Lurkerrrrrs, Come Out to Play-ay!

September 23, 2009 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

If you know what movie that reference is from, you get a cookie. Sorry, got a little hungry there. Anyways, I’m referencing this movie from the ’70s that is pretty badass and you should watch this clip to get the full effect of the title:

So just imagine me sitting here with glass bottles on my fingers inviting you to come out and play. But I digress.

In this post I wanted to address the concept of lurkers. For those not down with tech lingo, according to dictionary.com, a lurker is:

“One who reads or observes an ongoing discussion without participating in it, as in an Internet newsgroup.”

If this is the definition of what a lurker is in an online sense, where on earth and when did we attach a negative connotation? Is it because lurk is a really weird, ugly sounding word? (My bad if your name is Lurk or some variation thereof). And is lurking really such a bad thing? I’m not gonna lie, I “lurk” some communities and/or personal blogs and journals, but I’m not up to any nefarious activities. I know when I lurk, it’s because I’m interested in reading what other people have to say on a subject, so I’m just there to get information, but not to necessarily share my own opinion. If I feel strongly enough about something, I will, but not usually. According to one our texts in my Theory & Analysis class, other reasons people lurk are:

  • Thinking that they don’t have anything of value to contribute.
  • Wanting to learn more about a community before just diving in.
  • Not liking the dynamics that they’ve observed in the group.

So I ask, are any of these things negative? The last one is debatable, but overall, it seems to me like there’s no reason to categorize lurkers as bad people. Maybe there should be a new term for them? I think “spectator” is a good one. When I think of a spectator I think of someone sitting in a stadium watching some sports match or parked in front of the television watching some drama unfold.  Some of the shenanigans that go on in online communities are just as entertaining, so I think “spectator” is a pretty good fit!

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Entry filed under: COM 530- Theory & Analysis, random musings. Tags: .

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