References on Lurking

I was asked about some useful references on lurking and lurkers this week, so I thought I’d refresh  myself with a few that I like. (I’ve written about ithere on the blog quite often over the years!)

Personally, I’m of the school of thought that lurking is a form of legitimate peripheral participation, that in most cases, if everyone actively participated we’d be overwhelmed, that we often and appropriately lurk offline and that lurking is not always “take and no give,” that people do in fact take what they learn one place and often use it and contribute elsewhere. It is more generalized reciprocity.

First, is an old discussion summary from the Online Facilitation list from 2003, compiled by Chris Lang which still has value to me. You an find it here   TIPs for Facilitating Lurking

Second is another distillation of conversation, this time from CPSquare. Download file.

Of course, this has been studied in the academic community, such as this paper on why lurkers lurk, from Jenny Preece and Blair Nonnecke (pdf prepub).

Finally, some fine blog posts on lurking by friends and colleagues. (Edited to add more links March 30)

My bottom line is one’s approach to lurking is context dependent. If full participation is a stated requirement (as in a job or a course) one must find ways to facilitate and enable that participation. The larger and more open the group, the more lurking is a natural and expected behavior.

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5 thoughts on “References on Lurking”

  1. Ah participation inequality … Will Hill was in my HCI dept at AT&T Research. It was one of those obvious in hindsight ideas.

    Will is a really remarkable thinker if you ever cross paths…

  2. Hi Nancy

    It was wonderful to meet you at the workshop at UCT yesterday. We spoke briefly about Networks of Practice before I had to leave at the end of the morning session.

    Thanks for this post. By a weird coincidence, I was reading an old post by Graham Attwell ( on the morning of your workshop and was pleasantly surprised when you mentioned the concept of lurking online as a form of LPP, which I had read about for the first time only an hour or two earlier. Just thought I’d share that 🙂

    Thanks again for a great morning. I only wish I’d had more time.

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