Interpersonal Media (Winter 2019)

From CommunityData
Interpersonal Media: Online Communities
COM482A - Department of Communication
Instructor: Nate TeBlunthuis
Course Websites:
Course Catalog Description:
Examines the relationships and groups formed through digital social media. Focuses on how people manage interactions and identities, develop interpersonal relationships, engage in collaboration and conflict, and develop communities in online environments. Involves both the study and use of network-based computer-mediated systems.

Overview and Learning Objectives[edit]

Digital social media has radically and rapidly transformed the nature of how we communicate and interact. When this class was first offered at UW many years ago, instructors might hope to introduce students to online communities and computer-mediated communication for the first time. Today, online communities are central parts of each of our daily lives and have an important impact on our cultural, social, and economic experience of the world and each other.

This course combines an in-depth look into several decades of research into online communities and computer-mediated communication with exercises that aim to give students experience applying this research to the evaluation of, and hands-on participation in, online communities.

As students of communication in the twenty-first century, I expect that many of you taking this course will, after graduation, work in jobs that involve communicating, working with, or managing online communities. This class seeks to inform these experiences by helping you learn how to use and contribute to online communities more effectively and how to construct, improve, or design your own online communities.

I will consider the course a complete success if every student is able to do all of these things at the end of the quarter:

  • Recall, compare, and give examples of key theories that seek to explain why some online communities grow and attract participants while others do not.
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically apply the theories from the course to the evaluation of a real online community of your choice.
  • Engage with the course material and compellingly present your own ideas and reflections in writing and orally.
  • Write and speak fluently about the rules and norms of the Wikipedia community and demonstrate this fluency through successful contributions to Wikipedia.

Note About This Syllabus[edit]

You should expect this syllabus to be a dynamic document. Although the core expectations for this class are fixed, the details of readings and assignments will shift based on how the class goes, guest speakers that I arrange, my own readings in this area, etc. As a result, there are three important things to keep in mind:

  • Although details on this syllabus will change, I will try to ensure that I never change readings more than six days before they are due. This means that if I don't fill in a "To Be Determined" one week before it's due, it is dropped. This also means that if you plan to read more than one week ahead, contact me first.
  • Closely monitor your email or the announcements section on the course website on Canvas. Because this a wiki, you will be able to track every change by clicking the history button on this page when I make changes. I will summarize these changes in an announcement on Canvas once week that will be emailed to everybody in the class.
  • I will ask the class for voluntary anonymous feedback frequently — especially toward the beginning of the quarter. Please let me know what is working and what can be improved.


This course is organized into two components that roughly span the first and second halves of the quarter.

Component 1: The Theory and Practice of Online Communities[edit]

In the first half of the class (Weeks 1-6), the readings will look to theories of interpersonal media by focusing on how and why online communities succeed and fail and how and why they grow or shrink. In each of the weeks in this period, we will read from the book we'll be using as a textbook: Kraut et al.'s Building Successful Online Communities (BSOC). Here is the citation:

Kraut, Robert E., and Paul Resnick. Building Successful Online Communities: Evidence-Based Social Design. The MIT Press, 2012.

MIT Press sells the book for $31 as a paperback. Amazon has a limited number of hardcover copies available, starting at $36 as of December 3rd 2018. They also have paperbacks starting at $24 and the Kindle version is $17. Wikipedia has this long list of possible book sources.

More or less following the organizations of BSOC, we will focus on these key drivers of participation in online communities:

  • Motivation: How do online communities incentivize participation?
  • Commitment: How do online communities build relationships to keep individuals involved?
  • Rules and Governance: How do online communities create norms, rules, and governance?
  • Newcomers: How do online communities attract — or fail to attract — newcomers?
  • Creation: How should one start a new online community?

In order to ground the theoretical readings during the first half of the quarter, there will be weekly assignments that provide a structured opportunity to learn about and become involved in Wikipedia.

You should keep in mind that the bulk of the reading in the course — and most of the most difficult material — will be front-loaded in this first five week period. The goal is to make sure that you have all the tools you'll need by Week 7 so that you can use this material to focus on your projects.

