For the free choice blog post, I have opted to do the reflective piece. This decision was in part influenced by the fact that my previous blog posts do not appear to have been very strong, and I am hoping that taking a good hard look at my project and the online community that I'm doing will help improve this project for me.
My project is to study the imdb.com Once Upon A Time discussion board and the different emotions that run rampant there; what affects people the most and how they behave. For this reflective piece I'm taking a look at three different aspects of the community: emotion, identity, and patterns.
Emotion: The most common way for members of the IMDB community to display their emotions is in how they type. To clarify, someone who is emotional will likely use caps lock or bold/ italic print or lots of exclamation points, or have little flashing emoticons around their text (or some combination thereof). I have come to refer to this as emotion-type, for lack of a better name. Emotion is also displayed through repetition. That is to say, if someone has a strong opinion about a discussion board post, they continue to add comments to it, particularly if another member posts something that contradicts or ridicules what the former member has said. I have noticed that in that case, as said member continues to make posts defending themselves, they grow more and more likely to start typing in all caps, or with angry emoticon faces or etc. By this point though, its clear that their use of emotion-type is due to frustration, rather than simple excitement, which is the main reason for emotion-type. Constantly commenting on a post is rare however; most members make a comment or two and leave it at that, even those members with the excited caps lock and smiley face posts. People who continually make comments are usually being negative, and are not well-received by other members. The typical response is to ignore that negative person, or troll, if you will. Sometimes a member will make a derisive response to the troll's post, but then go back to ignoring them, leaving the troll to have an emotion-type tantrum on their own.
Identity: Discussion board posts, although I have not found a rule saying they are required to be, are all strictly anonymous on the Once Upon A Time board; people's user names generally come from the first part of their email address. If you click on a member's user name you can see their profile, but that does not provide you with personal information, even gender. You will only see a profile picture, how long they've been a member, and if they've recently rated or commented on anything. However, discussion board members can still have well-developed online identities. One example of a form of identity is the quote that most members include at the bottom of every post they make. It can be almost anything; a name: Mrs. Rumplstilskin, Harlot of the Leather Pants; a quote: "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout"; or something you support: Long live Captain Swan! By observing these bottom of the page quotes, it is easier to get a feel for this anonymous member that you are observing. People whose names or catch phrases directly relate to the show have proven more likely to be frequent posters, complete with emotion-type. Also, members' identities form through what they post, and how they post it. When the die-hard fans make their posts, very rarely are they short or emotion-type free. Some people are clearly just looking for attention, in the way that they pick fights or keep asking questions about a subject that everyone else has moved past. Those whose posts are brief and nondescript are usually just viewers of the show who have only come on the board to get a question about the show itself answered. And of course, as mentioned above, there are the trolls. In my observations of the members, I have surmised that the average member falls somewhere in the middle: not quite a die-hard fan and not a troll, just someone who has come onto the discussion board because they felt like expressing their enjoyment or complaints about the show.
Patterns: One of the things that I decided I would keep a lookout for when I started this project was patterns occurring throughout the discussion board. In my studies so far, patterns that I've observed have been pretty general so far. With each week comes a new episode, and with that, a string of similar posts that gush about the show or complain about a character, etc. After 2-3 days it usually dies down. And about 2-3 days after that, the number of posts picks up again, with people getting excited for the new episode. Without fail, the day the gets the most posts is Monday, which is the day after the show airs. Another thing that I've been trying to observe is patterns that come from specific members themselves. I mentioned earlier the trolls who routinely post due to aggravation or because they're trying to get a rise out of people, but troll excluded, I have yet to observe a pattern in the behavior or any specific members. I am curious about that though, so I will continue to observe it.
I hope that this blog post is an improvement, and will help give anyone who reads it a better idea of how my project is going. Writing it was certainly helpful, especially in terms of making connections. Please comment with any questions or advice.