Report on the Psychology of Virtual Online Communities: Oh the Irony, destroyed by Popularity

My Table of Contents

  • Instructions for Report

  • The Sources
  • My Additions
  • What are Online Communities
  • How Do they Work?
  • A Case History
  • Would I be A Member?
  • What is the Significance?
  • Others' Views
  • How does my Report Compare to Others
  • Conclusions

  • Sources

    1. http://rdz.stjohns.edu/~storm/
    2. http://www.behavior.net/mhn/bolforum/message/32
    3. http://www.shassan.com/
    4. http://www.grohol.com/
    5. http://www.netaxs.com/~jamesiii/papers.htm

    My Additions

    1. http://theglobe.com

      A wannabe Geocities. More things like chat and personals, just started advertising on the TV.

    2. http://www.geocities.com

      One of the largest and most popular online communities. Actually a collection of several different communities all together.

    3. http://www.soulcoughing.com

      Fans make loyal folk. The bulliten board on many band pages are quite active. Here is an example.

      What are Online Communities

      An online community is any site or groups of sites that have a regular group of visiters who are able to interact with each other in on for or another via live chat, bullitenboards or email. Many of the more popular sites are basesd primarily on their value for advertising and are geared in that direction. Other smaller pages are dedicated towards special interests like satanic.org a site set up by systems admins featuring their private sinners email list. Often times mebership in a virtual community comes with an email address, and satanic is no different. You can email me at my satanic account at shaft@satanic.org

      How Do they Work ?

      Quite a few of the larger virtual communities these days have developed a strategy of offering some sort of free service in the form of a web page. During the course of browsing the web it is almost impossible to not stumble over one of these free websites which through Java either automaticly opens a new browser message with the online communities' link on it, or their banner on the page itself. Via free email account, their domain name becomes more widely known. Smaller communities that have a more special interest angle grow as users discover them.

      A Case History

      Geocities debuted on the net in June 1995 and as of writing this less than 3 years later they have about 1.7 million active members and are rated the fifth most visited site on the internet. At the writing of this article geocites which offers free mail and homepages has forty different themed communities, up from 8 when I joined about two years ago. The theme communities are a basic way of trying to subcategorize the many different types of pages found on geocities. Geocities exists for marketing. With a database of 1.7 and everyone of the broken down by there interests into communities, as well as having to give there home address to get there home page, they have a rare opportunity to sell directed advertising as this section directed to possible advertises explain.

      Would I be A Member ?

      I think that I can Honestly say that I am a meber of a few online communities. There is the obvious fact that this class can be called an online communitiy, we have to keep coming to the collected websites for our generation and have discussion via email. I also signed up for such online communities as the globe, and geocites. I also used to check the and post at the bullitin board at soulcoughing.com (a web page for the band soul coughing) quite a bit, before it became a victum of it's own success. What I mean by that is that it became almost impossible to follow all the new messages and most of the regular posters droped out to the point where it lost the sense of community that it one had.

      What is the Significance?

      Virtual communities exist because people are searching for people with common interests, unlike actual communities which exist primarily due to physical proximity. There is a change going on in virtual communities, although I don't know if that's actually an evolution or a metamorphosis. What a lot of them are turning into doesn't really resemble a community much any more. Due to the transitory nature of the internet, a lot of the players or citizen drop out due to unknown reasons not to be heard from again. In the real world if you move away, most likely someone would know. Online, if you stop showing up to chat or post, you might as well have just dropped off the face of the earth.

      So, in my opinion, an internet community in some ways seems more ephemeral.

      Others' Views

      Two other reports that I looked at for this report are Desmond Salima's report and Charles Kam's report, both on Acquiring Cyberspace Citizenship. Desmond's is practically worthless. He hardly does anything other than fill out numerical scales indicating stress levels and such. He complains a lot about his assignments but never seems to go into detail about his specific problem

      Charles's report is much better. If you check both pages you will see that even his numerical ratings are laid out better than Desmond's. Charles complains a lot as well, but at least he tells you exactly what troubled him.

      One statement that Charles makes that I do not agree with is "What is important to remember when first embarking into cyberspace is remember that we are all novices at this and we will all continue to be, FOREVER! Because of its very nature cyberspace will never be conquered." I would say that you might always be learning something new, but to say we are novices forever belittles the amount you have learned and the basic skills which apply throught using computers.

      How does my Report Compare to Others

      Let me get back to you on that.

      Conclusions

      I don't want to sound elitist, but it seems that for a real sense of community a smaller group of people might be preferable. As I mentioned before, after a certain amount of people it becomes more difficult to be anything other than confused. To a certain extent I can only hope that with some form of better interface that these problems might clear themselves up, but I'm not holding my breath. My only advice is that any community that you do find enjoy wile you can, the masses will surely destroy it.

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