How do I collaborate?


While reading chapter 4 of Rheingold’s “Net Smart: How to Thrive Online”, I found some difficulty relating to the mentioned online collaborative communities illustrated through online gaming and Wikipedia pages.

If I had to categorize the bulk of my online activities, I would fall mostly in Ito’s “hanging out” situation defined on page 118 in chapter 3. I’ve never been interested in WoW or online gaming in general, and I certainly don’t “geek out” with any obscure Internet subculture. I understand concept of online collaborative communities, but it’s very difficult for me to translate this into my own life.

After thinking long and hard about this concept, two arenas came to mind: Linkedin and my job.


Although I absolutely do not frequent Linkedin the way I do Facebook, Insta, and SnapChat, I have a profile and have used the site while doing freelance assignments. The section on page 155 labeled “What Cooperation Theory Teaches Us About Life Online Today” could be the Bible for success on Linkedin.

At my current job, many of my coworkers are remote, and most of our daily assignments don’t come from a particular manager. There’s typically a collective interest (ex. Getting new products on the website, creating size charts) that can’t be completed without the collaboration of many people. These rules also strangely apply to this situation, as all of our interactions are online.

  1. Balance Retribution and Forgiveness. When you’re inquiring about a job on Linkedin, soliciting services or requesting a connection, do not harp on uninterested/untrustworthy people. If they don’t reciprocate or cooperate, try someone else and leave them alone. This rule also applies in the workplace, when people aren’t cooperating the way they should be, leave them alone and try one of their colleagues or their manager. In both situations, the “tit for tat” method maintains a healthy environment and prevents bad blood.
  1. Contribute publicly without requiring or expecting any direct reward. Public contributions make others more likely to help you in the future, it inspires others to contribute, and it builds team morale in both situations. There are many groups in LinkedIn that resemble forums, and active participants are what makes them thrive. People in the workplace also remember those who help them out, and will always return the favor.


  1. Reciprocate when someone or some group does you a favor. This ties into rule 2, and is what makes this dynamic work.


  1. Look for ways to seek a sense of shared group identity. At work, this is done by default as people are in different departments, and we’re all familiar with one another’s responsibilities. On Linkedin, this is done by one’s “connections” and groups they’re members of.


  1. Introduce people and networks to each other in mutually beneficial ways. The “connections” feature on Linkedin takes care of this for users. At work, this is done by using the cc feature on emails, and including people in conference calls.


  1. When progress is blocked by social dilemmas, create institutions for collective action. When it comes to Linkedin, the “report this user” and “block” features handle most social dilemmas. In the workplace, personal issues can be talked out or reported to HR in serious situations; it is unacceptable for work to stop due to a “social dilemma”.


  1. Punish cheating, but not too drastically. As with any online community, other participants are quick to publicly and privately call out bad behavior. If the issue persists, they aren’t afraid to report or block the offending user. In the workplace, minor offenses are addressed or coached by management. However major offenses are taken to HR, and may result in suspension or termination.


How do your relate to online collaborative communities?

Posted on October 25, 2015, in Digital, Social Media, Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I relate to online collaborative communities in several ways,

    – I respond to blogs and offer ideas and suggestions when I can. If I cannot, I try to offer humor for entertainment value.

    – I create content on a number of social media websites, so others will continue to remember me and my product, so they will think about me when they want to make a purchase.

    – When I have time, I will respond to posted questions or post a happy thought on someone’s sad post to brighten their day.

    – When I was a process manager, I used, which allows people all over the world to submit their work, edit it, and generally pass it along to others for processing.

    So basically, for me, I like to jump in and create things for others to enjoy. 🙂

  2. I completely agree with your comment that you initially “found some difficulty relating to [Rhinegold’s] mention of online collaborative communities”. Similar to what you said, outside of the blog for this course I don’t actively participate in any obscure groups or niche communities. While Rheingold certainly demonstrated the value an online community provided him, I had a little trouble buying into the first chapter.

