Sunday, February 27, 2011

Understanding Online Communities' Social Capital and Trust Mechanism



The Massa’s article (2007) is the most disrupting reading this week. Not because the reading is too difficult to understand, but because the reading proposed so many interesting websites which always make me turn away from the paper. I turned away from the paper for taking a look at the website for fulfilling my curiosity before I continue to read. For me,,,,, and were some of the website that I just discovered from the reading. It took me 2 days to finish on reading this article before I can move on to others. While this article did not give me a clue about what means by social capitals/trust mechanisms. The vision of this concept started arising after reading about bridging and bonding from Putnam as well as weak-tie and strong-tie from Granovetter (Williams, 2006). What I can understand is, trust mechanism is also depending on social roles, social structures, and online communities ecology (Gleave, Welser, Lento, & Smith, 2008; Eryilmaz, Cochran, & Kasemvilas, 2009; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). The trust mechanism/social capital from offline community can influence the way people have relationship online. Therefore, Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe (2007) add one new type of social capital to the category made by Putnam and Granovetter. They called this social capital as "maintained social capital". With the maintained social capital, I can see clearly how people developing social network to obtained social capital which Allen, Colombo, & Whitaker (2009) called “incentivize cooperation”.

Topic of this week post is social capital/trust mechanism. In sequence, I will describe the two online communities (OCs) which I joined, compare the mechanism of their social capital, suggest some improvement for the sites, and conclude my post with questions proposed for my final project.

Comparing iFanboy with wikiHow

The first OC that I joined is a site for talking and discussion comic books, namely This site was developed in 2000 and targeted to people who like to read and share their opinion about comic books they read. In the section “About Us” on iFanboy website, there are general explanation about the site and description about site administrators. When joining to iFanboy, a user has to register for an account, provide login ID (name and password), create user’s name, provide Twitter name (optional), upload profile picture, and introduce self in a short paragraph. The second OC is The format of wikiHow is somewhat like Wikipedia. The main purpose of this site is a space for sharing collaborative work on “how-to manual”. wikiHow linked people from around the world and has 56 administrators who spread all over the world. Similar like iFanboy, at the section “About wikiHow”, information about this site can be found. When joining to wikiHow, a user also has to follow the same steps like in register for iFanboy. The difference of these sites is wikiHow asked for location and user’s blog/website instead of Twitter link.

Gleve, Welser, Lento, & Smith (2009) emphasized the important of social roles for improving social capital of OCs like Usenet and Wikipedia. Almost similar, Eryilmaz, Cochran & Kasemvilas (2009) highlighted the important of roles on establishing social trust on an emergence situation. Regarding to these two articles, I understand why it is important for implementing a highly moderating system through participation on either iFanboy or wikiHow. Like mentioned by Massa (2007), “worthiness” and “interestingness” are valuable social capital which come together with “the mass amateurisation” on providing information in the digital era. Therefore, having skilled and trained people to moderating discussion posting on the site will lower the risk of vandalism attack (Gleve, Welser, Lento, & Smith, 2009). The iFanboy has 8 administrator who also active contributors. These administrators are posting regularly to the site, commenting and responding to other participants post, and making sure that postings from participants are not overlap one another. The wikiHow has 56 administrators who spread all over the world. The posting on this site is not only in English, but also in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, Arabic, Italy, and Japanese. Administrators are representative of users in every region. They elected every year based on their reputation and contribution to wikiHow. What really impressed me from the site is a guidance email from region administrator. A new registered user will have an email from region administrator which contains links to manual/tutorial. The function of this manual is to make sure that the new member can participate in the right pattern like the site wants him to be. Because I register with Honolulu, Hawaii as my location, an administrator from Hawaii send an email to my inbox on the site, and guide about how I can participate on the site.

