There are many different ways to participate in online communities.
In a previous posting here on JewPointO, Lisa discussed the book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. The authors, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff define a groundswell as:
[a] social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional intuitions like corporations.
Li and Bernoff illustrate different types of online participation based on their Social Technographics Profile which groups people according to their social activities with others and their technology behaviors. They use a ladder metaphor:
Ross Mayfield offers a related perspective regarding online participation through his Power Law of Participation. He notes:
The vast majority of users [will] not have a high level of engagement with a given group, and most tend to be free riders upon community value. But patterns have emerged where low threshold participation amounts to collective intelligence and high engagement provides a different form of collaborative intelligence.
Upon reflection, I suspect that the way people engage is probably multidimensional rather than a linear trajectory: people most likely locate themselves on multiple rungs or points on a graph at any given moment depending on interests, time, motivation, and the particular resource. And it is worth noting that face to face participation has its own challenges its just harder to measure online social presence.
Interested in understanding more about people who view themselves as non-public participants? Take a look at a post I wrote on TechStew, Lurking as An Online Activity Lurking as Identity.
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