Quality & Quantity

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 829–854 | Cite as

Posting, quoting, and replying: a comparison of methodological approaches to measure communication ties in web forums

  • Andraž PetrovčičEmail author
  • Vasja Vehovar
  • Aleš Žiberna


Active involvement in discussion-based communities is nowadays a firm part of people’s online activities. The measurement of communication ties and networks between contributors to such domains is thus becoming a relevant research question in social sciences. However, especially in web forums, very often almost no direct relational information exists that would indicate the presence of communication ties among contributors. In contrast with the reply-to structure of Usenet newsgroup or mailing list conversations that contain explicit relational information created by the contributors, some web forums only enable participants to add new posts to threads or to quote preceding posts in threads. When discussions emerge, it is difficult to identify who is replying to whom. Drawing on the social network studies dealing with the conversational patterns in Usenet and web forums, this paper presents an alternative approach to identifying the ties between authors of posts. Several assumptions are discussed, and different measures are developed and empirically evaluated. The findings provide a starting point for the development of a standardized methodology for studying social networks in online communities where only limited direct information about communication ties is available.


Measuring social networks Web forum Reply-to network Quotation network Communication ties Online community 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andraž Petrovčič
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vasja Vehovar
    • 1
  • Aleš Žiberna
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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