When people decide to participate in the OC, there are options for using the same identity like in the offline, or making a new identity. There is also possible for having more than a single identity on the OCs. Identity becomes a matter and also social capital for OCs (Williams, 2006; Massa, 2007; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). Most of OCs allows users to create their own persona online. Using an avatar on profile picture and created a pseudo-name are something usual and accepted in the OC. On the one hand, using pseudo persona online probably could protect the real-life persona from stalking and identity theft. However, pseudo persona is increasing the potentiality of “the dark side of online life” (Williams, 2006). iFanboy and wikiHow users can register using a pseudo persona (posted an avatar as picture profile and used a pseudo-name). This is particularly important for iFanboy users who are comic books lovers. The site gives them open opportunity to express their fantasy and impression to their favorite comic book characters. The large numbers of users are using a screenshot from comic book or a comic book character as their profile pictures. In contrast, on the wikiHow, users are more likely to use human picture as a profile picture, either a self-picture or picture of somebody else. In the same pattern, users used pseudo-names are large in numbers compare to users who use their real-name.

The next social capital that I want to discuss is linked and shared to social networking sites (SNS). In the article from Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe (2007), Massa (2007), William (2006), Allen, Colombo, & Whitaker (2009), we read how the SNS has created a social capital/trust mechanism that can potentially have a function to maintain social capital. Currently, the number of Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace users are kept improving. To increase popularity and easier for users to get update from the site, users recommended linking and sharing the post on this site to SNS. On the iFanboy, users can share their review, audio podcasts, and video podcasts through the whole bounce of SNS. Those SNS are Twitter, Facebook,, Reddit, Digg, MySpace, Stumbleupon, Technorati, and Google Buzz. Besides that, some administrators also link the post to their own blogs, websites, and other websites. Goodreads and Virb are some of websites which are new for me . Goodreads is an online book club/discussing forum. Virb is a website developing social software. One thing on iFanboy which caught my attention is it linked by some users to the site that not written in English. One that I found is a link to a site written in Thai language. This is an indicator that this site has been participated by international users. On the wikiHow, users can share posting with SNS like Facebook, Twitter, iGoogle, RSS Feeds, Google Buz, My Yahoo!, Email your friends, and an Apple Apps for iPhone. The wikiHow is the combination between wiki and blog. It used wiki format on posting information, and it used WordPress as a blog post platform. In addition, users encourage linking their post with their personal blog post and their SNS.

There are some social capitals that cannot be comparing side by side between these two OCs. I will use this paragraph to mention some of these social capitals. First, for iFanboy posts there are pulled, rating, and percentage pick of the week. Postings on the discussion forum appeared with talk bubbles. Member of the community can choose to pay for membership, give a donation, or just become a free member. The site has weekly TV shows and recordings of TV show are going viral on YouTube. Second, for wikiHow post there are rising start and tab for featured the post. The wikiHow users can also post suggestion about what they want other participants to write. As a writer, you can get a topic or idea to write from these suggestions. When you start to post, you will ask to verify, are your post are new contents which not overlapping former posts. In the site home page, when you log in, you can see the recent change keep dynamically moving updated. To focus on a post, you can click on the pause button on the dynamically moving posts of recent change.

Recommendation for improvement

In choosing the site, I not just randomly pick up one. I decided to choose sites that I will be continued on using and participating. Moreover, my basic knowledge about joining and searching for OCs influenced me on choosing these two sites. I used a blog entitle “50 Social Sites That Every Business Need to Presence On” to start searching on these two sites. I must admit that I have social capital motives on joining these sites. For iFanboy as an OC which sharing information on comic books, I would like to see the improvement in tree aspects. First, the site could have sections for sharing, lending, or donating comic books. I get this idea from Williams (2006) on “providing emotional support, access to scarce, mobilize solidarity, and givingness”. Second, instead of only having a link to Amazon, the site can also raise money by cooperating with stores which sell comic character merchandises. This suggestion operationalized the concept of social marketing of e-marketplaces mentioned on Massa (2007). Third, having an annual meeting, either online or face-to-face, will strengthen the feeling of belong to the community. This idea comes from Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe (2007) which underlined a positive relationship between OC used and “maintenance and creation of social capital”. For wikiHow, I want to see the improvement on how the site giving an incentive to cooperation (Allen, Colombo, Whitaker, 2009). The site already did this by having member to elect administrators who will represent their region. Nominating of the year for its users and giving them an award for their exceptional participation could be used as others incentive to cooperation.

