5/28/2004

Sending spammers to jail

Read the article...

The article is entitled "Spammer sentenced to 7 years in prison," no
doubt to alert the general public that the US government is "cracking
down" on spam. Even the most cursory glance at the article reveals,
however, that Mr. Howard Carmack was not sent to jail for the offense
of spamming, but for fraud. Specifically, he was charged with forgery,
identity theft and falsifying business records.
Earthlink, Mr. Carmack's former ISP, has been awarded $16.4 million
dollars in damages. The article does not specify whether or not Mr.
Carmack actually generated that much, or indeed any, revenue for
himself. Presumably, he must have made money from this somehow, or why
do it?
If spam becomes a criminal offense, why is paper junk mail not treated
in the same manner?

5/26/2004

Oskee wee wee

At the suggestion of a co-worker, I took a look at the Tiger Cats website. What an improvement! It's a shame I don't have a link to the old version of their site, to compare differences.

Click on the 3D Stadium. This will show you the field, where you can select any seat, view the field from that seat, see how much that seat will cost you, etc. This is probably one of the best uses of Flash I have seen on a website in a long time. There's a lot to be said for using the right tool for the right job. Nothing is more annoying than a randomly placed Flash movie (and by randomly placed, I mean right at the very beginning, wasting five minutes of my valuable time) that adds nothing to the site except movement.
This, however, is anything but that. The addition is a perfect appliction of HCI to the real world. The 3D stadium gives the user an accurate idea of what they will be getting when they purchase a ticket. On a broadband connection, it loads quickly. It's clean. It's intuitive. There's no guesswork.
The interactive map is another excellent addition. As well as providing text instructions, a user may click on any city shown on the map and receive visual instructions. A gold line highlights the streets one must take in order to reach the stadium.
The site also includes a small forum.

5/25/2004

Community Rules

One of the most crucial aspects of web community development are the rules and how they are enforced. Too few rules can lead to chaos but too many always lead to oppression and a dead community results. I have seen this over and over again.
I don't think I have ever seen a community with too few rules. This doesn't mean that they don't exist: I simply have never seen one.
If I were to give any community developer a piece of advice, I would give them this, taken from Machiavelli's The Prince: that "...the people ask nothing but not to be oppressed..." As a community leader, one must ensure that no oppression occurs be it from within or from without. Excessive moderation can be as bad as a troll and often causes as much, if not more unrest within the community. If God could limit His commandments to 10, why do you require 10 thousand? Remember that most of the rules you create for your community have no basis in law: you are simply creating them to govern how you wish people to interact with each other. Do you set up such rules among your friends? If you had a large list of rules for all of your friends to follow would they or would your circle of friends stick together? In the workplace, would a large list of rules governing how you may or may not interact during coffee break be useful?
In their offline relationships, people are governed by their common sense. While it is certainly arguable that some have significantly less common sense than others, it is just as arguable that a long list of rules can never "fix" those who are lacking in this area. Why then is it generally expected that online life would be any different?
In her book The Psychology of the Internet, Patricia Wallace looks at the behavioural practices of individuals online. She argues that anonymity allows people to do things and express opinions that they otherwise would not. There is a certain amount of truth to this. But does that necessitate excessive government?
I am convinced that it does not.
As yet, I have no argument on which to base this, other than my own experience.

5/21/2004

Paper writing

Did you ever write a paper on a really cool idea, look at it later on and think "Wow. That is the worst writing I have ever seen in my life?"
I had such an experience today. I was looking at a paper I wrote on web community development. The paper specifically looked at the development of the Lord of The Rings online communities. I looked at web community structure, culture, cultural icons, community government, relationship marketing, intellectual capital, trust etc.
My ideas were expressed with such neanderthal-like articulation it's a wonder it was accepted for poster presentation. Still, the idea was cool and has a lot of merit. The paper might be worthy of a re-write. Perhaps, when I have time, I will.

Notable Web Communities

I have added a new section to my list of links: Notable Web Communities. Communities will be listed on the basis of age, community development, member interaction, friendliness and potential for growth.

5/20/2004

Web Community Development

I have begun some not for profit work for a website called iamnext. The site is run by a Christian organization called Campus Crusade. The site administrators wish to extend the interactive aspect of the website; more specifically, they wish to create an online community.

My sister has done some writing for the site, and mentioned the new project to me last week. I have a keen interest in web community development and am always anxious to apply what I have learned. I could write a small book on all the things one should NOT do when developing a community, maybe even a large tome.

Every decision made by a community administrator or a group of moderators will affect the community's development. What rules you have, how you choose to enforce them, how much communicaton goes on between the administration, all of this is important. Decide fist what you want the community to look like. What is its purpose? Its intended demographic? Will this or that decision bring you to your goal? If not, what will?

5/19/2004

Online gaming and real-world economics

Read the article

This is a fascinating article examining online communities and their
ability to mimic the economy of the offline world. I cannot tell you
how badly I wish I'd had this and the original journal article on
which it is based, when I wrote my paper on web community development.

A few questions:

Why did real-world money enter the online world of Everquest? As
Castronova comments in the article, "I liked it better when they were
just, you know, games." Nevertheless, this seems to be a growing trend
in online communities. Last year, when I was administering a web
forum, I had to shut it down. Members were using it to make a profit
selling various items. I was not hosting a virtual marketplace, nor
did I wish to. Last week, a certain forum that I used to frequent had
a "major meltdown," also money related. It's a long story, so I won't
go into it.
In his book "The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic
Frontier," Rheingold also discusses this tension between the old way
(just for fun) and the new way (just for money). I need to pick it up
again and have a read.

Did where players were from affect their ecomonic practices in the
online world? Was there any correlation between the practices in their
country and their own practices? The article doesn't discuss it at
all. The closest it comes is discussing the homeless woman with the
online palace. It would be interesting to see how someone from a
strictly communist country vs. someone in a socialist country vs.
someone in a strictly capitalist country would behave solely in terms
of their economic choices. Is there even a correlation? Is it based on
personality instead?

Notice the discussion below the article on morality.
Someone mentions offline morality affecting the online world. This
comment shows a lack of understanding of the nature of morality.
Morality is internal; internal things are all you can take with you
online.
However, the question of online justice is extremely interesting. It
can be difficult to punish bad behaviour online and sometimes mistakes
happen and punishment is misappropriated. Also, there is no set method
for dealing with different incidents. "Major crimes" might be
punishable by banning. What about minor crimes? Are there any? How do
we deal with them? What constitutes a crime or violation in a game?
One would assume breaking the rules. However, as anyone who's done it
will tell you, rules can often be used as leverage.

I will leave this thought for now and come back to it later.

Dear Audience...

I keep two other blogs (which will never be referenced here) to keep track of my personal life and books that I am reading. Despite the fact that I am no longer a student, I am still keenly interested in the academic life and plan to return.
After seeing a certain supervisor using a blog to keep track of his research notes, I had a question.
Why don't I have a blog to keep track of my academic interests?
Having no answer to this at all, I created one immediately.
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