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Flash Forums and ForumReader: Navigating a New Kind of Large-Scale Online Discussion (13 Sep 2004)
We describe a popular kind of large, topic-centered, transient discussion, which we term a flash forum. These occur in settings ranging from web-based bulletin boards to corporate intranets, and they display a conversational style distinct from Usenet and other online discussion. Notably, authorship is more diffuse, and threads are less deep and distinct. To help orient users and guide them to areas of interest within flash forums, we designed ForumReader, a tool combining data visualization with automatic topic extraction. We describe lessons learned from deployment to thousands of users in a real-world setting. We also report a laboratory experiment to investigate how interface components affect behavior, comprehension, and information retrieval. The ForumReader interface is well-liked by users, and our results suggest it can lead to new navigation patterns. We also find that, while both visualization and text analytics are helpful individually, combining them may be counterproductive.
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