If we are talking about communities and their sizes, we can easily correlate this question with the group we are working on the target to investigate customer communities.
Our six-member group is working quite optimal from the perspective of group size. The tasks can be divided with ease, the meetings are going with not too much noise, everybody can have enough attention and their own input to the teamwork.
But there are also sometimes complications in understanding eachother. This seems to be caused by the diversity of cultures or the slight language barrier that we have around our whole class. In a way it is complicated to explane some things many timnes and not understanding others but in other hand this diversity enriches our group with good spirit and different viewpoints. In the end, despite the complications it is well worth the good we gain through the diversity.
From my point of view it wold be worth trying to split the group in to smaller groups of three (or two, if it seems to be more convenient . In my experience, quick and concrete questions/problems can be answered more efficiently by smaller groups of people, but the questions that need some deeper investigation, different perspectives or need more creative answers are more efficiently served by a larger group of people.
I also studied about group size from the perspective of social psychology and it goes very deep into how and why people are (re)acting in different situations. It cannot be directly applied to online communities, because the people feel more anonymous but I think there are some good points which correlate with offline communities. Also find this interesting conclusive article:
Productivity in Groups
Research shows that productivity tends to decline when a group of people are working on a task together. This happens for two reasons: insufficient coordination and social loafing.
When many people work on a task, their efforts may not be sufficiently coordinated. Several people may end up doing the same portion of the task, and some portions of the task may be neglected.
Social loafing, which contributes to declines in the productivity of a group, is the reduced effort people invest in a task when they are working with other people. Diffusion of responsibility contributes to social loafing. A person does not feel as responsible for working on a task if several others are also present, since responsibility is distributed among all those present.
Social loafing is particularly likely to happen in the following circumstances:
- When the group is large
- When it is difficult to evaluate individual contributions to a task
- When people expect their coworkers to pick up the slack
In some circumstances, individuals perform better when other people are present. This phenomenon is called social facilitation. Social facilitation is more likely to occur on easy tasks. On difficult tasks, people are likely to perform worse in the presence of others.
Members of a group are often required to make decisions together. Three concepts related to group decision-making are groupthink, group polarization, and minority influence.
Groupthink is the tendency for a close-knit group to emphasize consensus at the expense of critical thinking and rational decision-making. In a groupthink situation, group members squash dissent, exert pressure to conform, suppress information from outside the group, and focus selectively on information that agrees with the group’s point of view.
Groupthink is more likely to occur when groups have certain characteristics:
- High cohesiveness. Group cohesiveness is the strength of the liking and commitment group members have toward each other and to the group.
- Isolation from outside influences
- A strong leader
- The intent to reach a major decision
The dominant point of view in a group often tends to be strengthened to a more extreme position after a group discussion, a phenomenon called group polarization. When a group starts out with a dominant view that is relatively risky, the group is likely to come to a consensus that is even riskier. This phenomenon is called risky shift .
A committed minority viewpoint can change the majority opinion in a group. Group members are more likely to be influenced by a minority opinion when the minority holds the opinion firmly.
When people are in a large group that makes them feel aroused and anonymous, they may experience deindividuation. When people become deindividuated, they lose their inhibitions and their sense of responsibility and are not self-conscious about their behavior. Deindividuation is a major reason for the violence that sometimes happens in mobs.