Computer-Supported Cooperative Work:
Designing Online Communities

Fall 2003

Syllabus at

School of Computer Science 05-810
Graduate School of Industrial Administration 47-957
Heinz School of Public Policy 90-915

Instructors Office Phone Email
Robert Kraut NSH 3515 x8-7694
Paul Resnick HBH 1119B x8-9847
Anupriya Ankolekar (TA) NSH 1602a x8-8780
Office hours :  Send email to set up a time


Course Description

Online communities are becoming an increasing part of how we work, play, learn, conduct commerce, organize politically, and receive social support. This course is intended to provide students with the knowledge to understand what distinguishes effective from ineffective online communities and the skills to design effective ones. For the purpose of this course, an online community is defined loosely as a group of people who sustain interaction over time and who conduct a substantial portion of their communication online.

Because there is no practical instruction manual for designing online communities, this will be a research-oriented class. We will review relevant literature in social psychology and economics on commitment and contribution to groups and mine this science as the basis for design. Students will use this knowledge to redesign a portion of an online community to improve it and systematically examine the consequences of their redesign.


I. Read an empirical article, post a short (1-page) summary and critique on blackboard, and be prepared to discuss it in class during week 2 (sign up during week 1). The goal is to give you first-hand knowledge of the empirical research summarized in review articles and to expose the class to the empirical evidence, without requiring each student to read overwhelming numbers of articles.

II. Comparative analysis of at least two online communities, 4-6 pages (week 3, September 12). The goal is to derive hypotheses about the techniques the designers have used or could use to develop commitment and contribution among community members. See more detailed instructions.

III. Present a technology platform or innovative feature related to some week's discussion topic (once during semester; sign up during week 1 or 2). 
NOTE: This assignment is now optional: students who do this assignment have a reduced assignment under IV below: 1 essay and 1 commentary. --PR 9/10/03
See more detailed instructions.

IV. Short, 1-page essays translating some of the social science readings for the week into design principles and commentary on others' essays. The essays should be posted on blackboard the Wednesday before the relevant class, so that others have time to comment (3 essays and 3 commentaries over the course of the semester).

V. Major project: redesign and evaluate an online community (in groups of up to three students)

1-page individual proposal due Wednesday, September 17.

5-page group proposal due Friday, September 26

Final project presentation in class, Friday December 5 or during special session Friday December 12.

Final paper due Monday December 15.


There will be no exams. The term project and its components (proposal, final presentation, and paper) comprise 60% of the grade. The short papers and in-class presentations (summary of empirical paper, comparative analysis, technology presentation, and short essays) comprise 30% of the grade, and classroom participation (including online responses to other's postings) represent 10% of the grade.


The course uses no assigned texts. All required readings are available as links from the course syllabus. Most are password protected, either through CMU library's electronic reserve or, as a stopgap until the library posts the article, from a personal site. To access the library's electronic reserves, you either must be logged in to a machine with a CMU IP address or log in through the CMU proxy server at must have an Andrew ID to use the CMU proxy server.

The stopgap article repository is . Articles are listed by first author's name and date. The user ID and password will be distributed to registered students by email and are also available from the blackboard account associated with the course.


T.he blackboard site for this course is listed as F03-Computer Supported Cooperative Work.

1. Aug. 29: Intro to Groups, Online Groups and Communities

Butler, B. (1999) When is a group not a group: An empirical examination of metaphors for online social structure.  Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. (Chapter 1).

Wellman, B. (2001). Computer networks as social networks. Science, 293(14 September), 2031-2034.

Oldenberg, R. (1989). The great good place. Chapter 2, pages 20-42.

Preece, J. (2000). Online communities. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. (What is an online community, pp 8-19).

Resnick, P. (2000) Beyond bowling together: Sociotechnical capital. Chapter 29 in HCI in the new millenium, edited by John M. Carroll. Addison-Wesley. 2001, pages 247-272.

2. Sept. 5: Contributions to Public Goods: Theory & Data

Karau, S. & Williams, K. (1993) Social loafing: A meta-analytic review and theoretical integration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(4), 681-706.

Hardin, G. (1968). The tragedy of the commons. Science, 162, 1243-1248.

