Meeting Room Electronic Mail Video Mail Computer Confer- encing Media Spaces

70 What is Wrong with Breakdown? Structure is based only on communication Other facets of collaboration are also important – e.g., knowing what someone else is doing by being able to scan the areas they have changed in a work product – knowing that others are at work the same time as you are

71 What is Wrong with Breakdown? Groupware systems now integrate more than one area shown on the chart The structure was made primarily by people setting up network structures to support groupware. Structure does not capture the richness of groupware

72 The Breakdown is Still Useful Synchronous communication implies that support must be given for many of the communication cues people use even if people are not co-located Same place communication implies that the computer tools need to be integrated with the communication process so that the communication goes smoothly

73 CSCW Failure Many of today’s CSCW systems have been failures – Why do you think this is so? – What do you think the major causes of these failures are? – What do you think can be done to overcome these failures?

74 What Systems are Successful Electronic Mail? Voice Mail? Videoconferencing? Calendar Systems? – What are their advantages? – What are their disadvantages?

75 25 Principles of Proven Practice 5 groups of 5: Teams and Teaming Team Commitment Team Communications and Processes Team Technology Team Knowledge

76 Teams and Teaming 1. Teams are the organization powerhouse 2. Best knowledge teams: 5-8, multi-disciplined 3. Larger groups for cohesion or networking... but not real work! 4. Each individual in 2 or more teams 5. Distinguish person and role.

77 Team Commitment 6. Clarity of purpose - mission, vision, goals 7. Norms and values 8. Map out networks - core and extended teams e.g. Netmap often shows teams are wrong! 9. Determine interdependencies/ flows 10. Individuals maintain personal networks

78 Team Processes 11. Communicate, communicate, communicate 12. Active listening - play back - understand 13. Recognize fuzziness of decision making 14. Learn together - all the time 15. Build trust in depth......don’t get too task focused!! Think process

79 Team Technology 16. Not just email - a broad mix 17. Agree standards and product set 18. Make team documents web-centric 19. Content/usages standards e.g. email 20. Experiment - but don’t use a technology just for the sake of it

80 Knowledge Communities Clear shared purpose People profiles FAQs Threaded conversations Good moderation Knowledge editing Attention to process/FTF When time constraints Wrong participants No clarity/coherence Wandering ‘off topic’ Off vs. on record clarity No summarizing/FAQs Technology gimmicks Effective Ineffective

81 Team Knowledge 21. A vital resource - who is responsible? 22. Emails are embryonic knowledge 23. A knowledge editor for each domain 24. Capture lessons all the time 25. Personal Knowledge: Know your colleagues!......Conversations and Collections

82 Resources Net.Gain Hagel and Armstrong Netiquette by Virginia Shea Alphabet to Email How Written English Evolved and Where It's Heading by Naomi S. BaronNaomi S. Baron Network and Netplay:Virtual Groups on the Internet, by Fay Sudweeks, Margaret McLaughlin and Sheizaf Rafaeli Network and Netplay:Virtual Groups on the Internet “Meeting of the Minds”, PC Mag Online: –

83 Resources (2) D. LaLiberte on collaboration projects: Woolley’s Conferencing guide to software: – Third Voice, Good or Bad? – Jeremy Bowers (Third voice… gone!, April 2001)

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