Thursday, May 5, 2011
Reaching the end of the semester, I have to mark an end to my research on the support groups. It was a great experience to immerse myself into their communities and look at how the users interact with each other. Looking at the features in the sites like support point system, hugs, chats with support friends, videos and discussion forums, I was amazed in how much the support groups can provide to the users to make them feel better and understand their illnesses. They provide lots of resources for users to work in a self-help manner. By purely sitting in front of the computer, they can already make friends, get support from them and learn about different issues that different people suffering from. I feel like it works even better than having the patients stepping out home and don’t know where to seek for help. These sites create a hopeful atmosphere for people to grief and gain insights. Users can easily find similar others to talk about their issues comfortably and feel heard. It will be rewarding for them to receive comments when they are having a bad day as these can help cheering them up.
When comparing supportgroups.com and DailyStrength, I found that they have a really different atmosphere and people engage differently in each of the sites. In DailyStrength, there are so many options offered for users to get help from and it is mainly user-oriented. It provides more constructive help to people since the users are discussing the issues seriously and truthfully. In DailyStrength, they have many interesting features like hugs and gifts to exchange with support friends. In terms of helpfulness and effectiveness, however, it seems to be weaker than that of supportgroups.com. Users in DailyStrength are less responsive to discussion forums and less involved in providing supportive materials for the group. Although the design and focus of the sites are different, they both work in similar way in providing support through social networking.
Overall, I found that social networking and privacy are two of the main concepts that I found these sites are relevant to our course materials. I had a great time in learning about this new form of social bonding and it definitely make me to reach out and discover a lot more about the internet world.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Continuing with my previous blog post about discussion on the misuse on these support groups sites, I found that there are trolls in DailyStrength. I remember that one of you asked me a question about people who mess around with the site during my presentation. As I was looking around the site, I found a post by a CL in one of the groups’ discussion recently expressing their concerns on trolling. CLs in the site are referred to as Community Leaders who police a particular group and make sure users are playing nice. There is a new user who added lots of CLs on his friends list and managed to achieve an admin status in a group. He then invites people to talk to him through email instead of posting on the DailyStrength site and ban users who are reaching the admin status. This user took advantage of his status and played trust among the community. Apparently the whole group is affected by what this user did and it takes some effort for the other users to redevelop the groups. In the post, the CL mentioned about the trust issue and asked the other users to be alert about exchanging personal contact information to participate safely in the site.
Previously I didn’t expect this to happen as most of the users seem to be quite nice to each other and provide support to them when needed. I feel that it is a really crucial thing to manage the ethics of these online support groups. As people who participate in these groups are already fairly vulnerable to their issues, having these trolls around their discussion boards will add frustrations to them and they end up feeling less supportive and less comfortable to participate in these online communities. Playing around their trust seem to be very inappropriate and causing a lot of stress to users who depend on the site for supports and information. After all, it is interesting to know that online community users still have to be careful no matter where they participate in and maintain a good balance between bonding and safety.
In my final post of the Practicum Assignment, I’d like to talk a bit about some general thoughts I have on the websites I’ve been following and their potential futures.
All three of these sites (RealGM.com’s Knicks Message Forum, Facebook’s Knicks Fan Page, and TheKnicksBlog.com) have been a ton of fun to follow throughout the semester. When I started off, I was really only familiar with RealGM and TKB. And though, I was familiar with TKB, I was definitely not familiar with the comments section of the blog. So while I still consistently interact with users on RealGM, my main goals have been to try to concentrate on interacting and exploring on Facebook and TKB.
What I found with Facebook’s Knicks Fan Page is that it’s nearly impossible to become a member of the “community” due to the disorganization of the comments section and the lack of prominence of the discussion tab. Just a quick look at the discussion section, and one can see that out of the thirty discussion topics being displayed, only ten of them have more than one post in the topic. Not surprisingly (as it relates to my last post), the topic with the overwhelming majority of posts is titled “why the knicks suck at everything”. That activity is likely a result of an intense back and forth debate, plus various people being linked in to help defend the team. That’s the thing about this website: the number one time you’ll find a sense of community is when someone tries to attack the team. Everyone then has the same cause and sometimes even interacts with one another to show support. Outside of that, however, there isn’t much content.
