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Hey all, Working on something for GH and needed your thoughts/opinions/feelings on this.

Do you think "lurker" (i.e., someone who's a member of an online community but doesn't participate) is a bad word? Does it have a strong negative connotation or is it more neutral?


  • LJ

    Lucas Johnson

    over 2 years ago #

    I've never seen it as a word with a strong negative connotation. Being part of several big forums and online communities in my lifetime, I've seen the term often, and it seems to be held with a more neutral connotation by the majority. Of course, there's always the chance that someone feels differently, and that's just something that you have to live with.

    Because not everyone has heard the term often, I would recommend defining the term when you introduce it. You could even try to reword it from "doesn't participate" to something else that doesn't make it sound as negative if you feel it may cause that feeling. Because not all lurkers have 0 participation. I used to lurk on several forums (and reddit, whatever you'd wish to classify that as) but I would still upvote posts, thank people (ex. giving gold on reddit, and through features built-in to some of the forums) and interact with people through private messages and such. So it's not that I didn't participate, but more that I didn't participate publicly.

    All in all, I don't think it will be a problem :)
    But I hope my insight helps! Let me know! I'd love to read the post.


  • BW

    Brandon Wilcox

    over 2 years ago #

    As a wordsmith, I've always seen it as a strongly negative term. It's possible that some people have come to disassociate "lurk" from its negative origins and view it as a neutral description of community behavior, but you only have to look at the definition of lurk to realise how deeply negative it is...
    "verb: lie in wait, lie in ambush, behave in a sneaky and secretive manner"
    "verb: wait in hiding to attack"

  • AD

    Arlo dela Fuente

    over 2 years ago #

    I believe "lurker" is a word, it isn't good nor bad. It might be ludicrous to some but it could be potentially offensive to some people as well. If anyone is not yet a leader and is trying to be one then it would be great to get into intensive leadership coaching where positive scripting would be set as the primary goal at first. As @brandon_wilcox - a wordsmith explains the origins of the word lurker by getting into it's root word "lurk" in addition we could google-search the word with the keywords: lurk+etymology and this is what we get:

    verb: lurk; 3rd person present: lurks; past tense: lurked; past participle: lurked; gerund or present participle: lurking
    (of a person or animal) be or remain hidden so as to wait in ambush for someone or something.
    "a ruthless killer still lurked in the darkness"
    synonyms: skulk, loiter, lie in wait, lie low, hide, conceal oneself, take cover, keep out of sight
    "is someone lurking in the bushes?"
    (of an unpleasant quality) be present in a latent or barely discernible state, although still presenting a threat.
    "fear lurks beneath the surface"
    read the postings on an Internet message board or in a chat room without making any contribution oneself.

    Middle English: perhaps from lour + the frequentative suffix -k (as in talk ).

    With all the comments above and fact presented, I believe that people take offense if you call them names without their consent or if you are not a close friend to them.

    My demons within says: "Call anyone a lurker or just any name, specially if they aren't participating, sure they'll get offended but if you're the all powerful boss they'll just have to live with it!"

    One thing's for sure when you ask something, it means that there's something inside you that felt uneasy when you hear or see a word, it's that feeling when you're name get misspelled or mispronounce or if you've been called names that are pretty much offensive to you. It's in that moment that you know that there must be a better way to say it than just settle in what's already out and current, it is in exceeding expectations that you can truly say it's enough.

  • AC

    Alexandria Cheatham

    over 2 years ago #

    Neutral and if anything, somewhat funny.

  • SR

    Spencer Rule

    over 2 years ago #

    Knee jerk - Yes. Definitely negative connotations associated.

  • DR

    David Richards

    over 2 years ago #

    Some people hold themselves back and call themselves lurkers, more than other people call them that. It's like the old radio show snippet, "long-time listener, first-time caller." It's people timidly coming out of their shells, deciding to participate more-fully in a community. I haven't experienced it as a bad word, like a label people put on other people, but a threshold word.

    Practically speaking, it's an important moment when someone admits to having been a lurker because by speaking up they just graduated from that status into someone that contributes. This is their moment to first be seen and acknowledged by the community. This is the moment their community engagement just started to take a meaningful turn. They got a lot of value in the community, it probably felt a bit overwhelming to them, which is good, the quality is high, things they like are there and they're asking themselves if they measure up. They decide they do, or they just don't care, and now we're starting something that could really develop a loyal involvement with the community because they're a part of it.

    I'd say look for lurkers, talk about them, nurture them, but don't be afraid to call them that. That shouldn't feel off putting, especially if shared in the context of a friendly invitation to get them involved. "I can see you've been lurking in our community. Why not join in the conversation, we'd love to hear what you have to say?"

  • JC

    Jairet Crum

    over 2 years ago #

    Some say yes, some say no. Why? Context.

    It all boils down for me. If someone says/writes, "the lurkers that don't contribute," I'm likely to interpret negative connotation. However, something like, "the forum has an audience of lurkers," doesn't come off this way, and seems a simplified way to tell me about their user behavior. Simple example, but I stick to my guns. Context.

  • JB

    Jason Ball

    over 2 years ago #

    Great! A chance to leave my opinion on this. As an owner/moderator of an almost 55,000 member, 10 year old (kept as free of Spam, off topic or bland/boring link shares as possible that whole time, LinkedIn Community/Group, I do have an Opinion.

    The first and main point is, that most people make a massive assumption in 2017 that 'Lurker' means the same thing as it did when the term was coined for the Internet; that is in the 80's Usenet days.

    I suspect most folks still believe this or without thinking too deeply imagine something like this ratio exists when they think about 'Lurkers'...

    1% rule (Internet culture) - Wikipedia

    Namely the 90/9/1 ratio:
    1% of people create content,
    9% edit or modify that content,
    and 90% view the content without contributing... Lurkers.

    My point is I believe this ratio is more or less still valid BUT the Internet, the way we consume information from it and the nature of online Social Communities have changed vastly since the heyday of Usenet, or even of just 6-8 years ago.

    The ratio may be the same, but perhaps 80% (the ol's 80/20 rule) are not or rarely even going into your Group/Online Community. So the ratio needs to apply to the 20% who even sign into the Platform or Website your Social Community runs on.

    Now if you have actual stats on your community, not need to guess but on a community like a LinkedIn group, you have gut feel and nothing else and so I estimate, for every 10,000 Group Members, the ratio to work with and so the value of 'Lurkers' - people who IMHO are looking, reading, interested might be:

    Actual Members coming into Community - 10,000 x 20% = 2,000
    Members Creating content, posting, driving the engagement - 2,000 x 1% = 20
    Members Editing, Modifying, Interacting with, Engaging with, *Like*, Comment, Sharing - 2,000 x 9% = 180
    Your Lurkers; reading, watching, interested, periodically going into the community and enjoying it - 2,000 x 90% = 1,800

    So to add to this discussion, let's make sure we understand what % of our Community Members are actually Lurkers.

    As to the connotation, from my experience many people I meet, the first thing they do is apologize for 'being a Lurker' in the group.

    So I think though it may have a negative connotation, you can control your use of it, make it a fun and endearing term as true Lurkers, in the day and age when 90% aren't even coming in anymore, are surely 'active' members of your community!