Will Microsoft’s war against the trolls succeed in the next generation?
Microsoft announced last week that it would be implementing a new Reputation System for the Xbox One’s new and improved Xbox Live. This means that users who frequently troll abuse and downright antagonise other users will be filtered out to allow folks to just sit down and game in peace. The feature is reminiscent of the same from Halo 3, which allowed players to dictate who they do and don’t want to play with. Of course, Microsoft assured us that the system wouldn’t be gamed, so a huge mob wouldn’t be able to down-rank you into oblivion.
This is funny because just about every site in existence that uses such a system sees the same problem – that is, users finding ways to gang up on others and just outright burying them.
Take Reddit for instance. You can upvote stories, which allow them to make their way to the front page. You can also upvote comments and these will float to the top of the page allowing users to see them first under every story. Until a while ago, user scores were visible for all and sundry. But Reddit later introduced a system where user scores could be hidden. Why?
"Give users any measure of freedom to decide what they do and don’t want to see, and you’ll be surprised by the results."
Because users tended to upvote comments with the highest number of points, and conversely, comments that were downvoted would be further plunged into oblivion. This is an example of the mob mentality – but then again, give users any measure of freedom to decide what they do and don’t want to see, and you’ll be surprised by the results.
Does it happen enough on Reddit to be a major problem? Not quite and there are enough mods coming up ways to circumvent the issues. But every once in a while, you will see posts of people who have left the site and never returned for reasons unknown.
Maybe real life got in the way or something else happened. One of the major practices is to create a throwaway account, because you don’t want to be carrying around things for the rest of your time on Reddit, much less give people a way to find you. While you may not find something similar on Xbox Live, it’s a testament to the fact that the mob can get to you online, one way or the other, no matter what you try to do. And unlike on Live, there are no throwaway accounts to hide behind.
"We’ll wait and see how the new Reputation System plays out before cruelly condemning it and then forcing Microsoft to change it."
Are most of the users on Live anything like that? If you count the fact that most people’s testimonies seem to come from dealing with children, then probably not. And the last time we tried to criticize Microsoft on doing something that was forward thinking – never mind how badly they bungled their message and delivery of it – was it reversed its DRM policies on the Xbox One. We had the freedom to play used games and never log in online, but features such as digital game sharing via the Family Policy were lost.
So we’ll wait and see how the new Reputation System plays out before cruelly condemning it and then forcing Microsoft to change it.