More on Lurking in communities

Found this research report on why lurkers lurk. Nancy and I had an exchange of comments in response to one of my eariler posts on the social capital implications of lurking.
The findings of this research are pretty interesting.My understanding of the resons behind lurking were perhaps limited.

Reasons why lurkers don’t post
Reasons why lurkers did not post [brackets indicate % of respondents (N=219)]
Didn’t need to post
Just reading/browsing is enough (53.9)
No requirement to post (21.5)
Had no intention of posting (13.2)

Needed to find out about the group
Still learning about the group (29.7)

Thought I was being helpful
Nothing to offer (22.8)
Others have said it (18.7)

Couldn’t make the software work
Not enough time (9.1)
Do not know how to post (7.8)
Too many messages (4.6)

Didn’t like the group (poor dynamics/fit)
Shy about posting (28.3)
Want to remain anonymous (15.1)
Of no value to me (11.0)
Messages or group low quality (7.8)
Wrong group (7.3)
Long delay getting response (6.8)
Concern about aggressive responses (5.9)
Fear of commitment (4.1)
New members treated poorly (1.4)

Other reasons (1.4)

Some of the key findings of the research are:(Quoting the authors)

  • These results provide a valuable insight into why lurkers lurk. Interestingly, only
    13.2% of lurkers indicated they intended to lurk from the outset. This implies that
    the majority of lurkers become lurkers through their interaction with the community.
  • …suggests that lurkers are, in general, more negative about their community experiences.
  • Most of the issues raised by lurkers as reasons for not posting can be
    corrected or ameliorated to create a better environment for both lurkers and posters.
  • problems concerned with creating a good environment for communication and social interaction are primarily the responsibility of the moderator, community manager and the community members themselves. Who does what varies from community to community.
  • To help newcomers, established members could be encouraged to take on the role
    of the archetype ‘‘greeter’’. Other strategies could include guided tours, mentoring,
    and discussion summary pages.
  • Another strategy would be to divide the community up into more people-friendly units, which might form permanent or ephemeral sub-communities. This scaling issue has been posed many times, but as yet techniques for gracefully facilitating a scaling mechanism
    have not been developed.

The need to create a good and safe environment for newcomers resonates pretty well with the the the success of communities like Javaranch. Nancy has written a recent post on this.


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