Component 2: Examples and Challenges[edit]

In the second half of the course, we will focus less on theory and more on examples of online communities and on applications, examples, and challenges, associated with interpersonal media and computer-mediated communication.

Our reading during the second part of the quarter will be focused on cases studies. We will also focus on in-class discussions and exercises that prompt critical consideration of how online communities take place in different domains as well as the challenges associated with using online communities. Our goal here is to build up the ability to critically understand these communities in terms of the theory we covered earlier.

In general, readings during this second component will be on the lighter side and there will be no weekly assignments other than reading. The readings are lighter during this component because I'm expecting you to be spending time outside of class working on your projects.


The assignments in this class are designed to give you an opportunity to try your hand at using the conceptual material taught in the class. There will be no exams or quizzes.

Unless otherwise noted, all assignments are due at the end of the day (i.e., 11:59pm on the day they are due).

Participation and Cases[edit]

The course relies heavily on participation, discussion, and the case study method. A standard "case" usually involves reading an example — perhaps up to 20-35 pages of background about an organization or group facing an ambiguous or difficult challenge. I will mark certain readings as "[Cases]" in the syllabus and I will expect you to read these particularly closely.

It is important to realize that we will not summarize case material in class and I will not cover it in lecture. I expect you all to have read it and we will jump in and start discussing it.

Cases ask students to put themselves in the positions of individuals facing difficult situations to tease out the tensions and forces at play in the case and to construct — through group discussion — the broader lessons and takeaways. Cases are a wonderful way to connect the sometimes abstract concepts taught in many academic courses to real examples of the type of ambiguous situations that you will likely encounter in your career. Generally speaking, there are not right and wrong answers in cases.

Typically, professors teaching cases cold call on students in rooms of hundred students. Since our class will be smaller than a typical case-based class, cold calling might not be necessary very often although I will sometimes use it and you should always be ready to answer every question. That said, I do expect every student to be in class every week and to be prepared to discuss the cases and the readings. If you have not spoken all class, I may cold call on you.

The "Participation Rubric" section of the detailed page on assessment gives the rubric I will use in evaluating participation.


You will hand in two papers in this class. In both cases, I will ask you to connect something you have experience or knowledge about to course material.

The "Writing Rubric" section of the detailed page on assessment gives the rubric I will use to evaluate these papers.

Project 1: Contributing to Wikipedia[edit]

In the first project, you will be asked to learn about Wikipedia, its norms, rules, and processes. With this knowledge, you will all be asked to research and write a new article in Wikipedia on a topic of your choice and to publish this article in the encyclopedia. As part of this process, you will interact with other community members who are not part of the class. Afterward, you will be asked to write a short essay piece to reflect on this process and to connect your experience to the conceptual course material where appropriate.

We will use material from WikiEdu, a program by the Wikimedia Foundation, to help you learn how to participate in Wikipedia. Every Friday during this first component of this class, there will be a assignment due that corresponds to one step in the process of getting involved in Wikipedia. Most weeks this will involve completing learning modules and assignments in WikiEdu. These Wikipedia participation assignments won't be synced up with the theory, but they will provide with you lots of opportunity to reflect on the theoretical work we are covering.

Although only Task #6 includes anything that you will need to turn in to me, you will need to participate in Wikipedia each week. I will be able to see this activity and I will help you. We will take time each week to discuss our progress and experience with Wikipedia and to connect it explicitly to the theoretical concepts we are covering.

Wikipedia Task #1[edit]

Create an account and start orientation
Friday January 11
Make contributions in Wikipedia. Do the "evaluate Wikipedia" assignment in WikiEdu.
  • Complete the WikiEdu training and assignments for week 1.
  • During this training, you will create an account, make edits in a sandbox, and learn the basic rules of the Wikipedia community.
  • Once you have created an account, you must enroll in the course so that your account on Wikipedia is associated with the course and so that I can track your activity on Wikipedia. Click this link to enroll in the course. If you are asked for a passcode, you can enter zygfdiua.

