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This 85 message thread spans 3 pages: 85 ( [1] 2 3 > >     
Pulling forum lurkers out of hiding
Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:28 pm on Jun 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

In reading some discussions and remembering back to what it's like when boards are brand spanking new, especially starting from scratch, it seems one of the things that's hardest to do at first is to get the silent lurkers to make that first move and start posting and giving responses to questions.

There are some ways to encourage posting, and one is to give half-answers to questions that prompts others to post and helps to bring some of those lurkers out of their corner.

Some people are timid to be the first one to respond, some not knowing if they really know the correct answer or just nervous being the first. If you give just a bit of it, just enough and know when to stop, it's almost like they finish your thought in their heads - and know that they do know what the answer is. It'll get them "feeling" like finishing your post for you - so they're prone to jump in and post.

It's kind of like putting teasers out; I've seen it happen over and over again innumerable times. It takes a bit of practice to get it down, but it works and it's one of the most effective ways of driving people out of lurking.

Another way is when the first post is a question and it's really not clear what they're asking, the way they've worded it. Asking a few pointed questions to clarify what they mean *without* giving them the answer often gets them to respond to you. If not, it's clearer to others and by then there are 2 or 3 posts instead of the dreaded one post and it's not only a good way to pull lurkers out of hiding, but to make the whole discussion more comprehensible and productive.

Kind of sneaky little tricks of the trade, but it really is helpful to people both because it helps the ones asking and also the ones who would like to particpate but are just too hesitant, unsure of themselves or shy.

Anyone else know ways to combat the silent observer problem?

 

bcolflesh

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:34 pm on Jun 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anyone else know ways to combat the silent observer problem?

Google Update Thread

trillianjedi

WebmasterWorld Senior Member trillianjedi us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:35 pm on Jun 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

A "roll-call" type post can be extremely effective. Who are you, what do you do etc etc

Often once you get a lurker to post for that first time, there's no stopping them.

TJ

AAnnAArchy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 8:29 pm on Jun 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yeah, the request for intro posts or the innocuous foo type posts are the best for getting lurkers out of the woodwork. Or simple, controversial, yet not really heated subjects are good too - like, "What do *you* consider SPAM?" ;)

basenotes

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 9:24 pm on Jun 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Depending on your forum's theme - What's your favourite Widget / How did you get into Widgets - type threads can pull lurkers out.

vkaryl

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 1:30 am on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anyone else know ways to combat the silent observer problem?

Google Update Thread

Huh? Why on earth would that entice a lurker?

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 3:04 am on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Why on earth would that entice a lurker?

In the heyday of the monthly updates, the update posts often turned into something resembling real-time chat sessions as people compared minute-by-minute successes and disasters (despite the efforts of the mods to keep posts fairly meaningful). This often seemed to break down barriers and draw in new posters.

Perhaps there's a more general message in there for other forums - if you can get a thread with a lot of excitement going (but not much real content), your lurkers may feel encouraged to jump in. It's a lot easier to say, "Yay! I moved up to #2 for my main keyword!" than to create a thoughtful, technically accurate reply to a complex question.

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:18 am on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>Why on earth would that entice a lurker?

Two things: the natural clustering tendencies that people have, and the attraction to the kind of climate that provides a comfort zone, which is the task of those welcoming guests into their "abode" so to speak.

People tend to huddle together in times of crisis (and joy). Like after the big shakers we have here where freeways collapse and buildings crumble. Gathering all together in one neighbors house for a breakfast together with no power or water and everything shattered, sharing what they've got with whoever lives next door.

And the mutual cooperation and assistance helping each other rebuild and put the pieces back together again. Or like when there's celebration for a wedding, birth, job promotion - a victory or blessed event.

Community is about shared interests and concerns, and it's about support, sharing and encouragement.

IMHO online communities are what provide an opportunity for an extension of the natural sense of community people have that's just brought into a different type of environment that transcends age, background and geography.

So bringing silent bystanders in is taking them from being alone on the outside looking in and bringing them into the fold to join in and become part of the structure and social fiber.

