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I had an interesting discussion going on in my forum. Since Daniweb does not allow URLs, I will paste my message which I wrote on my forum and which I consider as my theory of online forums.

My theory on online communities is pretty much based on real human social life.

You see, in life, we often mingle with the people who make us feel most comfortable. This is often dictated by factors like similar social standing, similar education, similar kinds of belief systems and so on. Quite apart from similar interests. We find a society that we can move around in on more or less an equal standing. Most human beings are uncomfortable both in the presence of their social superiors and social inferiors, no matter how much they claim that they believe in equality. Equality applies to a lot of things, but as human beings, we know inherently that no two people are alike. It is quite possible that though two people might outwardly be treating one another as equal, there might exist a friction between them which does not quite bring them closer. Such people might remain acquaintances for years, but they may never become friends.

What binds people as a community is not just shared interests, though shared interests are a motivating factor in building a community. There is something more to a community feeling that is beyond just pure knowledge.

It is my belief that online forums are similar. There is almost a mysterious process that brings people together to form a community online, even though outwardly a common subject or common interests bind them together. More often than not, it is factors such as the feeling of being on an a more or less equal social or intellectual level as the other members that makes a community grow. Similar levels of intelligence attract each other and this is seen in a wide variety of forums online.

I have seen a wide variety of forums and I believe that it is not just shared knowledge that binds people but shared levels of knowledge as well.

You can see it in the way many patterns exist in these forums. In many forums, you can see that though most regular members are obsessed with a certain subject (say Linux on a Linux forum) yet two Linux forums are never the same. You can discern the quality of shared intelligence by scanning through several threads in both forums. When you see two forums that are dedicated to the same subject of interest, which forum attracts you better will most likely be determined by your own level of knowledge and what kind of mentality pervades the forum.

The level of common intelligence is often a determining factor in not only how many people contribute to the forum but also what kind of people contribute.

In a way, it is so true to quote that "birds of a feather, flock together." I think online communities are also built along similar lines.

Let me summarize my theory:

Any particular online community attracts people of not only similar interest but also people of similar levels of intelligence. In other words, the lowest common level of shared knowledge and intelligence of an online community determines not only how many people contribute to the community but also what kind of people contribute to it.

What are your thoughts on this? :)

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Last Post by harishankar
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Any particular online community attracts people of not only similar interest but also people of similar levels of intelligence. In other words, the lowest common level of shared knowledge and intelligence of an online community determines not only how many people contribute to the community but also what kind of people contribute to it.
What are your thoughts on this? :)

I whole heartedly disagree with your hypothesis.

I believe level of intelligence is a limited reason a community sticks together. Of course, those who cannot operate a computer because of mental capacity, or lack there of, will clearly be excluded.

You are suggesting that in a Harley Davidson community most people are at the same intelligence level; how about a Lexus fan club; what about a cooking forum; how about a dating site?

One of the many reasons a community gets together is shared or common (amongst members) experiences. Those experiences do not require intelligence.

I am an ex-member of Mensa (too boring!). Does that suggest that all other members here are Mensa material? (No disrespect to others :cheesy: )

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I think you misunderstand my theory to mean something very literal. Not so. I am talking about high probabilities and not certainties.

It is not a hard-and-fast rule that each and every member has to be of exactly same intelligence levels. It is a general observation and a theory of numbers and a strong probability.

Individual members cannot be judged. Overall the majority of active members of any particular community will share similar intelligence levels.

I have researched a lot into this. Individuals, certainly are different from one another. But I am talking about the overall picture. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about and I have observed this pattern in a lot of forums.

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I think you misunderstand my theory to mean something very literal. Not so. I am talking about high probabilities and not certainties.

It is not a hard-and-fast rule that each and every member has to be of exactly same intelligence levels. It is a general observation and a theory of numbers and a strong probability.

Individual members cannot be judged. Overall the majority of active members of any particular community will share similar intelligence levels.

I have researched a lot into this. Individuals, certainly are different from one another. But I am talking about the overall picture. Believe me, I know what I'm talking about and I have observed this pattern in a lot of forums.

I continue to disagree with your hypothesis.

communities that require certain high level knowledge, such as surgeons discussion forum, or senior executive forum, will require a high level of knowledge of the subject matter. to get to that point most members would had to go through extensive education. But I do not equate knowledge with intelligence.

Even if statistically proven that a forum have members with the similar intelligence level, this does not imply that membership is directly related to intelligence level! More likely intelligence level directly relates to the requirements of understanding the subject matter of the community.

