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