A paper recently published in the International Journal of Managing Information Technology (IJMIT) February 2012, Volume 4, No 1 by Xuequn Wang of Washington State University, USA and Yanjun Yu of Southern University at New Orleans, USA proposes that there are a number of different types of participants in online communities.
The participants are analysed by contribution or otherwise and accordingly labelled – Outsider, Non-interested knower, Trouble maker, Lurker, Non-contributing Participants, Partial-contributing Participant, Contributor. Whilst this is of particular interest to me having used online communities as research tools and being inherently aware of differing behaviours, this may be highly appropriate in the realm of e-participation.
My constant criticism of e-participation is that it doesn’t take into account this varying behaviour that doesn’t replicate anything in the real world. People behave differently and unpredictably when dealing with machines. The authors of the paper takes a view on this stating on page 10 that “Before online communities even encourage individuals to actively participate, these individuals need to know the online communities. Therefore one interesting question can be “What initiatives can help online communities be known by more individuals”.” I suggest this is a lesser issue and that anything can be promoted by raising awareness in a range of other communities, what needs to be done is to design and manage the resource to encourage open and honest participation, which has to be done before the community is established, then it can be promoted.