Conclusion and tentative idea for final project


Doing the project for this class always gives me new ideas. I feel that every week posting can be turn into reflection papers and small research papers, because all the posting are based on a mini research project and analytical thinking. To conclude this week posting, I would like to mention ideas for my final project which also influence by this week readings about social capital/trust mechanism and relate with the emerging of the idea on web 3.0. Particularly, in the project, I want to compare between Mendeley and WizFolio. Both Mendeley and WizFolio are well known as a free, web-based tool for organizing research citations. Looking beyond these tools site, they also have members and formed a community. My tentative research questions are: 1) How Mendeley and WizFolio contributed on creating scholarly collaborative OCs for doing research? 2) What are the social capitals/trust mechanisms of these sites? Essentially, I will collect conversation through these sites discussions forum, analyzing contents on these sites blogs, and observe activities of the members on these sites. I would be open and happy to get feedbacks from you folks in this class about the suitable method for researching these sites.


Allen, S.M., Colombo, G., &Whitaker, R.M. (2009). Forming social networks of trust to incentivize cooperation. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI.

Ellison, N.B., Steinfield, C., and Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook "friends:" Social capital and college students' use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4). Retrieved from

Eryilmaz, E., Cochran, M., & Kasemvilas, S. (2009). Establishing trust management in an open source collaborative information repository: An emergency response information system case study. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa.

Gleave, E., Welser,H.T., Lento, T.M., & Smith, M.A. (2009). A conceptual and operational definition of social role in online community. Proceedings of the 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Waikoloa, HI.

Massa, P. (2006). A survey of trust use and modeling in current real sSystems. Trust in e-services: technologies, practices and challenges. Retrieved from

Williams, D. (2006). On and off the 'Net: Scales for social capital in an online era. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(2), article 11. Retrieved from Wiley online library.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Why we want to participate?

Summary of articles

Participation or content-driven of members was claimed by most of the authors in this week reading as the soul of online communities (OCs). It is impossible for the OCs to alive long lasting without active participation and highly motivated members (Ling, Beenen, Ludford, Wang, Chang, Li, Cosley, Frankowski, Terveen, Rashid, Resnick, & Kraut, 2005). Member’s participation in the OCs has some definite characteristics that similar to the motivation on join the real-life or face-to-face (f2f) communities (Ridings & Gefen, 2004). Thus, I can see that all the authors (Ridings & Gefen, 2004; Tedjamulia, Dean, Olsen, & Albercht, 2005; Ling, et al., 2005; Java, Finin, Song & Tseng, 2007; and Schrock, 2009) are coming in two agreements. First, motivation on joining f2f community can be used to analyze motivation on joining OCs. Second, researching members’ participation and goals of joining OCs will help to explain why there is OCs that going on top of popularity and the others become unpopular.

While I am read these five articles, I mapped the information into table. From this table, we can see that the articles are taken from 2004 until 2007. Every article focused on different OCs. Riding and Gefen (2004) looked at a bulletin board. Tedjamulia et al. (2005) analyzed several OCs like Slashdot, Opinion, and Coolsolutions. Online movie recommender,MoviLens was discussed by Ling et al (2005). Twitter became the focused interest of Java et al (2007). Last but not least, Schrock (2009) took a look at specifically on MySpace. Psychology theories were used frequently as model framework (Ridings & Gefen, 2004; Tedjamulia, et al, 2005; Ling et al., 2005; and Schrock, 2009). Besides that, there are also several theories that come from others field, such as Computer mediated communication(CMC) [Ridings & Gefen, 2004] and Social Network Theory (Java et al., 2007). Because of the used of different framework and methodology, there are various motivations on participation identified in these researchers and only one that similar, which is sharing/exchanging information (Ridings & Gefen, 2004; Tedjamulia, et al. (2005), Java, et al (2007); and Schrock, 2009).

