[Ads-l] lurker (1983)

Sun Jan 9 16:43:40 EST 2022

It’s interesting to see that this was originally a pejorative term.  When I first started going online in the early 1990s (starting specifically with CompuServe), the conventional wisdom was that, in spite of its seemingly negative connotations, “lurking” was an entirely neutral description and there was no opprobrium whatever associated with being a lurker.

John Baker

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of Ben Zimmer
Sent: Saturday, January 8, 2022 11:12 PM
Subject: lurker (1983)

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OED's entry for "lurker" (Aug. 2001 draft addition) has the sense in
computing slang ("A person who reads communications to an electronic
network without actively contributing") from 1984. Here are a few cites
from 1983 -- all of them (like OED's 1984 cite) refer to CompuServe CB
Simulator, an early online chat service.

_Softside_, #41, Vol. 6, No. 8, June 1983, p. 11
"World Connection" by Tim Knight
A "lurker" is a person on CB who just sits and types nothing, which is
pretty frustrating to the other users who want as much action as possible.
_The World Connection_ by Timothy Orr Knight (1983)
For example, a "lurker" is someone who says absolutely nothing on CB, but
just sits at his or her terminal and watches what is going on. Lurkers are
aggravating, since users would like everyone to get in on the conversation.
_The Computer Phone Book_ by Mike Cane (1983)
At the bottom of the list, in this example, is your lurker: a user with the
handle "Pardner." You can now tell Pardner that he or she should join in
the conversation and not be shy.


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