Online Lurkers Tell Why

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Dorine Andrews, University of Baltimore, Blair Nonnecke, University of Guelph, Jenny Preece, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Russell Voutour, University of Guelph


A Web-based survey of 375 Microsoft Network (MSN) online communities was undertaken to investigate why people do not publicly participate in online discussion groups, i.e., lurk. The most popular reason for lurking, “just reading/browsing is enough”, was noted by more than half of the lurkers (53.9%). Apparently, many lurkers get their needs met through observation rather than public participation. The next but much less prominent reason for lurking is “still learning about the group” (29.7%,). For many respondents lurking may be an initial temporary period of non-posting, and that once this period is over, they may begin to posting. Most importantly, based on the finding that only 13.2% of lurkers indicated they were “going to lurk from the outset”, lurking can be a product of the community interaction itself. Implications for future research are drawn and specific suggestions for managing lurking and developing better community tools are proposed.


lurker, poster, free-rider, delurking, survey, online community



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