What I found with TKB is that while it is certainly possible to become a member of the “community”, it is still a very difficult and lengthy process. This is because the comments section works very similar to Facebook’s. The only difference, which gives it a major leg up on Facebook in my opinon, is that you can respond to specific comments. This makes it easier to facilitate various discussions between community members within one comment section. But until you can create a subject to your posts, it will still remain somewhat disorganized and therefore won’t fully realize its potential as a virtual community.
I won’t get into RealGM, because I believe I’ve covered that enough here and made my case for why it is a near perfect embodiment of a virtual community.
As for the future of these sites, I believe that they are all fairly bright. In Facebook’s case, this is because Facebook is a very well-funded and well-run website that will continue to update its functions. I think it is only a matter of time until they begin to make it so that Fan Pages have fully functioning discussion boards that are promoted, as well as a better system of replying to specific comments in the future. That being said, it will always be plagued by the fact that there are simply too many users on Facebook and fans of the page for there to ever be an established community with known posters. In TKB’s case, I believe they just recently started using the Disqus comment service, which means that they are constantly looking to improve their site’s functionality. Furthermore, another similarly-related blog that I follow that uses a similar format recently switched its comments section to a format that allowed users to title their comments. This is a crucial aspect of TKB taking that next step to become a fully realized virtual community in my opinion, as it will create much more organization in the comments section. I don’t however, foresee a discussion board coming about from here, being that it would be too much for the website to host on its own. As for RealGM, it will continue to make periodic updates to various specific features. Some things that could use work in the future are updates to the search engine for old posts, ability to private message posters, and better archiving methods in general.
All in all, however, all three are doing very well for themselves in terms of activity and functionality. While only one is a fully realized virtual community in my opinion, the other two have great potential to become the same in the future. It’s been a joy following them all semester, and I believe I will continue to follow them all, probably until their extinction or mine (whichever comes first). Thanks to everyone for coming along for this ride with me. I’ve surely enjoyed keeping up with all of you. Have a great summer, and for one last time...Go Knicks!
First I attempted a badge for a game that is similar to Red Remover where you level up but if you die you don’t have to start over. They don’t call it the “frustration badge” for nothing. I got through the first few levels but I finally got stuck on one and I got way too frustrated I couldn’t complete the task. Next, I found a game where you launch a turtle out of a cannon called “Toss the Turtle.” The goal is to basically make the turtle goes as far as he can before he dies and earn “money” in the process. After a few tries at this it was just way too gory for my taste so it was on to the next badge.
Finally I cam across my new obsession called “Music Catch 2.” At first I didn’t know what to expect from the game but I thought I would give it a chance because I so badly wanted to earn another badge. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who wants to relax because the classical music that plays and the notes come out to the tune is so peaceful. Having high anxiety with all my final papers and exams this game hit the spot. There is no clicking of the mouse but rather just running the mouse of certain color notes to earn points to as I said before the most relaxing music I’ve heard in awhile. I was so into the came and beyond calm that I lost track of time and was late to my next class. In the process of playing the game I earned another badge called “Flying Purple Power Eater.” I wasn’t even aware that I won the badge until I signed on again now and saw that my total points increased. Looking into the game some more it appears that there are even more badges that one can win while playing so I know what I will be doing now in between studying.
While I never finished a quest or got past level 2 I feel like I thoroughly immersed myself in this website. Even though I had reservations at first as to if I would find a game that I am interested in I now have at least five solid games that are all of a different nature that I go to when I am bored. I would highly recommend this site to anyone who wants to casually play games because there is something for everyone. For me I had more fun just finding more games to get addicted to rather than to earn points but if you want a competitive atmosphere you can also find that here. In the end Kongregate is what you make of it and for me it was all about fun games to pass the time!