Making a Group Work

For a group to be successful, the members must receive a benefit.
One way that a group can benefit the members is to allow users to
find out answers, and gain prestige.
Alternatively, a group can be used as a news source, where the members
find out information.
Finally, while there is some idea of what makes large technical groups
successful, I have seen less research on small groups.

In most large online groups that I have observed, especially the
novices frequently ask questions, while experts gain prestige
(gravitas, mana) by providing answers.
This is a nice win-win situation, which has has received
some worthwhile

Tim Erickson, who helps run
the political forums on
outlines two reasons to participate in the issue forums:

  1. Voice concerns (which may or may not be political), and
  2. Learn what is happening. conducted a survey, in 2005, of members of their
forums in the United Kingdom.
Of the 50 self-selected responses to the question
How do you intend to use the Issues Forum now or in the future?
22 mentioned raising issues, while 20 mentioned keeping abreast of local
Effectively, the members stated that they use the forum like a cross
between a news-site and letters to the editor!
I would love to find out more about how effective the forums are at these
two tasks — but I doubt that I will have time, in the near future.

While I may not get a chance to study an online issues forum, I am
currently studying an online-group that supports an integrated science
There is a well-defined sense of community in the group, and from what
I have seen, there are few question-and-answer sessions (in the
traditional sense) and the group is not political.
It will be fascinating to find out what makes the group tick.

I participate in many groups because I am paid to: it is part of my job.
I belong to fifteen email groups, which have dedicated
addresses, membership criteria, and archives.
Of those, ten are closed groups, with 3–7 members, that focus on
a particular project; there are probably more ad-hoc groups that are
created using multiple email recipients.
These groups have questions and answers, such as
why has … stopped working? but they mostly consist of
people discussing the implementation of a system.
Members regularly post, and communicate effectively.
Are these groups successful because they are small, or the members are
paid to work on the system?
I do not know.

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