[Air-l] how to measure participation rates

Karim R. Lakhani lakhani at MIT.EDU
Tue Dec 2 12:23:24 PST 2003


Interesting and very relevant question.  As people have suggested it 
will depend on the format of your data:

- web based discussion board
- usenet
- email
- email to web archive

all of those will require different tools for you to pull out the data 
you care about.  If it is web based - you may want to ask the 
organization to give you access to the database that has this 
information - thus you will avoid doing a whole lot of cutting and 
pasting from the web to your analysis tool (probably excel).

If it is maillist based - you may be able to get access to the archives 
- there will be specific headers you can mine to get the information you 

In any case becoming friends with a good PERL programmer is a good idea. 
  PERL is a great language for text and data munging and often what 
appear to be HUGE tasks for us non-programmers can be fairly trivial for 
them.  Look up a local PERL newsgroup in Greece and see if they can 
point you to the right people (they tend to be fairly friendly).

As you mentioned, you will most definitely find a power-law relationship 
in posting patterns - this should not be news - i guess you need to 
perhaps explain why this is the case.

You may also want to examine if the frequent posters are initiating or 
responding to threads - in my research on open source projects - 
frequent posters are always responding and rarely initiate.

Here are two examples of papers where I did some similar analysis:

This one looks at user-to-user technical support on Usenet for Apache 
web server:
This one looks at how people join and specialize in an open source project:



Karim R. Lakhani
MIT Sloan School of Management
The Boston Consulting Group, Strategy Practice Initiative
e-mail: karim.lakhani at sloan.mit.edu | lakhani.karim at bcg.com
voice:  617-851-1224
fax:    617-344-0403
http://opensource.mit.edu | http://freesoftware.mit.edu

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