The paper itself is well worth a read, i printed it off and took it to bed, personally its the evolution of the site that i found most interesting, the ethos of the site remains the same as it was five years ago, the aim is just to help people.
Its clear that although small at the time it was people with the same problems who joined the site as new members do today, back then there was a strong sense of community, thankfully it still exists today.
One of the most interesting things for me was also the question of how you build a community. Actually I think in many ways we were just very lucky (for example with the arrival of Fiona and LMM and the two solicitors wscowell and attilladahun early on, giving real expertise that people could rely on), but there were certainly things that Ian put in place which made community building more likely.
I do hope that other online groups can benefit from my findings and use them to support the development of their own communities.
Reading your research its clear Ian had an idea, how to provide free help knowledge and support for those going through divorce or separation.
It a simple enough idea, the hard part is how do you do it effectively, the nuts and bolts of the site were put in place, from that point it was developed to meet the needs of the members, so a chat room was put in place, the library started and then a search facility so members could search for previously asked and answered questions, humble beginnings indeed.
What was more interesting for me was the evolution of the site that was led by the actual members, what the members need they got, and back then as the site is today it is not profit led, how it has survived i don`t know.
When i found wiki i was looking for a site not developed to make money and wiki was the only one i could find, the fact that wiki is a community must to a large extent be the reason for its success.
As Carrie said the arrival of Mike Fiona Mr Cowell and the lord Atilla provided a huge boost in terms of real legal knowledge, and that began a pattern of lawyers helping the site, yes they come and go in some cases they they leave a valuable legacy in terms of written knowledge, the arrival of those four key members two of which are still around provided a growth spirt to the site, from 5000 members to what is now around 90,000.
Carrie have you published your work elsewhere? it deserves a broad audience.