    But like you, I thought a little harder about the situation and was able to relate my experience to LinkedIn. While I didn’t know it at the time, the five steps listed above were really helpful in my job search. Specifically, “Balance Retribution & Forgiveness” and “Reciprocate when someone or some group does you a favor” were especially helpful. Through using these rules, among other tactics I was able to generate leads that eventually turned into a job. While I do admit that I am not as active on my profile as I was when I was job searching, I found the online community of LinkedIn to be a valuable resource.

  3. Chelsea Dowling

    This week I too wrote about this idea of communities ( This was something that I initially resonated with because of my day-to-day community involvement I have in my “human” life. What was interesting for me was how I participated/collaborated in those online communities. I am often in search of some type of information and for me collaborating in an online community can differ greatly – but it is all about reaching one common goal. Let’s take Pinterest. This to me is an online community. The extent of my collaboration involves pinning something I liked to my own board to try. Or Facebook. Groups are often set up on Facebook to bring together like minded people for one goal (in lieu of setting up some other online forum). Online blogs. In my quest for information, I often come across blogs that I pull / derive information from.

    What is thought provoking though is Rheingold does not specifically call out the level engagement within these communities. I kind of think of it like being on a basketball team but never getting the chance to play in the game. I practice every day with the team, learning the plays, attempting the drills. But let’s face it – my coach thinks I suck and I never play in the actual game. But, I’m still a part of that community – coming together with other “like minded people” for a “common goal”. I actually think that we are more a part of online communities than we might actually think we are. Our online activities are becoming second nature and I do believe the more we access the internet, the more we have access to these online communities without even realizing it.

  4. Hi Natasha,

    My primary online community participation is within LinkedIn and I agree that their mechanisms in place for handling disruptions work. But I’ve found there’s another group of people on LinkedIn along with the collaborators and reciprocators. Perhaps it’s common but I’ve recently encountered the “job promisers” who send me descriptions, compliment my experience etc, lure me into a conversation and then ask for introductions to others who may be interested in the same position.

    Was there really a position or was this a “loss-leader;” the promise of a something good but when you bite – darn, it’s gone. In addition, one representative contacted my department for a reference before she had approached me about my interest.Isn’t this another example of the invasion of privacy that Rheingold assets is “bound t happened?”

    I wasn’t embarrassed when my director asked me about it, as aren’t we all looking for new opportunities? But I was appalled that through this online community, a prospective employer assumed we had developed a personal relationship. Yes, collaborative online learning communities are beneficial, but they open up a new set of challenges, that can affect our privacy in ways we hadn’t considered.

  5. Hi Natasha, I loved your example of LinkedIn, because it made Rheingold’s text so much more relatable. LinkedIn is a lot like the workplace, as you said. First, you can recommend and endorse other people, who then are likely to turn around and recommend or endorse you. I visit LinkedIn at least once a week for networking–something else we do at work and outside of work. As a freelancer, I have “been found” for many assignments and forged valuable business relationships. I also manage the microsite for a local chapter of a national organization I belong to. Finally, just as there are people at work who can be a thorn in your side, not everyone on LinkedIn has your best interests at heart. As I learned from a recent Internet security seminar, never accept invitations from people you don’t know or seem to have no real connection to you. People inviting you to join their network are sometimes trying to pry into your life by harvesting details from your profile.

  6. Great post, Natasha. I like the list you’ve provided. I hardly ever use LinkedIn but I do try to follow the advice in this page to maintain my profile page. I do need to cultivate our undergraduate alumni group on LinkedIn because it’s the best place to offer the information we have for our graduates, especially job opportunities.

  7. This is a terrific list. In answer to your question, I find my online and offline collaboration tends to sync up. What I mean is, for example, I have several folks that I network regularly with. We share info and resumes for people we know. This happens usually after bumping into each other at an event, via email or phone. But because so many people use LinkedIn these days, the referral itself is generally shared through LinkedIn.

    If I look at my LinkedIn connects, I think I’ve pretty much met everyone there either in person and then added them, or they were referred to me (or me to them). Something I didn’t realize until now.

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