Lurkers

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HB
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#1: Post by HB »

I was a lurker, and this is my story...

Participating in a public online community is relatively new to me. I've been active in private forums within my profession (Information Technology) since the early 80s, but it never occurred to me to join Internet discussions related to my hobbies. Online forums and sites like cnn.com were essentially the same to me - read-only sources of information, opinion, and occasional distraction. Looking back on it, I suppose the vastness of the potential audience disturbed my sense of privacy. Within the confines of my employer's network, at least there were some bounds, a sense of "us".

Times changed in my profession. E-mail became a means of keeping in contact with clients, not just fellow employees. Forums for each product I worked on sprung up, though often the audience was restricted to employees and beta customers. The same sense of "us" continued. Publishing articles and then a book changed that:

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It was May 2003 when the first edition of The Java Developer's Guide to Eclipse was published. As part of the publication, our editor encouraged us to participate in online discussions of the book. I was volunteered to represent our cadre of authors on the site JavaRanch. It's logo really made me wonder how seriously these "cowpokes" could be about programming:
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For a week I logged in at least twice a day to respond to questions and critiques of our book. Sometimes I was up quite late. As the week worn down, I was starting to enjoy the open community atmosphere and decided to poke a little fun at the "sheriff" who had reviewed our book. He said "If your only goal is to use Eclipse then you don't need this book. If your desire is to write plugins then I wouldn't even try without it."

I'll be honest, the first sentence of his review's closing comment really ticked me off. Taking advantage of the campiness of the JavaRanch, I wrote a rebuttal: Dastardly Dan is calling out the Sheriff! Point by point I enumerated why I thought the Sheriff was wrong, concluding with a grin:
Dastardly Dan wrote:And notice that nowhere did I stoop to calling you a yellow-bellied stinkin' liar. :wink: Now off to find the nearest saloon and get rip roarin' drunk. There surely must be some cattle to rustle in these here parts...
This odd moment was a turning point in the development of my "online persona". Mentally I bridged the notion that online communication wasn't just about getting my professional job done, it could extend to enrich my interests outside of work. I suppose one downside of this revelation is that I spend so much time online en totale there should be a law against it. But that's another story, and another entry for Overextracted.

By typical forum standards, HB has a small registered community. From what I've read in the phpBB forums (the software upon which this site is based), around 5000-6000 members is considered small-medium, medium is around 15000, and large can be really, really large (the largest I know of is gaia online with over four million members to-date). Lurkers make up a silent part of this community. There's two types of lurkers: Those that are "guests" and those that are non-posting members. I was in the former category for many years and didn't join the posting membership of any public community until 2003.

Asking someone who's a lurker why they lurk is like asking a shy person why they're shy - you're not likely to get much of an answer. As for me, I wanted to write down my delurker story before I forgot the details...
Dan Kehn

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HB (original poster)
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#2: Post by HB (original poster) »

PS: Some of the HB features lurkers never see...

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Logged in members see who's been online, ordered by latest visit

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Presence of new topics in a forum are indicated by a differently-colored folder icon

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New topics are indicated by a colored arrow; clicking brings you to the latest post
Dan Kehn

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HB (original poster)
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#3: Post by HB (original poster) »

Another feature available to HB members -- unread posts are remembered for up to sixty days. Members can also explicitly mark a topic as unread by selecting 'Mark as unread' next to each post.
Dan Kehn

Ken Fox

#4: Post by Ken Fox »

HB wrote:Another feature available to HB members -- unread posts are remembered for up to sixty days. Members can also explicitly mark a topic as unread by selecting this button next to each post:
Yeah, Dan, but we didn't read them the first time for a reason!

I think lurkers are weenies who are too concerned about having their posts criticized so they take the easy way out by not posting anything.

ken
:mrgreen:
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

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HB (original poster)
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#5: Post by HB (original poster) »

Ken Fox wrote:Yeah, Dan, but we didn't read them the first time for a reason!
Funny guy. You can always select Mark all forums read. I installed this modification for my own selfish reasons -- too little time to read new posts in one sitting. Since unread posts were reset on logout, I would forget about ones I didn't have time to read.
I think lurkers are weenies who are too concerned about having their posts criticized so they take the easy way out by not posting anything.
As I mentioned above, that wasn't my reason. It was mostly the lack of perceived privacy. Now that I'm easily google-able, it doesn't matter...

Still, it's a weird feeling when total strangers know who I am because of the book (not that it happens very often). On even rarer occasions, somebody recognizes me because of this site or my role as moderator on CoffeeGeek.com. As if that wasn't weird enough, their first words are usually "Hi Dan, it's great to meet you! Would you introduce me to Mark Prince?" :roll:

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Dan Kehn.....Mark Prince
Dan Kehn

Ken Fox

#6: Post by Ken Fox »

HB wrote:As I mentioned above, that wasn't my reason. It was mostly the lack of perceived privacy. Now that I'm easily google-able, it doesn't matter...

Still, it's a weird feeling when total strangers know who I am because of the book (not that it happens very often). On even rarer occasions, somebody recognizes me because of this site or my role as moderator on CoffeeGeek.com. As if that wasn't weird enough, their first words are usually "Hi Dan, it's great to meet you! Would you introduce me to Mark Prince?" :roll:
Googling on Dan Kehn one gets 36,800 hits; at least the first page or two all seem to be you.

Googling on Ken Fox produces about 8X as many hits with none of them being me on the first two pages and only an obscure post on CG about long forgotten knockboxes on page 3 has any relevance to "this" ken fox.

Had I been smarter I would have used a pseudonym and none of them would have been for the *real* me.

Congratulations.

ken
:twisted:
What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman, 1955

dgunter

#7: Post by dgunter »

Hey all, I'm gonna be honest here. I've been lurking around this site for quite some time, searching for info here and there, but what really got me to sign up was the holiday giveaway. Yeah, kinda lame of me but hey, who doesn't like the idea of free stuff, haha. Anyway, I'll try not to be a total lame-o and actually use the forums. Not just for free stuff. I just wanted to let you all know that I'm stoked to finally be in the company of the rest of you geeks out there. I'm looking forward to discussing everything coffee with all of you.

-Daniel-

p.s. - Not sure where I'm actually supposed to post something like this. I'm a newbie, remember?

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cannonfodder
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#8: Post by cannonfodder »

Welcome to HB and your new de-lurker status.
Dave Stephens

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HB (original poster)
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#9: Post by HB (original poster) »

Welcome out of the shadows Daniel! I've taken the liberty of merging your de-lurker post with my own.
Dan Kehn

dgunter

#10: Post by dgunter »

Thanks guys. I'm happy to not be the creepy guy listening in on all of your conversations anymore. Well, I suppose I'm still the creepy guy listening in, but at least I've got the option to chime in now, haha.