An online research community is inherently ethnographic. A group of related individuals are engaged and observed with the aim of better understanding what defines them as a group. At least the opportunity to approach the data from this perspective always exists, even if that isn’t the explicit aim of the researcher.
One key component of traditional ethnographic research is field-based data collection that prioritizes observation over direct questioning. Observation allows the researcher to contextualize the gaps between what people say versus what they actually do. A research community however, removes the researcher from the field and relies on the community interface to collect data for them.
And that can be a positive!