Wikipedia Task #2[edit]

Complete Wikipedia orientation and choose article topic
Due Date
Friday January 18
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Complete the online training topics for week 2.
  • To practice editing and communicating on Wikipedia, introduce yourself to me and at least one classmate on Wikipedia. My username is Groceryheist. You can find a list of all of your classmates on the WikiEdu class page.
  • Decide on an article you would like to create or a stub article you would like to significantly expand and improve (see below).
  • Tell me what article you want by leaving a message on my user talk page.

If there is a topic you know are interested in writing about that doesn't have an article, go ahead and suggest it. If you are having trouble coming up with a specific topic on your own, there are a few resources you might find helpful:

  • Requested Articles — This is a list of articles that others have asked to be created. It is sorted into categories and sub-categories. When you're looking at the list, remember that it's possible that somebody else has "gotten" to them first and forgot to remove it. Remember that a red link indicates that there is no page with that name.
  • List of Stubs — This is an extremely long list of articles that are currently stubs and which is also sorted into categories and then subcategories. It might be a little bit out of date so be sure to click through before you decide on an article.

Wikipedia Task #3[edit]

Compile research and write draft
Due Date
Friday January 25
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Complete online trainings for week 3
  • Compile a bibliography of relevant research.
  • Write a 2-3 paragraph summary version of your article—with citations—in your Wikipedia sandbox.
  • Add the URL For your sandboxed article to yourself on the course WikiEdu page by clicking the assign article button next to your name and assigning the URL for your sandbox to yourself.

Wikipedia Task #4[edit]

Peer review other students' articles
Due Date
Friday February 1
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Select two classmates’ articles that you will peer review and copy-edit.

To sign up, you can mark this in the the dashboard by using the Assign a review' button. Try to pick articles that other students are not yet reviewing.

  • Peer review two of your classmates’ articles. Leave suggestions on the article talk pages for how to improve them.
  • Improve and copy-edit the two reviewed articles to help fix issues, improve sourcing, create a more neutral or encyclopedic tone, etc.

Wikipedia Task #5[edit]

Make article "live."
Due Date
Monday February 11
Make contributions in Wikipedia
  • Begin polishing your article.
  • Move sandbox articles into the "(Article)" name space by using the "Move" tab, by setting the namespace to "(Article)" and by setting the page title to be whatever you want the article to be named.
  • Once you have moved the article, visit the list of students in the WikiEdu dashboard and (a) assign the new URL to yourself and (b) remove the old one by clicking the "+" button to open the menu and using the "-" button next to the old "sandbox" copy of your article. You need to press "Save" at the top of the page once you are done.

Wikipedia Task #6[edit]

Finalize article and turn in report
Due Date
Monday February 18
Finish article in Wikipedia and turn in link to article in Canvas. Turn in report as subpage of your Wikipedia userpage and turn in link in Canvas.
Post your report as a subpage of your userpage. For example, I would create mine with as the URL. Of course, you should replace "Groceryheist" with your Wikipedia username. You can also just go to your userpage by clicking on your username on Wikipedia and then adding "/Report" at the end of the the URL.
When you go that page, it will say Wikipedia does not have a user page with this exact name.
You can create the new page by just clicking the "Create" tab on that page. When you're done, you can paste the URL into Canvas.
Maximum length for report
1000 words (~4 pages double spaced)

Your Wikipedia article will be evaluated based on your demonstrated understanding of Wikipedia rules and policies. Is it a good article by Wikipedia's standards?

In addition to finishing up your Wikipedia article, everybody should turn in a report reflecting on your experience contributing to Wikipedia in light of your experience and the course material and, most importantly, offering advice to the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikipedia Community on how to improve their community. I want you all to treat this as a dress rehearsal for your final projects.

Your report will be evaluated, first and foremost, on the degree to which it provides useful, informed, and actionable advice to the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation. It will also be evaluated on the degree to which you engage with the course material. See the writing rubric for details on my expectations in terms of the content of the papers. A successful essay will do the following things:

  1. Provide detailed, concrete, and actionable advice to the Wikipedia community and the Wikimedia Foundation. What should Wikipedia think about doing? What should they think about changing?
  2. Comment directly on your experience in Wikipedia. What did you do and what did you learn?
  3. Connect your experience in Wikipedia explicitly to the concepts in the course material we have covered. Justify your recommendations in terms of the theories and principles we've covered. Why should your recommendations be taken more seriously than just random advice from one new user?
  4. If possible, reflect on what parts of the theories or concepts we covered applied or didn't. You don't have to take everything taught in the course for granted. What would you change or add based on your experience? What is unique or different about Wikipedia?

