Wednesday, July 21, 2010

EXP Podcast #87: Taming the Trolls

The perils of internet anonymity have long stirred up conflict within gaming communities. Blizzards attempt to fight back against forum trolls resulted in a loud outcry from those eager to protect their privacy. While Blizzard's Real ID plans were eventually canceled, they opened up an interesting discussion about anonymity and the role of developers in maintaining a healthy community. Join us this week as Scott and I discuss Blizzard's plans, facebook privacy, horse photos, public shaming, Dennis Rodman, and militant honesty. We encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Some discussion starters:

- How well can online communities police themselves?
- What responsibility does Blizzard have in monitoring and shaping player behavior?
- Is our relation to anonymity changing?

To listen to the podcast:

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Run time: 30 min 39 sec
- “Pro Real ID" by Krystian Majewski, via Game Design Scrapbook
- Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. "Reverse panopticon"

    The concept you're looking for is sousveillance.

    As for the issue of using real names vs handles, I'm also torn. I feel like it *would* be good if we could all practice the radical honesty that Scott proposes, but I think it's unrealistic at the time. See the recent NYT article "The Web Means the End of Forgetting" ( Although we're in a culture that is casually shifting towards everything and every moment being public, as a culture, we're still too judgemental and petty to make this future look bright. If everyone's lives were public, we'd likely be more forgiving of stupid mistakes in the past. However, offhand comments and youthful mistakes can come back to haunt people with real consequences. Unless we can learn to accept these as trivial and move past them, a world without privacy or anonymous handles seems pretty bleak. I'm certainly not willing to trade my anonyminity for a mere reduction in trolls.

  2. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for stopping by and for the insightful comment.

    I was wracking my brain trying to come up that term, thanks for the reminder.

    You're right about the dire consequences that can come with total honesty, and that article makes me glad that Facebook didn't exist when I was growing up!

    I've been thinking more about the topic since the podcast and I still find myself split on the issue. On the one hand, I really do think militant/radical honesty positively shapes communities, but I also value the utility of anonymity. Would the Watergate scandal ever have been leaked without anonymity? Would the Federalist Papers have been written? Would someone who is part of a historically persecuted group be allowed to join in on the discussion in a WoW forum?

    I guess I'd rather let 100 anonymous trolls flame to their hearts' content than inadvertently stifle someone who needs anonymity in order to convey their message.

  3. Really insightful Podcast, newcomer to the 'cast with the Meme 'cast last week.

    Anyhow, this podcast really changed my view on the blizzard real I.D situation, and you can consider me to be a loyal follower now.

  4. I waxed rather... vitriolic about the RealID kerfluffle when it hit. I *always* have problems when Big Brother tries to tell me that he knows how to live his life better than I do. If I choose to remove my anonymity, great, but if I choose to cling to it, that's my business. I consider it a human right to have control over how I present myself to the world.

    Yes, anonymity allows trolls, but it also bypasses a lot of prejudices. I believe that to be a much greater "pro" than the "con" of idiots misbehaving... and it's worth noting that there will always be jerks, anonymity or no.

    And yes, a free press (which we don't seem to have these days) must have anonymity as well. There are too many moneyed interests and too much political power out there that is all too willing to crush dissent if it comes from a known vector.

    Truth all too often has to come anonymously. It would be nice if people didn't have prejudices that made that necessary, but so far, we're not doing too well on that.

  5. Er, "that Big Brother knows how to live my life better than I do". Blast it for typing too fast.

  6. Hi deedoubleyoo,

    Thanks for stopping by, and for the kind words!

    Hey Tesh,

    I couldn't have said it more eloquently! Choice is the key.