Ledyard, J. (1995). Public goods: A survey of experimental research. In J. H. Kagel & A. Roth (Eds.), The handbook of experimental economics (pp. 111-194.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Ostrom, Elinor (2000). Collective action and the evolution of social norms. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 14(3), 137-158.

Article Summary Assignment: Chen et al and Kraut (2003) (both listed below) briefly review social psychological research on social loafing. Ledyard (above) reviews a different literature on public good economics. We'd like you to have some familiarity with the primary research literature, not just literature reviews. Therefore, either this week or next week, read and be prepared to present in class an experimental study discussed in one of the overview articles (there will be a sign-up to allocate articles among students). The Karau and Williams article available above lists many original research articles.

References to empirical social loafing papers are available at this link.

References to empirical public good economics papers are available at this link.

3. Sept. 12: Public Goods Online

Sproull, L., Conley, C., & Moon, J. Y. (in press). Pro-social behavior on the net. In Y. Amichai-Hamburger (Ed.), The social net: The social psychology of the Internet. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kollock, P., & Smith, M. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities, in Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social, and cross-cultural perspectives, Susan Herring (pp. 109-128). Amsterdam: John Benjamin.

Chen, Y., Kiesler, S., Konstan, J., Kraut, R., Resnick, P., Reidl, J., & Terveen, L. (2003). Designing on-line communities to enhance participation -- bridging theory and practice. A proposal to the National Science Foundation. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University.

Kraut, R. (2003). Applying social psychological theory to the problems of group work. In J. M. Carroll (Ed.), HCI models, theories and frameworks: Toward a multidisciplinary science (pp. 325-356). New Yok: Morgan Kaufman. [focus on sections on process losses (pp. 17-21) and on social loafing in online groups (pp. 28-34) ].

Lakhani., K. R., & Hippel, E. v. (2003). How open source software works "free" user-to-user assistance. Research Policy (Special Issue on Open Source Software Development), 32, 923.943.

Comparative Assignment due: Short paper (4-6 pages) comparing and evaluating two on-line communities of your choice. By comparing the two communities, your goal is to evaluate how their purposes, membership, technologies they use to interact, and anything interesting you notice about how they operate influence participation and contribution to public goods and restraint in use of common pool resources. Be prepared to discuss these in class.

4. Sept. 19: Interactivity/Conversation/Common Ground

Monk, A. (2003) Common ground in electronically mediated communication: Clark's theory of language use. Toward a multidisciplinary science of human-computer interaction. J. M. Carroll. (pp. 265-290).

Whittaker, S. & O'Conaill, B. (1997). The role of vision in face-to-face and mediated communication. In E. E. Finn, A. J. Sellen, & S. B. Wilbur (Eds.)Video-Mediated Communication. (pp. 23-50) Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fussell, S. R., Kraut, and Siegel, J. (2000). Coordination of communication: Effects of shared visual context on collaborative work. Proceedings of the Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, New York: ACM.

McCarthy, J. C. & Monk, A. F. (1994). Measuring the quality of computer-mediated communication. Behaviour & Information Technology, 13(5), 311-319.

Assignment due: 1-page proposal of what you might like to do for the major project. You must post this by Wednesday night, and you must read everyone's proposal before class. In class, we'll try to form up project groups, so be on the lookout for other ideas that would complement your idea, or that you think are so good you'd like to join up with rather than pursuing the one that you proposed.

Technology Presentation Opportunity

5. Sept. 26: Structuring Conversation

Viegas, F. B., & Donath, J. S. (1999). Chat circles. Proceedings of CHI'92 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York:: ACM Press.

Sack, W. (2000). Conversation map: An interface for very large-scale conversations. Journal of Management Information Systems 17(3): 73-92.

Smith, M. A. and A. T. Fiore (2001). Visual components for persistent conversations. CHI'01 Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, Seattle, WA, ACM.

Smith, M.A., Cadiz, J.J., & Burkhalter, B. (2000). Conversation trees and threaded chats. CHI'00 Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, Philadelphia, PA, ACM

Wattenberg, M. and D. Millen (2001). Conversation thumbnails for large-scale discussions. CHI '03 extended abstracts on human factors in computer systems, Seattle, WA, ACM.

Ethics of Online Research

Kraut, R. E., Olson, J., Manaji, M., Bruckman, A., Cohen, J. & Couper, M. (Under review). Psychological research online: Opportunities and challenges. Report prepared for the American Psychology Association's Taskforce on the Internet and Psychological Research.

