Barriers to Contributing to (& Benefiting From) Online Communities

For OChemOnline it is essential to increase the intersection between 1) People with internet skills able to perform simple internet tasks, 2) Organic Chemistry laboratory instructors and students, and 3) Individuals motivated to contribute to and benefit from an online community. Skills are important, but they do not seem to be the major obstacle. Everything you want to accomplish in life requires a certain learning curve. I think the 3rd group is the most critical. What are barriers to participating in online communities (assuming the skills to navigate a wiki are learnable)?

1) Comfort level. There is a certain threshold to sharing personal information on the internet.

2) Potential embarrassment. Those who post ideas and information open themselves to criticism or worse.

3) Intellectual property issues. If I tell you what I know, I relinquish my proprietary knowledge that may lead to income generating activities, formal publication and/or a snobbish sense of self-importance.

4) Perceived benefits. Typically effort expended to do the busy-work necessary for online community is proportional to the perceived benefit.

5) Entertainment value. The internet is supposed to be entertaining. If it is not, we feel somewhat let down.

6) The natural distribution of the adoption of new things. Some people are early adopters, they will try anything just for the novelty of it. Others need to see that a certain “critical mass” of participation has been achieved before they jump in.

7) Encouragement. Community is about mutual encouragement. It is encouraging when someone responds to your participation. Encouragement is about evidence that my contribution matters to others.

8) Any more? This should really be a “top 10” list.



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One Comment

  1. Posted April 13, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the willingness to participate is the most important component. Other things can be learned.

    By the way we have the NMR, IR and m.p. for 171H up on the wiki in the results section:
    http://usefulchem.wikispaces.com/Exp171

    JSpecView is a little flaky with Firefox still – use IE if you are going to look at a lot of spectra. You can expand the spectra by dragging the mouse with the left button pressed then releasing it. If you or your students want to comment the best place is right on the wiki page – just have them join the space and I’ll approve it.

    Analyzing that NMR is a good exercise in this case…. 🙂


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