Karma / Point / Like / Popularity systems – flawed in the inception. An example of techies not getting it with social dynamics.

This began as a common on the ‘New World Notes’ blog:
Second Life Needs a User-to-User Karma System Like Reddit

Popularity points, karma, like buttons, etc…
– These are all techie solutions to a social issue: how much do we agree with or disagree with some bit of online content, or the person behind it?

In our real lives this is simple: we form social bonds with people and ideologies that then influence us one way or another. These are complex interactions of trust based on our respective backgrounds and life experience.

They are called relationships, and this is an intentional word choice. Such notions of what we like or trust, where we stand, what we agree with – are developed over time, in a gradual process of building up ties. There’s a lot of give and take that goes into it. As we learn about and influence the world around us, we develop relationships with people, places, things, ideas, ideologies, religions, and so on.

Even when you seem to flip on a dime and choose to ally with a new stance, that choice is one influenced by a very long process of learning about something, and having it impact you. The sudden shift is still a reaction to something already ingrained.

The internet today is full of ‘Like’ buttons or ‘rate this post up or down’ thumb icons…

This is a technological solution to 6 million years of evolutionary socialization. It attempts to let us each leave our scent on a given tree and say “I’m with this” or “this is not me” – and then use that as a badge that other people, who might have very different life experiences; can rely on.

Three posters on the blog above made observations on the benefits or problems of such an idea:
Ezra: “Curbing misconduct on Reddit requires a staff of moderators to deal with troublemakers.”

Orca: “I personally refuse to have myself judged by people with much less frontal lobe activity or moral integrity.”

Metacam: “We just need some sort of respect or trust system so that you can be a bit smarter about who you are interacting and doing business with.”

I think these three illuminate some of the fundamental flaws in any system like this – and why I doubt it really works on Reddit.

Certainly topics there can easily get pushed up for no logical reason, or pushed down for even less logic.

The blog above suggests fixing it by hiding how they votes are tallied. Hiding the method just means you can pretend to work while still having deeply flawed results. It does not ensure it works. It just ensures nobody can see the mess.

Its like sweeping a dead cat under the sofa and then saying your house is clean. You’ve still got a dead cat in the living room… its just hidden.

What will moderators curb really? Just certain forms of obvious misconduct. Things posted in a terms policy. But that will do nothing to address bias or differing perspectives. And grossly unfair moderation based on where the moderator’s personal loyalties stand is very common (the core of why I no longer participate in some certain SL third-party forums).

Again they just work to hide the ball – and to make it appear as if the problem is under control.

Any such system becomes one about cliques, and if not in the in crowd, can get very harsh.

Orca’s comment triggered my thoughts because who has moral integrity is very dependent on who gets to answer that question. And I suspect we would have very strong disagreements over that. A system like this would end up being used to allow different camps of worldviews to just down-vote each other in never ending spirals of hostility; while propping up their own hate-mongers.

Metacam’s comment illustrates the real danger: that such a horribly flawed system becomes trusted – when in fact it is a lot more biased and abusive than simply no system.

This becomes one of those ‘techies not getting it’ things.

You can’t solve a social problem with 1s and 0s. A rating system is just throwing a ‘gamification mechanic’ at popularity and trust. Popularity and trust are best handled by having people build up reputations over time. Not with points and scores.

Its a flawed premise to ever assume you can trust a 97 more than a 73… meaningless numbers; applied to a social dynamic, produce wrongful and harmful results.

This is one of the core flaws of the entire web 2.0 social media era. Its not real socialization. Why do interactions on Facespam and Twithead feel so shallow and distant, why are they being so easily abused to hurt our privacy, why are they leading to so many -broken- relationships?

They’re all ‘techie’ 1s and 0s – gamified solutions – to social interaction. Biology has millions of years of doing this the slow and gradual, personal, built up way. You can’t hit that over the head with a binary chip answer and call it a day. It just don’t work.

Your birth cert name is more fake than your pseudonym.

Super rare of me to make two blog posts in a single day (not sure if I ever have) but here I go.

Going to comment on all this crazy anti-pseudonym stuff with Facespam and Google-.

There’s this notion that you need to be tied to the birth certificate name to be held accountable. An example I read today over on the comments at New World Notes pointed out two local newspapers. One with hostile anonymous instant handle based names, the other with civil Facespam tied names. I have no idea what newspapers those were so no ability to verify the comment. I’m just writing in the general sense of the ‘perception’ related to that comment.

Yes anonymous commenting can lead some people to become cyber-bullies. Some people just are bullies.

