INFORMATION EXCHANGE IN COMMUNITY QUESTION AND ANSWER SITES

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för pedagogik, kommunikation och lärande

Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this study is firstly to explore how the users of Stack Overflow, anonline community-based Question and Answer platform, inquire for informationthrough the formulation of a question, according to the community guidelines.Secondly, to observe the information exchange procedure between the question andthe comment section. Finally, to investigate, if this volunteered informal learning andinformation exchange environment shares any similarities to the Communities ofPractice.Theory: An emphasis was put to analyse situated learning and Communities of Practice asdescribed by Wenger (1998) as well as additional research dedicated to this particularfield. Additionally, previous researches were analysed to observe the importantcharacteristics regarding the question formulation and information exchange(suggestive solutions).Method: Two different mixed method content analysis were executed. Firstly, to define thepatterns that entwine questions in the platform and observe the importance of thecommunity’s guidelines. Secondly, another mixed content analysis to observe theinteraction between the asker and other users in the comment section. The data wasgathered as part of a research project between the Faculty of Education and theFaculty of Applied Information Technology (IT) within the University of Gothenburg.Results: The first part of the analysis showed that the community guidelines are the epitomefor a successful question in the community. Even though users are willing to aid newuser with ill-informed questions, there is a connection between the question’s scoreand asker’s reputation. As thus, users with longer expertise in the platform aregenerally able to create successful questions. The users of the platform are utilizingthe comment section as a troubleshoot chat; aiding the user not only by providingsuggestive solution but by reformulating their question for future use by other users.Users of the platform edit and provide external resources to learning material to aidaskers that are still learning how to code. It was evident that they do not recognise theplatform as a hand-out solution site but as a community willing to aid users that arewilling to learn.

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