Well, it's been two years since I had something worthwhile to say. Not really, but two years since I was last motivated enough to post on a blog. Luckily I've recently been re-motivated.
So without further ado:
This article on Destructoid got me thinking. It's an interesting question, no doubt. Are people on Xbox Live jerks because gamers are jerks, or because people are jerks? The conclusion the article comes to is that any people, given anonymity, will act like jerks. Of course, I already knew that from Professor John Gabriel.
But the conclusion reminded me of Plato. Specifically, the allegory of the Ring of Gyges. Basically, a shepherd finds a magical ring that makes him invisible, much like Frodo. He uses it to get himself sex and power. Plato thinks this means that most people, given the opportunity to avoid social sanction, would act like jerks.
It's interesting that we can put Plato's theory (or at least, the theory he sticks into the mouths of his characters) into test in such an immediately applicable way. It turns out that not everyone is a jerk. But plenty of people are, when there's no social sanction for their actions.
So, the solution (to my mind) is obvious. Make the social sanctions more stringent. The reputation feature is a great idea - why isn't that working? Make it really easy to find the person who last spoke and sanction them, and give it a reason.
In more general terms, maybe the solution to Internet anonymity is a universal reputation system - something like Doctorow's Wuffie?