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Hardcover | $41.00 Short | £34.95 | 328 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 62 b&w illus. | March 2012 | ISBN: 9780262016575
Paperback | $31.00 Short | £25.95 | 328 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 62 b&w illus. | February 2016 | ISBN: 9780262528917
eBook | $22.00 Short | March 2012 | ISBN: 9780262299190
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Building Successful Online Communities

Evidence-Based Social Design


Online communities are among the most popular destinations on the Internet, but not all online communities are equally successful. For every flourishing Facebook, there is a moribund Friendster—not to mention the scores of smaller social networking sites that never attracted enough members to be viable. This book offers lessons from theory and empirical research in the social sciences that can help improve the design of online communities.

The authors draw on the literature in psychology, economics, and other social sciences, as well as their own research, translating general findings into useful design claims. They explain, for example, how to encourage information contributions based on the theory of public goods, and how to build members’ commitment based on theories of interpersonal bond formation. For each design claim, they offer supporting evidence from theory, experiments, or observational studies.

About the Authors

Robert E. Kraut is Herbert A. Simon Professor of Human–Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University.

Paul Resnick is the Michael D Cohen Collegiate Professor of Information at the University of Michigan.

Table of Contents

  • Building Successful Online Communities
  • Building Successful Online Communities
  • Evidence-Based Social Design
  • Robert E. Kraut and Paul Resnick
  • with Sara Kiesler, Moira Burke, Yan Chen, Niki Kittur, Joseph Konstan, Yuqing Ren, and John Riedl
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • ©
  • 2011
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email
  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Kraut, Robert E.
  • Building successful online communities : Evidence-Based Social Design / Robert E. Kraut and Paul Resnick with Sara Kiesler ... [et al.].
  •  p. cm.
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01657-5 (hardcover : alk. paper)
  • 1. Online social networks—Planning. 2. Computer networks—Social aspects—Planning.  3. Internet—Social aspects. 4. Social psychology. I. Resnick, Paul. II. Kiesler, Sara, 1940–  III. Title.
  • HM742.K73 2012
  • 302.30285—dc22
  • 2011010842
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.”
  • “If you want truly to understand something, try to change it.”
  • —Kurt Lewin
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  •  ix
  • 1 Introduction
  •  1
  • Paul Resnick and Robert E. Kraut
  • 2 Encouraging Contribution to Online Communities
  •  21
  • Robert E. Kraut and Paul Resnick
  • 3 Encouraging Commitment in Online Communities
  •  77
  • Yuqing Ren, Robert E. Kraut, Sara Kiesler, and Paul Resnick
  • 4 Regulating Behavior in Online Communities
  •  125
  • Sara Kiesler, Robert E. Kraut, Paul Resnick, and Aniket Kittur
  • 5 The Challenges of Dealing with Newcomers
  •  179
  • Robert E. Kraut, Moira Burke, John Riedl, and Paul Resnick
  • 6 Starting New Online Communities
  •  231
  • Paul Resnick, Joseph Konstan, Yan Chen, and Robert E. Kraut
  • Contributors
  •  281
  • Index
  •  283


Building Successful Online Communities is the book we’ve all been waiting for. Students, faculty, and professional developers will learn how online communities function. There’s something for everyone—empirical findings framed in theory, and gems of advice. The authors are remarkable researchers, teachers, and leaders in the field.”
Jennifer J. Preece, Professor and Dean, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland’s iSchool
“While many books have described the patterns and building blocks of successful social spaces from an architectural perspective, Building Successful Online Communities moves beyond the tangible and derives critical features and design claims for thriving communities in the more malleable online world. The authors provide real world examples and observations to help practitioners design an online community. In the process, they create a vocabulary and environment that engages the reader to want to design an online social space.”
Kyratso George Karahalios, Associate Professor, University of Illinois
“This work provides the science behind the observations we made in Building Web Reputation Systems. Its format of design claims, thoroughly supported by research and examples, is a must-have resource for anyone thinking of deploying successful online communities.”
F. Randall Farmer, online communities pioneer, and coauthor of Building Web Reputation Systems