Today’s Nerd word is “lurk”

ENTRY # 54

Lurking, in common usage does not connote good things. It brings to mind visions of monsters in the shadows waiting to leap out at you. Maybe that’s just me, but those are my issues. Still, there is a place where it is a good thing to lurk. Nay, even encouraged. Within the context of an online chat’these are sort of virtual meeting spaces where people can shoot out messages that all those in the ‘chat room’ can ‘hear”lurking is good. In fact, I read a bit of netiquette (that’s net etiquette to you) that recommended one lurk before one leaps. Who knew? What does that mean?

In a real world gathering, people don’t usually jump into the fray of a conversation immediately. Most people wisely hang back for a bit and check out the conversational lay of the land. Simple things are checked out’What’s the topic for discussion? What’s the current train of thought? Who are the primary speakers and what are their opinions? All good questions before one starts opining. The same thing happens in a chat room. When you first get there, it would be only polite for some folks to greet you, you might even venture a ‘hi’ back atcha. Then you would be perfectly fine lurking. That is, just hanging a bit, and viewing the messages fly by. What it looks like in the message window, is that your name joins the list of others in the chat room. People’s comments pop up line after line like a script. John347: So you think that there are no more original thoughts? SpazmoTheGreat: Yeah, creativity stops at age 5. Everything else is just rehash. You, hanging out like a fly on the wall, are unobstrusive. Perhaps not adding to the flow of communication, but not hindering it either. Because you are merely a name, its easy to overlook you. Like the real world, though, there are times when lurking is not appropriate. After some time in any kind of chat, there is an expectation that you give back by joining the talk. It is the civil thing to do’especially if you join chats that are personal in nature. If you don’t , then your status changes from lurker to voyeur.

Still, in the heat of the conversation, who’ll notice you lurking in the side lines. 3D chat spaces throw an interesting spin on the scenario. You could literally be a fly on the wall. You could be a Barbie doll, or Frankenstein. It’s all up to you. That’s because in a 3D chatroom you are no longer a disembodied name, but instead have some stand-in’an avatar. This avatar could be anything. How easy is it to lurk now, huh? Unless you have Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, or select a rock as your spokesperson, it may be that your lurking time is limited. Or we’re back to my original notion of lurk– the not so good meaning. and depending on the choice of avatar, there may well be monsters in the shadows.

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