Part of what I’m wrestling with at work right now is community structure and management. How do you encourage active and passionate discussion and collaboration, while at the same time keeping the trolls under control? How do you set guidelines about zero-tolerance (race or sexual orientation hatred, for example) and balance that against common usage (“you’re so gay”)? You want to encourage self-moderation of communities, wherein they generally police themselves, but you still need to guide communities that are degenerating into spite and hatefulness. And how much harder might that be in a virtual world?
I’ve been thinking about that recently because I’ve become a bit weary about the nastiness common in most discussion in game forums that I frequent. Communities become unpleasant places to be based upon the comments that are made…WoW Insider being an example. There’s some serious nastiness going on there at times. I mentioned in an earlier post about the abuse that BigRedKitty commonly takes on that blog…I just couldn’t do it. Simple post today about how to do a jump shot – basic, yes, but something that a lot of beginners have never tried. A valid post with a sense of humour. And my god, the aggression level in the comments was something else, quite nasty. WoW Ladies can be that way to a lesser extent, not quite as virulent as the illiterate fanboi types frequenting WoW Insider, but people still get jumped on for innocent posts. And then there was the whole thing about someone getting upset that WoW Insider was linking to their posts, so they locked the entire community down for quite a while. A vibrant, active community, just gone off the map. They re-opened it, but when I read it while logged into my LJ account I notice that a lot of people are putting their ding posts and such under a friends-only lock. Kind of defeats the whole concept of online community resources, doesn’t it? I don’t bother logging in – I can’t be arsed to cater to people like that and I don’t care if I read their posts.
So. Trying to get my head around how we nurture lively communities, and try to keep them positive. I really don’t know how we’ll handle it.