The official SL forums have gone through a spate of perma-bans in recent months clearing out such people. There used to be a long list of people there who would start ‘leading threads’ to trigger a dispute, rudely correct spellings grammar via personal attacks carefully phrased to appear to be taking a high road, demean new posters, and so on. Almost all of them are now banned. Somehow the moderators there avoided banning folks who got rude but only in response.

I’m reminded of that because it contradicts what I was originall going to write, and the notion suddenly popped into my head.

I wanted to say that, even ‘anonymous avatars’ learn to watch how they behave over time as the avatar consolidates into an identity…

This is the difference between your local paper that lets any old username, and the Facespam/Google- one. The Facespam one is not more civil because it ties to birth certificates (thus why Facespam banned Salman Rushdie until he took them to task for it), but because that forum requires a consolidated identity.

Once people form an identity around a username, it becomes as much a predictor of character as tying them to the birth cert. Actually, it becomes a -MORE- reliable predictor…

A consolidated anonymous identity reveals your true nature. A birth cert identity reveals your censored public face identity.

This is why some people have such intense attachment to their Second Life avatar. When in Second Life, they can express themselves how they truly would like to be, if free of some of he contraints of modern life or limits of their physical presence.

Second Life is that hippie ‘free to be you and me’ utopia/dystopia (because the hippies were wrong and we don’t all actually have ‘flower child’ inside of us at the core – personally I’m allergic to anything floral, real or analogous like a group hug).

A pure anonymous unconsolidated handle just reveals your stream of consciousness at that moment. Its that random ‘couch surfing yelling at the TV’ voice. Anyone who’s lived with a Jock-wannabe knows this voice. 😉

My problem with this stance jumps back to what I said about the forums. Some people over time come out with a consolidated bullying nature. They reveal just how ugly they are on the inside by being hurtful over and over again towards others.

They might likely still do this if tied to a birth-cert name, or they might not.

But I would wager that there is vastly greater value in letting people consolidate their true inner selves into an identity that can consistently express that inner nature than there is in just having them show their accepted public face. The ‘public face’ identity is of very little value for actual discourse. Its even of spurious value for ‘marketing’ – it doesn’t really tell you what they person wants to buy / have sold to them. Its just a front.

There is the small cost of “unmasking” people who are just not nice, weighed against the great gain of true insight into what people desire, think, and feel. It is actually rather short-sighted of these ‘data mining’ companies like Facespam and Google- to want the ‘public mask’ instead of the true heart of their customers.

Just because you can’t tie the identity to a ‘meat body’ somewhere, does not mean you can’t sell to it. In fact you can probably better sell to it when it feels a sense of safety over what it buys.

And as for friends, do you want to have friends that pretend to identify with you, or ones that really grasp what you feel? We can get the ones who pretend to identify with us in physical life all we want by going to the local chat-up spot and getting hit on or hitting on others. Only online through deeply consolidated identities can we get those who really grasp what’s in our hearts.

Your birth cert name is more fake than your pseudonym.

PART 2:
In re to Hamlet’s article on Reddit.

I wrote just last week on my own blog about how I think pseudonyms are more ‘real’ for us than birth certificate names.

With your ‘birther name’ – the one on your ID, you’re constrained to the limits of your physical reality. Class, gender, age, geography, politics, family, peer, and work social pressures, oppressive government pressures (lets face it, the Arab spring would have gotten 3 feet out the door and hit a bullet if not for anonymity), and so on.

Pseudonyms let us express ourselves how we truly feel on the inside; it allows us to be ‘free of the shackles that bind us into conformity with the dictates of Babylon.’ 😀

Pseudonyms today in 2012 freak out the powers that be as much as ‘freedom of the press’ did the powers that be in the 1700s. They will kill en mass to stop this, if they can get away with it.

They’ve learned in much of the world to live with a free press – because they learned the tool of propaganda. A free press today is the tool of repression. Its Ann Marie’s cake, its the card up a magician’s sleeve. It just dupes us into thinking our ideas and actions are ours while we play along with the dictates of our oppressors.

But pseudonyms are the free press of the modern age. They allow us to escape Babylon. Under a pseudonym you can work to form a solidified identity, one that in time becomes a compilation of your true inner nature.

This is why we become so attached to them. If pseudonyms really were just throw away handles use to harass and speak with impunity – they wouldn’t matter. We could get them and toss them at leisure.

But as people form a sense of self around them, they find, even if without awareness of it, that this new identity is more them than the identity they are forced into when ‘logged off’.

– This is why things like Reddit are the real future. They unshackle the human mass-consciousness, whereas something like Facebook shackles it back down.

Reddit is doomed if the powers-that-be get their hands on controlling it, but Facebook is doomed if they don’t.

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