Motivating Users to Engage and Collaborate in an Online Community

“Motivating Users to Engage and Collaborate in an Online Community” is a Master’s Thesis written by Camilla Boel and Christina Jensen, spring 2013. Both authors are now Master of Science in Information Technology from the IT University in Copenhagen with a major in Digital Design and Communication.

Read Thesis: Orange Act


The aim of this thesis is demonstrate how a conceptual design for an online community can be developed through an ethnographic approach to qualitative research complemented by a user-centered design approach. The concept is aimed at Roskilde Festival’s target group, and shares the festival’s ambition to actively engage their audience in participation and collaboration. The primary focus of this thesis is on how to foster collaboration and motivate for user participation in online communities.

The concept is born out of a combination of theoretical framework and qualitative interviews. The theoretical framework mainly examines literature on characteristics of communities and how to build a “sense of community” (McMillan & Chavis, 1986), as well as literature on online user-led content creation and collaboration (Bruns, 2007). The theory further provides a frame for how to motivate users to participate, including theories on gamification and other design principles (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011; Nielsen, 2006). Furthermore, the “festival” phenomenon (Harsløf, forthcoming; Falassi, 1987) is examined to illustrate the context the thesis is operating in.

Theory and findings emphasize that users will connect with strangers online if they share a common interest, and that they will join an online community if the community meets their needs. Users participate on social media sites in order to gain knowledge and experience in return, and to achieve a feeling of being part of something bigger. They are willing to work hard for a project if it is within their hobby and interest, emphasizing an intrinsic motivation. Furthermore it becomes clear that users like to help each other, and they seek to make online contributions that are valuable to others. Theory and findings additionally show that users are motivated to participate if they gain recognition for their work, and that gamifications elements can be a way to motivate users’ participation.

The developed community, “Orange ACT”, is based on the above-mentioned theories and findings and through the interaction design discipline using a user-centered design approach.  The concept development phase consists of ideation, sketching, prototyping, user testing, and refinements. Orange ACT revolves around knowledge sharing, where keywords are empowerment and openness. Members of the Orange ACT community collaborate around art, creativity, and Roskilde Festival. The concept is in line with Roskilde Festival’s values and ambitions, and embraces the presented theories and findings from the qualitative interviews. Orange ACT serves to illustrate how qualitative research complemented with a theoretical framework can become an integrated part of a creative design process, and how participants’ behavior and motivations can be translated into a design that includes social objects and features.

This report concludes that the results of the qualitative interviews found through the analysis can be employed to develop online communities focusing on motivation for user participation. The report will furthermore discusses distinct aspects of the project, such as the presented concept is valid in theory; however whether or not Orange ACT will be successful highly depends on the implementation and execution of the community.


Done with interviews!

Yeah! We have now interviewed all 20 respondents and typed up all of the interviews. Now it’s time to do the analysis…

Dagens publikum citat (sorry it’s in Danish)

Som sagt har vi interviewet en bunke festivalgængere og nu er opgaven for det første at få skrevet vores interviews ind, og for det andet at finde hoved og hale i det, der bliver sagt. Vores spørgsmål har hovedsageligt gået på respondenternes brug af sociale medier, men der har også været et par spørgsmål om Roskilde Festival. Jeg har lige hørt mit interview igennem med den sødeste fyr, som bare siger sådan nogle fine ting om festivalen, at jeg bliver nødt til at dele dem:

“Det er som om verden går i stå i 8 dage, og der er ikke nogen, der tænker på andet end at være lige dér, lige nu og møde nogle mennesker og høre noget musik og være glade og sprede noget kærlighed.”

“Roskilde er denne her meget fredelige og stemningsfyldte festival, men det er ikke fordi, man sidder stille. Der er også eksplosioner, når man er der. Men det er ikke farligt, det er alt sammen til for det gode, alt det der sker. Også selvom det går vildt for sig nogle gange, så er det kun godt. Det er noget af det vildeste, jeg nogensinde har prøvet. Det sker for det meste uforberedt, det er ikke noget, man planlægger, det er bare noget, der sker. Det er en del af charmen, du skal ikke planlægge så meget, når du er på Roskilde, du skal bare lade dig rive med.”

User interviews

Sorry for not updating the blog! We haven’t fallen asleep, left the country or given up! We have simply been busy interviewing a bunch of people for our thesis. And what a marvelous bunch! The interviews revolve around their use of social media, and we are so blown away from all the creative and diverse stuff people are up to. If you thought that everybody is just busy taking pictures of their breakfast on Instagram or telling the world that they love Obama on Facebook, then guess again.

