Every time I see a photo sharing app come across the transom, the same question crosses my mind: what about trolls and porn? A game we saw yesterday, Pictorious, asks you to take pictures of items in order to get likes from friends and strangers. Additionally, sites like Pinterest have to act like Soviet censors in order to prevent dirty hot porn from taking over. The threat of someone ruining a good thing is everywhere, and in a world of socially connected apps, trolling is the norm.
If you’ve played online video games recently, you’ll notice that trolling is arguably more virulent and nasty than even a Goatse pic popping up on Instagram. The folks at Penny Arcade along with some major players in the gaming industry have released a video detailing various ways to stop trolling and if you’re a community manager or programmer, it deserves a look.
In short, nastiness in games happens because there are no consequences. The folks at PA say “we’ve given the school bully access to the intercom system” and the bully gets to say whatever he wants. Although many apps are barely popular enough to warrant an audience let alone trolls, this concept is still important to keep in mind.
The solution is fairly simple: persistent muting and earned rights within the game. If a player is consistently mean, the other players can shut him during the entire game and, more important, the troll needs to know he’s being muted. Second, voice chat or commenting should be a privilege earned through play, not a default option. Freedom of speech be damned: this is a game, not parliament.
The same can be said for trolls in social networks. Pinterest, for example, did the right thing by offering accounts only through invitation. It increases the value of the account, for one, and it ensures only friends of friends end up in the mix. Arguably, I’m kind of a jerk on Pinterest but I’ve never pinned anything nasty. I’m more likely to respect a community when I see others respecting it.
Earning the right to “play” is also important. Whether you’re using Facebook or Draw Something, there should be some way to earn real control over the environment through dedication. This doesn’t mean you gamify your SoLoMo application using best-of-breed badging and Tweetstream techniques. That’s bullshit. Give people something valuable for being nice, like the ability to take part in a world-wide conversation.
Our own comments, if you’ve noticed, went from massive lists of invective and slurs against mothers all over the world to a quiet conversation. Why? Because Facebook comments ensured that people had to earn the right to talk and they also were held accountable for their words. You’re less likely to say “YOU SUCK DIE IN HELL APPLEDICK” when your picture and name are above the post. Anonymous commenting has its place but not in a place that is trying to curate a positive experience.
Give the video a look and take some of its advice to heart. It’s not just applicable to gaming. It’s applicable anywhere two or more people congregate and don’t want to be bothered by nihilists.