I will give everybody in the course feedback on their assignment. The basic structure is shorter, but extremely similar, to what you will be doing in the final project. As a result, you can treat this as a "mid-term" and make adjustments based on feedback.

Project 2: Critical Analysis of an Online Community[edit]

For the final assignment, I want you to take what you've learned in the class and apply it to a community you have observed or participated in. This project will involve two written assignments and a presentation.

Community Identification[edit]

Maximum Length
300 words (~1 page double spaced)
Turn in through Canvas
Due Date
Friday February 22

In this assignment, you should identify a community you are interested in — and that you hope to analyze critically in your final project. In this assignment, I am asking you to write 1-2 paragraphs explaining what community you want to study, why you care about it, and why you think it would be a rich site for reflection. If relevant or possible, it might be useful to also provide a link.

I am hoping that each of you will pick a community that you are intellectually committed to and invested in your personal or work life. You should also keep in mind that you will be presenting this publicly to the class.

You will be successful in this assignment if you identify a community and clearly explain why you think it would be a useful community to study using the concepts we have covered in the class.

I will give you feedback on these write-ups and will let you each know if I think you have identified a project that might be too ambitious, too trivial, too broad, too narrow, etc.

Final Projects: Critical Analysis of Online Community[edit]

Presentation Date
March 12 and 14
Paper Due Date
March 21
Maximum paper length
1500 words (~7 pages)
Turn in through Canvas

For your final project, I expect students to build on the community identification assignment to describe what they have done and what they have found. I'll expect every student to give both:

  • A short presentation to the class (5-6 minutes)
  • A final report that is not more than 1,500 words (~6-7 pages double spaced)

Each project should include: (a) the description of the community you have identified (you are welcome to borrow from your Community Identification assignment), (b) a description of how you would use the course concepts to change and improve the community.

You will be evaluated on the degree to which you have demonstrated that you understand and have engaged with the course material and not on specifics of your community. I want you to reflect on what parts of theory we covered apply or do not. What does the community do right according to what you've learned? What might it do differently in the future based on what you've read? What did the course and readings not teach that they should have?

A successful project will tell a compelling story and will engage with, and improve upon, the course material to teach an audience that includes me, your classmates, and students taking this class in future years, how to take advantage of online communities more effectively. The very best papers will give us all a new understanding of some aspect of course material and change the way I teach some portion of this course in the future.


I will follow the very detailed grading rubric described on this page on assessment, which Mako (my advisor and supervisor for this course) put together. Please read it carefully I will assign grades for each of following items on the UW 4.0 grade scale according to the weights below:

  • Participation: 30%
  • Wikipedia assignments: 15%
  • Wikipedia reflection essay: 10%
  • Community identification: 5%
  • Final Presentation: 10%
  • Final Paper: 30%


January 8 (Tue): Intro and Wikipedia[edit]

Goals for the day:

  • Learn each others' names
  • Review the course objectives and requirements
  • Get started with Wikipedia


  • Come to class with an mnemonic linking your name with something interesting about yourself you want to share. For instance, I like skiing so for me it will be: Nate the Nordic.

January 10 (Thu): Motivation[edit]


Required Reading:

(read the whole page and play the game for half an hour or so)

Optional Reading:

January 15 (Tue): Motivation[edit]

Required Readings:


January 17 (Thu): Commitment[edit]

Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 3, pg 77-102 (Section 1)

In some of these cases, there is an enormous amount of material on this page and its subpages. Poke around for 10 minutes or so on each one until you get a strong sense for who is participating and how and why people build commitment to the site and are comfortable talking about this in class:

January 22 (Tue): Commitment[edit]

Required Readings:

January 24 (Thu): Rules and Governance[edit]

Required Readings:

January 29 (Tue): Rules and Governance[edit]

Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 4, pg 140-170 (Sections 4-5)
  • [Case] Slashdot: Spend 5-10 minutes to visit the homepage, look at a story you think is interesting, and read several of the comments, paying specific attention to the rating system.
  • [Case] Slashdot Moderation FAQ, 2014
  • [Case] Lampe, Cliff, and Paul Resnick. “Slash(Dot) and Burn: Distributed Moderation in a Large Online Conversation Space.” In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 543–50. CHI ’04. New York, NY, USA: ACM, 2004. doi:10.1145/985692.985761. [Official Link (available through UW libraries)] [Author Website (available for free)]

Optional Readings:

January 31 (Thu): Newcomers[edit]

Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 5, pg 179-205 (Sections 1-2)

We're going to look at the citizen science community Zooniverse and the project "Planet Hunters" in particular. We're going to talk about how the community might deal with (not so hypothetical!) major influx of new users:

Optional Readings:

February 5 (Tue): Newcomers[edit]

Class cancelled due to ice

February 7 (Thu): Creating New Communities[edit]

Required Readings:

February 12 (Tue): Creating New Communities[edit]

Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 6, pg 248-276 (Sections 3-4)
  • Hill, Benjamin Mako. Almost Wikipedia, 2013.

Optional Readings:

February 14 (Thu): Newcomers revisited and Wikipedia Assignment Debrief[edit]

In the first half of today's class we'll be visited by Jonathan Morgan, an expert on newcomers to Wikipedia, a PhD graduate from UW, currently an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the first author of the paper we'll be reading as our case today.

In the second half of class, we will have a visit from local Wikipedia group Cascadia Wikimedians (full disclosure, I am a member). Prepare to give a very short (~1 minute ) in-class presentation about your Wikipedia editing experience and also be ready with questions for them about your experience or about Wikipedia in general based on the readings and cases we've done so far.

Required Readings:

  • BSOC, Chapter 5, pg 205-223 (Sections 3-6)
  • [Case] Morgan et al., "Tea and sympathy: crafting positive new user experiences on Wikipedia" Proceedings of the 2013 conference on Computer supported cooperative work (CSCW '13), Pages 839-848, ACM New York, NY, USA, 2013. [Official Link (Available through UW libraries)] [(Free Online)]
  • [Case] Visit 'the Teahouse on Wikipedia. In particular, spend time on these three pages and associated sub-questions:
    • Teahouse questions forum: What do the questions here tell you about the kinds of challenges that new editors face? How does this jibe with your own experience as a new Wikipedian?
    • Teahouse host profiles: What do the profiles on this page tell you about the demographics and motivations of Teahouse Hosts? Does anything about the Teahouse host characteristics and motivations you read in these profiles surprise you? Why or why not?
    • Teahouse guest profiles and Guest book: What do the profiles on this page tell you about the demographics and motivations of Teahouse visitors? Does anything about the Teahouse guest characteristics and motivations you read in these profiles surprise you? Why or why not?

Optional Readings:

  • Halfaker, A., Stuart Geiger, R., Morgan, J. T., & Riedl, J. (2013). The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration System: How Wikipedia’s Reaction to Popularity Is Causing Its Decline. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(5), 664–688. [(Access through UW libraries)] [(Open Access)]
  • Nathan TeBlunthuis, Aaron Shaw, and Benjamin Mako Hill. 2018. Revisiting "The Rise and Decline" in a Population of Peer Production Projects. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Paper 355, 7 pages. [(Open Access)]
  • Jonathan T. Morgan and Aaron Halfaker. 2018. Evaluating the impact of the Wikipedia Teahouse on newcomer socialization and retention. In Proceedings of the 14th International Symposium on Open Collaboration (OpenSym '18). ACM, New York, NY, USA, Article 20, 7 pages.

February 19 (Tue): Social Computing Systems[edit]

We have a special guest this week: Andrés Monroy-Hernandez! Andrés was previously at Microsoft Research and is currently a lead research scientist at Snap Inc., the maker of Snapchat. Andrés has research interests ranging from civic communities to educational communities and more recently he is focusing on "social computing systems," which we will learn about today.

