Sunday, April 17, 2011

Online Community Management: Overview of Mendeley


The site that I am focusing on my final project is Mendeley’s Groups. The groups are part of the Mendeley system. The Mendeley system consists of a citation/referencing software and online community which utilized the software. A “group creation” feature is added on Mendeley for its users to collaborate and integrate as an online community. In sequence on this posting, I will start with describing Mendeley, the site, official rules. Then, I will continue with scenario of three rules that have been broken in this site. Furthermore, prescription and consequences will be suggested for each broken rules. To conclude, I will try to identify 5 unwritten rules.

Official Rules

There are 4 types of governing document which commonly used to regulate online community (Grimes, Jaeger, & Fleischmann, 2008). These documents are: “1) software license agreement, 2) use agreement, 3) privacy policy, and 4) community standards and practices.” Grimes, et al (2008) pointed that these four categories are the most common which can be found, but there are other types of document or rules which specific regarding to the characteristic of the site. On Mendeley, official rules of the site can be found easily by scroll down the front page to the end. At the end of Mendeley front page, there are quick links to official rules about what Grimes et al (2008) called “source code” and “civil code”. In this section, I will briefly describe 3 official rules.

Terms of Use (

This document regulates how user which called “registered member” on using the site features and the software. The latest version of this document is updated by November 16, 2010. This document pointed 21 points which ranging from purpose of the site to jurisdiction & applicable law. The terms of use pointed are numbered and the titled displayed in bold and capital letter. Some sections in these terms of use are also displayed in capital. For example point 12 which stated about disclaimer of liability is displayed like this “THE MENDELEY SERVICE AND SITE … PERFORM AS DESCRIBED.”

Privacy Policy (

In this document, users of Mendeley can get information about Mendeley Principles and Privacy Policy. There are three core principles of Mendeley: 1) data is only uploaded when user signed in, 2) user decide which data to share, and with whom, and 3) User data and user content are owned by the user. Every points of term of used are capitalized and in bold. Some section in the privacy policy was pointed by using bullet points. Different from Term of use, the privacy policy stated on the document is not numbered and there is no section which display in capital. This document was last updated on April 15, 2010.

FAQ: Learn more about groups (

Particularly, this document is a guideline for Mendeley registered users to obtain benefit from creating or joining a group. A group on Mendeley has a function as a place where online community could meet with people who have the same research interest and then develop professional relationship and form collaboration. This governance document explained “barrier to access” and “barrier to participate” (Kollock & Smith, 1994) of different types of groups on Mendeley.

Three examples of rules have been broken

Free-ride and social loafing

Success of online community is determined not only by the owner, but also by the member. Participation and contribution of active members is an important driver of the online community quality. Online community is not always success on obtaining benefit from member-maintained community. Social lofting and free-ride are condition that potentially happened on an online community. The phenomenon of social lofting and free-ride mentioned in a research on USENET by Kollock & Smith (1994) and a research on MovieLens by Cosley, Frankowski, Kiesler, Terveen, & Rieal (2005). These phenomena happened too on Mendeley’s Groups. A group creator or owner on Mendeley initiated to create a group to increase participant of members with the same research interest to add posting. The posting expected is research articles/publications information, comments, questions-answers, and discussion. Normally, most of groups on Mendeley have some key members who actively doing this task, but most of the members are free-ride on the group.

Incorrect/incomplete entry and broken link

Information provided by user of Mendeley will be used by other user for their scholarly purpose, essentially for finding referencing document and appropriate citation. On Mendeley, not all document reference by user can be found. Some of these articles are link to a site which only has the abstract. For accessing the full document, user must purchase or loan the article. In addition, there are some links that broken and cannot be open. The citation provide on the site is not always correct. The incorrectness can be in form of incomplete information and also in form of not suitable with the citation style.

What’s the matter of “Collaboration”?

Groups are created for users to form collaboration. The concept of collaboration in this site is blurring. There are no sufficient information about what kind of collaboration which expected and how the collaboration can be identified. Quality interaction in an online community has to be based on member self-awareness about the existence of community and self-awareness as a member of the community (Gazan, 2009). In short, effectiveness of interaction through online community has to be based on dynamic interaction between individual with the aggregative system. In this case, group member collaboration should contribute on developing “public good” of the community. But, the contribution of collaboration on Mendeley is hardly can be identified in a concrete artifact.

Prescription and consequences

Interface design and accessibility of site features contribute on developing human-computer/internet interactional dimension on social software (Madison, 2006). Fixing the site interface or adding features can be alternatives to solve social lofting and free ride. Instead on having only a number of work/paper cited, a rating feature with comment box can be added for a reference/citation. Asking question similar like Amazon, “what this [reference/citation] helpful to you?” (Coley, et al, 2005) is one of the idea can be used to modify the referencing interface on Mendeley. Using unique icon/emoticon is another alternative to make Mendeley interface and feature become more interesting for users. Flag a post as “education” or “conversational” (Gazan, 2009) is an example idea of unique icon that can be implemented for this site.

