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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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Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
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Lil'Pon March 3rd, 2007 09:14 PM

Lost archives, email address required, deleted posts, moderator aggrandizment, vanity
I posted the below in the BOL Law, Ethics, and Psychotherapy forum over a year ago and I thought that it is very applicable to this thread as well...

OK so if you want my honest opinion as to why your forum is dying (after reading your sticky)…I used to post frequently in the old forum before your software was changed over - the very last thread I participated in survives to this day in your archive. The old forum used to be lively. I believe a reason why your forum is much less active today, and I made this suggestion a few times to you years ago: archive old posts, instead of deleting them. You responded to this suggestion with the statement that you did not know how to archive, so your only choice was to delete, because the forum posts were making the forum too huge.

It got pretty sad to see so many people take lots of time writing well reasoned sometimes lengthily and involved posts only to see them deleted after a few weeks. So I think even before you changed over to the new software, this alone frustrated people and they figured why bother participating when the work get’s deleted. I believe that your forum started dying long before the new software was implemented.

A second reason for the lack of posts, is that I believe professionals and students are much less likely to post confidential or personal information when they are required to leave you a valid email address. Many people who discuss these kinds of issues wish to retain their anonymity. Even though people can set up an anon address, some people don't know this and are still scared away by having to register.

A third reason why I think your forum is dying, is that since there are not very many posts in the archive from which to research or revive or continue old discussions still pertinent today, it gives people less material on which to draw or come up with new ideas as to what kind of threads might be interesting to start.

A fourth reason why I think your forum is dying, is because when people don’t see a very large archive, there are only a couple of hundred posts, which is pretty small for a forum that has been around for over a half dozen years, by forum standards. People look at that small archive and figure that if the archives are that small this probably was not a very active forum to begin with (which it actually was but most of the interesting posts are gone now), so they don’t waste their time. People today don’t like to waste their time posting unless they believe that they are participating in an active forum in which they will get many responses. The Internet is huge compared to 1998 and your competition is much greater so you need to keep people happy if you want them to re visit your forum.

A fifth reason why I think your forum is dying, is because people figured that since you deleted so many good discussions about Law and Ethics of Psychiatry, when user names were NOT required, then you probably will delete even more now, now that people are required to have registered user names and passwords.

This was not indented to be a flame or an insult, I just write what I see.

IMHO, the BOL forums are not dying, they are dead. The moderators of some of the most (formerly) active forums here at Behavior OnLine killed the entire site. They Killed the BOH site via deletions of posts which may have been perceived contrary to moderator views. Posts which were perceived as a threat to moderator vanities. Posts which were perceived to be an affront to moderator self aggrandizement. Posts which may have been at times colorful, and "outside the norm" of the most overstuffed and pompous moderator sense of self, of whom were lacking a sense of humor, and believe that any subject, if not found to fit their narrow view of the mental health profession, is a threat to their therapeutic sense of self, or a threat to their own manhood. For example, for merely suggesting in a BOL forum that top paid psychotherapists devote a few hours a week to charitable causes, by donating a small portion of their time to needy or homeless folks who need therapy services, I was accused by a forum moderator of "attacking" the profession, and two subsequent posts were deleted for suggesting that the charity concept was a simple one. The moderator engaged in verbose, nonsensical Marxist-Leninist political ideology babble which had nothing to do with my original suggestion, IMO to impress himself and colleagues. If suggesting charity is "attacking" the profession, it clearly shows what two primary motives are of many career psychotherapists. Money, and self aggrandizement via nebulous verbiage which has little to do with the discussion at hand.

So why bother to take the time and trouble to write and post something, when there is a good chance it will get deleted? It's a waste of time.

What amazes me, is that while the moderators of some of the most (formerly) active forums on were killing their own site, they kept asking the question - why is the forum dying. It's like Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

The fact that my response to this thread is the first post this forum has received in seven months attests to the idea that this forum is dead. Put BOL out of it's misery, and shut it down. Either that, or allow more freedom of speech (excepting spam and outright juvenile behavior) - this is the only way to save it. Jazz it up with some new moderator blood and/or fresh ideas and openness. Out with the old, in with the new.

The way it is now, many of the BOL forums have become a cliché’. An embarrassment to mental health professionals who are doing real work and struggling with modern problems. For many of the forums, BOL has become a vanity site whose sole purpose is the self aggrandizement of a handful of some of the forum moderators who mainly enjoy reading their own posts and derive gratification from their belief that they are widely read and their theories are widely accepted across the globe, as well as a place for purveyors to sell their wares, services, and pedal .pdf Adler packets for some pocket change. It has become a joke. That’s not intended as a flame, I’m sharing my ten year observations of this site. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Even the head moderator of this forum, John Suler, thinks this forum, and BOL, is dead. If he thought it alive, why has he not posted here in 20 months?


Rosanne March 13th, 2007 01:42 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
I agree exactly with Margaret McGhee just wrote, I think what's written of who is invited to post at BOL can be turning people away. Some may feel intimidated ? I feel those who have a deep interest of the sciences in this field and not coming to look for counseling, should be invited, even if they do not have a degree or in the profession yet.
Who knows, it may even influence those who are considering majoring in this field in college to persue becoming a psychologist or someone who works in the mental health field.
Just my 2 cents

robrobin10 April 24th, 2010 02:47 AM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
The truth is I think that forums are very hit and miss places.

Often it can be intimidating for people to try and make the presence felt in an already established community, which means semi-large forums can have trouble growing.

Whilst at the same time nobody wants to waste time hanging around an empty forum. So its hard for small forums to actually grow a decent sized community.

Are there that many "lurkers" here compared to members, the forum seems to be in pretty good condition to me (though I just got here).

David Morgan July 27th, 2010 02:57 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
I think it can be intimidating for people who feel like they can't speak authoritatively enough.

In another forum, where I'm an admin, I encourage people who post, even if they aren't sure,a nd to simply qualify what they say with 'as far as I know' or something similar. that way they don't feel the pressure of trying to be a voice of authority when they might feel they aren't qualified.

sklipsch46 September 5th, 2010 09:50 PM

Re: What Inhibits People From Participating Here
I often find that if I'm browsing a forum without intention to post, I've either stumbled across the forum page via a google search, and thus, I've only been searching for an answer and probably found it. This is more of a forum, however, that needs all users to interact.

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