About Len

  • Len Devanna offers over 24 years of digital innovation experience at Fortune 500 brands. He helps companies with all aspects of their digital ecosystem, including online strategy, engagement marketing, and social brand management.


  • The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employer and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of anyone other than myself.

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Hi Len,

I agree wholeheartedly that lurkers have a bad reputation. I suspect as much as anything that it comes from confusing lurkers with trolls. While most trolls are lurkers, it doesn't stand to reason that most lurkers are trolls.

I get thousands of visitors weekly to my blog, most of whom I assume read new articles and move on. By comparison, I get a very small percentage of people who post comments. By definition then, most of my readers are lurkers.

Does that make them any less valuable than those who comment? Hardly. I blog as much for the lurkers as I do for those who comment. Simply put: lurkers are people who need information - whether it's to solve an immediate problem or to discover how to do something they'll later need to do.

I'd probably go so far as to argue that "contribution only" schemes encourage intellectual elitism - allowing people to only access knowledge if they contribute some themselves is the start of a slippery slope. Further down that slope you'd see community members then start to become judged by the quality of the information they provide, and in turn denied access to information, even as a member of the community, unless they provide substantially useful information themselves rather than just any old information.

While discouraging lurkers sounds democratic, it's anything but. I've seen website forums that operate under this scheme, and within a year or so they become so inbred and insular that no new person can join, and the carping and infighting is unpleasantly intense.

All IMHO, of course.



Thanks so much for stopping by and for the comment, Preston.

I love your term 'intellectual elitism' and appreciate the experience you shared with communities who have tried this model.

Wikipedia's definition may shed some light into the source of the negativity:

"The term dates back to the mid-1980s. Bulletin board systems (BBS) were often accessed by a single phone line (frequently in someone's home), there was an expectation that all who used a bulletin board would contribute to its content by uploading files and posting comments. Lurkers were viewed negatively, and might be barred from access by the sysop, if they did not contribute anything but kept the phone line tied up for extended periods."

Likely not a term that will go away anytime soon, but I do look at these folks as information consumers - and as with any economy, consumers are absolutely key.

I agree!
(First time reader/lurker/consumer of your blog)

There's one in every crowd, Gil. Usually it's me though ;)

Thanks for dropping by and welcome...

I was just about to respond to your cmmeont, then stopped and thought, It's not really my place to do so, and navigated off the page. Then I laughed at myself and came back. I can't speak for everyone, but the prevailing attitude here is that we're here for the discussion, and the discussion is at its most interesting when people bring different perspectives to it. You probably have meatspace friends you love dearly yet with whom you could not imagine having a conversation like the ones you get here. It'd be really boring if everyone was the same.For myself, and at the risk of getting too meta, I'm very much like @ in that I don't like to repeat a position that's already been stated. I'm mainly content to read and enjoy and occasionally pipe up when I feel I have something unique to contribute, even if it's only to elaborate on someone else's point. And I still remember the first time I submitted something for the Quickie and had it posted felt like I'd won a trophy. Bottom line: if you have something to say, don't be afraid to say it. And if you have nothing to say, there's no need to feel bad about that. Read and enjoy, secure in the knowledge that there are enough people here who won't shut up to keep the conversations going forever.

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