Are you a lurker?

Maybe you have heard of this guy by the name of Jacob Nielsen, he has been doing a lot of research in the field of ‘internet sociology’. OK, this might not be the best term to describe what’s he been doing and that’s why I’ll come right to the point.

This Nielsen guy found out on the vast majority of all internet forums, about 90% of the members/users don’t post any messages. Those people are called ‘lurkers’ because they log on to the forum frequently to follow the ongoing disussions without taking an active part in them. Then, there are about 9% of the forum population who post a message from time to time. They might be looking for some specific piece of information and that’s why they post a question. Once they have received a satisfying answer, they either leave the forum or read a post from time to time. Which leaves 1% of the entire forum membership and those are the people who contribute most of the posts.

My question is this: Why do you think there is such a large percentage of forum members who ‘lurk’ behind their monitors without posting any messages? I have my own thoughts on this phenomenon and I’ll share them with you if you stop lurking :-).[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: The Eiffel tower[YSaerTTEW443543]

In my opinion, the so called “lurkers” are people who are afraid/ashamed of something and dont want to be criticized. But I dont really think that the percentage is THAT high. And I cant see how such a research could possibly be conducted without some serious deviations from the true.

Hi Torsten! Very interesting topic.
OK I stopped lurking :slight_smile:

I think that " lurkers " are who either don’t have any information about ongoing topic or they just don’t want to share their opinions for some reasons.One of this reasons is fear of not getting supporters of their ideas.For example, if someone has contrary opinion on one topic, and he/she afraids of conflicts, they will probably not share their opinions with other members.But if person like me shares opinions with other members and doesn/t afraid of quarrels then he/she will be reproached as me on forum.( but I don’t take offence)

My advice, never afraid of your own crazy thoughts.:slight_smile:


I wouldn’t do THAT kind of generalisation…

Taking my own example:
There are two forums on which I’m a ‘read only’ (regular) user. One is just requires a higher level of competency than mine (and I know my limits quite well) - but is very interesting to me.

Also, there is a (professional) forum where I do posting very rare, just occasionally (~ once a month or two, just to take part in a particular discussion, to exchange information or opinions on a particularly interesting to me subject or answer a question, if can. Or to ask. :slight_smile: )

Also, there are two forums (*******.ru/ and :)) where I am a regular and active member. According to my current wishes :slight_smile:

Who am I, “in total”? :slight_smile:

P.S. But if look at people personally and not through the prism of “forums’ statistics”, I can surely say that there are many of those who consider the Internet as a good source of information, only.
My husband is. :slight_smile: He is a very real person. :slight_smile:


I suppose I could be qualified as a lurker because sometimes it takes weeks before I post a message. This is true for most forums that I participate in, too.

However, it’s not out of fear of expressing my opinion and I’m not avoiding confrontations. It’s just that, besides school and homework and stuff, I also do a lot of other things that take quite a lot of time, e.g. learning to play the piano, programming, etc.

In fact, it’s already 2 o’clock in the morning here and I have spent the last three hours reading all new threads that have accumulated in the past ten days or so. If I expressed my opinion in every thread I wanted to, I would be turning in around 5 o’clock today. In addition, I don’t think it’s good practice to ‘revive’ old threads where a discussion was already brought to an end.

I don’t think lurkers do anyone any harm, though. Nobody is harmed by them just reading and not posting. :roll:


I agree. Taking active part requires three times as much efforts (and not only in terms of time…)

Sometimes I also prefer reading old threads, quietly :slight_smile:

Hi everyone

I “lurk” almost everywhere on the internet. In other words, I mainly just read things. I also think that’s normal and to be expected. Writing does require much more time than just reading, so even on other ESL forums, I mainly read. I do most of my writing here.

I used to be very active on a German house-building forum. I had a million problems and questions when my house was built, and there were a lot of experts on that forum who answered my questions and gave me a lot of good advice and tips.


Hi Torsten,

I did a little bit of lurking as I read the responses to your original ‘lurk’ message. You have to in order to find out what to say. Mind you, lurkers can come to a sticky end. Back to my old friend, Bill and his play Hamlet. Ophelia’s father, Poloniius is set to spy on Hamlet and lurks behind an arras (not to be recommended in this play):

Except in the case of poor Polonius I thought that lurkers were never revealed so how come your researcher knows what the percentage of lurkers is? By the very meaning of the word if you lurk, you are unseen. And if research is done by asking people I can’t imagine that anyone would own up to being a lurker. It has a slur upon it rather like voyeur.


Hi Alan,
That’s a fine example. We studied Hamlet last year and I liked it. On the Internet, you’re not as unseen as you might think you are. User activity can easily be logged on most websites so it’s possible to monitor who does what. Generalized statistics can be produced by means of some parser and et voil? - you can see how many people post less than once in a week.


Hi Alan,

Many thanks for your interesting observations regarding the Hamlet, I’m quite sure Shakespeare himself was some type of lurker.

