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Norm maintenance in online communities: Analysis of heterarchical moderation regimes (PDF)

Lackaff, D. (2005). Norm maintenance in online communities: Analysis of heterarchical moderation regimes. Unpublished master's thesis, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

Like offline communities, online communities need structure and social norms to remain useful and viable for their members. The technology that has enabled these new types of social formations to emerge has also created new types of problems for these communities. Online communities can be vulnerable to several types of abuse, including malicious postings and spam, and present new problems of information overload. As online communities grow from dozens of individual participants to thousands, the technical workload of limiting abuse can become problematic. Heterarchical moderation (whereby many, most, or all community members are given a small amount of power and responsibility for maintaining social norms and useful discussion) has recently emerged as an option to help limit abuse and promote community goals.

This thesis examines three different online communities that employ heterarchical moderation regimes to help maintain community discussion norms. A large sample of conversations from each community is subjected to both quantitative and qualitative analyses to provide an overview of the implications heterarchical discussion moderation.

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