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« Government Social Software - SNS in Japan Part III: Some observations | Main | Mobile Phones in the Developing World »

22 January 2007

Why do user communities work?

Newschoolers.com, skibuilders.com, or the Skiers Union are online communities of freestyle ski enthusiasts. In my research, I attempt to address the question why and how such online communities or online social networks work.

More precisely, I examine an important aspect of user communities – that is its members’ involvement in information sharing activities. I draw on previous research in the field of information sharing in social networks and I take a closer look at the following research question: "Why are some community members more actively sharing information than others?".

I build hypotheses and test them with data from a survey instrument, which I administered in the newschoolers.com community. I find that members with higher social status are more actively sharing community-relevant information than others. I also find that status is the result of a member’s embeddedness in and his experience with the user community.

In summary, my results contribute to the literature on user communities by illuminating the individual level determinants of voluntary information exchange. I also discuss the implications for further research in this field.

A working paper version of this paper is available upon request from the author of this blog entry.

Posted by Thomas Langenberg at January 22, 2007 3:00 AM