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lurk (lûrk) verb, intransitive
lurked, lurking, lurks
1.To lie in wait, as in ambush.
2.To move furtively; sneak.
3.To exist unobserved or unsuspected: danger lurking around every bend.

[Middle English lurken, possibly of Scandinavian origin.]
- lurk´ingly adverb


lurker (lur'ker) noun
A person who lurks in a newsgroup or other online conference. Compare netizen.


Lurker, in computer communications, an internal linkInternet  computer user who observes discussions but does not participate in them. Lurking is recommended for newcomers ("newbies") to a newsgroup, bulletin board, or other online group until a newcomer is familiar with the rules and etiquette of the particular group.


lurk (lurk) verb
To receive and read articles or messages in a newsgroup or other online conference without contributing anything to the ongoing conversation.

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"Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device. It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and internal linkarchetypal images. The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete (neurosis, psychosis:  the plight of spellbound Daphne); but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new internal linkforces, there will be experienced an almost internal linksuperhuman degree of self-conciousness and masterful control. This is the basic principle of the Indian disciplines of yoga. It has been the way, also, of many creative spirits in the West. It cannot be described, quite, as an answer to any specific call. Rather, it is a deliberate, terrific refusal to respond to anything but the deepest, highest, richest answer to the as yet unkown demand of some waiting void within: a kind of total strike, or rejection of the offered terms of life, as a result of which some power of transformation carries the problem to a plane of new magnitudes, where it is suddenly and finally resolved."

           - internal linkJoseph Campbell.

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I am a lurker.  the word somehow implies something sinister, dark.  I prefer to see it as:

1) not butting into anyone's business
2) awaiting an answer to a question, internal linkpatiently, because there are plenty of people who speak who might know what the hell they are talking about.

I also lurk in real life.  it's usually dismissed as "shyness".  it can be crippling or it can be acceptable,  depending on how you look at it.  it is rarely beneficial, until you utilize it as a skill, instead of a detriment.

 - @Om* May 18th, 1998 5:00pm

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Lurkers Of  The World, Unite?
Cybermind Mailing List

Date:    Thu, 1 Jan 1998 13:07:56 -0700
Subject: Re: smaller question #1
Additional small questions with regards to 'lurking':
If I read a newspaper editorial or journal article and don't
respond with comments to the editor, how is this different from lurking?
If I attend a performance or a lecture and don't respond with
questions or comments for the artist or speaker, how is different from lurking?
If I read any hard or soft copy text, watch a film or video,
attend any artistic performance... and don't provide internal linkfeedback (other
than polite applause) and/or discuss my interpretation of the work with my
peers, how is this different from lurking?

Date:    Fri, 2 Jan 1998 07:54:31 -0700
Subject: Re: smaller question #1
>> If I read a newspaper editorial or journal article and don't
>> respond with comments to the editor, how is this different from lurking?
Kerry writes:
>  It is tempting to say there is no difference - but then, what shall
>distinguish the "dangers of net addiction" from our generaltechnological
Is not "net addiction" a subset of the class you call "general technological addiction"?
 The point I was trying to make here, of course, is that
'lurking' is an odd notion that suggests a 'mailing list' is a special
case of a social pattern in which a subscriber has an 'obligation' to
identify themselves to the group and at least make occasional (or
at least one?) contribution to the group in the way of a text, question,
or comment about another post... The technology may make this possible
but where did this 'obligation' come from? I'm on other mailing
lists which are controlled as one-to-many broadcast formats only, no
obligation there, although I'm provided with the e-mail address of the
author and am invited to provide feedback. I am always allowed to be an
'anonymous' viewer of any hard-copy publications, art, and any artistic
perfomances, without social obligations to provide feedback, or share my
interpretation of a work, or challenged to perform or publish my own works.

Date:    Fri, 2 Jan 1998 11:20:14 PST
Subject: Re: missed 'er!
Maybe this is one of the reasons that lurkers remain lurkers?
If you miss a day in this environment, either the point you
wish to make has already been made by others, or the
thread has moved on.
(Real life can have a nasty habit of getting in the way of reading your mail.)
It is also the reason I bolted away from the IRC experience.
It took me so long to consider an answer and type it up, that
members kept mentioning something about 'lag'.
I blamed the satellite delay to the UK, made my excuses and left forever.
It's hell having the reaction time of a dead slug!!
> Does anyone else around here suffer from Old Mail Syndrome?
> This is what happens when you're housecleaning In-Coming, and suddenly come
> across something from four days ago that really *grabs* you, and you want to
> respond - and then you realize that the List has moved on.
> (Why didn't you reply internal linkimmediately?  Perhaps because you were tired and
> cranky when you checked your mail that day.  Perhaps because you were hungry
> for a particular name, and when you found it everything else got shoved out
> of the way.....)
> -r.