Updates serve the practical function of giving an opportunity to partake in communicating about shared interests and an opportunity to ease in with comfort. Not too unlike "real life" situations out there in the "real world" when you really think about it ;)

Leosghost

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 11:55 am on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

post "What do you like about microsoft?"
or "whats your favorite version of IE?"

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 1:15 pm on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Agreed, Leosghost - a topic that gets fans & detractors going can often bring posters out of the woodwork. (Here, you could also try, "CSS is bloated and unreliable." ;) ) Every forum topic has these kinds of issues - controversial people or topics, etc. On a sports forum, "Should Kobe play?" or "Why the Yankees are Overrated" would probably work nicely.

On the plus side, these will draw not just lurkers but sporadic posters into the conversation. The negative part is that topics that generate controversy can also move in the direction of members attacking each other personally (which won't help your community building effort).

As AAnnAArchy suggests, finding a topic that doesn't create too much heat can avoid bruised feelings.

vkaryl

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:10 pm on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've actually never run across this problem. For myself, I'm the world's biggest mouth. Opinionated is my middle name.

For my fora, they're all private, most of them are FOR those who are as opinionated as I, so there's no problem there either....

The only lurkers I have are on a couple of smallish role-play fora I run (which attempt to approximate tabletop) - one person on each of those is pretty much a member simply to remain in some contact with the rest of us. Neither is comfortable in the forum style of free-post rp, and neither is particularly forthcoming in the "foo-ish" topics either, and have repeatedly asked me if it's just okay to read and not post. Add to that the fact that one of them is partially paralyzed following an accident, and the other's husband has cancer - I don't push it....

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 8:33 pm on Jun 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've heard of boards with very large lurker populations - perhaps ten times as many lurkers as active posters. I suppose you could break down the lurker population further - registered members who never post or do so very rarely, unregistered lurkers who visit the forum frequently, and unregistered visitors who aren't "regulars".

All three of these groups may include people who would be great community members if they can be drawn into more involvement, so for many forums it may well be beneficial to spend a bit of time on "lurker conversion".

If you are reading this thread and haven't posted in the forums, this would be a great time to break the ice and let us know why you usually lurk. ;)

Webwork

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 5:33 am on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anyone ever try to flesh this out by starting a thread with the heading Why have you never posted a reply or initiated a thread in this forum?

Might make interesting reading.

Might also result in dead space.

Somebody run a test. I'm dying to know and don't yet run my own forum . . .but soon

Marcia

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:43 am on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Webwork, you jarred my memory. A lot of it has to be intimidation, and there was a discussion in Community Center a while back on that very thing

Curiosity Question - Intimidation Factor [webmasterworld.com]

Webwork

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 2:31 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

That is an interesting thread Marcia.

I can see the benefit of reinforcing community by such actions as 'introduce yourself', 'we'd like to know the opinion of those who haven't spoken lately', 'we value the life experience of those who don't feel they have expertise: there's no expertise like real life experience'.

Question: What is the value of a lurker to a forum community?

I can think of s few answer: 1) They might come forward some day; 2) They might refer a friend who becomes an active participant.

The downside of lurkers in large numbers is that they may consume most of the bandwidth, being a hard cash expense, without contributing directly to the value creation.

Is there room for a carrot and a stick approach with lurkers OR is is all carrot?

What is an acceptable stick? A stick doesn't have to be punishment but perhaps privilege, such as the ability to view certain sections based upon a history of contribution. Sort of a 'members only by invitation' section, as compared to a members only by payment section . . . ahem, cough, cough.

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 2:40 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I missed that thread, Marcia, thanks for pointing it out.

One thing I'm pretty sure about: the way lurkers see other people treated will influence whether THEY feel inclined to post.

I recall visiting one technical forum with some true experts as senior members. Unfortunately, when a newbie stumbled in and asked a simple question, they would often flame the poor guy for not having adequately searched the archives. Every forum has the problem of "the same old questions", but it's hard to build a community when potential members are blasted as soon as they arrive.

