Hansen, Derek, Ackerman, Mark, Resnick, Paul, and Munson, Sean. “Virtual Community Maintenance with a Collaborative Repository”. Proceedings of ASIST 2007.
Final pre-publication draft
Virtual communities, like all communities, require ongoing community maintenance activities. This paper presents an empirical study examining how a wiki repository was used to help overcome some of the community maintenance challenges common to help-based email list discussions. Specifically, we found that inclusion of off-topic but related content on the wiki enabled list members to keep the discussion on-topic while still addressing the needs of members. Offloading of repetitive and potentially contentious “holy war” debates to the wiki encouraged list members to summarize their arguments into a meaningful information product. The community’s use of the wiki in helping answer frequently asked questions helped attract new members and helped them gain the knowledge they needed to comfortably contribute to the email list. It also helped active participants answer questions more efficiently and effectively by supporting the reuse of information. Finally, the wiki supported peripheral participation by new and former members. This study demonstrates that the architecture of information collections and information flows in an online community has a significant impact on the social processes related to community maintenance.