Date:    Sun, 4 Jan 1998 15:41:35 PST
Subject: Re: Lurkers !!!
I would suggest that the main difference between a lurker and a
voyeur, is that the subject of a voyeur's attention is unaware of his/her
observation.  A lurker on an open channel communication forum, such as this, on the
other hand, is not only known to exist, but is encouraged to continue to lurk
and, if possible, participate in the current (or not so current) discussions.
I personally welcome all lurkers and mail with their presence in
mind.  Lurk as long as you like and, when you feel comfortable with the medium
and would like to offer an opinion for consideration by *all* observers,
come into the internal linksunshine and share a comfy seat in the convivial atmosphere.
My only recommendation would be that you enter with the knowledge
and acceptance that others may disagree with your views - and say so!  If you
can accept such a proposition without taking alternative viewpoints as personal
criticisms, you need have no fear of 'dipping in and out' of discussions as, and when,
the inclination takes you.
If you feel that you do not wish to, I for one will think no
worse of you.  Watch and enjoy!
> Could a lurker be seen in the same light as a vouyer !
> Watching for his/her own benefit , his/her own agenda !

Date:    Sun, 4 Jan 1998 18:57:27 PST
Subject: Re: smaller question #1
For my part, I lurk on other lists because I have not been
stimulated sufficiently to feel the inclination to comment.  I may
eventually unsubscribe, but only if I think that there is unlikely to be
anything of further interest to me.  Some lists *are* of interest to me,
yet I cannot forsee me wanting to contribute, as I have no experience in the
particular field of discussion, only the desire to learn from others.
As far as I am aware, I do not lurk in any other spheres of life.
If I am drawn to something, I like to be involved, not just an impartial
observer. Other people may be entirely satisfied with reading and learning,
or merely enjoying the banter.  Who is to say what the limits of
free choice should be?  We all know that this forum is observed by
more people than we are directly aware of and we accepted this when
we joined - what's the problem?
As for making shy people less shy, I'm not sure such an insulated
institution will change anybody's level of sociability in real life.  A
phantom personality can be discarded easily, without loss of face
within your everyday community - no one will point you out in
this street if you make a faux pas.
> do those of us/them who primarily lurk online do so also in other parts of
> our/their lives?  do we/they lurk in some places and not others?  why and how do we/they
> choose?  why get online if what we/they propose to do is 'just' lurk?  what does this
> say about the web making shy people less shy?  what does lurking say about
> anything?
> sedgwick

Date:    Mon, 5 Jan 1998 03:27:13 -0400
Subject: lurking and posting
This subject appears to have been dichotomized by those who have
addressed it here, so: lurking vs posting. (Apologies if I have missed any
contrary msgs)
What about so-called "back channel" or "off-list" messaging?
Ever since I first dived into the main channel of this list, making a wee
splash and drowning Alan's internal linkdream for it in the internal linkprocess, my mailbox has been
blessed with communications from CM lurkers - comments, criticism (in the
original sense of the word), questions, suggestions......  There is a
human mind behind each message (I still find this concept utterly *amazing*,
Alan!)(may I never "grow up", here in cyberspace.....)
(btw  This "back channel" confidentiality was honoured in the
breach during _L'Affaire Reed_)
Shy folks with no aptitude for undirected small-talk (you're
lookin' at 'er :) are able to inhale deeply here and Hold Forth on any subject
near and/or dear to their hearts. (So, also, are un-shy folks who prefer to
hold their peace rather than waste breath and laryngial effort on
by-others-perceived foolish verbal pursuits.....)
There are 400 minds out there ("in here"?), more-or-less paying
attention to what I write - to what *you* write.  Most of 'em now have sophisticated
internal linkfilters on their in-coming mail, so if they've taken a dis-fancy
to y/our "tone" they're not obliged to suffer through the sorting
-Rose, sorting joyful possibilities very late this night (went to
bed twice - once with book, once without, and figured WhatTheHell and came
out here and fired up Luke one last time tonight!)

