What a horrible name… lurkers! It carries all kinds of negative connotations from science fiction monsters to the stuff of nightmares where we think of spying and being followed by something or someone we don’t like. Of course I’m not using this term in these contexts so I better explain. I’m talking about communities and user participation, or more specifically about users who read and observe but rarely contribute to the conversations at all.
Community managers often think about user participation based on a 90:9:1 rule where 90% of users are referred to as lurkers who read all the activity but don’t contribute themselves, 9% contribute from time to time and 1% are pretty active and probably account for most of the contributions. I guess I can see why this negatively charged name is used, but in addition to being a horrible name it doesn’t really do justice to how important this group of community users are.