The Hypocrite Situation

The only problem I found with Blizzard's RealID proposal in summer '10 was the two principals on which they based their decision:

  • Giving out real life names could not harm people. Your name (and much more) is already out there online and no one has come to firebomb your house yet, right?
  • The RealID system would keep everyone on their best behavior because . . . ?

The second principle is the conundrum. The only reason someone would change their forum behavior is if behaving better would be rewarded or if behaving badly would be punished.

There was one additional feature they announced with RealID: the ability for players to up- or down-rank forum threads in order to promote the thought-out discussions and hide the "nerf paladins!" troll trash. This leaves us with two distinct possibilities as to why Blizzard thought we would behave:

  • Reward: Speaking clearly, precisely, and arguing valid points would get our thread up-ranked with a better chance to be seen by the developers.
  • Punishment: If we trolled, flamed, or spammed, we would feel publicly shamed and possibly fear for our real life safety!

But then we are assured by Blizzard that real life names on their forums aren't dangerous, and I think they're right most of the time. But most people are not rational, so they're probably also irrational enough to feel such frivolous emotions as "shame" for expressing a valid idea that isn't liked by the general public.

But then the rest of us, who are paranoid enough to not want our WoW accounts coming up when someone googles us, are less likely to believe that shame is a decent enough motivator/punishment to keep the trolls down.

Which leaves me with only one belief: Blizzard was attempting to use the fear of real life repercussions to moderate their forums for them. Post something unfavorable, then be afraid that your house will get firebombed.

To recap:
Irrational people are afraid of shame, so will behave themselves. Trolls and spammers are irrational, so most trolls and spammers will clean up their act or disappear.
'Beyond irrational' people (extreme trolls) will continue to troll and spam, and may pursue dangerous real life activities, posing a risk to irrational people, but not rational (see below).
Rational people won't be afraid of extreme trolls, as they take necessary precautions when safeguarding their home (locking doors, having fire escape routes, etc), and will take legal action to stop the extreme trolls. Rational people behavior will remain unchanged - which is fine since they don't troll or spam.

Meaning... RealID on the forums would have worked.

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