We Can See You: A Study of Communities' Invisible People through ReachOut
Springer London, Dordrecht Amsterdam
Virtual communities are a great tool, both at home and in the workplace. They help in finding new friends and solving complicated problems by creating a virtual family or a giant group-mind. However, building a virtual community is not a trivial task. Many problems need to be addressed for a new community to be successful. While many of these problems are features of the medium, participants themselves are still the major part of the equation. Understanding the behavioral patterns of virtual community members is crucial for attracting participants and facilitating active participation. In this paper, we describe our findings from analyzing more than a year of activities of a workplace community. Our community used ReachOut, a tool developed in our group to support semi-persistent collaboration and community building. Throughout the year, all users’ activities were logged, providing us with very detailed information. Not only do we know of people’s postings to the community, but we can also track lurking behavior that is usually hidden. This allows us to check several hypotheses about non-active participants’ behavior and propose some directions to increase active participation in virtual communities.