The Community Club

Discussion on: How do you feel about lurkers?

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Nicholas Tolstoshev

One of the best metaphors I've heard for community is this: A community is like a theater performance where you bring some of the audience on stage to participate. The lurkers are the audience that doesn't come up on stage, but who watch the entertainment and watch how you interact with the audience participants.

In my experience lurkers will rarely become participants. Most of the people who actively participate are the sorts of people who are predisposed to due to their personality and intrinsic motivations. To go back to the analogy, as one of the cast you have to know how to pick audience members who will be enthusiastic and entertaining, not the ones who are averting their eyes and hoping they don't get selected to come up on stage.

To that end, I put a lot more time on rewarding and reinforcing those who are already participating than I do trying to lure lurkers out of the shadows. It's about landing the big fish who will be that 1%, rather than trying to turn the small fish into big fish.

The only nod to the lurkers that I do is making sure I have low effort/risk participation options, like voting in polls. That's something that a lurker will be enticed to do, versus getting them to actually make a post.