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Doug William March 22nd, 2005 10:34 PM

What Inhibits People From Participating Here

I'm interested in your opinion about why these types of Forums attract so little active participation by the 'readers' (I've always thought the word 'lurkers' is kind of an ugly term!!). I'm involved in two other professional forums and the problems are the same. I've wondered if somehow many people think that posting is somehow connected with one being an 'authority', and that this inhibits people from thinking they have something meaningful to say. "Urgings" don't seem to work, and even when people have to pay (one of these other forums charge a 45 dollar annual fee) the participation level is no better than it is on BOL. I've watched these Forums struggle with adding new 'topics' thinking the issue had to do with interest and motivation, but that works no better. And yet, at BOL, the interest level is relatively high, just the participation is not!

I was interested in both what you think and if anyone has taken a 'research orientation' toward this topic.



beginswith_e April 4th, 2005 07:52 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
Perhaps it's... "I'm involved in two other professional forums". I am not involved in the "profession" although I have a strong interest in psychology and behavioural sciences. Maybe even for the students here, it's a matter of lack of confidence in their ability or even the fact that they may not get a reply...maybe there's even a bit of that "Black hole" of communication that John wrote of. We all like to be "heard", validated at least. Just a thought.

Doug William April 5th, 2005 07:49 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
Sure, of course I could understand someone not posting believing that maybe no one would respond or even fear that they would somehow be criticized or belittled. And elsewhere on the internet, that could be realistically expected.
I don't think there are many examples of that here, even though in the past, this has certainly happened.

My reference to 'other professional forums' was to point out that the level of participation was no different whether or not students participated. The people who went through all the school and had all the credentials weren't participating either.

beginswith_e April 6th, 2005 07:24 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
I've been considering it further and I come back to... validation and being "heard", but also timing of that.

You will come back here to check for a response, your need is to have been "heard" and responded to, after all no-one likes to just talk to an empty room, so to speak. It's a payoff to be responded to.

Then comes timing...
I mean you will come back to check if there is a response and if there was none, you would check some more until eventually you may check just periodically...conditioning and eventually extinction maybe? The board would hold little interest.

So this is the role of a moderator in part? to respond and encourage. Doesn't it apply to almost all messageboard/forums? maybe important to have a number of moderators to share the load in the hope that with increased participation their role would decrease.

Oh the only other thing where you are guaranteed an audience is to mention sex :-)
I've put it in the title of a new topic...let's see if there are more hits for viewing the topic anyhow. I guess I have to see if the word sex is allowed by John :-)

John Suler May 26th, 2005 10:24 AM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
I think there are a variety of reasons why a forum may move slowly and people don't post often. Some people are a bit anxious about posting. Some are too busy. Some aren't finding anything interesting to react to. As I mentioned in my other post, a forum moves along at a nice pace when there is a critical mass of people who visit and post on a daily basis, while encouraging others to join in.

jonb123 June 1st, 2005 03:44 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here

I've been visiting the forum sporadically for about a year, first time poster. I have 2 thoughts around why there might be light postings on this forum (which is fantastic, by the way). One, the registration link on the ‘reply’ screen seems to be broken at the moment, so one can’t register and reply on the fly (or at least this was the case for me). I had to go back to the main screen to register, and then go back to the original post. You could be loosing some of those impulse respondents.

The other reason why this (and psychology forums in general) tend to be lighter in posting is the ‘bored at work factor’. I think this is what keeps the heart beating in most internet forums. Psychologists typically aren’t behind a computer screen for 8+ hours a day, less surfing and internet activity in general. ...just a thought.

JustBen August 23rd, 2005 03:05 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here

Originally Posted by beginswith_e
Then comes timing...
I mean you will come back to check if there is a response and if there was none, you would check some more until eventually you may check just periodically...conditioning and eventually extinction maybe? The board would hold little interest.

This certainly holds true for me. I really tried to contribute a lot when these forums first relaunched. After awhile, though, you get tired of waiting months for someone to respond to your post and you just quit looking. It's kind of a vicious cycle - less people beget less people. Also, while I agree that the moderator should play a key role, some of my posts on this forum end up being two-way conversations between myself and the mod. Seems more like a posted e-mail than a conversational thread.

