When is “hiding out” really just “lurking”?

Tiger Lurking in BambooA cat lurking from the grassStaying on the sidelines to our own detriment is what I described as “hiding out” yesterday. “Lurking” on the web is a similar term that I first heard when I read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith a while back.

On social media platforms including blogs, Facebook and Twitter, people often spend time getting a sense for writers’ styles, community personalities… even a sense of the virtual “pecking order” if one exists. They may avoid posting a comment or contributing original content until they have a sense for whether their comments are proper or valued by the community… they “lurk”.

Lurkers may also be those who are trying to think of “just the right thing” to say, perhaps something someone else contributed just ahead of them. Maybe the blog post was so thorough it didn’t leave openings for their contribution. Or maybe they just felt strange posting a comment like “I agree with you” or “Good post”.

A final reason for lurking is a sense of embarrassment people can feel in posting their thoughts online. Of course, you have already heard my assessment that being found out as a fake would be the most embarrassing thing imaginable… but the easiest way to avoid that is to be as genuine as possible and not hide behind stereotypes, titles or shallow ideas about your value. So lurking in this sense is more like hiding out, though I could understand if you told yourself you were really just lurking.

Why care which is which?

One reason, as I think of it, is that lurking implies you have a plan or greater purpose that you are moving toward as you lurk. When a predator lurks, it watches, observes, thinks and plans before acting. It has a greater purpose in mind (though maybe not in the assessment of its prey).

Hiding out, however, is a move we think is defensive. The prey hides out, hoping not to be seen, hoping to find that one hole through which they might escape. On the web, people who are hiding out might be hoping to learn something (without engaging), hoping to “absorb” information or hoping to just be entertained.

I don’t have any moral thinking about either camp. As I consider who is reading, I am thinking about the different types of readers out there. The blog stats on my internal dashboard show lots of people reading, and most will always be either hiding out or lurking. Imagine the most popular blogs you know, and it must be the same for all of them.

Have you thought about lurkers and hiders? Which are you? (It is OK on this post just to leave a one-word comment if you are not hiding.)

NOTE: Your name and email are not required to post comments to this entire blog. I would rather hear from you than make you think I am collecting your contact information. You can login if you like. It is up to you.

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It’s not about your comfort…

When it comes to learning, it’s not about my comfort. That is something the leader of The Aji Network has said to its members several times over the last five years, if not over the last 30. Technology, politics, economics and demographics drift endlessly, and if we want to learn and grow, it won’t be”comfortable”.

That is, it doesn’t have to “hurt”, but comfort has nothing to do with learning. Change means not staying the same, it means working out new muscles and developing new insights and practices.

So I am going to start in this post working through some of my struggles learning how to blog – NOT to speak of my own ability, but to share my trials and encourage your comments so we can help each other get better at this.

Actually, I started blogging back in 2006, posting maybe a dozen or so articles and getting some interesting feedback (mostly from colleagues I already knew). Rather than sticking to it, I started thinking if my conversations were mainly with people I knew already, what were my purposes in blogging after all? [That should be worth a comment or two right there!]

So part of this series will be about how to think about various purposes… since we have to get to those as soon as possible anyway. But for now, I am just introducing an invitation to join me in talking about what we can learn together, to help each other in this. If you have put off getting your blog going, or are experiencing similar learning “opportunities”, maybe this will be a great time to travel together. I know at least one blog from a very creative guy started up over the last week from a conversation like this.

I expect you already read others’ blogs. I expect you might even read others’ blogs about blogging. What I propose can’t be that, because I am not an expert. Instead, I am a beginner… and in my book somebody only specifically calls him/herself a “beginner” if they are committed to learn. (That is, unless they want to swagger around as if they know something without showing any real accomplishments.)

So here are some of the areas I think about a lot as I consider my blogs:

  1. My intentions and purposes for blogging, besides others telling me that I “should”
  2. Who would be listening?
  3. How do I help you, and what is relevant to you?
  4. Which things that I write are opinions, and which can I support?
  5. How much is too much coverage of a topic, so that you might not comment back for me?
What do you think? What do you wonder about as you lay out your blogs or plan your posts? Share with me and we can learn together.
–k