by Sylvia Currie -
Number of replies: 17

Your feedback and suggestions are so appreciated! I smile when I see the familiar faces, and appreciate that you "dusted off" your id and password to join in.

Just about every post mentions lurking -- some of you even have your own brand of lurking: "professional lurker" "avid Lurker". Appreciation of this ability to follow along, unnoticed, has been mentioned many times over the years. I've met people at conferences and other events only to learn that they have been following SCoPE seminars since the beginning, yet they have never contributed to discussions, or created an account for that matter. In my view, the value in these open conversations, and lurkability (there you go, a new word!) is that MORE people benefit. Hopefully individuals in turn take what they learned back to their own workplace, and share even further.

Nick mentions that he recognizes the issues in "being an audience rather than a participant". Of course lurking is a form of participation, and possibly taking the extra steps to go deeper by crafting responses equals greater benefit. One challenge as a community steward is keeping track of participation for reporting purposes. Naturally big participation numbers help to convince sponsors that you're on the right track. There's a whole world out there that might be participating and we don't even know about them. The best I can do is make note of the occasions when we do find out about the lurkers. Satisfies me anyway :-) Or are there clever ways of capturing that data?

I always remember this question from John Smith, community leader for CPsquare: When it comes to participation at events, why do people think more is better? It's a darn good question! Some of the best conversations happen in small groups. Jenny mentions the First Steps into Learning and Teaching MOOC, a good example of rich conversations that would not have been possible if everyone showed up! In a MOOC, and in any open event for that matter, there's the potential for too many active participants.

What is that ideal number? Are people more reluctant to jump in when there are too many active participants? Or too few? What is it that nudges lurkers to hit that "post" button?

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Lurking

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -

Hi Sylvia, 

Great to be back on SCoPE, one of my favorite places. For me, there are no ideal numbers. I love to have many people show up for my online courses and classes because it feels like they want to be there. If one or two turn up, it seems like the course/class is not important or more would turn up. Numbers seem to indicate interest. However, that's not always the case.

Sometimes the timing is wrong or people forget to turn up for class. I forget to turn up to so many great live sessions and courses, but I can't be everywhere all at once for now (just kidding). I appreciate when I get reminders to come to live sessions.

I only lurk when I can't find the time to respond. I never lurk in live sessions. I always chat.  I love online conversations via chats and discussion forums because I learn so much. I go to live online classes just so I could chat as I listen. I met most of my online friends in chats and discussion forums. I have also met some of my online colleagues at f2f conferences around the world.  I have not made friends as a lurker.  

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Lurking

by Christine Horgan -

For me, Sylvia, the reluctance to raise my hand and/or jump into a conversation is largely connected to ignorance (or perhaps I mean fear of revealing my ignorance).

My current job is on the periphery of most conversations, and so I can sit like a happy little sponge and suck up the knowledge,ideas, suggestions, questions others contribute. Parasitic might be a good name for this relationship. However, this year, I have a 50% secondment: 50% my current job and 50% as an instructional designer -- and so, I can already see benefits from participating differently . . . perhaps even advancing to a symbiotic relationship.  


Cheers, Chris Horgan

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Lurking

by Carlos Ortiz -

Hi everyone!

It is very positive the way Sylvia understands lurkers. I myself feel sometimes embarrassed or shy to post but it might be because of my ignorance as Chris Horgan mentioned or because I am not a native English speaker or sometimes the topics are too new or confusing for me, specially when they include lots of initials as most of them I don´t know what they mean, but that is also good as I look up for their meaning and then I learn more. Not too much as for sharing a talk with experts, but enough to understand what is being presented and continue lurking.

Oh! and it's true. I do share with my coworkers the things I learn while lurking. 

On the other hand having more participation in a forum means to me that people are interested in the topic. At least that way more people will get involved in the discussions and there are more possibilities that they  learn more about the topic. I don't think there´s something like an ideal number of active participants. I believe that depends on the size and the kind of community.


In reply to Carlos Ortiz

Re: Lurking

by Don Beadle -

Hmmm of course by responding to a discussion on lurkers, by definition I ain't one!