PS - I've never felt belittled here -- which is really saying something considering some of the assinine posts I've created. (Going back and reading some of the stuff I wrote last year really makes me groan.)

question September 8th, 2005 06:07 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
There do seem to be a lot of views without posts.
I've noticed that folks interested in Science forums don't respond as frequently as those in the Arts forums that I more often frequent.
Aren't Left brained artistic types more verbal than the right?

I always get the two mixed up but creative is left and science is right right?

My interest in Science perked up awhile ago and I'm having difficulty finding communicative science forums.

kathleenczech September 15th, 2005 09:25 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
LOL thanks for the chuckle!

Margaret McGhee February 4th, 2006 12:53 AM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
OK - The last post in this thread was last September so I don't know if anyone will read this. I joined BOL not so long ago and I've just started posting in one area - EP on Jan 12. But here are some guesses about the problem you are discussing.

There are hundreds of informal Yahoo groups that have less than ten or so really active members and they get several dozen posts per day. But, they are the subjects of the forum topic, not professionals who get paid to deal with it at arms length.

This would include many folks with various psychological and medical conditions like diabetes, etc. Or, philosophical and political passions. So there has to be an emotional hook for people to do this. They have organized their forums to discuss the things that are screwing up their lives. So there's a strong emotional hook there. Some of those people are actually addicted to this and go into major depression if their computer goes down.

Professional forums are usually like architects who want to compare notes on where to get the best deals on Italian doors or something. They have their purpose but there's no real passion there to cause interesting discussions. If they get passionate about something it's usually a way to make more money and the last thing they'll do is talk about with their competitors. But day to day stuff - it's a profession. You deal with it all the time and you become emotionally desensitised.

The format here at BOL is decidedly professional. It says at the top of the page that this is the gathering place for Mental Health and Applied Behavioral Science Professionals.

But here's the thing. Your profession is terribly intriguing to technically oriented non-psychologists like me. Right now I'm devouring one or two books a week on Evolutionary Psychology. Since I enjoy online discussions I've also spent some time wondering about cyber-psychology. There are definitely interesting things going on here that I'd enjoy exploring with real psychologists.

Now, I'm not as bashful as most so I just do it. I'm a talker anyway. Also, I like to write and doing a lot of forum posts on a topic is a great way to practice writing short concise little micro-essays that are easily understood. (I know this post is getting way too long alreay.) But I am wary. I don't know if I'll say something stupid and someone will tell me go learn enough to participate intelligently before I return. I think most other people are not as brave (foolish?) as I am.

One interesting psychological aspect of online discussions is that if you are new, you imagine that everyone who is already here are good friends and they see you as an outsider (even though that's seldom the case). But that's that playground principle that we all learned in kindergarten. So one critical reply to a post and many folks feel like crawling into a hole because they feel humiliated. Or, just the threat of that and folks don't jump in.

On the other hand, I'm sure you don't want to spend time online dealing with people who would be better off paying for your sevices. I think you can find the balance.

I'd suggest that the forum moderator make it clear that non-psychologists who have a strong interest in psychology and are willing to do some reading and listening are welcome to participate. When they sign up, welcome them, ask them some questions and explain the ground rules. Others already in that topic should also welcome them. It's OK to have a two sentence post that's just social lubrication. I don't see many of those at BOL. Then ask if there's something about your topic that especially interests them.

Then when someone starts climbing up on the couch (which some are bound to do) gently explain that they are welcome but this isn't counseling - it's about the science of the brain. I think most people can accept that without being offended.

I personally am honored to be able to expand my limited knowledge about something that I find very interesting in a forum like this where I can talk with real scientists, clinicians and grad students. I will not tell you about my dreams or my childhood. I'm interested in what you see about the brain that explains why we are all so human.

I think there are others like me who would bring some passion to the discussion that you pros may enjoy. The ratio of lurkers to posters here tells me that those folks are out there and probably would love to jump in.

You've become knowledgeable about one of the most fascinating things in the universe - the human mind. How could that not be interesting to millions? Well, dozens. ;)


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