This course is designed to
  • Introduce students to the theoretical aspects of how online communities operate
  • Help students identify those characteristics that make social websites succeed or fail
  • Provide experience in becoming part of a social website
  • Develop students' critical thinking and writing, and presentation skills
This course will be taught as a reading class, meaning that students are expected to do reading assignments before each class, and to actively participate in discussion. Each week one student, the "Lecturer", will be responsible for presenting the course topic to the rest of the class, and to lead a discussion on this topic. This student will be responsible for kick-starting an online discussion on this topic, which should begin at lest 72 hours before the lecture. The rest of the students are expected to con- tribute to this discussion before the day of the lecture by writing a critique of the material and preparing questions for the class. In addition, each student must adopt a social website of their choosing, become active members in it, and at the end of term present to the rest of the class an empirical account of how this website works.

Course material

  • Calendar [pdf | ics]
  • Assessment form for student lectures [pdf]
  • The online forum is here
  • Template for all reports [doc]
  • Template for poster [zip]
  • Tutorial on how to write good reports [pdf]
  • Tutorial on how to create good posters [html]


This course requires English reading and writing skills, some knowledge of mathematics, and familiarity with casual Internet use. There is no textbook for this course. All reading material will be given by the instructor.

Grading and exams

There is no exam for this course. Individual components will be weighted as follows (this is tentative and subject to change):
  • Lecture(s): 20%
  • Classroom & online participation: 20%
  • Term project: 60%


Each student will sign up to deliver lectures on the topics we will be covering. Each week one student will give their lecture. This student must prepare PowerPoint or KeyNote slides to use as helping material for their lecture. If you are a lecturer, then you must post your critique and questions 72 hours before your lecture, so that the rest of the students can respond and we can have a discussion prior to the lecture.

On the day of your lecture, you will present a 45-60 minute presentation. This will be followed by a quick 10 minute question-and-answer session in order to clarify any outstanding details relating to your presentation. We will then have a 15 minute break, followed by a 90 minute discussion session which you must lead. In this session we can discuss any issue that you want to put forward, as well as any questions that the rest of the students have asked online.

Your lecture will be evaluated on how well you describe the concepts, the breadth and depth of the topics you cover, and the overall impact of your delivery. Ideally you should present material beyond the reading list. Your discussion session will be assessed on the quality of topics you raise for discussion, and the quality of answers you give to students' questions.

Inevitably, some topics will be more difficult than others, and this will be taken into consideration.

Classroom and online participation

You are expected to actively participate in classroom discussion by asking question, answering questions, and in general making comment where appropriate. In addition, you are expected to have an active online participation by commenting on other students' critique and questions. Your participation will be assessed on the quality of your comments and their frequency.

Term project

Each student must adopt a social website and become an active member in that website. During the semester you must collect data and study the community, and at the end of the semester: give a 30-minute presentation, and deliver a report and poster. Please use the templates provided in this page for all report submissions and posters.

Project deliverables (due before class):

  • October 8: Bring 3 different websites to class for presentation
  • October 15: Project idea and motivation (max 2 pages): 5%
  • October 29: Background and literature review (max 3 pages): 15%
  • November 12: Research methods description (max 2 pages): 15%
  • December 3: Attained results (max 4 pages): 15%
  • December 17: Final report (max 10 pages): 5%
  • December 17: Presentation and poster: 5%


  • 1 Oct 2010: Course overview [pdf]
  • 8 Oct 2010: Online Communities [pdf]
  • 15 Oct 2010: Project progress
  • 22 Oct 2010: Social web & research methods [pdf]
  • 29 Oct 2010: Encouraging newbies [pdf]
  • 5 Nov 2010: Encouraging contribution [pdf]
  • 12 Nov 2010: Regulating behaviour [pdf]
  • 19 Nov 2010: Mashups & the wisdom of crowds [pdf]
  • 26 Nov 2010: Online games [pdf]
  • 3 Dec 2010: Privacy [pdf]
  • 10 Dec 2010: Social impact of the social web [pdf]
  • 17 Dec 2010: Final presentations

