Title: Designing and evaluating online communities: research speaks to emerging practice

Authors: Jenny Preece, Chadia Abras, Diane Maloney-Krichmar

Addresses: University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA. ' Goucher College, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, MD 21204, USA. ' Bowie State University, 14000 Jericho Park Road, Bowie, MD, USA

Abstract: What makes online communities successful? There are many indicators of success. Some are easily observed and measured, such as the number of people registered in the community, or the number who participate, or the number of messages posted, replied to or read over a certain period. How community members judge their community is also important. What do they like or dislike and how committed are they to the community? In this paper, we describe participatory community-centred development – an approach that relies heavily on iterative evaluation. We then point out that standard evaluation techniques are inadequate for evaluating online communities because they do not address sociability. Finally, we propose two approaches from research that can be tailed for evaluating online communities. Both attempt to draw directly on what community users want. The first is rooted in ethnography and the second is a form of heuristic evaluation. The paper ends with an agenda for developing these approaches to make them practical yet robust.

Keywords: evaluation; online communities; heuristics; ethnography; sociability; usability; web-based communities.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2004.004795

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2004 Vol.1 No.1, pp.2 - 18

Published online: 07 Jul 2004 *

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