As for forum stats,you can see how many times a certain message is ‘viewed’ and how many times a forum member logs on to the forum and which messages they ‘view’ for how long. There is more statistical information that can be collected from interactive forums to draw conclusions as to how many people read messages in correlation to the number of people who write messages.

You can do the same with any of our threads: There is a little a number indicating how often a particular discussion or topic was ‘viewed’. Yes, ‘viewing’ a topic doesn’t necessarily mean that the message was actually read but at least it gives you an idea of what forum users are interested in. By the way, the more posts a discussion contains, the more likely it is to get ‘viewed’/read.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: Winter wonderland[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Tamara, you are right – making generalizations is always tricky but then again, if you carefully observe the structure of internet forums, you will find a certain user pattern. The exact numbers might vary slightly but the fact remains: When it comes to creating forum messages (posts), there are three major user groups, those who never write anything, those who write some messages but and those who create most messages.

How do you define a ‘professional forum’ and what is the opposite of a ‘professional forum’?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A man standing on a platform[YSaerTTEW443543]

Hi Torsten, in my understanding a ‘professional forum’ is one where:

  • it is claimed :slight_smile: (and the professional area/ area of knowledge is (more or less) clearly defined);

  • most threads are discussions on subjects from that particular area of knowledge/activity/area of business;

  • there is the ‘critical mass’ of (professionally) qualified forum’s people who permanently support discussions at the ‘appropriate’ level of consideration. (Not deepen in the meaning of ‘appropriate’…)

All three conditions simultaneously. At least.
(So, the opposite of a ‘professional forum’ (non-professional OR unprofessional :)) you would easily get, if missing just one :))

My note about ‘generalisation’ only meant that I had nothing against statistical generalisation for forums, but not for people.
(The question ‘Are you a lurker?’ asked in the context of the forum’s statistical ‘research’ was trying to directly refer to people which seemed to me a bit-too-much kind of trasference. :)) Even “Are you a lurker HERE?” :slight_smile:

What about the Pareto 80-20 rule? Works? :slight_smile:

I think every forum is related to a certain topic so its ‘professional area/are of knowledge’ as you call it is almost always defined (at least ‘more or less’).

Let’s assume that the people who start discussions on a forum do so for a certain purpose. There must be a reason why they chose that particular forum so it’s very likely that most threads have something in common.

How do you define ‘critical mass’ and ‘qualified people’? How do you know a forum user is ‘professionally qualified’? Can you give us any concrete examples of a professionally qualified forum member and another example of an unqualified forum member?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A construction site[YSaerTTEW443543]

Torsten, to be honest, I have no intention to spend an hour trying to write ‘formal definitions’ to answer your ‘questionnaire’ (How… How… Can…) [size=84]– and expecting to come under a next running fire of questions[/size] :).

Generally :), I don’t think I’m unique, and suppose that everyone who has both formal qualification (=university educated in some area) + 7-15 years of experience in the area, can distinguish a ‘true professional’ - in the area of own competency – from a person who ‘has been educating’ (and ‘consulting’) online by using Google, Wikipedia and so on :slight_smile:

If you need a good example of a professional forum, have a look here:
(You can see their daily Statistics at the bottom of the main page.)

It’s one of the best professional forum I know in the ru-net zone, the place where you actually have that special feeling that always comes when you communicate with true professionals.
The place that stays fresh for many years, despite the natural turnover of forum’s active players (who form the ‘critical mass’ :), who make the forum – in that intangible sense of the expression that you, of course, understand. Being not a novice on the Internet…)

Concrete example of people? Here?
No, I won’t give any concrete examples.
And wouldn’t do that, even if I had been qualified as an ESL teacher – just for ethical reasons.

Just can say that for the last five months (this is the time I’m here) I’ve got several hundred of answers from different people and those answer (and people)… differ - in the level of precision, adequacy, ‘didactivity’ (:)) of explanation and so on.


P.S. Just in case and coming back to the initial topic.
If you consider the statistics (read posts : written posts) of this forum seriously, it can be deceptive, just because many (most?) of us do some kind of ‘direct search’ in old posts (with opening of old treads just to see that it’s not what you’re looking for) in a regular basis, instead of using the currently limited forum’s search engine.
Sometimes, when I’m seeking an old post following someone’s profile, I open 10-12 old threads without reading them at all. Just to sigh and close.

Hi Tamara, I agree with you, this thread is drifting off providing ideas for topics that should be discussed separately. You have raised a number of interesting questions such as how to distinguish between professional and unprofessional forums, the validity and value of university degrees that were obtained several years ago and the connection between ‘special feelings’ and statistics to mention but a few.[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, photographs: A worker using equipment[YSaerTTEW443543]

In the beginning many of the users of a given forum can be called lurkers. They have just found the forum, they register and read some topics. Supposing that they become interested enough in the certain forum, they begin to write …Then the lurker comes to see what the other have answered, he posts a reply again - and he is no more a lurker. :slight_smile:

What I described usually happens to me when I register in a new forum :wink: