I got the opportunity to meet Marc Smith a month ago at an Online Community Summit (where I also got to meet Lee LeFever face to face for the first time). Marc mentioned that Jenny Preece, who I already knew through her book, Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability, had been doing some work on evaluating communities. It took me this long to look up what she was currently up to and I now have about a months worth of reading. Papers on lurking(pdf), on empathy and trust(pdf) and examining a stalled online community(pdf). And much of her recent work have been in small communities that focus on health or technical self-support. So there is the potential this can have a direct impact on my daily work. Wow.
Wait, there is more! Dr. Preece mentored Diane Maloney-Krichmar whose disertation is an ethnographic study of mutual-aid health community. I haven't had a chance to find contact information for her to see if she has published that disertation yet. It's late on Friday and I have to wisk down to LA tonight to see the Body Worlds Exhibit. In the mean time, if this stuff tickles your fancy and you find some specific interesting things, please post them in comments or on your blog and I will link to you (damn blogspot and no trackback).