So it would seem I’ve gone into lurking mode.
The reasons for this are varied, ranging from focusing on web 1.0 issues at work, to getting used to managing a team (damn it’s way harder than I’d ever imagined), to wanting to spend more time outside. And we can’t forget that it’s baseball season.
But rest assured, I am still here.
In defense of lurking: I don’t always have something useful to say about what I come across online. It takes time to come up with intelligent commentary — time that I often don’t have. I’m not so hot at instant feedback either, I tend to need to go away and think about stuff for a while to make up my mind. And in an environment where attention moves on to the next thing quickly, the imperative of the fast response often leaves me feeling like there’s little point making a post or dropping comments on something that’s a few (or more) days old. Why make the effort when everyone else has moved on to the next shiny object?
Oh and I’ll be honest — I’m easily distracted too. Instead of sitting down and banging this post out in a few concentrated minutes, it’s taken me all day (in fits and starts of course) to put together these few words.
So it all adds up to my being on the fringes a lot of the time. I know I’m not alone — think of the well-known 90-9-1 principle, a model of online communities where 90% are lurkers, 9% are somewhat active, and only 1% are fully engaged.
But wait, isn’t lurking bad? Anathema to participation, engagement, openness, etc. etc. On the contrary, I’m fine with it.
Some folks just aren’t that comfortable with active participation online — like this obviously very bright fella who attributes his lurkiness to a form of performance anxiety.
And then there’s this defense of lurking, described by a blogger at FCW:
Upon encountering the term “lurker” I felt guilty, like I was hiding behind my chair and sneaking peaks at the online entries of the greater community. Upon further research I found, in an MIT study, a defense of lurking that was better than anything I could make up. The study found that active lurkers in an online community might constitute closer to 40 percent to 50 percent of members and, while these people might not contribute directly to the online forum, they contribute by taking some of the ideas from the specific community and sharing them in the world at large. I propose we call these people “worker bees” instead of lurkers, as they take the pollen from one online community and spread it to others. (I think “worker bee” sounds much better than “lurking” also, but I don’t think I want to go too much further with a pollination analogy.)
Sounds good to me — I’m gonna use that as my excuse. Lately, I’m too busy pollinating the real world with the ideas I find online to actually participate there.