Analyzing motivation to participation using my personal OCs

According to Ridings and Gefen (2004), the most popular reason for people to join a bulletin board is to exchanging information. They also emphasized that for communities on healthiness and occupational discussion, having social supports is the second most frequent reason. Differently, for OCs in hobbies and recreational, the second reason is searching for friendship. In addition, they contended that when people seeking information and social support on the OC, they are not necessary looking for friendship. However, friendship on the OC can help on searching information and social support. I can see these participants’ motivations are more likely the same like WiZiQ, the online teaching and learning forum where I become a member. WiZiQ allows me to teach and learn online, uploads, and stores my files online. In this forum, currently, I have 61 learners contact requests, 17 followers, 7 direct contacts, 40 learners access my resources, 22 members I am following, and one teacher I am learning from. Every time I conduct a class, I always encourage the class participants to give me feedback. I rarely got these feedbacks. While what happened was, frequently the learners send me email to ask for additional resources, request me to conduct a class with a specific topic, asking for advices, and ask permission to use my resources as their references. Therefore, I can conclude that the participants motivation to join WiZiQ is the same like the motivation to join bulletin board discussion on health and occupational, in Ridings and Gefen (2004) research. The participants tend to seek information and find a social support rather than to find friendships.

In contrast, I am totally not agree with what conclude in Schrock (2009) paper that said “…females had on average more computer anxiety, less computer self-efficacy, more extroversion and more ability to self-disclose information.” This result probably can be concluded for the research participants, or data that Schrock (2009) obtained. However, from my experience assisting online courses, having students discussion on NING and WALL, I tend to look at there is no significant different between male and female on those aspects mentioned in Schrock paper. Conversely, I assume that there are different between the educational system in Asia and America on sharping those elements. This assumption made based on my observation when look at the collaboration process between students in Hawaii with students from Japan. Students in Hawaii were taking initiative and leadership roles more compare to students from Japan when they joined on collaborative works. In my opinion, based on interactivity communication on the class discussion forum, the Japanese students tend to have less computer self-efficacy compare to students from Hawaii, while, in fact, their performances are almost the same.

Observation Results

I choose Amazon Kindle discussion forum as an OC to observe. At the time, this information was retrieved (February 12, 2011 – 1:11 PM), there 1,023 discussions topic with 4 current announcements. All of these 4 current announcements have more than 50 posts. I choose Announcement about “Kindle Book Lending Now available”, because this is the top discussion, in which has 252 new posts since the last time I visited the site, last week. I reached 62 posted from February 7, 2011 until February 12, 2011 (1:27 HST). The majority of posts were replies to other comments, 45 out of 62 posts. In total, 21 posts rated. As many as 15 posts rated as adds to the discussion and 6 posts rated as not add to the discussion. From prior post, the administrator will hide the posts which were considered not adds to the discussion. As a replacement, the administrator will show this statement, “Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion?” If you want to see the post you can click on the link which said, “Show post anyway.” From the discussion that I retrieved, there are no posts hide by the administrator. There was one post edited by the participant after initial post. Moreover, there was one post deleted. Majority posting were talked about technical problems on using Kindle rather than about the initial topic, lending book functionality on Kindle. Some participants showed their expertise experiences on using Kindle by answering lots of other users concerns or questions. Only two topics with the highest frequency that I consider highly related to the initial announcement. First is the time of lending Kindle Books (14 days). Second is concern on does this feature can be used on older generation Kindle-readers, the second generation.

