One strand in the sleave of lrnchat topics a few weeks ago was the lurker, who hangs around a discussion but doesn’t take part.
I’ve engaged in online discussions since 1984. “Lurker” as a term often has a negative connotation; highly active participants seem to regard lurkers as unreasonably shy, terminally silent, or possibly parasitic.
Geeze. Lighten up.
I’ve done more than my share of lurking, although as I said in the #lrnchat discussion, “I don’t lurk so much as lollygag.”
The real topic on #lrnchat was how internal social networks affect the performance of an organization, and what people can do to further that impact. A lot of the conversation centered microblogging, wikis, and other tools that can foster collaboration and cooperation.
Harold Jarche makes a useful distinction between those two terms: you collaborate with others via plans and structures; you cooperate via freely-chosen connections. Especially for people who work in (or with) organizations, both have their role.
Lurking’s actually not a bad way to get to know a new group. Outward-focused chatty early adopters might disagree, but some of us like (or have learned) to look around first. We’re seeing how the locals do things. We’re working out some of the modes of engagement.
(And, yes, we just may be noticing who talks too much about too little–you longtimers have that nailed; we’re just coming up to speed.)
As the #lrnchat discussion flowed, more than one person cited the value of someone showing you what he or she gets out of social networks. If you know a person who seems reasonably sane yet uses Twitter, you’re probably more open to hearing why, and to asking about the benefits that person sees.
Someone prone to lurking could read the #lrnchat transcript, maybe find a few voices of reason, and start following those people–on Twitter, or through whatever link they have in their Twitter profile (LinkedIn, Facebook, a blog, a website).
If you’re prone to encourage active participation by lurkers, good for you–just don’t turn that encouragement into nagging. If on the other hand you’re prone to lengthy lurking, I think there’s genuine value to Hellmanism, a philosophy of interpersonal behavior found on jars of mayonnaise:
Keep cool but don’t freeze.