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Concept: Virtual community


Health care professionals, patients, caregivers, family, friends, and other supporters are increasingly joining online health communities to share information and find support. But social Web (Web 2.0) technology alone does not create a successful online community. Building and sustaining a successful community requires an enabler and strategic community management. Community management is more than moderation. The developmental life cycle of a community has four stages: inception, establishment, maturity, and mitosis. Each stage presents distinct characteristics and management needs. This paper describes the community management strategies, resources, and expertise needed to build and maintain a thriving online health community; introduces some of the challenges; and provides a guide for health organizations considering this undertaking. The paper draws on insights from an ongoing study and observation of online communities as well as experience managing and consulting a variety of online health communities. Discussion includes effective community building practices relevant to each stage, such as outreach and relationship building, data collection, content creation, and other proven techniques that ensure the survival and steady growth of an online health community.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Community, Web 2.0, Community building, Health informatics, Virtual community, Social media


Internet support groups (ISGs) are popular, particularly among people with depression, but there is little high quality evidence concerning their effectiveness.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Virtual community, Grief


Prevailing health care structures and cultures restrict intraprofessional communication, inhibiting knowledge dissemination and impacting the translation of research into practice. Virtual communities may facilitate professional networking and knowledge sharing in and between health care disciplines.

Concepts: Health care, Health care provider, Healthcare, Sociology, Professional, Practice-based professional learning, Communication, Virtual community


Online communities of practice (oCoPs) may emerge from interactions on social media. These communities offer an open digital space and flat role hierarchy for information sharing and provide a strong group identity, rapid flow of information, content curation, and knowledge translation. To date, there is only a small body of evidence in medicine or health care to verify the existence of an oCoP.

Concepts: Health care, Medicine, Community, Community building, Virtual community


To investigate the dynamics of social networks and the formation and evolution of online communities in response to extreme events, we collected three datasets from Twitter shortly before and after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We find that while almost all users increased their online activity after the earthquake, Japanese speakers, who are assumed to be more directly affected by the event, expanded the network of people they interact with to a much higher degree than English speakers or the global average. By investigating the evolution of communities, we find that the behavior of joining or quitting a community is far from random: users tend to stay in their current status and are less likely to join new communities from solitary or shift to other communities from their current community. While non-Japanese speakers did not change their conversation topics significantly after the earthquake, nearly all Japanese users changed their conversations to earthquake-related content. This study builds a systematic framework for investigating human behaviors under extreme events with online social network data and our findings on the dynamics of networks and communities may provide useful insight for understanding how patterns of social interaction are influenced by extreme events.

Concepts: Sociology, Japan, Behavior, Human behavior, Earthquake, Community building, Social network, Virtual community


Social network analysis provides a perspective and method for inquiring into the structures that comprise online groups and communities. Traces from interaction via social media provide the opportunity for understanding how a community is formed and maintained online.

Concepts: Sociology, Community building, Social network, Virtual community, Network theory, Network science, Complex network, Social network aggregation


A class of networks are those with both positive and negative links. In this manuscript, we studied the interplay between positive and negative ties on mesoscopic level of these networks, i.e., their community structure. A community is considered as a tightly interconnected group of actors; therefore, it does not borrow any assumption from balance theory and merely uses the well-known assumption in the community detection literature. We found that if one detects the communities based on only positive relations (by ignoring the negative ones), the majority of negative relations are already placed between the communities. In other words, negative ties do not have a major role in community formation of signed networks. Moreover, regarding the internal negative ties, we proved that most unbalanced communities are maximally balanced, and hence they cannot be partitioned into k nonempty sub-clusters with higher balancedness (k≥2). Furthermore, we showed that although the mediator triad ++- (hostile-mediator-hostile) is underrepresented, it constitutes a considerable portion of triadic relations among communities. Hence, mediator triads should not be ignored by community detection and clustering algorithms. As a result, if one uses a clustering algorithm that operates merely based on social balance, mesoscopic structure of signed networks significantly remains hidden.

Concepts: Sociology, Networks, Virtual community, Complex network, Triad, Balanced line, Triadic


A discussion on how nurse leaders are using social media and developing digital leadership in online communities.

Concepts: Sociology, Leadership, Virtual community


Social network technologies have become part of health education and wider health promotion-either by design or happenstance. Social support, peer pressure, and information sharing in online communities may affect health behaviors. If there are positive and sustained effects, then social network technologies could increase the effectiveness and efficiency of many public health campaigns. Social media alone, however, may be insufficient to promote health. Furthermore, there may be unintended and potentially harmful consequences of inaccurate or misleading health information. Given these uncertainties, there is a need to understand and synthesize the evidence base for the use of online social networking as part of health promoting interventions to inform future research and practice.

Concepts: Social network, Virtual community, Social network service, Social network aggregation


The wildlife trade is a lucrative industry involving thousands of animal and plant species. The increasing use of the internet for both legal and illegal wildlife trade is well documented but there is evidence that trade may be emerging on new online technologies such as social media. We carry out the first systematic survey of trade on an international social-media website, using the orchid trade as a case study. We analyzed an online community consisting of 150 orchid focused groups on a large social media website, using social network analysis. Closely linked communities were found reflecting language groups, with most trade occurring in a community of English-speaking and Southeast Asian groups. In addition we randomly sampled 30 groups to assess the prevalence of trade in cultivated and wild plants. We found that 8.9% of posts contained trade, 22-46% of which was in wild-collected orchids. Although total numbers of trade posts are relatively small, the high proportion of wild plants for sale supports calls for better monitoring of social media for trade in wild-collected plants. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Plant, Sociology, All rights reserved, Social network, Virtual community, Copyright, Orchidaceae, Information science