As in any social organization, people need to invest effort in the health of their online groups. Listservs and other such groups need people to maintain the technology infrastructure, carry out social management tasks, and recruit new members. Members must read and contribute to discussion. Here, we ask why people do this. In many online groups, preexisting social ties and material benefits for contributions are weak or nonexistent. In this chapter, we consider how the formal leadership role, personal and community benefits, and community characteristics influence the effort members put into helping their online groups. Results from a survey of Internet listserv owners and other members suggest that though owners, who have a formal leadership role, do more of the effortful community building work than do regular members, other members also take on some of the work. Moreover, members who value different benefits are likely to contribute to the development on an online community in different ways. 2 Community Building Every day millions of people log on to the Internet to talk with other people. From its earliest days, the Internet has been used for social interaction as much as for intellectual or economic purposes (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991; Sproull and Faraj, 1995). Social electronic interaction can have serious or frivolous goals. We use the phrase, “social interaction, ” to mean interacting with other people rather than interacting with impersonal databases or programs. Much social interaction on the Internet occurs among those with preexisting social ties. Far-flung friends and family members use the Internet to sustain relationships with one another (Kraut et al., 2000; Wellman et al., 2001). In these cases, family and friendship ties are the foundation for continued online interaction. Employees use corporate networks to organize work, ask for help
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