- Series: MIT Press
- Hardcover: 328 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press (March 23, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262016575
- ISBN-13: 978-0262016575
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #995,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design (MIT Press)
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Building Successful Online Communities is the book we've all been waiting for. Students, faculty, and professional developers will learn how online communities function. There's something for everyone―empirical findings framed in theory, and gems of advice. The authors are remarkable researchers, teachers, and leaders in the field.(Jennifer J. Preece, Professor and Dean, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland's iSchool)
While many books have described the patterns and building blocks of successful social spaces from an architectural perspective, Building Successful Online Communities moves beyond the tangible and derives critical features and design claims for thriving communities in the more malleable online world. The authors provide real world examples and observations to help practitioners design an online community. In the process, they create a vocabulary and environment that engages the reader to want to design an online social space.(Kyratso George Karahalios, Associate Professor, University of Illinois)
This work provides the science behind the observations we made in Building Web Reputation Systems. Its format of design claims, thoroughly supported by research and examples, is a must-have resource for anyone thinking of deploying successful online communities.(F. Randall Farmer, online communities pioneer, and coauthor of Building Web Reputation Systems)
About the Author
Robert E. Kraut is Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human–Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University.
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I used the design claims in the last chapter for a research project on engagement in online communities.
The book uses a common "design claim" framework, that is excellent for students to internalize, as it teaches them a systematic and testable way to approach online community design. An example of a design claim from the book is: "People will be more willing to contribute in an online group when they think
that they are unique and others in the group cannot make contributions similar to theirs." The design claim ties a specific design principle (i.e., emphasize the uniqueness of a contribution) to a goal (i.e., increase members' contributions). Design claims also have conditions under which they may apply, such as the demographics, size, and topic of the community. The complete formulation of this type of design claim looks like this: "alternative X helps/hinders achievement of
goal Y under conditions Z". Other claims focus on which of different design alternatives will be more successful. Specific ideas on how to implement the various design claims along with the theoretical basis for them are discussed alongside each design claim throughout the book. The framework is excellent, though at times there are so many design claims it can be a bit overwhelming to students.
When using this book in teaching I have complemented it with a couple of concepts not covered much in the book:
- The design claim approach is in the positivist social science tradition (as the authors state in the Introduction chapter). While this has its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. The focus tends to be primarily on the design claims (i.e., hypotheses) and only secondarily on the context in which they appear. In practice there are many design choices that often interact with one another in complex ways, making it hard to predict whether or not a particular design claim will work in any given community. This is not a reason to ignore design claims. Rather, it is a caution that the claims may not work as expected given the nuances of a particular community. This leads to the need for my next point:
- The book does not specifically discuss methods and tools for testing these design claims in the field, though many examples are provided of such tests and the authors clearly have a good understanding of how to conduct online "field experiments" of the sort needed. Complementing this book with a couple of readings on experimental design and A/B testing tools and methods is helpful. Doing so allows community designers to test the design claims they believe are important rather than relying on a theoretical argument that may or may not work in practice.
In summary, this is an outstanding, unique book that is particularly well suited for students and readers seeking to gain a better understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of different design decisions. The chapters are on excellent topics central to all community building efforts and the design claim framework is very useful, particularly when coupled with field experiments to test a claim's effectiveness in a specific community.