Silent Participants: Getting to Know Lurkers Better


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Type of work: Book Chapter


Participation & Uses | Social Media & Social Software




Why do lurkers lurk and what do they do? A number of studies have examined people’s posting behaviour on mailing lists (Sproull and Kiesler, 1991), bulletin board systems (Preece, 1998) and Usenet newsgroups (Smith, 2000) but studying lurkers is much harder because you don’t know when they are there or why. Although lurkers reportedly make up the majority of members in online groups, little is known about them. Without insight into lurkers and lurking, our understanding of online groups is incomplete. Ignoring, dismissing, or misunderstanding lurking distorts knowledge of life online and may lead to inappropriate design of online environments. E-commerce entrepreneurs are particularly eager to find out why people lurk, in order to understand better how to entice them to participate in commercial interactions.