Optional (We will not cover this material in class)

Terveen, L. G. and W. Hill (2001). Human-Computer Collaboration in Recommender Systems. HCI in the New Millennium. J. Carroll. New York, NY, Addison Wesley.

Technology Presentation Opportunity

 Assignment due: Major project proposals due Friday before class, one from each team.

6. Oct. 3: Relationships and Friendships

Berscheid, E., & Reis, H. T. (1998). Attraction and close relationships. In D. T. Gilbert & S. T. Fiske & et al. (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, Vol 2 (4th ed., pp. 193-281). New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill. Pages 192-210, 222-226, 230-248.

Walther, J. B., & Parks, M. R. (2002). Cues filtered out, cues filtered in: Computer-mediated communication and relationships. In I. M. L. Knapp & J. A. Daly (Eds.), Handbook of interpersonal communication (3rd ed., pp. 529-563). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Duck, S., Rutt, D., Hurst, M., & Strejc, H. (1991). Some evident truths about conversations in everyday relationships: All communications are not created equal. Human Communication Research, 18(2l), 228-267.

Cummings, J, Lee, J. & Kraut, R. (In preparation). From high school to college: The difference media make. In R. Kraut (Ed.), New technology at home. New York: Oxford University Press.

McKenna, K. Y. A., Green, A. S., & Gleason, M. E. J. (2002). Relationship formation on the Internet: What's the big attraction? Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 9-31.


Cummings, J., Butler, B., & Kraut, R. (2002). The quality of online social relationships. Communications of the ACM, 45(7), 103-108.

Technology Presentation Opportunity

7. Oct. 10: Identity and Membership

Moreland, R. L., & Levine, J. M. (2001). Socialization in organizations and work groups. In M. E. Turner (Ed.), Groups at work: Theory and research (pp. 69-112). Mahwah, NJ, US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hogg, M. A. . (2001).Social categorization, depersonalization, and group behavior. In M. Hogg. & T. S. Tinsdale. Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology: Group Processes (pp 57-85). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Kim, A. J. (2000). Community building on the Web. Berkeley, CA, Peachpit Press. 


Deaux, K. (1995). Social identification. In ET Higgins & AW Kruglanski (Eds.), Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles (pp. 777-798).

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing. Chapters 3 and 4.

Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1(2), 149-178.

Minow, M. (1997). Not only for myself; identity politics and the law. New York, The New Press. p. 9-58.

8. Oct 17: Mid-semester break-- no class

9. Oct 24: Identity and Membership On-line

Burkhalter, Byron. Reading race online: Discovering racial identity in Usenet discussions. Chapter 3 in Smith, M. and P. Kollock, Eds. (1998). Communities in cyberspace. London, Routledge.

Turkle, S. (1994). Constructions and reconstructions of the self in virtual reality. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 1( 3), Summer 1994.

Kim, A. J. (2000). Community building on the Web. Berkeley, CA, Peachpit Press. 

Chapter 3, Profiles: Getting to Know Your Members, p. 75-113
Chapter 4, Roles: From Newcomer to Old-Time, p. 115-154

Baym, N. (1993). Interpreting soap operas and creating community: Inside a computer-mediated fan culture. Journal of Folklore Research, 30, 143-176.


Spears, R., Postmes, T., Lea, M., & Wolbert, A. (2002). When are net effects gross products. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 91-107.

Postmes, T., & Brunsting, S. (2002). Collective action in the age of the Internet: Mass communication and online mobilization. Social Science Computer Review, 20(3), 290-301.

Technology Presentation Opportunity

10. Oct 31: Reputations and Accountability

Dellarocas, Chrysanthos & Resnick, Paul (2003, May 21). Online reputation mechanisms: Roadmap for future research

Resnick, Paul, Zeckhauser, Richard, Swanson, John, and Kate Lockwood. The value of reputation on eBay: A controlled experiment. Working paper.

Dellarocas, Chrysanthos (2003) Efficiency and robustness of binary feedback mechanisms in trading Environments with moral hazard. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management MIT Sloan Working Paper No. 4297-03

Technology Presentation Opportunity

11. Nov 7: Network Effects and Critical Mass

Katz, M. L., & Shapiro, C. (1994). Systems competition and network effects. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8(2), 93-115.