Reading material

Online communities
  • Preece, J., & Maloney-Krichmar, D. (2003). Online communities. In J. Jacko & A. A. Sears (Eds.), Handbook of human-computer interaction (pp. 596-620). Publishers. Mahwah: NJ.:?Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. [pdf]
  • Butler, B. (1999). When is a group not a group: An empirical examination of metaphors for online social structure (chapter 1). The dynamics of cyberspace: Examining and modeling online social structure (pp 1-46). Unpublished PhD thesis, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA. [pdf]
  • Wellman, B. (2001). Computer networks as social networks. Science, 293(14 September), 2031-2034. [pdf]
  • Oldenberg, R. (1989). The great good place. Chapter 2, pages 20-42. [pdf]
  • Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice. Boston, MA: Haravard Business School Publishing. (Chapter 1)[pdf]
Research methods
  • Lakhani., K. R., & Hippel, E. v. (2003). How open source software works "free" user-to-user assistance. Research Policy (Special Issue on Open Source Software Development), 32, 923.943. [pdf]
  • Ridings, C. M., & Gefen, D. (2004). Virtual community attraction: Why people hang out online. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 10(1), article 4. [pdf]
  • Nardi, B., & Harris, J. (2006). Strangers and friends: Collaborative play in world of warcraft. In CSCW 2006: Proceedings ACM conference on computer-supported cooperative work. New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Crandall, D., Cosley, D., Huttenlocher, D., Kleinberg, J., & Suri, S. (2008). Feedback effects between similarity and social influence in online communities. In Kdd'08: Proceedings of the ACM conference on knowledge discovery and data mining. New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Salganik, M. J., Dodds, P. S., & Watts, D. J. (2006). Experimental study of inequality and unpredictability in an artificial cultural market. Science, 311(5762), 854-856. [pdf]
  • Ren, Y., & Kraut, R. E. (Under review). An agent-based model to understand tradeoffs in online community design.Unpublished manuscript, University of Minnesota. [pdf]
Encouraging newbies
  • Levine,J. M., & Moreland, R. L. (1994). Group socialization: Theory and research. In W. Strocher & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European review of social psychology (Vol. 5). New York:?John Wiley & Sons. [pdf]
  • Bryant,S.L., Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian:Transformation of a Participation in a Collaborative Onlnie Encyclopedia., inProceedings, GROUP05, November 6-9, 2005, Sanibel Island, Florida, USA. [pdf]
  • Krogh,G. v., Spaeth, S., Lakhani., K. R., & Hippel, E. v. (2003). Community, joining, and specialization in open source software innovation:A case study. Research Policy: Special Issue On Open Source Software Development. [pdf]
  • Arguello,J., Butler, B. S., Joyce, L., Kraut, R., Ling, K. S., Ros, C. P., et al. (2006). Talk to me: Foundations for successful individual-group interactions in online communities. In CHI 2006: Proceedings of the ACM conference on human-factors in computing systems (pp. 959 - 968). New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Ducheneaut, N. (2005). Socialization in an open source software community: A socio-technical analysis. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 14(4), 323 - 368. [pdf]
  • Kraut, Burke, Riedl & van Mosh. (2007) Dealing with newcomers. Working paper 12/7/07. [pdf]
Encouraging contribution
  • Wasko, M. M., & Far, S. (2005). Why should I share? Examining social capital and knowledge contribution in electronic networks of practice. MIS Quarterly, 29(1), 3557. [pdf]
  • Ma, M., & Agarwal, R. (2007). Through a glass darkly: Information technology design, identity verification, and knowledge contribution in online communities. Information Systems Research, 18(1), 42. [pdf]
  • Gneezy, U., & Rustichini, A. (2000). Pay enough or don't pay at all. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(3), 791-810. [pdf]
  • Cosley, D., Frankowski, D., Terveen, L., & Riedl, J. (2007). Suggestbot: Using intelligent task routing to help people find work in wikipedia. In Proceedings of the 12th acm international conference on intelligent user interfaces. New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Roberts, J., Hann, I.-H., & Slaughter, S. (2006). Understanding the motivations, participation and performance of open source software developers: A longitudinal study of the apache projects. Management Science, 52(7), 984 - 999. [pdf]
Regulating behaviour
  • Cialdini, R. B., & Trost, M. R. (1998). Social influence: Social norms, conformity and compliance. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske & et al. (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology, vol 2 (4th ed., pp. 151-192). New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill. [pdf]
  • Kiesler, S & Kittur, N. (2007 draft). Norms in online communities. [pdf]
  • Lessig, L. (1999). Code and other laws of cyberspace: Basic Books. Chapter 7. [pdf]
  • Butler, B., Joyce, E., Pike, J. (2008). Don't look now, but we've created a bureaucracy: The nature and roles of policies and rules in wikipedia. In CHI 2008: Proceedings of the ACM conference on human factors in Computing systems. New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Beschastnikh, I., Kriplean, T., & McDonald, D. W. (2008). Wikipedian self-governance in action: Motivating the policy lens. Paper presented at the The International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, Chicago. [pdf]
  • Cosley, D., Frankowski, D., Kiesler, S., Terveen, L., & Riedl., J. (2005). How oversight improves member-maintained communities. In Proceedings of CHI 2005: Conference on human factors in computer systems. New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • D'Arcy, J., Hovav, A., & Galletta, D. (2008, In press). User awareness of security countermeasures and its impact on information systems misuse: A deterence approach. Information Systems Research. [pdf]
Mashups and the wisdom of the crowd
  • Mashups: The New Breed of Web App, IBM. [pdf]
  • Watch What I Do (preface and introduction), Allen Cypher. [pdf]
  • Hill, G. W. (1982). Group versus individual performance. Are n + 1 heads better than one??Psychological Bulletin, 91, 517-539. [pdf]
  • Resnick, P., & Varian, H. R. (1997). Recommender systems. Communications of the ACM,40(3), 56-58. [pdf]
  • Using Prediction Markets to Enhance US Intelligence Capabilities, by Puong Feh Yeh. [pdf]
  • The Rise of CrowdSourcing, Wired Magazine. [pdf]
  • Reducing the Risks of New Product Development, by Ogawa and Piller, Sloan Management Review. [pdf]
  • Kostakos, V. (2009). Is the crowd's wisdom biased? A quantitative analysis of three online communities. Adjunct proceedings of IEEE SocialComm, International Symposium on Social Intelligence and Networking (SIN09), August 29-31, Vancouver, Canada. [pdf]
Online games
  • Nardi, B., & Harris, J. (2006). Strangers and friends: Collaborative play in world of warcraft. In CSCW 2006: Proceedings ACM conference on computer-supported cooperative work. New York: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Williams, D., Ducheneaut, N., Xiong, L., Zhang, Y., Yee, N., & Nickell, E. (2006). From tree house to barracks: The social life of guilds in world of warcraft. Games and Culture, 1(4), 338-361. [pdf]
  • Ch 4 from Game Design Workshop, by Fullerton, Swain, Hoffman. [pdf]
  • Ducheneaut, N., Yee, N., Nickell, E., & Moore, R. J. (2006). "Alone together?" Exploring the social dynamics of massively multiplayer online games. In CHI 2006: Proceedings of the ACM conference on human-factors in Computing systems. NY: ACM Press. [pdf]
  • Boyd, d. (2006). Friends, friendsters, and myspace top 8: Writing community into being on social network sites. First Monday, 11(12). Incantations for Muggles, talk at ETech by danah boyd [pdf]
  • Rosenblum, D. (2007). What anyone can know: The privacy risks of social networking sites. IEEE Security and Privacy, 5(3), 40-49. [pdf]
  • Acquisti, A., & Gross, R. (2006) Imagined Communities: Awareness, Information Sharing, and Privacy on the Facebook. In PET 2006. [pdf]
  • Lampe, C. A. C., Ellison, N., & Steinfield, C. (2007). A familiar face (book): Profile elements as signals in an online social network. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors?in computing systems, 435-444. [pdf]
  • Kostakos, V. and O'Neill E. (2008). Cityware: Urban Computing to Bridge Online and Real-world Social Networks. In M. Foth (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Urban Informatics: The Practice and Promise of the Real-Time City. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, IGI Global. [pdf]
Social impact of the social web
  • Putnam, R. D. (1995). Tuning in, tuning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in America. PS: Political Science and Politics, 28(4), 664-683. [pdf]
  • Resnick, P. (2000) Beyond bowling together: Sociotechnical capital. Chapter 29 in HCI in the new millenium, edited by John M. Carroll. Addison-
  • Wesley. 2001, pages 247-272. [pdf]
  • Boase, J., Horrigan, J. B., Wellman, B., & Raine, L. (2006). The strength of internet ties. Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project. [pdf]
  • Bessiere, K., Kiesler, S., Kraut, R. & Boneva, B. (In press). Effects of social resources and Internet use on Depression. Information, Communication & Society. (updated 12/2/2006)[pdf]

