Micro Ethnography

Micro Ethnography timeline | Timetoast timelines.

Introduction
I have stumbled upon the Weight Weenies website for this ethnographic study due to a discussion with friends about forums and who actually uses them. I am not an active member of any forum, firstly because I don’t have time and I feel they need a certain level of commitment to make them worth while, secondly I don’t want to put my name on the internet anymore than necessary (I could always assume an identity) Thirdly I don’t really feel passionate about an online community other than through this course.

Weight Weenies provides the reason why the site exists

Postings saying “How much does X bike component weigh?” can be found on almost every bicycle related message board.
Often the same parts weight is stated several times further down the board.
So, why isn’t there a website that already lists component & bike weights?
Well that’s what we do. Component lists are updated almost daily.

Ethical considerations

I started by thinking becoming a member would be enough to allow me to access information and do this ethnography but discussions in the hub gave me a better understanding and if it is a private group i.e. you have to become a member before accessing posts I wouldnt be able to use it without permission. I didn’t have the time to ask and wait for a response so although I did become a member, I only used information from posts I could access as a non member. This limited me in that I couldn’t use the search facility, and it took longer to find information. I also thought about the sensitivity of the information and decided it was not somthing people would feel sensitive about. I therefore felt able to use the forum for the ethnography without asking for permission

Authenticity
I posted on the blog It also comes up in the following section when members are instructed not to have two identities or they will be banned. I have no explanation of why they would want to do this?

A brief over view of what happened when (not so sure this is brief!)

Website set up and forum created in Decemeber 2000. There are no records from 2000 until 2004 when the first recorded instruction came in June 2004 against unsolicited advertising by companies, however it was noted the companies could answer questions about their products. It was perhaps an indicator that the site was becoming popular and reputable as the advertisers had moved in. By August 2004 there were 1000 Users in the forum and the listings were divided into different categories for different users which is quite a big marker of the development of the site and community – road bike and mountain bike users are very different communities, with different interests and often a pseudo dislike for one another!

In 2005 the first recorded instructional note was placed “Please do not repost – if you think that your original topic wasn’t answered to your satisfaction feel free to bump it by posting a reply in it” The community was still relatively small at this point and perhaps were not posting responses to questions asked by members as quickly as they wanted. The small community may also not have had all the answers at this time. Or it could have just been annoyance by the moderators in having reposts!

In the same month another two instructions were placed “Please read before posting” which had the added information to clarify “Threads which turn into endless off-topic chit chat might get the postings removed or even locked.” This was also followed with advice to “Please open only one thread to introduce yourself & your bike(s)” These instructions appear to be about the organisation of the forum, an attempt to keep the focus and structure of the forum intact. The next month forum members were advised “Please don’t crosspost and give the people a chance to post in your original thread. Not all WW live in the same timezone and some use to work over the day” Again this is about keeping the structure and also trying to prevent any negative feedback and comments between users which may have been starting to arise due to speed of replies and interactions.

By the end of the year the forum had 100,000 posts so it was really growing and got its own server in May 2006 and many commented on the increased speed and lack of double posts that had been problematic before. The website also got a new server and the company stated “the site should now have enough resources for future growth and features and the performance problems at certain times should be solved.”

By mid 2006 the advertisers had found a new way to promote their products, so another rule came in place “Advertising banners on signatures are banned” This would have helped to ensure that forum members were genuinely interested weight weenies.

The sales section of the website and forum must have developed further with the increased speed of the new server as new instructions were given on who could sell their bikes and bike parts ” In order to be allowed to post an add users (posting in the marketplace) must have a minimum of 30 posts. And users (posting in the marketplace) must be an active member of the board for a minimum of one month. – Posts by members that do not live up to these rules will be removed by the moderators. – If we find you spam posting the forums in order to increase post count you will get one warning.” These instructions appear quite harsh but they are obviously there for a reason. The moderators must have decided what actually constitutes a community member and how this is represented. I liked the fact they added that spam postings would not count – which shows a dedication to the forum and an interest in the relationships in the community. They also show they do not want to be just another sales site by the commitment to the saring of information.

At the end of 2006 members were reminded that they shouldn’t have dual accounts and that some member had been banned because of this, I am not certain why this rule would come about, it could be perhaps to increase clarity and visibility between users, I am aslo not certain why member would want to have two accounts?

There was a minor intsruction to “Only post images of new builds in Gallery section” in 2007 followed by an “On topic” note in 2009 Things must have been going well since the new server was in place

At the start of 2010 there were two instructions “Do not reply to spam posting” followed by a request to “report off topic conversations” These sound like organisational instruction which perhaps follow an increase in members or posts as was seen in 2005, but there are no figures for this at this time.

In October 2011 Forum rules were posted - they are organisational – where postings should be placed. Instructional – what members should and shouldn’t say. Punative – what will happen if you break the rules!

Advice was given in March 2012 “Do not use paypal as a gift to pay for items” as members had been subject to scams from sellers who had obviously got past the restrictions on posting items for sale. Later in the year there were a few instructional reminders “No off topic talk in Introductions” and “not to use the quote button” except for “the special occasion such as reacting to a post 2 or more posts up on the page”

There was a final request to “stop adding new topics” to a specific section in 2013 but this is just an organisational request.

The site and the forum has really grown – Total members 24807 Total posts 914425 Total topics 70984 over the last few years and is very popular amongst keen cyclists and they now produce their own cycling clothing range.

Although this may not be very interesting to read it has been very interesting to do. I have thoroughly enjoyed searching through postings and TimeToast (although not aesthetically as pleasing as i hoped) has been great for organising the information chronologically and has helped given some clarification to why things change. It is interesting to see how the inadequacies of the server affected the community relationships and effectiveness. It was interesting to see how as the size of the forum grew the number of instructions increased. It was also interesting that the moderators decided on the level of participation one must have before posting sales and i wonder if a new level will come into force in the near future as that was decided over 5 years ago.

A great website and great moderators, who are reacting to change and keeping true to their ideals.