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Online Participation Techniques

There are a few basic tenents to successful online participation and then a slew of tips and techniques, some as varied as the individuals who populate cyberspace. Gender, culture and personal style affect our communications, especially in a text only environment. Here is a VERY rudimentary starting point. And please, send us your ideas and we'll add them to the pot, stirring with care and crediting you with your contributions.

  • Jump in and try it out – this is one of those things that is much better "learned by doing." You can’t reallyscrew anything up, so get a running start and LEAP!
  • The two techniques that are used time and again are the complements of good face to face communication: read carefully and respond thoughtfully. It is easy to race through posts (the messages that each person leaves on the system) and miss meaning. It can be easy to misunderstand or be misunderstood. Take the time to read carefully and ask for clarifications if you are unsure of your perceptions of a post. Above all, assume good intent. It is a handy approach. As they say online "your mileage may vary."
  • Get online regularly – it can be just a few minutes a day, but frequent participation builds the sense of community, helps you learn to navigate through the information and, be careful, can be addictive! We’ll work on the 12-step program for us addicts later!
  • Start collecting tools - One technique used online is the use of emoticons and abbreviations. Emoticons are keyboard symbols constructed to convey an emotion. For example (thanks to Sue Boettcher of

:) or :-) are smiley faces composed of a colon and a right parenthesis mark

;) or ;-) or or ;-> is a more tongue in cheek smile, wink, employing a semi-colon

:O = surprised face (and there are hundreds of variations)

<g> = grin

D or :-D = big grin

:/ or :-/ = chagrin, disappointment, etc.

:( or :-( = frown

btw = by the way

imo = in my opinion (or imho = in my humble opinion)

rotfl = rolling on the floor laughing

lol = laughing out loud

If you are interested and curious to learn more about how to work online in a "virtual workgroup" there are some very interesting online resources available. It is a booming new area, with fresh resources almost every day! Here are a few sites to check out:

Big Bang Workshops - A great starting point. The host of this site, Heather Duggan, has mined many great resources. Check out her great list of links.

Moderator's Homepage – a great list of resources, many of which address online learning.

MN Freenet Hosting Resources – yet ANOTHER great list of links, these more oriented towards skills needed to host or facilitate online conferencing. - the ultimate overview and analysis of how to build an online work group. Only for those who really want to dig into this topic!

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