Posters and lurkers

I have been involved in a number of online projects and certainly lurking is always an issue. Reading about the different kinds of lurkers as part of my online course assignment I realised that people usually tend to see lurking from a negative point of view. However, I truly believe that it all depends on the sort of online environment and the sort of interaction we are talking about and I’d like to focus on two different kinds of online interaction which I have some experience with.

Online courses – in online courses where participants have a very specific objective and will be awarded a certificate for their participation and performance, I think lurking as a freeloader or a sponge is something totally unacceptable. It may sound a bit strict and I understand that people may feel a bit shy and can hesitate to contribute because they feel insecure; however, each participant knew beforehand what he/she was getting into and I think you have to bring up your own resources and contribute to the group and the discussion instead of just expecting others to feed you up.

Open forums and discussion lists – in this situation I think hesitation and a sense of insecurity is really understandable, because you never know who is going to read your message and how these unknown people will react to it. Fear of criticism is highly justifiable in such a situation. Besides that, our objective in such online environments is to make as many people as possible, read and reflect about an issue. It’s alright if people lurk for a time, because they are learning and getting acquainted with the subject. We know that in open forums and discussion lists only about 5% of the members actually post, but it does not mean that we are not reaching the other 95%. Eventually, some of them will make a contribution – perhaps saying how much they have learnt from the discussion.



One thought on “Posters and lurkers

  1. Hello Chris,
    Very interesting what you have written on this post. I also think that many people think that lurking is a bad thing. I see lurking as a form of learning. The lurker, many times, is that invisible someone at the back of the cyberspace room who speaks up at some point in time to say how he has learned. Lurking is sometimes a phase of learning. Some people try to feel the environment before they say/post something. Other times a lurker in a moment can be a central node in the learning community in the next. Just like you said, “It all depends”.
    I agree with you that lurking as a way to post safely really deprives the group/community of serendipity and innovation. In my opinion, many times, lurking can be a strategy to post something more “appropriate”. Then contributions do not have the originality they were supposed to and the group looses in diversity, creativity, and real learning.


Comments are closed.