Mar 24, 2011

Notes on leadership and expertise in online communities

I am currently co-writing a book about social mechanisms in online communities, and decided to share some notes the importance of leadership in online communities. See below.

Koh, J., Kim, Y. G., Butler, B., & Bock, G. W. (2007). Encouraging participation in virtual communities. Communications of the ACM, 50(2), 68-73. ACM.

Leaders of robust, sustainable virtual communities find ways to strengthen their members’ sense of social identity and motivate their participation in the community’s activities.
Leader’s involvement is an essential community driver. Also difficult for community leaders is reaching a consensus on common goals or interests among heterogeneous community members in terms of age, education, and profession [1]. The challenge for community leaders is to explore and treat the underlying needs of the community’s members. Since community activities are voluntary, certain leadership roles may be especially important in the community’s virtual environment. Given the voluntary social context, community leaders play an important role in developing the necessary social climate to generate community participation. Securing or developing effective community leaders is likely to be a critical success factor for the sustainability of any virtual community [10]. Leader involvement is critical for building relationships and developing user-created content [4]. Leaders who promote collaboration and trust among community members with a clear vision for their communities may stimulate participation [10]. Therefore, leader involvement is needed for fostering members’ active involvement in posting and viewing community content. Thus, community leaders can expect to stimulate members’ posting activity by planning offline meetings or events. The direct relationship between usefulness and viewing activity suggests that when community members perceive that a community and its content are useful to them, they tend to view and explore the material more often. Thus, collecting, displaying, and updating content is critical for encouraging viewing activity among community members. One way to maintain the value of the community is to introduce a peer evaluation system for posted materials. Community leaders may then filter out redundant or obsolete postings based on evaluation scores generated through such a system, along with the periodic scanning of community content. A reward system for valuable postings may also be introduced.
Leadership and its importance depends on cultural context, such as the 'power distance'. In cultures with small power distance (e.g. Australia, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand), people expect and accept power relations that are more consultative or democratic.

Ardichvili, A. (2008). Learning and Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Communities of Practice: Motivators, Barriers, and Enablers. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 10(4), 541-554. doi: 10.1177/1523422308319536.
Closely related to this barrier or enabler is executive leadership support (Vestal, 2006; Scarbrough, 2003). Supportive Corporate Culture (De Long & Fahey, 2000;
Janz & Prasarnphanich, 2003; Hackett, 2000) and supportive leadership (Vestal, 2006; Scarbrough, 2003).

Bishop, J. (2007). Increasing participation in online communities: A framework for human–computer interaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(4), 1881-1893. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2005.11.004.
The ‘order’ category was included because Internet users carry out actions such as organising bookmarks, rearranging pages and specific members such as leaders may desire to take control of a situation, such as when members are flaming each other in a chat session. Leaders may also experience an order desire if a bulletin board goes off-topic and will carry out actions to bring it back to the original topic, despite the fact that allowing bulletin board to go off-topic can increase sociability in the community (Bishop, 2002).
Leaders may act out their order desires, by ensuring that bulletin boards do not go off topic, or by ensuring that everyone is able to participate.
Perhaps one of the most effective means to change the beliefs of lurkers so that they become novices is for regulars, leaders and elders to nurture novices in the community so that lurkers can see that those who are new to a community are treated well. Often lurk- ers will be actors that have posted in other online communities and not received a reply and will hold a belief that they will be ignored if they contribute. These lurkers can be per- suaded to change such a belief if they see that novices have their posts responded to in a constructive way.
Preece, J., & Maloney-Krichmar, D. (2003). Online communities: focusing on sociability and usability. In J. Jacko & A. Sears (Eds.), Handbook of human-computer interaction (p. 596–620). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. Publishers.
Helping roles, norms and rules get developed is often done by community leaders, or managers who work with the community. Provide changing content: e.g., news broadcasts, real-time discussions, encourage provocateurs and leaders to stimulate social interaction, focus on purpose, etc
Paavola, S., Lipponen, L., & Hakkarainen, K. (2002). Epistemological Foundations for CSCL: A Comparison of Three Models of Innovative Knowledge Communities. In G. Stahl (Ed.), Computer Support for Collaborative Learning: Foundations for a CSCL Community (Vol. 35, pp. 113-125). London: Routledge.
The primary goal of members of an innovative expert community is not merely to learn something (i.e., change, or simply add to, their own mental states), but to solve problems, originate new thoughts, and advance communal knowledge.
Preece, J., & Maloney-Krichmar, D. (2003). Online communities: focusing on sociability and usability. In J. Jacko & A. Sears (Eds.), Handbook of human-computer interaction (p. 596–620). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. Publishers.
Being the expert, which involves answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) or directing people to online FAQs, and understanding the topics of discussion.

Obviously, this is not complete. Sharing it in this incomplete way does not take a lot of time, that's the reason.