Anonymity and the Internet

The internet is a ..."special animal".. it encompasses almost everyone's life. For better or for worse, its here to stay and it isn't going away. While sharing information is a great feature of the internet, we've seen many examples of where it has gone horribly wrong. We have the General Petraeus scandal (affair) and Amanda Todd (cyber bullying) tragedy as very recent examples.

My friend wanted to highlight a function of sharing that is used on the internet currently.. that while is a popular form.. it has it's weaknesses. My friend Brown Magic is a fervent player of the real-time strategy game, League of Legends, which (in my mind, please excuse the ignorance) is like Starcraft, but individualized heroes that you can level up. There are various websites in which you can post 'builds' similar to the builds you would see created on RPG games or MMOs to make the most efficient version of that class.

Two of the main sites include:
Solomid & Mobafire

My friend made a really detailed guide for his favorite hero and posted it on the site for people to learn and be effective if they chose that hero. The problem stemmed from the way in which these kinds of builds are exposed to the community; currently exposure is based on a voting system. One can either set their guide to vote anonymously or needs to write a comment to be able to vote. If your guide isn't very popular (for real, or artificially), then your guide will be mired at the bottom of the list, never to be seen by most players. People can be both devious and malicious and abuse this system by voting down your guide (whether it has merits or not and whether you tried it or not) and voting up their own or their friends (whether it is good or not). 

This reminds me of an issue that I see at my own work. We have a third party company that we've recruited to get us more clients and the way we compensate them is from the number of clients they get approved. It doesn't matter if they're pushy or provide a poor representation of our company (through lies or not telling the whole truth), so long as they get a certain number of clients approved, they wipe their hands clean once the process is done, leaving my group to deal with uneducated, angry clients. The system is broken but there are solutions as always: if we tied this third party's compensation to the sale volume plus the satisfaction of the client, it would benefit our company to a greater extent. 

Another example is this very own blog.. or my photography website. I sometimes sigh when I look at my page views and the amount of comments/favorites that I receive compared to others. I put an honest effort into my entries and my photos and it makes me sick when some blogger blatantly writes some provoking article for the specific intent to draw traffic to their site, or a photographer takes photos of a nude model and has more views of the one photo than my whole site (although that is a bit different).

So while my friend has written a great guide, his guide was unfortunately voted down by a person that created a horrible excuse of a guide themselves and their friends voted up theirs so they would have better exposure on the site.

This is obviously unfair and broken-ish system of displaying information. But I discussed with my friend.. that this is the internet; it is the place that constantly spawns internet trolls every day b/c it is so easy to be anonymous. The only thing I could say to console him (other than being able to get his story out there) is that we do these things (possibly for the fame) but because we are passionate about what we do. I'm extremely happy if even one person visits my blog and likes what I write. I never get tired of people telling me that i'm a talented photographer and I should do that instead of my current job. This is something that we must always remember; to do what we are passionate about and damn (ignore) all those that don't understand it.

Now, we're not just going to leave it at that; we are going to write about a few solutions we have in mind.. whether they come to fruition as mainstream in the future, who knows, but it is better to give solutions than just complain about things that are broken.

One solution that BM suggested was to have a "like" system similar to Facebook which when I think about it is a rather good way too. It alerts your friends (sometimes whether they want to know or not) that you like something, and if you don't like something, you can comment and *ahem* 'discuss' it with others. While a system like this can still be exploited by getting people to just 'like' the guide more than others, Facebook has a great system in that it uses real identities (to the best of my knowledge), to prevent fake accounts. And maybe this is what League of Legends is missing: real accounts linked to guides. And while that sounds like a very expensive solution, there must be user accounts one makes for LoL and maybe they can link a person's career performance (game-wise) to the public, so that possibly, a person with a longer (game) career has more weight than one that has a very short (and possibly fake) resume. I have seen some websites or games (Guild Wars 2) can tell the IP address you're logging into, i'm quite sure the same principle can be applied when voting on a guide in this situation. If it can tell you're from the same IP, then it prevents you from voting more than once on the same guide.

Another solution that BM brought up was if you are restricted to why a guide is helpful via commenting, there should be a choice of categories such as:
1) I used this build, and it worked!
2) Lots of detail and well explained
3) Good use of media
4) The writer knows his/her stuff
In separating guides by hero and then being able to search popular guides by how it would benefit the user reading it, may be a better way than an Up/Down Vote system. Anonymous systems always seem to be a very flawed way of communication.. but a by-product of the internet that we may not be able to escape.

I hope my friend finds solace in what i've written today and hope he realizes that he has written a helpful guide that has probably helped one person dominate, or at least like his favorite hero. If it even helped one person, it has value and that in itself is heroic.

1 comment:

  1. hey bud,

    really well written post! :D
    i like the comparisons between offline/online and how "anonymity" affects several niches, however unrelated they may be.

    LoL is a crazy good game - tons of strategy.
    you should play with us :D