Date:    Mon, 5 Jan 1998 05:43:29 -0800
Subject: Re: Lurkers !!!
a lurker once posed in his private head
this list has the sound of a noisy sled
some slip and  slide, some rant and they rave
some I'll carry to my cyber-grave
I'll write soon and that is a given
if only my words would not be so hidden
John McWilliams
> From: Enok Kippersund
> Subject: Re: Lurkers !!!
> Date: Sunday, January 04, 1998 1:59 PM
> Dont' let this debate on the lurkers lurch. Be aware, the lurkers could get
> the idea to leave us in the lurch.
> Enok (luving lurkers, - sometimes even felt luved by them, and sometimes
> knowing he is lumbering them, if not lulling)

Date:    Mon, 5 Jan 1998 13:18:36 -0800
Subject: Re: Lurkers !!!  Addendum
John Fisher complained that, try though he might, he hadn't seen
anyone strip here, to which I reply:
You're not looking closely enough, then, I don't think.  I see
people strip themselves bare here w/some regularity, have been known to
peel down my own self upon occasion.
As to lurkers, well, there they are -- each w/their own reasons
for lurking.  Me, I'm glad of them, but then I always did like an audience.

"I live ... with an internal linkuncertain future and a
past that seeps into everything I do like
internal linkwater into stone."
                -- John Dufresne

Date:    Mon, 5 Jan 1998 19:41:08 -0500
Subject: Re: Lurkers !!!  Addendum
One of the first striking elements that I discovered on Cybermind was the
'nakedness' of some posts and therefore the posters. Many continually expose
themselves here for the greater good of the group, some never seem to say
anything remotely honest, and others lurk darkly (as discussed).
It's a nice mix.

    Disembowel your computer!

Date:    Tue, 6 Jan 1998 01:57:45 -0300
Subject: shy lurker
Having spanish as the mother internal linklanguage makes me a little shy, because I
don¦t want to express my ideas in a way that will be painfull for the
reader, and I don't want to explain in each post that I speak all day long
in spanish, and then try to write about philosophical ideas in english. I
just enjoy reading most of the posts, and probably one day feel safe enough
to write more in this list, that I like a lot. Is just a kind of respect.
from uruguay, at the south of south america

Date:    Sat, 10 Jan 1998 20:33:30 +0900
Subject: Re: smaller quest #1 add nauseum
it is of marginal interest to me. i do it at various times on
various lists for various reasons, and i dare to think that this is so with
others as well.
there are some overlapping layers here which i believe pertain to
this idea of 'list aura' which alan has mentioned a few times and which he
says is bound up in the fact that a lot of what makes up this so-called
list aura, or what i might more internal linksubjectively refer to as feeling of list
'community', or group interaction patterns, has to do with backchannel
so that, if one merely lurks and does not even respond to some of
the posts backchannel -thereby setting up an interpersonal link with a
participant who does not  always lurk- then one will have a slightly
different _cut_ on what constitutes this list aura.
any research one may want to do on list interaction patterns will
of necessity, i believe, need be based on what goes on _onlist_,
especially if one decides that what meets the _observer's_ eye is wholly
textual. and, in order to limit the problems of 'observer's paradox', many
researchers will find themselves facing the dilemma of whether to participate, and
thus sully the 'purity' of the observations through leaving a trace of
their own preferences, needs, prejudices, blah blah, which will then need
to be factored in when they try to account for the quality of the
responses later...tsk tsk... a layover from a strictly objectivist
viewpoint, and therefore easily, if not dismissed, put aside, because it seems
that any observing one may do will be internal linkfiltered through one's subjective
apparatus anyway, so what the hell and go for it, eh?
one does have two eyes, after all, and isn't this pissweak
metaphor useful for noting that the reason for that bifocaldom is the elimination
of a little parallax error?
(ie, getting us out of internal linkflatland)

