[Air-l] we need a better word than lurking
jsveitch at ate.co.nz
Thu May 10 02:54:36 PDT 2007
Thank you Barry Wellman for introducing this very informative and
There is a general context in which lurking is not desirable.
Before the digital age there were public libraries. Even thought the
books in the library were available and use was free and encouraged,
most people were "lurkers" or perhaps more correctly non-users.
On most long established lists, many of the registered members are no
longer readers. Another group that my experience tells me is almost as
large, read occasionally selected topics but seldom if ever respond.
Several of you are clear about the benefits of people who are unsure
what they have to say, just keeping quiet. "Less noise" is desirable.
But Peter Timusk is also correct in his observation that expounding half
baked ideas and exposing one's lack of understanding is part of the
active learning process we are all engaged in.
People who lurk, excessively may assume that they are saving time. It
is my contention that they are missing learning opportunities. Once you
commit yourself to an opinion in public you begin to pay attention to
the reaction to that in a way lurkers seldom understand. Paying
attention increases your learning rate because you are now involved.
(The hen and the pig are involved in producing my breakfast in quite
different ways too.) It's that sort of difference.
So for me there are two ways in which lurking is undesirable.
The first sort of lurker, is "lurking not present". Absent from the
discussion. A non-user of the library.
The second sort lurker, is "lurking but not engaged". Present, borrowing
books, reading, but never discussing what was read and never attempting
to use what was read in any practical way. Involved like the hen is
involved in my breakfast.
Participants in the discussion on the other hand, are involved like the
pig. The is something at stake.
Jericho Burg identifies that sort of lurking that is highly desirable.
She says' "For me, subscribing to lists is one way of finding out what
conversations are going on in a particular field" ... in which she is
not familiar. So true Jericho, which is precisely the reason who I'm
part of this list, while my fields are more, Education, Innovation and KM.
John S Veitch
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