Svetlin R. Tzolov (Dr. Alex Yap), Department of Computing Sciences
Communities themselves are nothing new, they have existed for a very long time, however the information age has put a new twist on them. There are many of them out there, both small and large. They are a fascinating phenomenon of the information age. Some are small and deal with a specific topic, such as computer gaming forums or car model sites, while others are huge networks of people such as MySpace or Facebook.
These communities are a recent trend that appeals to the younger generation of teenagers that have been born into the current peak of the information age allowing them much easier access and knowledge of computers and the internet at a younger age. This, combined with the fact that the tools that are available to web developers today allow for much easier creation of dynamic websites and eases the communication between members are all reasons why this is an interesting topic in the electronic world.
My research objective is to look at what software a select few communities use (such as forums, chat rooms, etc), the average age of their users and the size of the communities and try to come to a conclusion if these things have any relationship to each other.
My data collection for this research is based on information already available on this, surveys in several internet communities and hands on experience with the various software that they use. Previous research that has been done on this topic will be looked at as well as statistics that are available on the websites that will be looked at. For the smaller communities surveys and polls will be used to gather some additional information on the user base. For the hands on research I will be using each website for a while, documenting on the user interface and other features. According to this data I will be using several criteria to compare the websites. The criteria are currently: Number of members, software used, number of interface options, ease of use, average member age and site topic. More criteria may be added later. The websites will be looked at in their own category, then the categories will be compared to each other using the same criteria.
Knowing what types of designs and software certain age groups prefer can be very beneficial, for example when designing e-stores or targeted advertising. A website that pleases a certain age group with specific features will be more successful than one that uses standard software. Currently, I am looking through the results that are available on several of the websites that are being studied as well as looking for any previous research that has been done on this topic. After this is done, the hands on tests on the websites will be performed.