it was suggested to me that research on list interaction could
only be complete, hmmm, no, well-rounded, if one could be privy to
backchannel internal linkinformation; if one could ask for and receive valid data on who
had been in contact with whom and on what basis and for how long etc etc etc.
so, actually it seems that research on list interaction can never
be 'complete' and leave it at that - that what we have here is an
'open system', and that variables, node-switching places, cuts through
the data, etc, may be noted, described, taken into account, but that one
can never have a complete description.
recent posts have prompted me to do a little weaving.
caitlin who says 'i like having an audience', plumps for the
lurkers, but i wonder how many backchannel responses she has received for her
posts over the years from people who would rather not do so onlist, for whatever reason.
rose, who, on the topic of lurking, advises that sharing our
feelings or whatever in public, i assume she meant, is something that she
feels valuable.
i have in the past been a recipient of one of rose's encouraging
backchannel comments, and in another post she alludes to having
had information _shared_ with her from other participants (i use
'participant' to distinguish those who write regularly onlist from those
'members' who generally just watch) which have thrown internal linklight on, or given
clarity to her feelings or knowledge re such _people_.
is it only my intuition, or does backchannel correspondence with
other participants on this list make rose more comfortable about
_sharing_ personal information on a public list?
and if we extend 'backchannel correspondence' to cover other
offlist comunication such as f2f meetings, then i venture to say that
this list aura, and/or other feelings of familiarity with other
participants such that posting onlist becomes more of a _participation_ in a
subjectively-experienced group, has much internal linkrelevance to how a list
operates on this public textual level.
laurie, claims that since participating her mode of
communication, her written contributions and their 'flavour' have changed such that
she was more willing to 'peel back the skin', to 'expose' herself in
public list, may have relevance also in the parallel discussion of what some
people have been calling 'voyeurism' for want of a better word, when applied
to concepts about lurkers.
speaking for myself, on a recent trip to the usa, i was surprised
at how much complete strangers were willing to explain and divulge
personal details to each other in public, and this has something to do
with cultural differences, i suppose, as in general i do not feel at all
comfortable revealing information of an emotional nature to any but close
friends and family.... once, i  got the idea of calling one of my pieces of conjecture
"Mailing List as Soap Opera".
and simon, responding knowledgeably that we _do_ want to 'spoil
the data' and alluding to the homing internal linkfrogs having been removed from the
outside toilet ('outhouse' as he euphemistically called it) several times
to places further and further distant from the house, eventually to the
internal linkwater reservoir 2 kilometres away, only to have them come back and
reinstall themselves, points to a knowledge of his interlocutor (me) gained
firsthand - and, in a medium which took advantage of intonation and facial
gesture....and reminds me that this response, in itself, was made
in response to my mentioning simon by name in a previous
post....which, in turn springs directly from long backchannel association 'on'
another list...
ah, the pragmatics of human communication,
which, seeing as i am human
appear particularly fascinating.

Date:    Thu, 5 Feb 1998 03:49:04 +0000
Subject: Re: Argument to lurkers.
At 11:30  05/02/98 +0200, you wrote:
>MM on "lurkers"
>I personally like to think of non-contributing members of the list as
>"readers" who, at various degrees, might be amused, interested or
>entertained by what the others have to say.
>I do not find anything wrong in a reader who does not wish to
>contribute and, equally, the act of reading is a form
>of participation, in my opinion.
>My message to fellow list members who happen to be in a read-only
>mode would be: Do what you like, but if you want to say something,
>anything, you are very welcome.
I am in read only mode because email and the internal linknet in general has
become a real chore.. most of my interactions these days seem to be
related to stuff i HAVE to do rather than something I want to do.. so i've lacked
the energy to respond to anything not directly related to work.  I've found
myself starting to reply and then thinking 'to get my point accross will
take up too much energy' so i delete the thing.
Still, in lurk mode you can keep an eye on what's going on and
still feel somewhat connected.  I maintain this account for list traffic
only, so I usually make an espresso first thing in the morning while getting
the daily list dump... and read them quickly while the bath is filling.  It
is a bit voyerlike but what the hell... It makes my morning interesting
..better than watching those crap morning TV shows..I usually start off
the day with a new thought in my head.. so cheers CM

