Analyzing & Improving Online Communities


Presentation at the Sixth Annual ECAR Symposium, December 5-7, 2007, in Boca Raton, Florida. Successful online communities must be able to attract and retain a core of active participants. In this presentation, Robert Kraut will describe how the relationship between communities and new members develops. Because the relationship is especially fragile during newcomers' initial interactions, the success of these interactions is likely to determine whether the relationship survives. Kraut's analysis of over 200,000 messages from almost 25,000 newcomers to 99 Usenet groups shows that newcomers are much more likely to continue participating if their initial posts received replies, especially socially positive ones. Longitudinal studies and three field experiments show that introductions referencing commitment to the group increase the likelihood of getting a reply, while introductions emphasizing connections to the topic of discussion do not. This research both increases our understanding of a new social phenomenon and informs intervention that can improve the integration of newcomers into online communities.

How to Cite This Work: Kraut, Robert. "Analyzing & Improving Online Communities." Presentation at the ECAR Symposium, Boca Raton, FL, December 5-7, 2007, available from

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