Using Consumer Generated Data on Message Boards for Research

Home Forums Opportunities Competition – now closed Using Consumer Generated Data on Message Boards for Research

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    I had a fascinating discussion today in a most unexpected fashion. I did a short post about one of my papers on my blog. For the paper I collected data from an India specific travel message board Indiamike and also from Lonely Planet’s (LP) Thorn Tree.

    Now on the same day of making my blog post, I got a message of congratulation from the community manager of LP. But looks like there is a change of moderators and the current one assumed that I have not asked for permission before using the data.

    I have seen two opinions about the public or private nature of message board data. One view is that it is easily available to a wider public particularly through search engines and hence should be treated like newspaper.

    On the other hand, many view (and I am citing only one) message board data with more caution. If the membership base is small, if the topic researched is sensitive, when using double quotes (any double quotes, when put back into a search engine like Google would in all probability lead to the original document) suggest that the permission should be sought. Seeking permission however is not seen as restricted to the cases mentioned above, but is considered to be sound practice in general.

    To begin with I favored the second view (I would like to be safe than sorry) and when I read more, I became increasingly convinced.

    Now in the light of the comment of the LP representative on the above mentioned blog post, I feel all the more convinced that seeking permission beforehand is the way to go.

    What do you think about using message board data for research? For example, should Methodspace data be treated as private or anyone should feel free to quote from our discussions as long as it is properly referenced?


    Hi Mridula,

    I have done a research on blog too, I can share what I did in my research. I created my own message board on an online community and invited people for the discussion. I informed the users that I will quote from the discussions in my research. So,yes, you have to inform people beforehand and get their consent but for message board created by you on any blogs is what i will recommend, instead of involving a moderator like you did earlier.


    Haleema, many thanks for the reply and sharing your thoughts.

    For me the charm of using an existing message board is in the naturally happening interactions not premeditated by me as a researcher. I am quoting from Kozinets (2002, P.3)

    ““Netnography” provides marketing researchers with a window into naturally occurring behaviors, such as searches for information by, and communal word-of-mouth discussions between, consumers.”

    I know it take a few hoops to jump through in getting permission but I do try and find it enriching. So that is where my interest lies currently.

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