Crowd Wise 3c: Going Public vs Staying Private (Group Identity)

People have less privacy and are crammed together in cities, 
but in the wide open spaces they secretly keep tabs on each other a lot more.Sara Paretsky

Deciding to make a group accessible to anyone in the world vs taking the decision to restrict membership to only a specific type of educator, people who belong to a teaching association or to your own personal group of students is one of the toughest decisions online community leaders make.

If you are your group's moderator what did you decide to do?  Why did you opt for this? 

If you don't run a community yourself however you belong to one (or many), which do you prefer - those with anonymous members or spaces where you can easily read the profiles of the participants, see what they look like, what sort of things they're interested in?

How do you personally feel about sharing your very private details with others?

When running e-communities with students, have you noticed a marked difference in activity on public, google-searchable-sphere groups vs private groups?   Does the culture and country of origin make any difference?

If you have noticed this, why do you think this is?


This posting is part of the Crowd Wise series and is in part my preparation for the swap-shop I will be hosting on web-based communities at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, April 8th 2010.  Your answers, as brief or as in-depth as you'd like to be, is very much appreciated!

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Note: if you would like to participate in this conversation anonymously, please do feel free to do so.  Alternatively, if you would like to specifically mention an online educational community when making reference to your experiences, adding your group's name and/or its URL, you are most welcome to!

7 Responses to “Crowd Wise 3c: Going Public vs Staying Private (Group Identity)”

  • monika hardy says:
    February 13, 2010

    Good question.

    Our class ning is open to anyone - but I moderate new members 24/7. So in essence - it's not. I left it open to make it more user friendly to kids and expert tutors to join. I'm always seeking an authentic audience for them..

    Triiibes is per invitation. I like that. I like knowing that Seth has checked everyone out...

    If I had the following Seth does... and knew people would be flocking to me - I'd go for the moderated...

  • Tomaz Lasic says:
    February 13, 2010

    Hi Karenne

    Ah, the old 'walled garden' :-) (I actually really dislike the phrase, it fails on soooo many levels, like most analogies)

    Context rules. Decisions are hard to make but sometimes the law makes it (frustratingly) easy to decide.

    Yet if I have to choose between a blossoming garden (even if walled, responsibly) and perhaps a less palatable alternative 'out there', I would ... yes, you guessed it.

    Could not care less, as long as we (not 'they' as students) are blossoming. Because I want to blossom too :-)

    Enough analogies, nice post.


    February 13, 2010

    I like that very much:

    I want to blossom too!

    I think, in some respects, but I could be so very wrong, being in private communities gives me that chance along with my students:

    no one has to see the failed e-activities :-).

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Gavin Dudeney says:
    February 14, 2010


    Context, as Tomaz said. I belong to very few closed communities because it's like only going to parties with your friends - chances of meeting anyone new are nil, and often you end up having the same conversations...

    But in terms of teaching it might make sense, depending on your learners (age, etc) and what you hope to achieve with the community. It might also be necessary in terms of school rules, for purposes of e-safety...

    For the kinds of communities I belong to, I think it's usually beneficial to leave them open, to encourage more members and to also encourage people coming in from peripheral subject areas and bringing in new ideas (what Wenger would term 'boundary members'). I like the cross-pollination that occurs. If one puts up boundaries, then one doesn't get the drop-ins who might have something really great to share.

    The closed community I belong to is the one that Nicky and I have set up for past participants on our online courses - it makes sense as an added value to the courses, but also because these are wired people: they can work within that targetted community, but also have the nous to find their own other communities.

    Context really is the answer to this one, wish I had something more original to say!


    February 14, 2010

    Context. Yup.

  • Sue Lyon-Jones says:
    February 16, 2010

    Interesting post, Karenne.

    I never used to be at all keen on private communities, but I've moderated my views somewhat over the past year or so since I started using Twitter and other social media tools.

    I've recently given up on some public forums I used to follow because they have been overrun with spammers, despite the moderators best efforts to keep them out. Like most teachers I lead a busy life and I simply don't have time to wade through hundreds of adverts for drugs to increase male potency looking for the interesting stuff.

    I also think that a private space allows participants to be franker and express views that they might not want preserved for posterity as part of their Digital Footprint!

    As Gavin points out, the downside of a 'walled garden' community is that there's a danger that you may only attract like-minded people who who aren't going to move the conversation forward.

    I agree with Tomaz & Gavin that context is a key determinant. I also think that the amount of free time the moderator has at their disposal is probably another factor. I would imagine a private group must be much easier to moderate than a public one.


    February 17, 2010

    me 2 :-) (that private is easier to moderate)

    I suppose it's goes to the rules factor... but in my student ning, there's no way I'd let "random" entrants - we're doing serious work there and viagra announcements, no thanks.

    I've been spammed via just about every group I can think of, on every platform - but never, the private ones.


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