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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Social networks got game

posted: Aug 14, 2003 3:50:14 PM

The three latest posts from danah boyd on her connected selves blog each have interesting and good stuff about recent online social networks developments. I recommend them all:

Attack of the Smartasses

my participation at

Salon on Fakesters

What is particularly interesting to me about these is that they suggests to me that the "rules" that make these systems fun and attractive essentially make them like a game—in which, not unexpectedly, many people enjoy exploring different interpretations of those rules.

For online systems, "rules" can span many dimensions, e.g., technical constraints being one level and usage policies being a different one. So, a system that, through a technical mechanism, requires a valid email address can to much larger degree enforce a concept that part of what makes this game work is valid email addresses.

But a use policy like being required use to one's "real identity" practically invites interpretation if it can't be so strictly enforced. And, as soon as someone proves that the game works without this rule (let alone that it is still or even more fun without it), such uses essentially redefine the game by firmly establishing that the range of such interpretation is part of what makes it fun.

I used to help administer an online system (basically email, chat, and forums) with about 1,500 users, where the system allowed people to register themselves. And, we had some rules about what was or wasn't an OK account name to use, because people would create accounts for both personal names and for categories of interest—for example, I had one account called "jay" and another called "library".

As long as the system was still fun, people constantly were creating new accounts that in no way matched the use policy. The mechanism itself wouldn't stop it, and for every person offended there would be a new "down with the rules" cheerleader when a "dirty jokes" account would suddenly show up.

After a while, the combination of trying to enforce rules and the lack of acceptance of rules made the whole system a big drag for everyone! Like most others, I just stopped using it.

Considering how easy it is for anyone to abandon an online system (say, compared with leaving one's physical world "tribe"), it seems like online systems will need to both mirror committed offline groups and also, I think, most importantly, facilitate the interconnection between all groups online.

So, like I am with the iCite net project and, say, FOAF as another example, I think a lot people are interested in creating means for system agnostic interconnections between groups of individuals online.

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trackback from: the iCite net development blog
posted: Oct 14, 2003 5:50:33 PM
title: Moderation and games in confined spaces

Derek Powazek's essay is quite interesting, and it explores in detail some of the same things I noted in my August post on Social networks got game.

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