Limping Out Of Lurkdom

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For the last couple of years I have been part of the 90% of people who interact with blogs by simply observing the online dialogue. This is experience is contradictory to my face to face interactions in which I find myself comfortably and actively involved in small and large group discussions. I am a true extrovert and thrive in environments where I am meeting new people but in an online environment I am surprisingly guarded. I have been trying to figure out this inconsistency and here’s what I discovered so far.

Sometimes the prospect of contributing a reply or question to a blog feels like I am crashing a dinner party. This is because some blogs can appear to be cliquish if the same people are responding to the the blog posts week after week. It’s a little intimidating to post or respond if there is an ongoing pattern of communication between a few contributors. The online environment benefits specific communication styles that are concrete, direct and analytical. For those of us who are visual and relational communicators it takes an unpredictable amount of time to determine how and when to communicate ideas online because the visual parameters that provide clues about unspoken social mores are not available.

And just what are the rules?

Unlike many online bulletin boards, and forums that usually include a FAQ section that outlines the acceptable structure and content of the discussion, blogs don’t provide an introductory space for those who are reading blogs for the first time. The blog space is a much more individualized space,  a little like walking into someone’s home. Some guidance about how to actively engage in the space would be more motivating for those of us who are content to just read.

How do we lure lurkers to say something?

Here’s a couple of ideas I’m going to try to integrate with my own blogs:

Frequently invite people to respond and provide several possible ways to respond. Comments, questions, jokes, best title, caption, web links or even one word.

In the “About” section of my blog I am going to provide information about how people can interact. If it is an active blog maybe describe not only myself but who a little information about the frequent contributors.

How about you? Are you more comfortable lurking? If yes, why?

What other strategies could be used to encourage active engagement with a blog?

4 responses to “Limping Out Of Lurkdom

  1. Hi Kathreen,

    I think I’m fairly outgoing myself – but am the shyest of people when meeting someone face to face for the first time (in the non-blog, Internet world). I enjoy lurking and I enjoy (as you see) commenting when I feel that I have something to contribute.

    In this case, I recognise your feeling of intrusion, where it looks like others ‘know’ one another. What must ‘they’ think of you – the intruder. But my fear of this has lessened over time mainly – I think – from the use of Twitter and Friendfeed. In these micro-blog environments intrusion is almost expected and I have learned a lot from following links and suggestions offered by people I don’t really know (who may have just replied to something I’ve said/thought/done). From these links (I’m ‘here’ from a Twitter link) I find items that interest me and feel – sorry – that I have every right to comment, as long as I’m as polite and constructive as I can be).

    Your blog post has added to my understanding of the relationship between social use (human society) and its use in education.

    Thank you.

    David (UK)

  2. David,
    I agree it takes time to develop confidence and comfort when contributing online. I wonder if the character limit in Twitter has provided a more comfortable environment for people to contribute ideas.

  3. Hi Kathreen,
    I’m much more comfortable lurking. I very rarely leave comments, but felt compelled to contribute since you asked.

    Simone

    • Thanks Simone,

      I read (lurk) more than comment too. Maybe if there was an audio option to respond I may be motivated to comment more often.

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