But I would be extreemly cautious to suggest that we should infer a same level of intelligence is a good thing in a community. From my perspective, I would consider that to be a devastating problem.

I think one of a good community leader's responsibility is to to increase diversity in a community, within the topic of the community of course.

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I continue to disagree with your hypothesis.

communities that require certain high level knowledge, such as surgeons discussion forum, or senior executive forum, will require a high level of knowledge of the subject matter. to get to that point most members would had to go through extensive education. But I do not equate knowledge with intelligence.

Even if statistically proven that a forum have members with the similar intelligence level, this does not imply that membership is directly related to intelligence level! More likely intelligence level directly relates to the requirements of understanding the subject matter of the community.

But I would be extreemly cautious to suggest that we should infer a same level of intelligence is a good thing in a community. From my perspective, I would consider that to be a devastating problem.

I think one of a good community leader's responsibility is to to increase diversity in a community, within the topic of the community of course.

I never said it is a good or a bad thing. Read again.

You continue to misunderstand my hypothesis (which I have researched quite a lot, thank you) which is a broad theory of probabilities not certainties.

I certainly did not say that *every* member of a community will have equal intelligence levels. It is quite foolish to think so.

My theory can be written from the user's perspective as:

At any given time, I, as an individual, am more likely to join a community which offers a level of collective intelligence that is closer to my own than choosing a community that has a far higher or lower level of collective intelligence than my own.

As I have been studying this phenomenon in depth, I can certainly confirm that this seems to be the case more often than not.

Anyway, you seem to be quite close minded about this, so I cannot convince you, but believe me. It's not just a mere fancy on my part. I have researched online forums a lot by going through several of them thread by thread and inferring how members interact with one another.

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I never said it is a good or a bad thing. Read again.

Nor have I said you did.

You continue to misunderstand my hypothesis (which I have researched quite a lot, thank you) which is a broad theory of probabilities not certainties.

I would put collective intelligence under sociology. I don't suggesting you have not researched this topic.

I certainly did not say that *every* member of a community will have equal intelligence levels. It is quite foolish to think so.

Not necessarily, but in case of forums, to obtain a "collective intelligence" level, where you can compare a community to an other, you must use some sort of a basis. And to get a "single" metric, one must average the collective intelligence across the community. We agree that looking at the forest, from a distance they are all green from the top. Individual trees will be different.

At any given time, I, as an individual, am more likely to join a community which offers a level of collective intelligence that is closer to my own than choosing a community that has a far higher or lower level of collective intelligence than my own.

how do you quantify, and compare a community's collective intelligence to an individual's intelligence? Is there a way to compare such thing at all?

As I have been studying this phenomenon in depth, I can certainly confirm that this seems to be the case more often than not.

I don't doubt your research data. I just question the deductions.

Anyway, you seem to be quite close minded about this, so I cannot convince you, but believe me. It's not just a mere fancy on my part. I have researched online forums a lot by going through several of them thread by thread and inferring how members interact with one another.

This is a bit more personal then I would have expected from a researcher, when s/he finds resistance to their hypothesis. I don't recall questioning your data collection methods or validation.

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I think online communities lean are more in line with Groupthink then Collective Intelligence. The luck with online communities is the loss of fringe members, and often the death of consenus prior to the "risky shift" as Janis described it. Even more importantly, communities usually have a single individual who will make final decisions, and can circumvent the consensus results.

One of the reasons I cannot label communities having collective intelligence, because most communities lack an external common goal (unless their purpose is such). Most communities cater to the individual member needs. For example, your Linux communities might have a very high collective intelligence if used to develop a new Linux standard, and as such would HAVE a collective intelligence.

Some theorists measure it as "cooperation quotient". this measure presumes all suggestions or comments are taken at equal value. I have never seen a community as such.

I will not discard the fact that potential members do look at intelligence of the leaders (which is an indication of groupthink) in their posts. They almost always join groups where they will gain additional intelligence.

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Thanks Libertate!

Some very interesting thoughts. Mind you, my research is not totally objective by any means (because as you say it is hard to quantify such things).

But overall I have noticed that the "tolerance" levels of online communities to people who think at different levels of intelligence vary from one community to another.

It is very difficult to judge in a technical community like Daniweb because the subject is much wider and you will have everybody from the lowest novice to the highest expert populating these forums.

My theory I suppose is more accurate in the case of non-technical, topical community forums where the interaction is much more on a subjective level than say, a technical, non-personal interchange of information.

I'm still learning and trying to analyze the behaviour of online forums and will be improving my theory as I go along.

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