Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Practicum #7- Michael

Note: I realized in my last blog I referred to the virtual communities I’ve been tracking as social networks. I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to do that, but nonetheless I apologize for the error and have edited accordingly.

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 (’s Knicks Message Forum, Facebook’s Knicks Fan Page, and 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!

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