If lurkers see new arrivals being treated with courtesy and respect, and not being mocked for their inexperience, they'll be far more likely to come out of hiding themselves.

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 3:02 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Webwork, I'd add,

(3) They will view and/or click on your ads and affiliate links (if you have them), boosting your views on CPM ads, your clicks on CPC ads, and your conversion chances on affilate or ecommerce links.

(4) If the forum is part of a larger site, lurkers may be induced to visit the other parts of the site.

4css

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 3:22 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Quote Marcia:
A lot of it has to be intimidation

This is the hammer that hits the nail for me, as I am sure for many others.

I think people tend to feel intimidated by lack of knowledge. And as far as posting answers, I think that a good bit of the lurkers fear incorrect answers.

I have read the introductions in the private forums. Where I am and what I am presently doing in life is no where near what the preceeding intros are like.

If you think about it, most of the people who lurk are basically beginners and are learning one aspect or another in regards to web design, or any of the other web related areas in here.

Quote Webwork:
The downside of lurkers in large numbers is that they may consume most of the bandwidth, being a hard cash expense, without contributing directly to the value creation.

I don't think a comment such as this,(though I understand that bandwidth is a cost that forum owners should be concerned about, and only mentioned as a possible downside, and most likely does not reflect your thoughts.) would encourage lurkers to get involved. If they are looked at as non contributors and those who eat tons of bandwidth daily, they won't lurk and won't learn. The lurker of today could be the largest contributor of the future once they learn what they are lurking here for. ;)

Webworks suggestion for a "why you have never posted" thread is an excellent idea. I'm sure that would pull some out of hiding.

The "value of a lurker" is what they can offer in the future.

lurker heads back into hiding ;)

digitalv

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 3:50 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anyone else know ways to combat the silent observer problem

Pay them :)

But put it in the terms of use that they don't get paid until they've made 100 Billion posts. They're probably too dumb to read the terms anyway :)

trillianjedi

WebmasterWorld Senior Member trillianjedi us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 3:54 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

A stick doesn't have to be punishment but perhaps privilege, such as the ability to view certain sections based upon a history of contribution. Sort of a 'members only by invitation' section, as compared to a members only by payment section.

An excellent idea.

TJ

4css

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 4:03 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Anyone else know ways to combat the silent observer problem

Quote:digitalv

Pay them

But put it in the terms of use that they don't get paid until they've made 100 Billion posts. They're probably too dumb to read the terms anyway

If I have not been here for a while lurking, I would think this is the consences here as someone just visiting the site today. And believe me I would blow this place off very fast. However, since I have been here for a while, I know, or think I know that this is not the reall thoughts of the people of this forum.

Lurkers? Dumb? Sheesh, I wonder why so many people lurk?

What a really really stupid statement to make.

As a moderator of another forum, I think that your reply is totally out of line.

And to add this right after my posting on the subject of why lurkers lurk is totally infuriating. Kind of like a slap on the face.

Webwork

WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 4:25 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

We may have just hit on one of the ingredients of lurking: Sensitivity about one's own intelligence, something that many of us experience from time to time, especially depending on the crowd we find ourselves amongst.

What's a shame is that anyone - the bright and learned - and those that don't see themselves as either smart enough or learned enough - should overlook the value that 'real life experience' brings to any situation. That's where I think those who hold out or are blocked by a concern that their wits are no match, that their intelligence is insufficient - sell themselves short. Life experience is often more valuable than raw intelligence. In the right situation brains can get you killed while experience can save the day.

On the other hand, a forum that seeks to offend no one or that attempts to play nicely with everyone's sensitivities is likely one that will spend most of it's time in an effort to be polite or politically correct. There's some value in that as an effort unto itself - in discerning new possibilities - but the effort is likely to be a drag on getting down to the business of the issue itself.

