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Brian Green
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Chris, It could be a time thing. As the internet grew in popularity and people recognized the power of community, we saw more communities forming and therefore more community-focused harassment campaigns against individuals. I think it's easier to make connections with random people now than it was in the early and mid-90s. Ah! I haven't talked to Mike in a long while. As for M59, I'm not currently involved with it at all. But, I did keep it going from 2000-2009. :) Take care and safe travels in the States, -Brian
Toggle Commented Apr 6, 2017 on Lessons from the MUD at Only a Game
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Chris, I think we do largely agree, but as you say there are some finer points we don't quite match with. But, that's fine! Two smart people discussing differences in perspective is a great way to work through things. I think that the one thing you're missing is about the connections we make online. I think that connections made purely online are different (not necessarily better or worse) than the ones we make offline, in-person. So, someone can go to a website, meet people and make online friends, who then decide that person X is "the enemy" and must be shown the error of their ways. The person goes with their online friends to harass person X. In my experiences running (relatively smaller) online communities, it was rarely the single person who had much of an impact on others. It was a small group that emboldened each other who caused the real problems. They would support and feed on each other, which perpetuated the abusive behavior even if the victim didn't react initially. I got your email, and I'll take a look sometime soon. Thanks again for the wonderful discussions. I really look forward to your posts! Have fun, -Brian
Toggle Commented Apr 5, 2017 on Lessons from the MUD at Only a Game
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A thoughtful response, Chris! Let me give you a few points to consider. Early MUDs weren't exactly the paradise you mention. It a frequent that a Wizard would let the power and authority go to their head and would become abusive in their own right. I saw games collapse as one bad apple got Wizard powers and used them to exact personal revenge on people they thought had wronged them before. Or, when someone just got bored and wanted to listen to other people scream in impotent rage. I think early MUDs were also helped by two other factors: scale and relative homogeneity. As you somewhat mention, MUDs were more village size whereas new social media, particularly the big names, are on the scale of continents. People sometimes talk about Facebook participation as a significant percent of the entire world population; it's hard to have a few elders keep the peace at that scale! Plus, there was also a relatively homogeneous population in early MUDs: most people connected via universities, so most people had that in common. Most MUD players were male, middle-class, white, educated, and probably very nerdy. People who didn't fit these criteria learned to blend in or be ostracized. This helped people make certain assumptions about the person on the other end of the connection that we simply cannot make today when interacting on social media. Unfortunately, humans have always been kinda terrible at allowing for such diversity. I'll also disagree about your assertions about people being "alone" and "unknown" and how that affects them. I am not convinced that being alone causes people to abuse others; humans tend to be largely social animals, so they often look to make connections rather than simply lash out at others. I still think my comment about "mob mentality" is accurate, and I think you miss an important point: the mob is still a sort of community, just not a healthy or functional one. A lone abuser throwing insults from a Twitter "egg" account is easy enough to ignore; you can block a single bad actor just fine. It's when there's a concentrated effort to harass someone with multiple anonymous accounts that this becomes a big problem. And this concentrated effort usually comes from some other community of people who have identified the victim as deserving the harassment. It's this organization that makes the abuse intolerable, not just a few lone voices striking out. And it's this ritual of striking out at enemies that reinforces one's membership in this community, even if it's a terrible community. I also heartily disagree with the statement, "[Being] effectively unknown to each other [...] is the fertile soil in which abusive behaviour online grows...." While I agree that being unknown leads to people frequently not being overtly friendly to each other, people generally don't look for conflict with others they don't know. Usually there's a reason why people attack others, even if it's not immediately apparent to observers and not something we personally agree with. I think the biggest issue we're looking at is scale, followed by cultural assumptions. Even back in the MMO days, us developers talked about how a lot of solutions wouldn't scale very well as we wanted bigger and bigger games. And, I think we're still struggling with the concept of a "cyborg" as a culture, and people need to change their thinking in how we interact with others in medium that doesn't foster the same cues we've used for a very long time. Anyway, thanks for your response, Chris! I love the Cybervirtues series. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if you want to talk more.
Toggle Commented Mar 28, 2017 on Lessons from the MUD at Only a Game
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Thank you for your kind words, Chris! It was fun to write, even if it took a bit longer (and definitely turned out a lot longer than expected. I really look forward to your extensive response; the title alone has me eager to read it! To address your remarks: I think the phone thing is less culturally incorporated rudeness and more acceptance of the cyborg relationship we have with our phones. I think our attitudes shifted as we saw the phones more as an extension of ourselves and less as an outside device distracting from the conversation. Of course, I think there's a generational element to it where older people are still more likely to more likely to see phones as outside objects that come between people. But, I still think there was a cultural shift to see them in this new light. As for general vs. specific needs for anonymity and privacy, I think both are good points to uphold my thesis. I think protecting individuals as well as serving the general needs of people are both worth goals. I understand some people will likely be swayed by one or the other more, though. Anyway, glad to participate in the discussion! I agree this is something we do need to talk about, and hopefully those of us with some experience can help out.
Toggle Commented Mar 14, 2017 on Brian Green on Online Anonymity at Only a Game
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Well, I'd quibble about your definition of free movement. It's correct in a sense, but not terribly useful. I think that freedom of movement would include distance as well as direction. Being able to travel farther, faster gives one more options such as jobs the can seek out on a daily basis, which increases their options and freedom in an absolute sense. Even if the can no longer walk on where the roads are placed as freely as they might otherwise. Ultimately, this is like the social contact. I no longer have the freedom to murder people, but I have some freedom in there being restrictions in me being murdered myself. The problem is, as I said before, not everyone gets to enjoy the expanded capabilities; I think this the important moral dimension when talking about cybergs, letting everyone enjoy the benefits as much as possible. Anyway, thanks for the enlightening discussions! It has certainly made me think about the concept of cybergs and how they affect our life.