Markus, L. (1987). Towards a "critical mass" theory of interactive media: Universal access, interdependence, and diffusion. Communication Research, 14, 491-511.

Jones, Q., Ravid, G., & Rafaeli, S. (2002). An empirical exploration of mass interaction system dynamics: Individual information overload and Usenet discourse. Paper presented at the 35th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2002.

Kim, A. J. (2000). Community building on the Web. Berkeley, CA, Peachpit Press. Chapter 9, "Subgroups: Clans, Clubs, and Committees". pp. 309-350. (Note we assigned this material previously, but did not discuss it in class).

Reed, D. (1999). That Sneaky Exponential: Beyond Metcalfe's Law to the Power of Community Building

Technology Presentation Opportunity

Special Technology Presentation Opportunity: Geographic Indexing of Conversation

  • See the "conversations" feature at Analyze as a mechanism for getting to critical mass.


Kraut, R. E., Rice, R. E., Cool, C., & Fish, R. S. (1998). Varieties of social influence: The role of utility and norms in the success of a new communication medium. Organization Science, 9(4), 437-453.

Nonneeke, B., & Preece, J. (2000). Lurker demographics: Counting the silent, Proceeding CHI '2000, Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 73-80).

11. Nov 14: Open source software development communities

Moon, Jae Yun & Sproull, Lee. (November 2000) Essence of Distributed Work: The Case of the Linux Kernel. First Monday, 5(11).

Lakhani, K., & Hippel, E. v. (2000, May). How Open Source software works: “Free” user-to-user assistance.

Krogh, G. v., Spaeth, S., Lakhani., K. R., & Hippel, E. v. (In press). Community, Joining, and Specialization in Open Source Software Innovation: A Case Study. Research Policy Special Issue On Open Source Software Development.

Stewart, K. J., & Gosain, S. (Under review). Impacts of ideology, trust, and communication on effectiveness in open source software development teams.Unpublished manuscript.

Lerner, J., & Tirole, J. (2000, Feb 25). The simple economics of open source development. Harvard Business School. Retrieved Nov 11, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Asklund, U., & Bendix, L. (2003). A study of configuration management in open source software projects. IEE Proceedings-Software, 149(1), 40-46.


Mockus, Audris, Fielding, Roy T., & Herbsleb, James D. (2002). Two Case Studies of Open Source Software Development: Apache and Mozilla. ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, 11(3), 309-346.

12. Nov 21: Online support groups

Helgeson, V. S., & Cohen, S. (1996). Social support and adjustment to cancer: Reconciling descriptive, correlational, and intervention research. Health Psychology, 15, 135-148.

Shaw, B., McTavish, F., Hawkins, R., Gustafson, D., and Pingree, S., (2001). Experiences of Women with Breast Cancer: Exchanging Social Support over the CHESS Computer Network, Journal of Health Communication, 5(2).

Farnham, S., Cheng, L., Stone, L., Zaner-Godsey, L. Hibbeln, C., Syrjala, K., Clark, A., Abrams, J. (2002). HutchWorld: Clinical study of Computer-mediated Social Support for Cancer Patients and their Caregivers. Proceeding, CHI'2002: Conference on Human Factors in Computering Systems.

Galegher, J., Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1998.). Legitimacy, authority, and community in electronic support groups. Written Communication, 15(4), 493-530.

Gustafson, DH, Hawkins, R, Pingree, S, McTavish, F, Arora, NK, Mendenhall, J, Cella, DF, Serlin, RC, Apantaku, FM, Stewart, J, & Salner, A:. (2001). Effect of computer support on younger women with breast cancer. Journal General Internal Medicine, 16(43), 435-445

Look through some of the current sites for cancer support, with an eye to redesign. Bring to class one theory-based redesign idea, which you think would improve the function of one of the sites below. Scott Davidoff was the designer behind, so we will look at that site in some detail.

There is a list of many onlinie cancer support organizations at

Others include

Inflamatory breast cancer support

National Allliance of Breast Cancer Organizations

AOL's breast cancer support group

Breast cancer electronic support group

Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia

13. Nov 28: No class, Thanksgiving

14. Dec 5: Presentations

15. Dec 10: 2:30 918 Hastings Street