Implement peers oversight as well as experts’ oversight (Coley, et al, 2005) is perfect model for fixing incorrectness and uncompleted entry. I always impressed with the way Google improve its translation through “contribute on a better translation”. I think this idea can be implemented as well on Mendeley. Users can be encourage with a pop up or a side window for fixing or contributing for a better quality referencing information after they view the one that already exist. This idea is in general has some similarity with a collaborative authoring on wiki and Slashdot (Madison, 2005; Coley, et al, 2005).

Improvement in collaboration can incorporate Kollock and Smith (1994) idea. A group moderator and key members should actively moderating, governing, welcoming new members, and building interactivity through Q&A. In a group home page, group creators should be required to describe “what is desired of their groups, and what is inappropriate for their groups?” By having this information, a prospective member can decide to join and know clearly what he/she will contribute on the group. In a group, there are some features should be added to be able to encourage interactivity communication besides “wall posting”. A discussion forum, rate members/followers, featured member, and virtual award (for example: ribbon, flag, or start) are features needed for making the discussion on Mendeley groups become more lively and interesting.

Unwritten rules

This is the hardest section for me to write. As a conclusion, these are five “unwritten rules” which I consider implicitly regulated Mendeley users:

  1. A user is allowed to use Mendeley as a place to raise popularity as a scholar which potentially becomes a chance to get a new job.
  2. A newbie on Mendeley should learn individually from the site governance documents and couldn’t count on “old-timers” to get the answer about how to navigate through the site.
  3. A user is not guarantee to get what they expected when joined a group.
  4. A user must not ask for a reason if his/her request to be a member of a group rejected by the group administrator.
  5. All user required to have personal back up of files/data uploaded to Mendeley on another type of storage, either online or offline.


Cosley, D., Frankowski, D., Kiesler, S., Terveen, L., & Rieal, J. (2005). How oversight improves member-maintained communities. CHI 2005, April 2 – 7, Portland, Oregon.

Gazan, R. (2009). When online communities become self-aware. Proceedings of 42nd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Waikoloa, HI, 5-8 January 2009.

Grimes, J., Jaeger, P., & Fleischmann, K. (2008). Obfuscatocracy: A stakeholder analysis of governing documents for virtual world. First Monday, 13(9), Retrieved from

Kollock, P., & Smith, M. (1994). Managing the virtual commons: cooperation and conflict in computer communities. Herring, S (ed.), Computer-Mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social, and Cross-Cultural Perspective. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 109-128, Retrieved from

Madison, M.J. (2006). Social software, groups, and governance. Michigan State Law Review, Vol. 2006, p. 153, Retrieved from

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Creating and expressing online identity

Online Identity

The Internet and many online tools have created a new identity. This new identity is famously known as online identity. Usually, the discussion of online identity was interrelated with online community (OC). Donath (2007) explained this identity by looking to Social Networking Websites (MySpace, Orkut, and LinkedIn). Liu (2007) was looked at MySpace as well. Hodkinson (2006) contributed on analyzing used of LiveJournal by UK Goths community. Furthermore, Ploderer, Howard, and Thomas (2008) identified online identity of Bodyspace members. Based on thes readings, in my opinion, an online identity is a type of social identity generated by the internet user with: 1) forming profile’s information to be known by other users, 2) creating an image to represent the existence on the community, 3) establishing connectivity and friendship, 4) sharing some common interests, and 5) enhancing popularity and trustworthiness.

All of these five elements could be found on the Mendeley’s Groups which is our final project focus. Registered users on Mendeley have a personal profile pages. In this profile pages, users can posted their contact information, education background, photo, list of publication, etc. Using the profile page, users could enhance personal popularity and trustworthiness as a member of the community. In short, profile page of Mendeley looks like a mini resume of the user.

The primary function of Mendeley is for scholars (researchers, professors, and graduated students) to develop references. Extending from this primary function, Mendeley is used to develop online learning community and form scientific collaboration projects. There is a section in this tool for scholars to create and join group based on their common interest on sciences. In the group, scholars shared opinion and resources, popularized their publication, formed communication and collaboration on scholarly projects. In my observation, it is also been used by some college professors for their research classes purposes.

According to Wellman, Quan-Haase, Boase, Chen, Hampton, Diaz, & Miyata (2003), Internet and OCs provide a new alternative to communication. Indeed, “the Internet decreases community, transform community, and supplement community.” Connectivity and communication through the Internet available for human to connected but at the same time develop individualism. For me, hardly to contrast what stated in this article with my definition. Wellman et al (2003) ideas parallel with the social networking that I am focusing as well as my experiences on joining learning community. Internet and online communication online have enable people for having virtual conference and second life conference. In fact, present in a real-life conference is more likely chosen by professional and learning community. During the conference, participants success on maintain switch from the real-life present with their activity online. Their bodies are present in a place with the real-life conference community. At the same time, through their thumb and personal devices, they remain available for others through the Internet.