But, seriously, I guess "lurker" is slang, but it is a bit pejorative. The idea of sitting back and mulling things over is reflected in learning styles and personality types. I think the online environment can provide all kinds of opportunities for deep learning for all kinds of learners.
In reply to Don Beadle

Re: Lurking

by Jeffrey Keefer -

I agree completely. Lurking seems to have the feel of the dirty old man in a raincoat watching children in a playground, where I believe levels of participation in open online discussions around issues of interest may provide value for many people in unexpected ways.

I read a large amount throughout the day, and while I wish I could make more of a presence in many conversations, there are limits to time and resource. However, I do think it is important to at least drop by and send a hello, if for no other reason to affirm that conversations make a difference and are beneficial, not to mention the value that communication and contact has with others in a distributed network.

With a wink and a nod, I shall now return to working with my thesis . . .

In reply to Carlos Ortiz

Thinking Intercultural

by Nicholas Bowskill -

One thing about joining in with a community like this is that you sometimes forget that it is global and that it means there will be non-english speakers. I was suddenly struck when hearing the point raised by Carlos that we have an intercultural community here.

In this moment of realisation I thought that here is something that needs to be addressed by SCOPE (and any other similar networked community). We need to find ways of facilitating the voice of those non-western voices to be heard. No point being in a connected world and then only hearing white western middle class people, as valid and useful as they may also be.


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Lurking

by John Smith -
When it comes to participation at events, why do people think more is better?

Should we hold the idea that "further" is better, instead? I think the things that are worth doing (within the realm of leading communities that are committed to inquiry) are guided by passion and insight. Sometimes you have to trust your own felt passion and assumed insight and push an inquiry regardless of the numbers. It turns out that online inquiries will hang around and the record will be used by "lurkers" WAY after that first point of pushing through the doubts.

Still it has to be said that the number of participants in more or less synchronous time DOES matter -- it DOES tell us something. Just not everything.
In reply to John Smith

Re: Lurking

by Vance Stevens -

I like Jane Petring's rendition of lurking as an acronym.  I can't remember the ing part but it starts with something like "Learning to Unleash Reserve Knowledge ... " Carlos alluded to that in this thread, where Sylvia highlighted that he shares what he learns here with colleagues.

I almost fit Sylvia's profile of a LURKer " have been following SCoPE seminars since the beginning, yet they have never contributed to discussions, or created an account" - I have posted maybe half a dozen times (once a year or less?) and I do have an account.  But here is my important point.

Whereas I might keep my ear to many rails at once I am awash in buffalo.  That is, people who appear in SCOPE to be lurkers might be quite active elsewhere, and I'm sure that many of you active here are lurking in perhaps 100 other places for every one you contribute to. That's the nature of a network.

In communities I am active in and even help organize we have hundreds, maybe thousands of lurkers.  I see this as being quite healthy.  I see absolutely nothing wrong with it.  Lurkers are to be encouraged and nurtured, accepted as part of the fabric, a critical mass which you must have before even a few molecules will collide.  So let's hear it for (if not from :-) our lurkers!

In reply to John Smith

Re: Lurking

by Jenny Mackness -

Hi John - I agree with you and Vance that there is value in lurking and 'lurkers' both for the lurkers and for the community. Your comment

Still it has to be said that the number of participants in more or less synchronous time DOES matter -- it DOES tell us something. Just not everything.

has reminded me of something that a colleague once said to me when I was worried about the small numbers of people participating in an online seminar/webinar. He said - whoever is at the table are the people who should be there - or words to that effect.

I have always remembered that comment and it changed the way I think about the numbers of people attendending an online or f2f meeting/conference.  I don't worry about it any more. As you say

it DOES tell us something. Just not everything.

which is also a great way of looking at it :-)

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Lurking

by Barbara Berry -

Hi Sylvia and All,

I am more often than not a "lurker" I suppose in the sense that I am not "visible" in making comments and leading a discussion. This is mostly due to the fact that I usually feel that I am on the "periphery" of the practice that is underway in the discussion and as a "peripheral" participant, I might feel like I have less to contribute that could be of value. I am often still formulating my ideas. Jumping into the conversation by "posting" a comment is one way of course of sustaining and building the ideas with others. I find that by lurking. I often take an idea that I might get from a SCoPE conversation and pass it onto my colleagues for more conversation so my "participation" is extended so to speak into my other networks. I think this is a valuable process at least for me but hard to track.

