I received this incredibly interesting seminar invitation this morning.


Even in busy online communities usually only a small fraction of members post messages. Why do so many people prefer to read and not contribute? In a survey of 1188 posters and non-posters (i.e., lurkers) from 375 MSN bulletin board communities 219 lurkers spoke out about their reasons for not posting. But even though lurkers did not participate publicly they sought answers to questions. However, they were less satisfied with their community experience than those who posted.

Data from checkbox questions and over 490 responses to open-ended questions reveals many reasons why people do not participate actively in the MSN online discussion communities. The top five reasons are: (1) they got what they wanted and didn’t need to post; (2) they wanted to learn more about the community before jumping in; (3) they thought that by not posting they were being helpful; (4) poor usability prevented them; and (5) poor group dynamics deterred them from participating. Analysis of this data raises issues that developers, managers, and moderators need to address so that they can make online community experiences better for everyone.

In this talk I will present the main findings from our study and discuss strategies for improving interaction in online communities for posters and lurkers.


Jenny Preece is professor of information systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she was department chair for five years. Her research focuses on online communities and she is particularly interested in improving social interaction online (i.e., sociability). Some recent research projects include: developing evaluation heuristics and design guidelines for online communities; a multilevel analysis of an online patient support community; understanding and supporting lurking and posting behavior, and cross-cultural interaction in online communities.

Jenny is author of eight books including: Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability (2000) (www.ifsm.umbc.edu/onlinecommunities <http://www.ifsm.umbc.edu/onlinecommunities>) and Interaction Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction (2002) (www.id-book.com <http://www.id-book.com>) coauthored with Yvonne Rogers and Helen Sharp. Both books are published by John Wiley & Sons. Jenny has written extensively about online communities and has given many keynote presentations. Some of her papers are available on www.ifsm.umbc.edu/~preece <http://www.ifsm.umbc.edu/~preece>.

The kwan is with me and it is Microsoft.  I love my job.

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