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In many conversations with researchers who are moderating online communities, I have heard stories of data overload and difficulties in getting beneath the surface when exploring peoples’ posts.

Here is an interesting idea for getting more depth from your online community. Pick a few quotes from members that seem interesting, if a little bland.
Send those members a question, something like the following but in your own words:

“I was interested to read your post. I wonder if you would take a few minutes to think about it in a different way and write back to me? I want you to reflect for a moment on who you think is in the audience you wrote it for? What is your description of this Imagined Audience? [how many, what types of people etc.}
Next, think for a moment about this: “What would be the perfect response from this audience that would let you know that your post had the effect you intended?” In other words, what would be the perfect response to your post?”

Finally, what is the thing you most fear that your Imagined Audience might think or feel about your post? And what would that say about you? Do you tailor, edit or restrict your posts to avoid making a negative impression on the audience.”

Try this out online moderators: any community member who replies to you will have to reflect on the next level – the level below the literal – to consider what h/she was trying to get across and what response or effect was hoped for. This is, after all, deeper information about the meaning and intention of the post.

Let me know how you get on!

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As a psychologist, psychotherapist and research practitioner of 40 years, I've had the benefit of the experiences of more than 100,000 people around the world. They've talked about their daily lives, hopes, fears, ambitions and needs. These experiences have helped me to contribute to innovations from Beds in Business and the Fast Track for airlines to television drama and online communities. Specialties:Large groups, facilitation, application of psychological theories to commercial issues