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

Our guest speaker will be talking about these three papers. It might be good to look these over before class:

  • Justin Cranshaw, Emad Elwany, Todd Newman, Rafal Kocielnik, Bowen Yu, Sandeep Soni, Jaime Teevan, and Andrés Monroy-Hernández. 2017. Designing a Workflow-Based Scheduling Agent with Humans in the Loop. In Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2382-2393. (Open Access)
  • Cranshaw, J., Monroy-Hernández, A., & Needham, S. A. (2016). Journeys & Notes: Designing Social Computing for Non-Places. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 4722–4733). New York, NY, USA: ACM. [Available through UW libraries]
  • Agapie, E., & Monroy-Hernández, A. (2015). Eventful: Crowdsourcing Local News Reporting. arXiv:1507.01300 [Cs].

February 21 (Thu): Free Software[edit]

Resources: Required Readings:

February 26 (Tue): Innovation Communities[edit]

Today we have a special guest: Professor Mako! Mako is my PhD advisor and his PhD advisor was Eric von Hippel, whose book we are reading for today.

Required Readings:

  • von Hippel, E. (2005). Democratizing innovation. Read Chapters 1, 2 & 5.
  • [Case] Wayner, Peter. “Tweaking a Camera to Suit a Hobby.” The New York Times, May 26, 2010, sec. Technology / Personal Tech. Free Online
  • [Case] C.H.D.K. Wiki Take a look at the [Home page] and explore the Wiki to get a good idea of what this community is about, what they do, and how it works.

February 28 (Thu): Historical Communities[edit]

Required Readings:

Optional Readings:

Optional Video:

March 5 (Tue): Educational Communities[edit]

Guest Lecture from Sayamindu Dasgupta who is a professor at the Information School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Required Readings:

  • Roque, R.; Dasgupta, S.; Costanza-Chock, S. Children’s Civic Engagement in the Scratch Online Community. Soc. Sci. 2016, 5, 55.

Open Access

  • Brennan, K., Monroy‐Hernández, A., & Resnick, M. (2010). Making projects, making friends: Online community as catalyst for interactive media creation. New directions for youth development, 2010(128), 75-83.

PDF From

Visit the site. Read the about page, the the information for parents, and for educators. Watch all the videos. Spend some time exploring and run some programs (try to find at least one animation and at least one game).

For the case we're going to compare scratch to a different: Block Studio. This is an experimental project by Raoul, a PhD student at UW. Click start and watch the three lessons. You don't have to actually make any games with Block Studio, but do learn how it works as much as you can. After that survey the published projects.

March 7 (Thu): Creative Collaboration[edit]

Required Readings:

  • Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Penguin Press HC, 2008. (Introduction) [Free Online]
  • [Case] Hill, Benjamin Mako, and Andrés Monroy-Hernández. “The Remixing Dilemma The Trade-Off Between Generativity and Originality.” American Behavioral Scientist 57, no. 5 (May 1, 2013): 643–663. [Available through UW Libraries] [Free Preprint]
  • [Case] Buechley, Leah, and Benjamin Mako Hill. Lilly Pad in the Wild: How Hardwareʼs Long Tail is Supporting New Engineering and Design Communities, DIS 2010. [Free Preprint]
  • [Case] Examples of Lilypad Projects (Youtube Video)

Optional Readings:

  • Sinnreich, Aram. Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture. University of Massachusetts Press, 2010. (Excerpts) [Forthcoming in Canvas]
  • Vaidhyanathan, Siva. Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity. New York: New York University Press, 2001. [Available from Instructor]

March 12 (Tue): Final Presentations[edit]

No readings.

The final classes will be devoted entirely to presentations.

March 14 (Thu): Final Presentations[edit]

No readings.

The final classes will be devoted entirely to presentations.

Administrative Notes[edit]

Your Presence in Class[edit]

As detailed in my page on assessment class participation is an important way that we assess learning in the class. Obviously, you must be in class in order to participate. If you need to miss class for any reason, please contact a member of the teaching team ahead of time (email is best). In the event of an absence, you are responsible for obtaining class notes, handouts, assignments, etc.

