When one lurks in an online community, it means that they either just scroll or post so infrequently that it is hard to call participation. There are various reasons for lurking, one of which is feeling the need to acknowledge the basic rules and ways of the community before posting. Another reason is being able to view the content without actually getting much attention (Bateman, Gray, & Butler, 2011). I am the living representation of yet another reason for lurking online: to learn more about online culture and contribute to the research of it.
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I have decided to join the WonderHowTo community because the website description interested me. This site is just the one to meet the demand for learning because it is a giant database of people’s experiences. The contributors share their ways of doing something with others, providing tutorial videos and step-by-step pictures. The contributions are viewed and discussed. The users have a chance to thank the contributors by using “kudos”, which is the analog of “liking”.
The topics of sharing and discussing are in a wide array, ranging from oriental cooking to electric guitar tuning to smartphone hacks, with the users suggesting their how-to’s and getting comments (WonderHowTo, 2016). The newcomers are welcomed easily since the source is open for anyone and one can register with their Facebook account – which I did. As far as I can tell, there are quite a several lurkers that are probably getting used to the rules before posting or just scroll and read.
The contributors are not allowed to post if their posts can cause harm or are offensive. Also, any illegally used work issues can be sorted out with the copyright agents. As to the norms, I have never seen a single sexist, racist, political, or in any other way offensive post at WonderHowTo. When discussions occur they are usually related to the topic, which can be a brand (like iOS or Android gadgets or Pop-Tarts) or a particular technique of doing something (like tips on hairstyling or exam cheating). Sometimes the users go personal and express their appraisal or comment on another contributor’s lack of knowledge on the subject. If the comment uses offensive language, it gets deleted.
The influences at WonderHowTo are persons whose posts are either very useful to hack everyday life or are presented uniquely. For instance, a comic artist Yumi Sakugawa has posted every single lifehack as drawn comics, thus earning the users’ admiration. The hacks related to iOS/Android gadgets, cooking, health, and style are also the most “kudos”. The contributors probably do not get paid, but they gain popularity within the community and outside it, when other users share. Thus, they try to impress their audience with the usefulness of their tips, their writing skills, and the quality of the photo- and video materials.
As a lurker, I have come to know WonderHowTo as a useful source. As a participant, I got a chance to acknowledge its friendly atmosphere. My questions on making donuts and making an invisible folder on my smartphone home screen were answered within an hour or two, respectfully. The answers were made by contributors who thanked me for my feedback. Thus, the WonderHowTo community is a good example of a Web culture facility made by people and for people.
Bateman, P., Gray, P., & Butler, B. (2011). The Impact of Community Commitment on Participation in Online Communities. Information Systems Research, 22(4), 841-854.
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WonderHowTo: Fresh Hacks for a Changing World. (2016). Web.