Assignment Two:
Analysis of an Online Community

CS 6470: The Design of Online Communities
Professor Amy Bruckman
Fall 2000
Format:Double spaced
Approximate Length:15 pages
Percentage of Grade:25% + 5% for presentation

Please do not begin work on this assignment until we have discussed research ethics on 9/6.


Participate in an online community for a substantial amount of time (at least 10 hours). Your primary research methodology will be participant observation. Take careful notes on your experiences each time you connect.

In addition to participant observation, you should interview at least four people affiliated with the community. They may be community designers, leaders, or regular members. You don't need to stick to Seidman's three interview structure--one or two interviews per participant should be sufficient. You must get informed consent before doing an interview; we'll discuss this in class. The interviews are better if they're in person, but telephone works too. You can buy a gizmo at Radio Shack to let you record conversations off of the phone. You must get permission to record the conversation. You may do online interviews of community members in addition to but not instead of doing interviews of at least three people face to face or on the phone.

Analyze the community in terms of Amy Jo Kim's Nine Principles for Community Design. How does the community address each of these issues?

Note that while I am assigning only parts of Kim's book "Community Building on the Web" for class discussion, you will find all of it helpful in completing this assignment.

In what ways is the community successful? Is it meeting the needs of its members? Compare and contrast the community to other similar ones. In what ways could the community be better designed? How would you change it?

In your paper, make sure to cite the course readings and include a detailed bibliography.

Include in your paper a "methodology" section in which you describe how you did your research: how much time did you spend participating? In what ways did you participate? Who did you interview? (Present these portraits anonymized, as we discussed in the the ethics lecture.)

Papers must be handed in on paper; however, you may optionally also chose to prepare an HTML version with links. HTML papers may be linked to the course web page if you wish.

You will be graded on (in order from least important to most):

It's a good idea to chose a site that is at least somewhat successful. You'll learn more by thinking in detail about something that works than by tearing apart something that doesn't work. And it's much easier to do a thoughtful analysis of a successful site. We suggest that you discuss your choice of site with the TA and/or instructor before beginning your research.


Prepare a short talk (ten minutes maximum) about your findings. Talks will be delivered in class on 10/18. Class will extend into the evening. If you can't stay past the normal class period, please notify the instructor in advance.

The quality of your presentation and overheads counts towards your talk grade. A short talk on how to give a talk will be given in class on 10/11.