List Lurkers (Added Value)

Subject: List Lurkers (Added Value)
From: Chantel Brathwaite <cnbrath -at- cbel -dot- cit -dot- nih -dot- gov>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2000 14:17:26 -0500

In another post, Arlen Walker wrote:

> I wonder, *do* lurkers make this list valuable? *Posters*, it's clear, make
> this list valuable. I suspect, but cannot prove (and won't take the time to
> even try) that the longer one lurks, beyond a specific threshold value of a
> few weeks, the less likely one is post. If so, short-term lurkers may
> increase the *potential* value of the list, but that's it. I have no
> evidence to assume theose who dropped out would have ever posted, as it
> seems clear from the list statistics the vast majority of members are
> lurkers, not posters. So, concerning the long-time lurkers, my expectation
> would be that if any of them knew the answer to a pressing problem and
> stayed on the list, the pressing problem would *still* go unsolved, because
> they would continue to lurk, rather than post. That, however, is simply my
> own opinion, and though it may be formed from observation of several lists
> over many years, the observation is unsystematic. It does not have the
> weight of fact, and you may feel perfectly free to disregard it.

Arlen, I just wanted to give another perspective. Although I can see your
point, I do think that lurkers add value. I don't have any hard evidence, just
anecdotal. Whenever I've posted, I've had a number of people, lurkers, respond
directly to me, rather than to the list. At that point, if I summarize it and
post it to the list, we all get the benefit of a lurkers advice. (I'm pretty
bad at summarizing -- good intentions and all that -- so I probably need a slap
on the wrist for that.)

Some lurkers probably take the polls (larger sampling population and thus
possibly more accurate results), might buy some of the products or fill one of
the jobs advertised (thus enticing the advertisers to continue to support the
list); and probably produce better documentation with the tips learned from this
list. A lurker might be your next co-worker, boss, professor -- or maybe an SME
.... the more familiar they are with technical writing, hopefully the better our
all of our products will be. A lurker could be the person to convince their
company to advertise with this list, or might have a great tip to put on
techwrl-r's calendar -- or might write one of the articles at the techwrl-r's
web site. A lurker might be a student who can't answer questions right now, but
is able to get started quickly because s/he has more information than the
average entry-level writer.

I guess all I'm saying is posting to the list is not the only way to add value
to the list. I think that lurkers probably have more impact on this list than we
might initially think.


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