People are increasingly looking to online social communities as ways of communicating. However, even as participation in social networking is increasing, online communities often fail to coalesce. Noted success factors for online communities are linked to the community's purpose and culture. They are also related to structures that allow for increased volume of exchange and quality of conversation. Ravelry.com provides a case of a successful, large-scale, online community that has information exchange and conversation as its foci. These activities are supported through the work of thousands of volunteer moderators who sometimes manage groups with more than 3 million members. However, little is known about organizing and supporting volunteer groups to allow for such large-scale growth. To find information on moderators' roles and tasks, and how they are supported in the Ravelry community, a study was conducted in 2 sequential phases. Phase I consisted of a survey of 73 moderators who led large, active groups. Phase II consisted of interviews with 8 moderators who led different types of groups within Ravelry, having purposes that range from purely social conversation to technical forums on craft-related work. Findings indicated that the tasks moderators performed did not vary greatly, despite differences in their group's purpose and culture. Common among most moderators' duties were encouraging group participation through stimulating discussion or organizing craft-based activities, resolving conflict between group members, and maintaining their site through routine housekeeping tasks. Moderators are motivated to volunteer to do these tasks by love of their group members, and are united by a common interest in their craft. Moderators are most often supported by informal networks of moderators in their own or in similar groups. These findings give insight into how to structure large, asynchronous, online conversation-based groups, and how to define a role for people to manage them. It provides an understanding of the work that moderators do, and how their work allows a sense of place to be established for informal learning.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Online social networks -- Management; Group facilitation; Social networks

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Polin, Linda;