For me there are also other factors: i) relevance - is the topic something I am working on or is it more for "interest" in which case I am more likely to "lurk from farther afield" so to speak; ii) time - to make a meaningful contribution I find that I need to allocate enough time to prepare and to read materials or to really follow the conversation deeply. As in practice, time is a precious resource so to go deeply I have to get my act together. I sometimes have done this by scheduling SCoPE into my calendar and naming it "professional development"; iii) quantity - the deep and surface approaches to learning come to mind here - if on the one hand there is too info or I feel it is not directly related to what I am doing or my interests, then I will scan and "lurk on the surface", on the other hand, to go deeply and really engage meaningfully takes other strategies (I like to read, make notes, think about what I will say, sometimes draw a sketch of the ideas) etc.

As for the future, how about a "design lab" in scope where we do some  design thinking together to sort out some of the design challenges that we not only face in our work but in living : )

Happy Thanksgiving to all, keep up the great work!


gotta fly but I did want to connect and add a few thoughts.

In reply to Barbara Berry

Re: Lurking

by Barbie Bruce -


An article I read recently spoke to social ties - weak and strong - and the importance of both.  By following this discussion, I relate ties to "lurking/lurkers". 

Strong ties are those whereby people actively participate and create a group. This group may end up in groupthink situation where group members wish to conform and agree.

Weak ties are those where the person occasionally participates, and these people may belong to many groups.  The benefit of the people with weak ties is that when they do participate they bring new information to the potentially now insular group. 

I do not participate often and consider myself a weak tie. I do find nuggets of information from reading the postings on this and other group sites and besides, lurking an excellent procrastination tool instead of working on my thesis.

Barbie Bruce

Hossain, L., & de Silva, A. (2009). Exploring user acceptance of technology using social networks. The Journal of High Technology Management Research, 20(1), 1–18. doi:10.1016/j.hitech.2009.02.005

In reply to Barbie Bruce

Re: Lurking

by Pat Tymchatyn -

B. Ferrell,

Thanks you for your thoughtful commentary. As a weak link (can't recall who said that in the stream) I appreciate dabbling here and there and learning what people in the know are talking about.

A special thank you for your links - the story link is powerful!

In reply to Barbara Berry

Re: Lurking

by B Ferrell -


I wasn't going to participate because I am still semi out of commission with limited typing, but I thought that my 10 years behind the scenes and some of the things that happened might be of some use.

First, every community's lifeblood depends on the active participation of members. If you have 4K members and only 20-50 actively participate despite your best efforts, much is lost. Those active members may be right/wrong/partially right/non-applicable to daily situations, but if there is no challenge or discussion to present alternative ideas or some newbie asking for clarification, then their word becomes "gospel" and some think or begin to think that only they have the "right way".

I have seen many "excuses"  for lurking, but is there really one?For me lurking means no participation at all in any active manner.

First of all, not being extremely knowledgeable in a subject is the best time to ask questions. All you have to do is premise your question/statement with the factual statement such as --"I'm new to this subject and have been searching, but could someone clarify for me the term-statement-idea- resource, etc for this topic?" Granted there may be some list terrorist out there that thinks they have the right to bully someone but if your moderator is up to snuff, that person can be placed on moderation and removed if it gets too bad. Yes, I have done that more than once!! Not pleasant, but the comfort of the member environment so that they feel free to participate and learn is essential.

Second, NO ONE has the complete knowledge of any subject despite however long they have been studying it. It is a known fact that SMEs can become so bogged down in their knowledge and process that they forget where they started. That lurker who decides to participate may start that chain reaction in members and thought processes by asking the question that might cause someone to rethink their entire paradigm.  If nothing else, if no one knows your name, no one can "meet you" and the purpose of a community is to communicate..yes?