There are many students who have eagerly requested to join the class, but there are not enough seats. I want to include as many students in the class as possible, so I will automatically drop anyone who misses the first two class sessions and try to replace them with unenrolled students who do attend. This is consistent with college policy and with the course description in the catalog.

Devices in Class[edit]

Electronic devices (e.g., phones, tablets, laptops) are not going to permitted in class. If you have a documented need to use a device, please contact me ahead of time to let me know. If you do get permission to use a device, I will ask you to sit in the very back of the classroom.

The goal of this policy is to help you stay focused and avoid distractions for yourself and your peers in the classroom. This is really important and turns out to be much more difficult in the presence of powerful computing devices with brightly glowing screens and fast connections to the Internet. For more on the rationale behind this policy, please read Clay Shirky’s thoughtful discussion of his approach to this issue.

Office Hours[edit]

I will hold regular office hours three times a week in CMU 333. Please come!

Tuesday: 2:30 to 3:30
Wednesday: 1:45 to 2:45
Friday: 3:30 to 4:30

Also feel free to drop by my (open) office in CMU 337. If you come looking for me in CMU 333 and I am not there try CMU 337.

If my set office hours don't work for you please contact me on email to arrange a meeting then or at another time.


In general, if you have an issue, such as needing an accommodation for a religious obligation or learning disability, speak with me before it affects your performance; afterward it is too late. Do not ask for favors; instead, offer proposals that show initiative and a willingness to work.

To request academic accommodations due to a disability please contact Disability Resources for Students, 448 Schmitz, 206-543-8924/V, 206-5430-8925/TTY. If you have a letter from Disability Resources for Students indicating that you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so we can discuss the accommodations that you might need for the class. I am happy to work with you to maximize your learning experience.

Electronic Mail Standards of Conduct[edit]

Email communications (and all communications generally) among UW community members should seek to respect the rights and privileges of all members of the academic community. This includes not interfering with university functions or endangering the health, welfare, or safety of other persons. With this in mind, in addition to the University of Washington's Student Conduct Code, I establishes the following standards of conduct in respect to electronic communications among students and faculty:

  • If, as a student, you have a question about course content or procedures, please use the online discussion board designed for this purpose. If you have specific questions about your performance, contact me directly.
  • I strive to respond to Email communications within 48 hours. If you do not hear from me, please come to my office, call me, or send me a reminder Email.
  • Email communications should be limited to occasional messages necessary to the specific educational experience at hand.
  • Email communications should not include any CC-ing of anyone not directly involved in the specific educational experience at hand.
  • Email communications should not include any blind-CC-ing to third parties, regardless of the third party’s relevance to the matter at hand.

Academic Misconduct[edit]

As a University of Washington student, you are expected to practice high standards of academic honesty and integrity. You are responsible to understand and abide by UW’s Student Governance Code on Academic Misconduct, and the UW’s Administrative Code on Academic Misconduct, and to comply with verbal or written instructions from the professor or TA of this course. This includes plagiarism, which is a serious offense. All assignments will be reviewed for integrity. All rules regarding academic integrity extend to electronic communication and the use of online sources. If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism, read this overview in addition to UW’s policy statements.

I am committed to upholding the academic standards of the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code. If I suspect a student violation of that code, I will first engage in a conversation with that student about my concerns. If we cannot successfully resolve a suspected case of academic misconduct through our conversations, I will refer the situation to the department of communication advising office who can then work with the COM Chair to seek further input and if necessary, move the case up through the College.

While evidence of academic misconduct may result in a lower grade, I will not unilaterally lower a grade without addressing the issue with you first through the process outlined above.

Notice: The University has a license agreement with VeriCite, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources. Your instructor may use the service in this class by requiring that assignments are submitted electronically to be checked by VeriCite. The VeriCite Report will indicate the amount of original text in your work and whether all material that you quoted, paraphrased, summarized, or used from another source is appropriately referenced.

Credit and Notes[edit]

This syllabus is slightly modified from an earlier edition of this course, taught by Mako. His syllabus was inspired by, and borrowed heavily with permission from, two other classes on online communities taught by young professors whose teaching I admire and respect: