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    The Life Cycle of Online Discussions
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2007 Oct 16, 23:16 -0400

    Every online discussion group seems to go through the same cycle. Below are
    the six stages in the life cycle of an online discussion group, with a
    fateful fork in the road at level six. Also included are typical posts for
    each stage from the online "Pizza Forum" (mythical):
    1. Initial enthusiasm: People introduce themselves and gush a lot about how
    wonderful it is to find kindred souls.
      Pizza Forum: "You like pizza?! I like pizza, TOO! This is so great."
    2. Evangelism: People moan about how few folks are posting messages and
    brainstorm recruitment strategies.
      Pizza Forum: "We could make this the best place for discussing pizza on
    the whole Internet. I bet there are lots of people like us who love pizza!"
    3. Growth: More and more people join. More and more lengthy threads develop.
    Occasional off-topic threads pop up.
      Pizza Forum: "I just can't believe how many people love pizza. I had no
    idea that Richard Nixon liked garlic pizza. And I'm not sure I needed to
    know that."
    4. Community: Lots of threads, some more relevant than others. Lots of
    information and advice are exchanged. Experts help other experts as well as
    less experienced colleagues. Friendships develop. People tease each other.
    Newcomers are welcomed with generosity and patience. Everyone --newbie and
    expert alike-- feels comfortable asking questions, suggesting answers, and
    sharing opinions.
      Pizza Forum: "I have never loved pizza so much in my life. Thank you so
    much for that terrific recipe for thin crust! That story about the
    historical origins of mozzarella cheese was fascinating."
    5. Discomfort with diversity: The number of messages increases dramatically.
    Not every thread is fascinating to every reader. People start complaining
    about the signal-to-noise ratio. Person X threatens to quit if *other*
    people don't limit discussion to person X's pet topic. Person Y agrees with
    person X. Person Z tells X and Y to lighten up. More bandwidth is wasted
    complaining about off-topic threads than is used for the threads themselves.
    Everyone gets annoyed.
      Pizza Forum: "I really could not care less about the historical origins of
    mozzarella cheese. I am sick and tired of these self-important 'pizza
    geeks'. This group is supposed to be about loving pizza, and now I'm
    starting to hate pizza. What happened??"
    6a.Smug complacency and stagnation: The purists flame everyone who asks an
    "old" question or responds with humor to a serious post. Newbies are
    rebuffed. Traffic drops to a doze-producing level limited to a few minor
    issues; all interesting discussions happen by private email and are limited
    to a few participants. The purists spend lots of time self-righteously
    congratulating each other for suppressing off-topic threads...
      Pizza Forum: "Again? Look, we have already reached a group consensus on
    the mozzarella question. Please consult the archives. Can we get back to the
    history of dough-shaping please..."
    6b.Maturity: A few people quit in a huff. The rest of the participants stay
    near stage 4, with stage 5 popping up briefly
    every few weeks. Long-term members may find that they ignore more messages
    than they read. But the community lives contentedly ever after.
      Pizza Forum: "I still like pizza."
    (with thanks to the original author of the "Life Cycle of a List")
    To post to this group, send email to NavList@fer3.com
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