Student projects


  • Jakob Rogstadius (2010). The World Privacy Survey: Information sharing habits across cultures and generations (Best project award) [paper | poster]
  • Sandra Perdomo (2010). Bookcrossing [paper | poster]
  • Sorren Hanvey (2010). A Case Study of User Vetted Social Networks: DontStayIn [paper | poster]
  • Barbara Florenca (2010). Is the World Real? Or do most of us live in our own Truman show? [paper | poster]
  • Tiago Tomas (2010). Newsvine.com: Read, write and influence the news [paper | poster]
  • Adriano Lopez (2010). Nike+ [paper | poster]


  • Francisco Andrade (2009). MadeiraByNight: Regulating behaviour in small communities (Best project award) [paper | poster]
  • Mary Barreto (2009). Wiser earth: Connecting you to communities of action [paper | poster]
  • Jesuino Azevedo (2009). What is going on couchsurfing [paper | poster]
  • Robert Dukaric (2009). A study of LinkedIn [paper | poster]
  • Jayant Venkatanathan (2009). Unbalanced numbers in online language learning [paper | poster]
  • Sofia Nunes (2009). Kiva: loans that change lives [paper | poster]
  • Ales Preac (2009). Analysis of promotional advertising on Netlog [paper | poster]
  • Jernej Zorko (2009). Information revelation in online social networks [paper | poster]
  • Tasos Spiliotopoulos (2009). Votes and Comments in Recommender Systems: The Case of Digg. [paper]
  • Juan Nogueron (2009). Tuenti: transforming the Spanish society. [paper | poster]
  • Vitor Ferreira (2009). Second Life: participation and contribution. [paper]


  • Bernardo Reynolds (2008). Tweeter: A new breed of social networking (Best project award) [paper | poster]
  • Augusto Esteves (2008). Social behavior in Warhammer Online: How we behave while playing with others [paper | poster]
  • Filipa Jervis (2008). Flirt, Chat, Play: ethnographic study of iminlikewithyou [paper | poster]
  • Maria Freitas (2008). DeviantArt: where art meets application! [paper | poster]