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36th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2003. Proceedings of the (2003)
Big Island, Hawaii
Jan. 6, 2003 to Jan. 9, 2003
ISBN: 0-7695-1874-5
pp: 216a
Thomas Schoberth , University of Bayreuth
Jenny Preece , University of Maryland
Armin Heinzl , University of Mannheim
Online communities (OCs) are seen as important stimulus to electronic business. However, surprisingly little is known about how the communication activity of their users develops and changes over time. A longitudinal study bears the potential to better elaborate the enabling and inhibiting factors of the users? communication activity in OCs. To explore these phenomena, we aim to develop a conceptual framework that serves as a foundation to guide an explorative data analysis of real OCs. The notions of common ground, information overload, interactivity and social loafing will be used to explain the communication activity of the users in online communities. The empirically explored framework will help organizations to support the development of OCs and utilize them in an economically successful way.<div></div> Based on a literature review we develop a first conceptual framework. Then, we apply it to describe the development of the communication activity and its determinants in an OC hosted by a German financial service provider. The study examines over 33,000 participants and 1.03 million messages over a period of 3 years. We find a strong effect of external factors on the size of this OC. The size of the OC shows no direct influence on the communication activity of the users. But, in reaction to the increasing information load, communication strategies change and herewith influence the communication activity. The heterogeneity of the users? activity is growing over time and a small minority of users writes more and more of the postings.

T. Schoberth, J. Preece and A. Heinzl, "Online Communities: A Longitudinal Analysis of Communication Activities," 36th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2003. Proceedings of the(HICSS), Big Island, Hawaii, 2003, pp. 216a.
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