Analysing communities for the key participants
There are all sorts of reasons why one wants to analyse an online community – finding out who are the busiest and most informative posters is one possible requirement. I just spotted an old article from New Scientist (well, July 2007) that describes how researchers at Cornell University, New York, and Microsoft Research in Washington State have developed a way to analyse postings and the relationships between them to find out who are the movers and shakers in a community. Of course as they studied Usenet groups, it isn’t exactly cutting edge research, but it reminds me that there are many methods for analysing interactions, and i really should bring more of them together in a blog post some day.
Research as far back as usenet analyses let alone more recently has shown that the activities of certain influential people are key to the success or otherwise of a community. Anyone who has lost a community due to a strong individual or group stifling or driving off others, knows it can work both ways. Any community manager worth their salt will have developed ways to deal with such people.