Toggle Commented Mar 11, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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I wrote a four part series on online anonymity and privacy over on my own blog: Enjoy!
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2017 on Should Your Laptop Say Please? at Only a Game
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Chris, Note that I agree with you about the problems with the road network; it has a lot of problems and design flaws. Like an system built organically over time, there have been a lot of bugs incorporated as "features" into the system. Inertia and profit motive keep a system that could be greatly improved in its current state. But, this is not the precise topic of discussion; I was talking specifically about freedom of movement. For all its faults, the road network has overall given us more freedom, not less. And, yes, this freedom for some comes with costs, obligations, and a curtailing of some freedom for others. But, your example about taking a longer trip doesn't show more freedom, in my opinion. Instead of driving a 100 miles or so, I could have taken transit and stayed in the area; in this way, I am no different than the people of yore. The differences is that I can also choose to use the road network to travel to my lunch and back again in the same day. Having more more options means greater freedom to me. Even if one of those options is less appealing given the alternatives now. Further, this wasn't just a visit to lunch with a friend; this was a business lunch to look for consulting work. The fact that the cost of the trip was low works well for me in a capitalist sense; having to plan a long trip just to do an initial business contact would get expensive. In fact, without the road network neither of our careers would be where they are today! But, again, I think there are some problems. Taking away some freedoms from people to enhance freedom for others is always tricky. Is the freedom to go do a business lunch 100 away worth making an elderly person feel isolated and alone because they cannot participate in the road network? I don't know. Spreading people out so there are less community hubs and less feelings of community in a neighborhood is obviously a big downside of the road network. But, I think issues like this are not at all related to the freedom of movement issue you brought up. I think you're right in that, in an ideal world, we'd take a look at the fundamental assumptions made in urban and transportation planning and figure out how to improve things overall. Sadly, as you say, there is little appetite for this type of work. Hope this clarifies. I've enjoyed this series immensely!
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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I don't quite agree with the idea that, "It is, paradoxically, only the human who lives outside the road network who possesses an authentic freedom of movement...." They don't have freedom of movement. If they want to go visit someone they know inside the road network, then they cannot move freely; indeed, they must participate in the road network, perhaps on a temporary basis. I think the problem comes when movement is bound to a cyberg like the road network, yet we do not allow everyone to participate in it. The person who does not have a vehicle (cannot afford, cannot operate, etc.) is cut off from the road network, and thus cut off from people who require the road network to visit. Now, the road network is a good thing. Instead of only visiting people within a short walking distance from my domicile I can go visit people much further away. Tomorrow I'll be driving 2-3 hours to visit someone for lunch; without the road network I wouldn't be able to do this, or it would take a much longer time to visit. So, how do we fix the problem of not everyone being able to participate in the road network? One answer is to go back to the old ways, to rip out the road networks and allow people without vehicles to participate in movement again. However, this also cuts off options we have available to us today. Another option is to devise ways to allow people without vehicles to still participate in movement with the road network. We see a bit of this with things like public transportation, but this tends to be an inferior options unless there's commitment to making it work. The dream of self-driving cars means that we may be able to give more people convenient access to the road network... assuming that the profit motive doesn't kill this possibility. So, I think the real problem is when we have something that becomes "vital" for modern life, but that we do not choose to spread to as many people who want it. In our modern society, this is mostly about leaving behind people who can't afford to pay to buy into these "vital cybergs". Anyway, great food for thought. Now, back to writing those blog posts on online anonymity. :)
Toggle Commented Mar 2, 2017 on High Tech, Low Fidelity at Only a Game
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I'll expand slightly on my comment here as well. The main problem with blaming anonymity is twofold. First, it's treated like a silver bullet. That if we could just eliminate anonymity then we could clean up online communities. As I pointed out in my G+ comment, we have these same problems in the offline world where it's theoretically harder to be anonymous. Even in the village you have people who take advantage of others, using their actual names! The differences is that usually there's an established power structure, so that the victims feel helpless against the aggressors; and here a lack of anonymity (usually through social standing and reputation) often prevents people from being able to prevent being taken advantage of. And this leads to my second point: anonymity can be a useful tool. Some people have legitimate pain in their personal histories they want to avoid; a spurned partner or lover may use a lack of anonymity to hunt others down. Or some people may just want to reserve parts of themselves and not expose it to the world. This may include things like their real names, location, age, etc. And the reasons may be perfectly legitimate. As you say, Chris, the real issues here is the lack of empathy between people. It's easy for some people to casually disregard the feelings of others online. This leads to hurtful, harmful behavior when people don't make a connection. But, having to post under a "real name" won't prevent this, it doesn't enforce empathy. I think education and cultural shifts will do more for this than the harm that taking away anonymity would. Maybe I should write a blog post about this...
Toggle Commented Feb 22, 2017 on Should Your Laptop Say Please? at Only a Game
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It seems common to use popularity as a signifier for quality. Popular things are obviously good otherwise they wouldn't be popular, the thinking goes. And the whole label of "hipster" for someone who upholds something less popular as being superior is another angle on how popularity is seen as being the ultimate arbiter of quality. The reality is that niche interests are still interesting as a developer and as a business. The trick is to make sure that serving the niche is done well and is done profitably. But, niches tend to be much more demanding than the mass market. But, to the point of the post: I agree completely. When I ran my own small, unpopular game I learned a lot about the nuts and bolts of running an online game. I also carry a lot of the hard won lessons from that game as I worked on other projects, including my current project on another hard-core PvP-focused MMO.
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2014 on Unpopular Culture at Terra Nova
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