Interaction on Mendeley

The Mendeley existing users consist of graduate students, professors, and researchers. These users primary use tool for finding resources to support their scholarly work. Online and offline version are particularly useful to manage their references collection. At least there are three forms of interaction on Mendeley and its group. First, users create a profile pages and get their publication listed on the site references list. Second, users used the application create personal and share references list. Third, in a group, users have discussion, share information (references, citation, annotation, etc.), and collaborate on projects.

Using profile page on Mendeley, users introduce their scholarly journey to other users. Publications and education background listed on the profile page can be updated anytime. For earlier career scholars, this profile page is essential for developing trustworthiness of the scholarly community to them. A graduate student has a better impression for new employee when he/she applies for a job. Publication listed on the site can broaden opportunity for the work to be read and cite by other scholars. This is also another way for learning community members to increase their popularity and professional status. The first scenario has certain motif like Bodyspace community (Ploderer et al, 2008) and the Goths community (Hodkinson, 2006). The Bodyspace community could be used by members who want to attend a competition to get support. This can be assuming as a support of Mendeley for increasing their members’ professional image for a prospective employee/grantor. The Goths community support for f2f – online relationship or vice versa can be analogized to how Mendeley community form an annual meeting f2f and online.

Reference list on Mendeley can be grouped into topic. Using folders and categories, users can created reference list as convenient as they want it to be. This reference list can be created online or offline. When users go online to Mendeley, they can synchronize their online references with their offline references. Reference list created by an individual user can be shared to other users who connected as friends. By having this function, users can save time for creating their own reference list. This activity in some sense has a similarity with how SNSs members on Orkut, MySpace, Friendster (Liu, 2007; Donath, 2007) shared their music or movie collection lists.

The third scenario is about how the community members created or joined groups, have communication, shared information, and collaborated. Most of these functions are appeared the OCs discussion of prior researches. For some Mendeley user, typical motif on LiveJournal used in the Goths community (Hodkinson, 2006) is also very obvious. Probably, relationship form between users of Mendeley which has motif like relationship on the LiveJournal is used by a professor for their class purpose. There are two types of group on the Mendeley. The first type is a non-restricted membership groups. All registered members can join the group by click on “join this group” tab. The second type is restricted membership groups. A registered member has to click on “ask to join this group” tab to join this group. Approval from the group creator to become a member has to be achieve before participating on the group. On doing my research for this project, until this post up, I have not succeeded on getting approval to join any restricted-membership group. I have gotten three rejections to join groups. No reasons were given by groups’ creators for these rejections.

So far, there are four goals/interpersonal interactions which I could identify from Mendeley:

  1. Obtain appropriate resources for their works
  2. Get support from community to their project/research
  3. Know new scholars who have a same interest
  4. Popularize them self

The raising number of friends/connections and the increasing statistic on user’s page have potential to be the sunny day for Mendeley user on reaching their goals/interpersonal interactions. Generally, users who have these trends are also having regular update on publications and conference presentations. It means, besides representation online through the community, offline and real-life representation of scholarly works is also an important indicator for obtaining “sunny day” result on joining community. On the other hand, I can also observe, their failure on become success members on the site. This can be identified from members profile page which have no update at all. From an informal communication, a friend of mine has an experience losing all reference she maintained on Mendeley when she tried to synchronize the online and offline collection. This is also can be pointed as another “rainy day” of joining and using Mendeley.

How is online identity shaped and expressed through interactions in this community?

Forming professional connection and friendship though LinkedIn mentioned by Donath (2007) and sharing a common interest on Bodyspace mentioned by Ploderer et al (2008) apparently found on Mendeley. Users on the Mendeley specify distinguished into three types. These three types of users are professional who concern with scholarly activity. Friendship develop can result from offline through online or vice versa. Groups based on subject or area of interest is a sufficient evidence for showing that becoming a member of the groups has valuable chance to obtain the update of information and sharing concern and interest in the same fields or area of research.


Donath, J. (2007). Signals in social supernets. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1).

Hodkinson, P. (2006). Subcultural blogging? Online journals and groups involvement among UK Goths. In Burns A., and Jacobs J. Uses of blogs. New York: Peter Lang, 187 – 199.

Liu, H. (2007). Social networks profiles as taste performances. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1).

Plodeerer, B., Horward, S., Thomas, P. (2008). Being online, living offline: The influence of social ties over the appropriation of social network sites. Proceeding of CSCW 2008.

Wellman, B., Quan-Haase, A., Boase, J., Chen, W., Hampton, K., Diaz, I., Miyata, K. (2003). The social affordances of the Internet for networked individualism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8(3).

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