Third, and this one will upset some of you, but please read on..Granted, I would not want 2K or 4K members to participate all at once..the system might crash ( it happened to us on Yahoo), but those who only take and do not give back, even if offering only a link  that might help (online, not behind the scenes) etc. are what I call Knowledge vampires. They take, but do not contribute back to the community, even if they pass it on to someone outside of the list/community, because it is not giving back to those who have given to you.  I know that seems harsh, but think about it. If Sylvia  and another member had never contributed to ITF, I would never have known about SCOPE. I have considerable respect for many of the Canadian school systems, simply because of the knowledge they have contributed to ID through ITF.  Every member should try to make some contribution whether it is through links,  papers, open web pages that refer to the group and what they gained from it etc. There is always a way to repay that is both public and appreciated even if it is not part of an active discussion.

Fourth..Appreciate each other and say thank you to each other and to new  non-lurkers! Especially say thank you to your thanks Sylvia!! :)!   If I had been paid for every hour spent on moderation/contribution I would be rich in dollars if not in appreciation. oh well! no cruise for me!

But I am friends and acquaintances that I have made, and resources and knowledge gained. Even dealing with a bully or two made me realize that not everyone can or will care, but most do, even if they don't actively participate in a discussion. It was interestng about the latest Facebook study about how people become rude etc.. My guess is that they were rude already, but feel that their participation is shielded by the page. But it is not, as many job applicants have found out.

So, despite questions. surveys, etc, it is hard to determine where to go and what kind of topics to try to interest people enough to participate.  Moderator summaries are ok, but how about instead   (or both), a summary page with everyone doing a paragraph on what they learned or what they want to learn more about from the discussion. Active participation... Each member of the group making some sort of contribution/link to their portfolio about the subject etc.

Trends?  Its hard Sylvia because if the few members who do participate are the only ones who comment and the largest majority give no input,  you have no idea how many are really there. I llike those clustr maps that show who has visited the website in the last few minutes and web stats that show who has accessed the page from where. I found it very interesting when I had the pages on Google that one person from a school in Canada visited every single page and link. Never knew who it was but it kept the Canadian map green! If you have lurker stats at least you know who did/used what. It was frustrating for me because I had no idea if I was doing any good or not. Still don't! 

Define participation as more than participating in the discussion.

  1.  Links to personal portfolios/education sites that contribute to the topic
  2. Links to relevant papers/searches on a topic
  3. Have them send you a question if they are too shy to ask it.
  4. Encourage thank yous to all who contributed from you and the people participating- off and online.
  5. Do surveys on topics and request that all members participate. Settings for email should allow a note from the moderator/s
  6. Ask where others are getting their "trending"  "pinterest type " ideas!
  7. Pictures/graphs to be included in discussions that clarify the topics.
  8.  Ways to convert the text  of discussions and pages to audio 
  9. Have everyone send  to you  or place their interests on a wiki page since mc surverys can be too limiting?
  10.  Encourage coop group wiki pages if they want to form them.
  11. Smile!

I hope  I have caught all the typos and that I haven't offended the lurkers, but think about becoming a  knowledge fractal to your group!

Enough..back to my ice packs.

Bev Ferrell


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Lurking

by Vera Monteiro -

Hi Sylvia, Hi all,

such an interesting discussion and points of view.

Personally, I agree with the views that lurkers are crucial weak ties of the community with an expansor role, in the sense that they take the knowledge to others (as said before at this forum). In a certain sense, they are also potental elements because they can jump in and become active at any moment.

At the moment, I'm looking for numbers. Do you have literature references about the "typical" distribution of members on an online community?



In reply to Vera Monteiro

Re: Lurking

by Ilene Frank -

Vera, as a committed lurker, I appreciate you mentioning that lurkers may become active at any time and may take knowledge to others (as Carlos mentioned earlier.)   I'm usually wearing my librarian hat in SCoPE sessions. I'm looking for information to pass along to others.