We have talked to the guy who writes guides to Star Trek computer games, just to help others out (and he gets hundreds of thousands hits!), the girl who has a blog with three other friends where they laugh at all the stupid stuff they find online, the guy who rallied a bunch of computer game enthusiasts together so they could help fund the making of a new game done by their 1990’s idols. There’s the girl who uploaded a stop motion movie to youTube just for the fun of it, and the boy who did random video posts on youTube about his teenage life, and then of course there are the facebook fans.

Now we’re listening to all the interviews once again, and hopefully we’ll be able to make something cleaver out of it. Stay tuned – we’re still here!


More collaboration

Bar Karma

– a tv series co-created by an online community:

“The first online community-developed network television series. Online users pitch their own ideas for scenes and twists online, using a tool designed by Will Wright called the Storymaker. Some are eventually chosen by the production staff, and are utilized to help create a new episode every week.”
From wikipedia.

People collaborate on stories in with the so-called StoryMaker tool. It seems pretty cool!
“StoryMaker was developed by Will Wright, creator of the Sims. StoryMaker empowers our online community to collaboratively tell stories — stories that will ultimately be used in creating the television show, Bar Karma.”

Collaborative Arts Network

“ a creative agency and collaboration ready network where freelancers can exchange knowledge and develop the projects they love.”


Why do you do what you do?

A collaborate art project. “A role call for the human race”… “As a Collaborating Artist, you’ll be perpetuating the social-media meme. You can have your own gallery on that features a particular community attributed with your byline”.
Have exhibited images at Burning Man among other places…


Snail mail my email

A collaborative art project that ran for a month in 2011. People were encouraged to send in an email that was then handwritten by a volunteer and then sent to the desired recipient. More than 10.000 letters were sent 


The Zoomquilt – A collaborative art project

“An endless zoom animation. Click and drag the image to move. The Zoomquilt was completed in 2004. It emerged from the internet platform, a site where people collaborated on patchwork paintings in earlier days of the internet. Notably drawing inspiration from Gridcosm, a similar and ongoing project, the Zoomquilt aimed to create a more seamless and immersive experience. It soon became an internet notorious, won a FWA site of the month and was featured on MTV.”



Cool co-creative stuff

So we have found some more great co-creation spaces/concepts and events, please share if you find some cool sites on co-creation…

Is a cool platform for co-creating. You can host a new space for a topic, interest, project, or passion for free. Then, you can choose a theme, make it public or invite only, and bring in your friends and people who share your interests with an easy series of invitations.

-We are not sure how to (or if you can?) browse public spaces to see what other people are doing, so if anyone out there knows, please share with us 🙂

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.

On Quirky you can add your idea/invention to be evaluated by other people in the network….


Sjit Happen på Zulu

The production of new sitsom on TV2 Zulu has already started, but everybody is invited to inspire the scriptwriters by sending stories and great lines from your own life, and maybe see it on TV.



Users buy the WELL… talk about dedication!

Just five days ago, on September 20th 2012, it was announced that The Well Group had officially taken over ownership of the WELL community and domaine.

For those of you who are not geeky enough to have ever heard of The WELL, I can tell you that it is a web community established waaaay back in 1985 (!) by founder Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant. Members of the WELL take part in discussions on what ever topic they fancy in different forums. Members also have an email system, and apparently there are web sites within the WELL as well.

The WELL has until recently been owned by the Salon Media Group, but when they put the community up for sale the members rallied together and bought the WELL.


I don’t really know that much about the WELL, but I’m reading the book The Virtual Community by Howard Rheingold. Rheingold became an active – and very enthusiastic – member of The WELL in 1985, and decided to write a book about his encounters and experiences with the community. This is the book I am now reading.

I have heard about the WELL several times but I have never really looked into it, and to be honest I actually thought it closed down years ago. But it is still “alive”, even though the number of users can’t compete with todays’ giants like facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. According to Wikipedia the WELL had 2693 members as of June 2012. As oppose to todays’ social media the WELL is not centered around the person, but around a topic.

I’m fascinated by the WELL for three reasons:

First of all it’s very impressive that it has managed to survive for 27 years! Membership numbers might be down, but still…

Second it’s all about conversations and coming together around common areas of interest. It’s not about me, me, me and my funny photos, but about real conversations and exchange of opinions and experiences. And as far as I can tell from the few pages open to non-members; it’s all text based. No fancy photos or cool designs.

Finally I’m impressed with the fact that the users bought the community. Talk about being dedicated! These days it seems like everybody is struggling to figuring out a business model for the web – I guess this story shows that if you give users what they need they won’t have a problem paying. Oh and by the way you have to pay to become a member of the WELL.

PS. My knowledge of the WELL is very limited (and new). Please let me know if there is something I have completely misunderstood!

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