[Air-l] how to measure participation rates

Nancy Baym nbaym at ku.edu
Tue Dec 2 09:34:02 PST 2003

I found this enormously challenging and it required a lot more 
backstage work than it merited paragraphs in the write up. I saved 
all the messages to a file and had a programmer write me a program (I 
think it was awk) to pull out the posters and tabulate how many each 
address sent. I was lucky to have good programmers willing to help 
out for free. Doing it manually would not have been worth it. Nancy

>As part of my study of an online community I have to measure the 
>participation rates among participants, in a way similar to Nancy 
>Baym's in her classic study of the r.a.t.s online community. From my 
>participation and observation of this particular community so 
>far, it is obvious to me that most of the messages are contributed 
>by a small group of heavy users. However, I need to quantify it, 
>measure it and present it as a table containing percentages of 
>posters and posts contributed. My question is how can I do it? What 
>is the method of measuring these rates? Does it simply consist in 
>noting down how many messages each member writes? Prima facie that 
>may look like an easy procedure but once starting to do it it turns 
>out to be extremely difficult since this online community is made up 
>of more than 20 conferences each one comprising more than 50 
>different topical discussions. Overall the number of messages 
>written every week is enormous. Any ideas on how I can measure 
>overall participatio rates of such an environment?
>Thank you,
>K. Diamantaki

Nancy Baym	http://www.ku.edu/home/nbaym
Communication Studies, University of Kansas
Bailey Hall, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Room 102, Lawrence, KS 66045-7574, USA
Association of Internet Researchers: http://aoir.org

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