Why Lurkers Lurk
From Virtual Communities
Blair Nonnecke, Maptuit Corporation; Jenny Preece, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
The goal of this paper is to address the question: ‚why do lurkers lurk?™ Lurkers reportedly makeup the majority of members in online groups, yet little is known about them. Without insight into lurkers, our understanding of online groups is incomplete. Ignoring, dismissing, or misunderstanding lurking distorts knowledge of life online and may lead to inappropriate design of online environments. To investigate lurking, the authors carried out a study of lurking using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with ten members of online groups. 79 reasons for lurking and seven lurkers™ needs are identified from the interview transcripts. The analysis reveals that lurking is a strategic activity involving more than just reading posts. Reasons for lurking are categorized and a gratification model is proposed to explain lurker behavior.