My application was rejected/deferred. For those interested attached are the following reasons and accompanying vent:

b) Recruitment: Please provide additional information on the procedures that will be used to recruit subjects for the research. Please also submit a copy of the scripts/email messages that will be used to recruit participants (as outlined in the recruitment section of the protocol) and note that the IRB generally requires that recruitment materials/scripts include any age restrictions on participation.

my original entry
After observing subjects, in environments including discussion boards and chat rooms, I will privately approach them via either e-mail or instant messenger and ask if they are interested in participating. This contact will include information on my research and an overview of IRB protections.

If they response positively, we will discuss in what form the interview will take (phone, instant messenger, e-mail). I will then send the full consent form to them and have it returned before proceeding further.

Matt’s Comments
Oy! Recruitment scripts? I mean people will have to sign their lives away if they agree. And in that document everything is painfully explained. Why the heck do I need to script out every freakin’ encounter with people? I can just see it… I’m in the flow of a dialog and then I have to announce “give me a moment while I find the exact script that I will need to say in order to ensure that I don’t damage your obviously fragile psyche.” Yeah… that’s natural.

The larger implied issue here is what constituted a dialog online? Is an email exchange a online proxy for conversation? Or is the equivalent of a mass blanketing or requests for participation in a study?

d) Data storage: Please provide additional information on data storage and coding procedures for the comments collected from chat rooms. Specifically, please indicate whether screen names or any other identifiers will be linked to the chat room comments.

Matt’s comment
The issue of Usernames is really tough. Since they are able to be linked back to e-mail addresses they’re considered identifying information. Like keeping someone’s name.

The problem is that unlike most names, people specifically choose screennames. And they have pretty significant meaning (which I’ll post more on soon). So I’m planning to analyze them as part of the study.

Still the IRB considers this a dangerous thing as someone could, in theory, get a hold of them and do “evil” things (though in this case I don’t know what constitutes evil). So I need to keep them locked down. And then if I want to use my findings, I must create pseudonyms to ensure everything is cool.

This process is going to kill me. Or make me stronger. Sadly I fear it will be the former before the latter.