Analyzing the online forum for constructors

Last few months I have been thoroughly reading the Estonian online forum for constructors. There socialize experts, professionals, non-professionals and amateurs with the aim to seek help about construction-related questions.

I have several research questions and these are not final, they tend to change over time. But at the moment I can formalize them as follows:

  • What type of problems can be identified in the constructors’ online forum?
  • What type of scaffold can be identified in the constructors’ online forum?
  • Which prinicples of Communities of Practice are similar to the constructors’ online forum? In what terms the forum can be treated as CoP?

Problem types in constructors’ online forum

I analyzed the forum topics based on Jonassen’s problem types. His categorization is just the first attempt to study if it suits, if something is missing or if something is not relevant. It was quite difficult to find an illustrative example to each problem type and it might be that some examples that I bring here are too artificial. Anyway, below is a figure where problem types are defined and illustrative examples added. Very often I had to add the question (Q) and answer (A) both, because question itself was not certain question type and giving the answer to it gave possibility to categorize it somehow. And in some cases the answer changed the type of the problem.










Here are the explanations for each category and example.

a) Logical – The question itself is not “logical” problem type, but the answer makes the problem type to logical one – there is only and logical way for putting fiberboards next to each other and that is why they should be finished on top of the beams. (Similar to the puzzles, when there is only one logical way to put one puzzle piece next to another);

b) Algorithmic – The question itself does not include problem that could be solved only with using some algorithm. Answer to the problem is given in the format of algorithm, which means that the user who asked the question can find the possible solution by performing the algorithm;

c) Design problems – The question itself is design-question, the one is planning and designing the electric system and don’t know what to take into consideration when planning the power points. In design problems, the answer can’t be direct solution, because every household is specific and unique and other people don’t know their needs. Therefore the answer is not therefore specific solution, but just and idea to remember in design process;

d) Decision-making – Decision-making problem type is about weighing different options in the problematic situation. In the current example, the one wants to renovate floor without taking the old floor off, which is not accepted situation by the other constructors and they suggest still to take the floor off (which is better solution), but if the one does not want to do it, then there is another possibility as well (but not so good one);

e) Trouble-shooting – the most common problem type in the construction field. In one is asking the question about specific problem without any need to diagnose the causes etc. Also the answer is quite concrete and usually does not focus on in-depth analysis of the causes of the problem, in the current example it is just pointed that probably the work is just a scrap;

f) Dilemmas with multiple answers at almost the same level of correctness – that problem type was difficult to identify in the construction field mainly because of the characteristic that said: unpredictable because there is no solution that will ever be acceptable to a significant portion of the people affected by the problem. As it was difficult to find the problem, which solution will be ever be acceptable to a many people, the problem was chosen, which solution are not acceptable to the one. In the current example the question where the oven is broken is not very dilemma-related, but answer that gives few options, provide dilemmas – thorough repair takes a lot of effort, superficial repair is not enough and getting the new one is risky (if the systems will match);

g) Case analysis – Case analysis are more in common in court or health practices and such problems assume that there are some previous solutions (cases) that next one can rely on. Here the example is chosen about wall of slates. In general such walls are not used in living quarters and making them warmer is “hopeless case” by the constructors. In the current case the question itself is not case, but the answer that refers to one specific method that was once used successfully, is case;

h) Diagnosis-solution problems – Compared with the problem type “troubleshooting”, this type is more focused on diagnosing the problems and then offering the solutions. In the current example the problem itself is simple and does not focus on diagnosing process – chimney is grimy and the one worries what might be the reason and is the situation dangerous. The answers provide different options what might be the reasons (diagnosis) and how to solve it (solutions).

i) Rule-using – In the current example the one is asking the question about formalities that are related with the construction and hints about the rules as well. The answer fulfills the problem type by adding that the one should prepare the project and then go to the local government with the project (which is the rule in Estonia).

j) Strategy – In the example of “Dilemma” the focus was on two equally bad options, but in the current example of the type “Strategy” the one has two possibilities how to build an house and he just don’t know what would be good idea in terms of time and money. What strategy to use, the one asks, to buy totally ready house and move, which is more expensive, or to buy empty house box and employ constructors, which is more risky.

k) Case – The most difficult problem-type in the construction case. The current example is about solar panels and the one doesn’t know which one to take. The answer hints that the powerful panel might be more suitable.

Analyzing community aspects in the online forum of construction

First I looked at the networked scaffolding and looked for examples were following networked scaffolding could be identified

a) How does the one who asked for the help responses to it;

b) Different types of answers for achieving the shared comprehension;

c) In a which way another expert has been suggested by the community member?

d) Are there any suggestions made based on earlier help-giving patterns in forum?

e) How do they define their membership, belonging to the community?

f) How do they define their own community

Below is the figure with the examples found from forum. It was the most difficult to find the example how do they define their membership, roles and things in the community? The example may not be the best, but it illustrates how one member (novice) is judged by another one (experienced member).







And lastly I read the Kai’s post about classifying principles for CoPs. Based on her theoretical insights I selected those principles that seemed most appropriate to the settings of the online forum of constructors. I made a figure above where those theory-driven principles are written and in italics I started adding the evidences or examples from forum. This is just an idea and I am not sure where does it bring me, but that is the task I was planning for myself.







So, those three approaches to the forum are the activities that I have been doing lately and I hope that something interesting comes up here.


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