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Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design [Hardcover]

Robert E. Kraut , Paul Resnick , Sara Kiesler , Moira Burke , Yan Chen , Niki Kittur , Joseph Konstan , Yuqing Ren , John Riedl

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Book Description

March 23 2012

Online communities are among the most popular destinations on the Internet, but not all online communities are equally successful. For every flourishing Facebook, there is a moribund Friendster--not to mention the scores of smaller social networking sites that never attracted enough members to be viable. This book offers lessons from theory and empirical research in the social sciences that can help improve the design of online communities. The social sciences can tell us much about how to make online communities thrive, offering theories of individual motivation and human behavior that, properly interpreted, can inform particular design choices for online communities. The authors draw on the literature in psychology, economics, and other social sciences, as well as their own research, translating general findings into useful design claims. They explain, for example, how to encourage information contributions based on the theory of public goods, and how to build members' commitment based on theories of interpersonal bond formation. For each design claim, they offer supporting evidence from theory, experiments, or observational studies.The book focuses on five high-level design challenges: starting a new community, attracting new members, encouraging commitment, encouraging contribution, and regulating misbehavior and conflict. By organizing their presentation around these fundamental design features, the authors encourage practitioners to consider alternatives rather than simply adapting a feature seen on other sites.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (March 23 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262016575
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016575
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #166,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


" Building Successful Online Communities is the book we've all been waiting for. Students, faculty, and professional developers will learn how online communities function. There's something for everyone--empirical findings framed in theory, and gems of advice. The authors are remarkable researchers, teachers, and leaders in the field."--Jennifer J. Preece, Professor and Dean, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland's iSchool

"While many books have described the patterns and building blocks of successful social spaces from an architectural perspective, Building Successful Online Communities moves beyond the tangible and derives critical features and design claims for thriving communities in the more malleable online world. The authors provide real world examples and observations to help practitioners design an online community. In the process, they create a vocabulary and environment that engages the reader to want to design an online social space."--Kyratso George Karahalios, Associate Professor, University of Illinois

"This work provides the science behind the observations we made in Building Web Reputation Systems. Its format of design claims, thoroughly supported by research and examples, is a must-have resource for anyone thinking of deploying successful online communities."--F. Randall Farmer, online communities pioneer, and coauthor of Building Web Reputation Systems

About the Author

Robert E. Kraut is Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University.

Paul Resnick is Professor at the University of Michigan's School of Information.

Sara Kiesler is Professor of Human Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. She has been elected into the CHI Academy by The Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (ACM SIGCHI) in recognition of her outstanding leadership and service in the field of computer-human interaction.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for courses on online communities April 16 2012
By Derek L. Hansen - Published on
I've been using a draft form of this book to teach graduate-level classes on online communities for several semesters (inspired in part by Paul Resnick's excellent course on the topic at the University of Michigan's School of Information where I received my PhD). I highly recommend it for other professors and practitioners who want to understand some of the theoretical underpinnings of online community interactions as well as practical implications for community designers. There really is no recent, comparable book on the market. I'm a fan of other practitioner-oriented books, but they lack the theoretical foundation that makes this one so compelling and will also make it more enduring as specific technologies change.

The book uses a common "design claim" framework, that is excellent for students to internalize, as it teaches them a systematic and testable way to approach online community design. An example of a design claim from the book is: "People will be more willing to contribute in an online group when they think
that they are unique and others in the group cannot make contributions similar to theirs." The design claim ties a specific design principle (i.e., emphasize the uniqueness of a contribution) to a goal (i.e., increase members' contributions). Design claims also have conditions under which they may apply, such as the demographics, size, and topic of the community. The complete formulation of this type of design claim looks like this: "alternative X helps/hinders achievement of
goal Y under conditions Z". Other claims focus on which of different design alternatives will be more successful. Specific ideas on how to implement the various design claims along with the theoretical basis for them are discussed alongside each design claim throughout the book. The framework is excellent, though at times there are so many design claims it can be a bit overwhelming to students.

When using this book in teaching I have complemented it with a couple of concepts not covered much in the book:
- The design claim approach is in the positivist social science tradition (as the authors state in the Introduction chapter). While this has its benefits, it also has its drawbacks. The focus tends to be primarily on the design claims (i.e., hypotheses) and only secondarily on the context in which they appear. In practice there are many design choices that often interact with one another in complex ways, making it hard to predict whether or not a particular design claim will work in any given community. This is not a reason to ignore design claims. Rather, it is a caution that the claims may not work as expected given the nuances of a particular community. This leads to the need for my next point:
- The book does not specifically discuss methods and tools for testing these design claims in the field, though many examples are provided of such tests and the authors clearly have a good understanding of how to conduct online "field experiments" of the sort needed. Complementing this book with a couple of readings on experimental design and A/B testing tools and methods is helpful. Doing so allows community designers to test the design claims they believe are important rather than relying on a theoretical argument that may or may not work in practice.

In summary, this is an outstanding, unique book that is particularly well suited for students and readers seeking to gain a better understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of different design decisions. The chapters are on excellent topics central to all community building efforts and the design claim framework is very useful, particularly when coupled with field experiments to test a claim's effectiveness in a specific community.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Evidence Based Book on Online Communities June 26 2012
By E. Gerber - Published on
As a design researcher and founder of an online community, I reference Kraut and Resnick's book at least once a week to gain insight into the behavior and design of online communities. The editors provide a collection of evidence based essays on online communities. Drawing from computer science and the social sciences, the authors address the fundamental questions of online communities including how to start a community, encourage contributions, engage members, and regulate community. This edited volume is invaluable for understanding and designing for successful online communities.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great for Marketing and Social Media May 2 2012
By Willa - Published on
This is a great book for those interested in marketing and want to build a social community around their company or product. This book will help you through the community design process as well as help you understand other communities (facebook, twitter, etc) which a company may be using for their social media marketing.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Jb! March 29 2013
By Ni Yan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Overall I'm very satisfied with the service and the book itself. The book is really helpful and can give you many practical suggestions.

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