Date:    Thu, 5 Feb 1998 09:57:28 -0600
Subject: Re: Lurkers as an audience
On Thu, 5 Feb 1998, Dave Weingart wrote:
> Consider the lurker on a list as the audience at a symphony.  If
> words are unread, if music is unheard, then they do not truly exist.
Except as a rehearsal, perhaps? For if one truly wants to play at
Orchestra Hall, one must practice, practice, practice. To be
truly effective at communicating one's ideas, does it also follow that
we all need to practice? That without practice we cannot grow?  Should
we create null points in the net for the sole purpose of hurling our
madness, our badness, our bald irreverent truths, our angers, our insecure
loves, our petty hatreds?  If so, what do we call that null point? How about
calling it god?
It seems to be unanswerable to mois whether the fact that someone
listens or reads my post may somehow  change its nature.  Does a listener
have an impact on the speaker? Forget about the visible audience, with
its hisses, boos, standing ovations, voting with its feet, etc.  What about
some dissembodied voice to which it is not easy to attach a face, a
person, a personality?  How does a non-visible audience affect such
Amused, refused, bemused and diffused,

Date:    Thu, 5 Feb 1998 10:37:49 -0500
Subject: Lurkers as an audience
Consider the lurker on a list as the audience at a symphony.  If
words are unread, if music is unheard, then they do not truly exist.

Date:    Thu, 5 Feb 1998 11:30:03 +0200
Subject: Argument to lurkers.
MM on "lurkers"
I personally like to think of non-contributing members of the
list as "readers" who, at various degrees, might be amused, interested or
entertained by what the others have to say.
I do not find anything wrong in a reader who does not wish to
contribute and, equally, the act of reading is a form
of participation, in my opinion.
My message to fellow list members who happen to be in a read-only
mode would be: Do what you like, but if you want to say
something, anything, you are very welcome.
A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste

Date:    Thu, 5 Feb 1998 16:32:08 -0500
Subject: Re: Lurkers as an audience
> It seems to be unanswerable to mois whether the fact that someone listens
> or reads my post may somehow  change its nature.  Does a listener have an
When you sing along with the radio, alone in your car, you are
likely not at all selfconcious.
Now stand on a streetcorner with a radio and sing along with it.
> personality?  How does a non-visible audience affect such communications??
You are writing, knowing that they are there.
73 de Dave Weingart  KA2ESK, ex KB2CWF      "Can you find the

Date:    Fri, 6 Feb 1998 17:03:29 +0200
Subject: Re: Argument to lurkers.
On Thu, 5 Feb 1998, Mary Jane Isles wrote:
>One can participate in a play without being on the stage.
>What is a play, after all, without an audience?
READING is a vital part in written communication. Reading is
receiving. A message is worthless if unread. All received
communication has an effect on the person receiving that
You don't have to reply. Long live Lurkers ...
J. Lehmus

Date:    Sat, 7 Feb 1998 00:25:19 +0200
Subject: Re: Argument to lurkers.
On Fri, 6 Feb 1998, kerry wrote:
>If its *worth reading, then isn't a degree of reciprocity in order?
Yes, and you must read it first to determine if it's actually worth reading.
J. Lehmus

Date:    Sun, 8 Feb 1998 16:27:09 -0600
Subject: Re: Lurkers as an audience
Bill L,
> Marcus suggested another way. She wrote about a text opening us. Allowing
> the text to enter us. Giving ourselves to the text, and being capable
> of conceiving something new based on the interaction. A reciprocity
> between writer and reader, from which the reader benefits far more
> than the writer. And the writer may not have any knowledge of the
> conception which bears fruit much later. So what?
"I may be wrong and you may be right,
and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth"
   - Karl Popper
> The argument, of course, depends on the binary oppositions we all
> mistrust. And it depends on restictive definitions of masculine and
> feminine. And it also comes from the world of deadtree publishing,
> pre-net. Still, it may have *some* usefulness here...  ;)
   Marcus has cast it in those terms, but I don't agree the
argument *depends* on such oppositions. The approach is, in fact, alive
and doing modestly well in c-space.

Date:    Fri, 13 Feb 1998 21:25:27 EST
Subject: Re: Are you one of the lost 217?
 Hi Glory,
Whew, you can really put a lurker in the hot seat!  :-)  I am
responding as of this very minute,,,,,,,I just can't take it any more!!!!!!!!!!!
I am one of the Americans, and I assure you that I read the Cybermind letters
quite frequently, only rarely delete them, but - actually I am usually in awe of
the intelligence that is presented here - and am not sure I could possibly
interest anyone with my plain old prose.  :-)
Kathy - slightly embarassed at not having responded earlier,,,,,
 Whatever the reason, if you are one of the 217 subscribers in
America who  haven't replied, or one of the 85 subscribers outside America
who hasn't  replied, then now is your chance.  >>

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