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Virtual Community Maintenance with a Repository

Derek L. Hansen, Mark S. Ackerman and Paul J. Resnick

(Submission #72)


Virtual communities, like all communities, require ongoing community building activities. This paper presents the results of a case study examining how a wiki repository is used to help overcome some of the 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 contentious holy ward debates to the wiki encouraged list members to summarize their arguments into a meaningful information product. The wiki encouraged more participation by enabling new forms of contribution. The email list also helped motivate contributions to the wiki, and in some cases the wiki helped motivate contributions to the email list. Finally, the wiki helped attract new members due and helped new members gain the knowledge they needed to comfortably contribute to the email list. It also helped former list members stay connected as peripheral participants. Although community building is a social process, this study demonstrates that the art of community building is, in part, a problem of designing information collections and information flows.


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