Discussion and evaluation

Besides pointed 4 important OC’s users motivated participation factors, Riding and Gefen (2004) revealed the valuable of OC for its users. In the OC, users have the freedom to express their point of views, provide or request information, express their feeling, and give possible solutions. For me, WiZiQ is the place where I can go to broadcast my opinion without have to attend a classroom. On the other hand, for my followers in this forum, they have the freedom to provide opinions. Moreover, they can request a teacher to teach a specific topic. For learners who want to pay, they can choose their own teacher by considering the teacher qualification provided on teacher’s profile home page. From the Amazon Kindle discussion, I found a large number of posts from users suggested solutions for their peers on setting their Kindle reader and other technical assistances. Motivating participation on business OCs like Amazon not only depend on the member-generated content, but has to be balanced with self-sustaining by the company (Riding and Gefen, 2004). The self-sustaining can be in form announcement, initial posting, or by having extrinsic reinforcement (Tedjamulia, et al., 2005).

According to Tedjamulia et al. (2005), gifts, social recognition, and feedback are an effective method of extrinsic reinforcement. For classroom discussion, usually to driven the students on active participation, the instructor have to give a clear instruction and follow with given them a grade or credits. Asking questions and requested students to post their answers as replies to the initial posting are other methods on improving participation. In the business driven OCs, for a particular occasion, business owners implement the extrinsic reinforcement by giving a draw presents, discounts, gifts or special offer to their returning loyalty customers.

By giving extrinsic reinforcement, participants are reminded with their uniqueness as the member of the OCs (Ling, et al., 2005). This is an effective way to touch the feeling of participants. They will proud with recognition given by the community through their unique participation. How do you feel if you receive a calendar with your name on printed on it and congratulation from the OC that you have become the most active member in the prior year? You must be feeling proud of that and tend to be more active in the coming year.

Lastly, I would like to try to look at the relevancy of motivation of participation on Twitter (Java, et al, 2009) and MySpace (Schrock, 2009) with the OCs that I choose to be analyze in this blog. One of the motivations of participation on Twitter relates with motivation on participation on WiZiQ, Wall, and Amazon Kindle Discussion Forum is sharing information and URLs. Furthermore, from paper about MySpace, one of the motivations of participation related is about the self-efficacy of users on using computer.


To conclude this post, I would like to propose several variables for future research on motivation to participation in OCs. Regarding to extrinsic reinforcement (Tedjamulia et al., 2005), and reminding of the user uniqueness (Ling et al., 2005) there are 3 major variables can be pull out. Those variables are the process of moderating, post rating, and post flagging. It is also important to look at how the environment of the site influenced the motivation to participate (Tedjamulia, et al., 2005). Navigational features and additional interactivity tabs (permalink, report abuse, and ignore this customer function, examples from Kindle Discussion Forum) can make a sense for users that people are paying attention to their participation. Leader participant is another variable which must be considered. Leader participant is the person who posting regularly on the OC and acting as expertise for other participants. Getting help/support from this leader participant can be motivation for people to go back to the site for posting when they stuck with their problem.


Ridings, Catherine, and Gefen. (2004). Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10(1).

Ling, K., G. Beenen, P. Ludford, X. Wang, K. Chang, X. Li, D. Cosley, D. Frankowski, L. Terveen, A.M. Rashid, P. Resnick and R. Kraut (2005). Using Social Psychology to Motivate Contributions to Online Communities. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 10(4), article 10.

Tedjamulia, Steven J.J., David R. Olsen, Douglas L. Dean, Conan C. Albrecht (2005). Motivating Content Contributions to Online Communities: Toward a More Comprehensive Theory. Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

Schrock, Andrew (2009). Examining Social Media Usage: Technology Clusters and Social Network Site Membership. First Monday 14(1).

Java, Akshay, Xiaodan Song, Tim Finin and Belle Tseng (2007). Why We Twitter: Understanding the Microblogging Effect in User Intentions and Communities. Joint 9th WEBKDD and 1st SNA-KDD Workshop, 12 August 2007, San Jose, California.

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