On Facilitating (Threaded Discussion) Participation in On-line Communities

If one were to take the Internet as one on-line community, then the term Facilitating is a contradiction in terms – who is the Facilitator of the internet? John’s first couple of lines said it all “Individuals with common interests, anywhere in the world, being able to communicate and collaborate with others to develop their interest or move their thinking forward. Individuals getting together somehow to learn; to learn not in a formal classroom and not in isolation, but to learn as part of a community, a community that is enabled and supported by Internet technologies and tools.”

But then again, when one gets to the level of a particular group, set up for a particular purpose then there will be need for Facilitation (using the term to mean “making easy.”) And in these cases, it is not really a matter of whether one will ‘facilitate actively/aggressively’ or not. To be asking such question is to be locked into the 2nd Dimension of Facilitating, i.e., of determining how to best manipulate the two variables of content and process of the group.

When a Facilitator successfully moves up to the 3rd Dimension of Facilitating, then the set-up takes care of ‘automatically’ making it easy for people to interact and manage the process and the content themselves.

Threaded discussions have become largely the backbone of groups that are focused on a specific purpose for existence. Lately however, as a stand-alone platform it has been overtaken by others such as Ning, where there is not only Threaded Discussion but also incorporates Blogs, Sharing of Photos/Videos plus other applications.

If we are to also believe the NLP framework, then Threaded Discussion, whether by itself or as part of a platform like Ning are bias in favour of Visual Learners/People. Perhaps, incorporating more of technologies such as VoiceThread will bring back the Auditory, if not also Kinesthetic learners/people.

As to how people can be more encourage (or motivated) to participate, I now realize that what might be helpful is for the Facilitator to periodically summarize what has happened so far, with specific references to what was contributed by who. Charles Leadbeater, in ‘We Think’ posits that compared to people being motivated by wanting to get rich in the mass production model of the 20th century, the mass innovation model of the 21st century is driven by people wanting to: “socialize and get recognized.” Indeed, personally, when people refer to my posts I tend to participate more. Conversely, when I made a post and it is left hanging there as if nobody saw it, my tendency is to stop participating.

As a Facilitator, what will make it easier for me to make summaries is if I can simply highlight significant parts of every Threaded Discussion e-mail that comes into my inbox which will somehow automatically be pulled together into some meaningful whole.

On the other hand, there might really be no need to summarize because what might really be happening is that people do get affected by any and every post – it is just that they react to them via their own Blog entries.

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