OBTW, I don't see DigitalV's comment as intending offense. The ;-) smily tells me he sees him/herself as one of the stoopid - as we all are - from time to time, and therefore intends humor or a light touch in the comment. There's very few people here who see the world otherwise, for if they do they don't last long here. The brightest people I know are often the ones to admit their failed efforts. Often, that's how they got to be so bright: trial, effort, failure, trial, effort,

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 5:00 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I see that I missed another big answer to the "value of lurkers" question. Depending on your forum, this might be the most important one:

5) If the mission of your forum is to educate and inform your visitors, or convey a particular message, you can achieve that even with visitors who never post or never even register.

Imagine a forum that addresses a little-discussed medical topic. There may be many, many people who would be too shy or too embarrassed to post their own questions, but who might derive great value from reading the forum and studying the informed answers were given to others. If these visitors get the information they need, it's "mission accomplished" for the forum.

4css

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 5:17 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Quote Rogerd
If these visitors get the information they need, it's "mission accomplished" for the forum.

You are right about this. I have a medical forum. If everyone that stops only stops to read information and finds something that will help them out, then I have done what I planned on doing when I started the forum. And that was to make updated information available in one location for people in need of it.

vkaryl

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 5:36 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

I recall visiting one technical forum with some true experts as senior members. Unfortunately, when a newbie stumbled in and asked a simple question, they would often flame the poor guy for not having adequately searched the archives.

Been there done that one, have the "I was a newbie at Forum X" t-shirt to prove it.... WebmasterWorld was such a pleasant surprise for exactly that reason - everyone treated me VERY kindly when I showed up a year ago or so and couldn't even figure out how to use the search function (so thanks again to all of you!)

ken_b

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 6:40 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

It helps if the admins and mods don't talk down to the members. Not insulting members would be nice too. This kind of behavior on the part of mods and admins is simply inexcusable.

It may well be harder to keep members from talking down to, and insulting each other, but it's well worth the effort.

Sounds obvious doesn't it.

Apparently it isn't at all obvious to a large number of admins, mods, and members on any number of forums.

Of course if the name ofthe forum is something like "Billys Bar and Brawl" ....... well expecting a nice civil converstaion might be a bit optimistic.

Old_Honky

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 7:28 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Is lurking a problem?

I have been largely a lurker, but mainly because I don't need to ask questions - a quick search normally finds the answer.

There are very few original questions - most of them are just an old question dressed up differently. :-}

I don't consider myself competent enough to answer any questions yet, and I have yet to think of a question that absolutely no-one else has asked (so far).

I agree with 4CSS's comments, sometimes lurkers are getting value from forums without "active" participation. That's not a problem it's a just the forum serving some of it's users in the way they want to use it.

When you try and cajole or even force participation you are taking away their choice. I say it is better to "lurk and learn" than to post meaningless comments just for the sake of joining in.

ken_b

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 7:56 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi Old Honky; Welcome to WW.

Is lurking a problem?

I don't think lurking is really a problem, at least as the focus of this thread, but threads like this can sometimes unintentionally give the impression that it is.

More the issue is how to encourage folks to move from pure lurker status to more actively participating as a posting members of the forum.

Again, welcome to WW.

rogerd

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 8:12 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Welcome, Old_Honky! Thanks for sharing your perspective on lurkerdom. I have to admit that in some forums, I do the same thing - surf around for the info I need, and depart without leaving a trace.

I certainly agree that posting just to post is a waste. What I've found, though, is that just about everybody has either expertise in some area or at least an opinion or two. A person who is a technical novice may well have a perspective on running a business, or dealing with a bad boss. Here, quite a few new posters have started off in Foo where they can post without feeling like rank amateurs. Others just dive right in & don't worry about asking a dumb question or two.

Since this forum is about building communities, I'd add that becoming a participating member of a community usually ends up being a richer experience. Think of your neighborhood - you can peer out the window and watch your neighbors, or you can carry a few beers out on your front lawn (or maybe a nice Merlot with some glasses if you prefer ;)) and interact with them.

Thanks for joining in!

4css

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 71 posted 10:22 pm on Jun 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld Old_Honky.

I love your screen name.

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