UC Institute for Software Research

Home  |   People  |   Research  |   Publications  |   Tech Transition  |   Events  |   Partnerships  |   About ISR  |   Contact Us

Distinguished Speaker Series 2007-2008

Bob Kraut

Robert E. Kraut

Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University



Talk Title: Conversation & Commitment in Online Communities

January 25, 2008

Refreshments and Networking: 1:30 - 2:00
Presentation: 2:00 - 3:30


Faculty Host: Gloria Mark, ISR


RSVP: Email RSVP required to Jessica Garcia at by Monday, January 21, 2008.

UCI Calit2 Auditorium (building #325)

No cost to attend.

Directions and parking information
are available.


Abstract: Online communities are the fastest growing portion of the Internet and provide members with information, social support, and entertainment. To be successful, online communities must be able to attract and retrain a core of members who participate actively. This talk describes how the relationship between communities and new members develop. Because the relationship is especially fragile during newcomers' initial interactions, the success of these interactions is likely to determine whether the relationship survives. Our research is consistent with this reasoning; an analysis over 200,000 messages from almost 25,000 newcomers to 99 Usenet groups shows that newcomers are much more likely to continue participating if their initial posts received replies, especially socially positive ones.


Newcomers use several rhetorical strategies to ingratiate themselves to the community and encourage its members to respond to them. For example, they use introductions to signal legitimacy and commitment, and explicit questions to make clear what they need. Longitudinal studies of Usenet groups and three field experiments show that introductions referencing commitment to the group increase the likelihood of getting a reply, while introductions emphasizing connections to the topic of discussion do not. This research both increases our understanding of a new social phenomenon and informs the design of intervention that can improve the integration of newcomers into online communities.


About the Speaker: Robert Kraut is the Herbert A. Simon Professor of Social Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. He has broad interests in the design and social impact of computing and has conducted empirical research on office automation and employment quality, technology and home-based employment, the communication needs of collaborating scientists, the design of information technology for small-group intellectual work, and the impact of the Internet on organizations, households and individuals. His research on the social impact of the Internet has identified conditions under which heavy use of the Internet reduces psychological well-being. For example, although using the Internet for health information reduces depression among those with a serious illness, it increases depression among the majority of users, who do not have a serious illness themselves nor care for others with serious illnesses. His recent research examines the application of social science theory to the analysis and design of online communities.