Short Paper:
Best and Worst Experiences Online

CS 4472/6470: The Design of Online Communities
Professor Amy Bruckman
Due:Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Format:Double spaced, 12 pt. font
Approximate Length:Two essays of one to three pages each
Percentage of Grade:5%
Grading Criteria:
  • Writing
  • Completeness
  • Insight into online community design issues

What was your best experience in an online environment? Did you develop a new understanding of an issue? Meet a new friend or professional contact? Have a profound revelation or maybe a really good laugh? What qualities of the online environment helped to make the experience a success?

What was your worst experience? Did a formerly useful online environment deteriorate into something unpleasant? Did you get spammed or insulted? Did something embarassing or creepy happen? What precipitated the incident? How did what happened differ from your expectations? What qualities of the online environment made the situation worse, or failed to make it better?

Describe your best and worst experiences online. Any communication between yourself and others over a networked computer system is a reasonable subject--it could be email, a mailing list, a newsgroup, a MUD, an instant messenger, a multi-player game, etc.

It doesn't actually need to be the best or the worst experience you've had online--just one that was meaningful to you in some way. Please use good judgement and think carefully before writing about something extremely personal. In particular, please don't share stories that involve unethical conduct on your part. For example I really wish I hadn't gotten the paper in which the author admitted to breaking into his girlfriend's email account and reading her mail when he was worried she was cheating on him. On the other hand, some of the best essays written for this assignment include net friends assisting the author in times of personal tragedy. It's not necessary to tell such a personal story, but if you want to and are comfortable sharing such details, that's fine. Please use common sense in choosing what to write about.

If you don't feel you've had many online experiences, don't worry. Remember that email counts--you can write about significant things that have happened in exchanging email with friends, family, and co-workers. People relatively new to online interaction have written great papers by talking about their first impressions of computer-mediated communication.

You may either write two separate essays of one to three pages each, or one essay of two to six pages comparing and contrasting the experiences.