Reddit & 4Chan Meet Discord

Bryan Menegus:

Some of these servers, especially the Discord chat spun out of 4chan’s far-right stomping ground /pol/, use their room to coordinate “raids” on other servers with ease and impunity. Trolls acquire invite links to other servers and post them in a room called “Raids” (formerly “Raids Defense”), encouraging the chat’s 1000+ members to descend en masse on vulnerable or unsuspecting communities, bringing with them a tidal wave of abuse. Other servers have rooms for doxxing—the posting of personally identifying information like addresses and phone numbers of victims. Such behavior is a clear violation of Discord’s Terms of Service, though it seems those rules cannot be presently enforced.

I recently started a Discord server (an odd term for a set of chat rooms and and not an actual physical or virtual piece of hardware) for the ioquake3 and iodoom3 communities, to see if that would help those communities stay current with gaming culture. Those communities have been fortunate enough to not be harassed via Discord, yet, but they have been targeted in the past by people from Reddit and 4Chan.

Reddit and 4Chan have been responsible for allowing hate groups to form for years, and only removing hate groups when it becomes fiscally irresponsible to continue hosting them. It sounds like Discord has the same problem. The leaders of these businesses don’t value responsible community management, and aren’t punished for it unless users and communities leave.

Advice for the Developers of Pokémon Go

My old colleague, and current game consultant, Wes Leviton gave some free advice to Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go on Gamesindustry.biz. Wes (and I for a short time) worked on a game called Life is Crime that was similar to Pokémon Go, though it was somewhat closer to Foursquare (now Swarm) in that you fought for ownership of a specific location instead of gyms that are a bit further apart.

In addition to his other advice, Wes recommends tolerating cheaters who use external tools to bypass the in-game GPS tracking and show up in places they aren’t:

There are numerous applications available that makes it trivial to “spoof” your location allowing players to virtually teleport to anywhere in the world. While the great majority of Pokémon GO players will play the game honestly, a small percentage of players will undoubtedly resort to faking their location to avoid walk/driving around town. As developers, we’re often quick to implement countermeasures to prevent such behavior in the name of fair play.

During my time on Life is Crime we explored many options to block geo spoofing but decided against it because our data indicated that geo cheaters were far and away the most engaged players and had an insanely high conversion rate and the time it would take to effectively block a small number of cheaters would take away from the development of new features.

Ultimately, we decided that the best way to level the playing field between geo cheaters and honest players was to provide a limited time in game portal to major cities powered by soft currency where prices varied based on your distance from the destination. Players loved the feature and destination cities quickly became hotspots for competition with highly contested cities becoming the “big leagues.”

As Wes mentions, it was often obvious to the developers when players were cheating. This wasn’t a secret, the top of every leaderboard in each competition was won by players who either spent more, cheated more, or both.

Of course, Life is Crime cheaters on Android didn’t have to go far to falsify their location. Software built-in to that operating system allows developers to test different GPS locations and users could easily access that function. If you blocked that, there was other software that would intercept your application’s request to the system for a GPS location. Anyone who was sufficiently motivated could take it further and subvert actual GPS radio signals. As far as I know, Life is Crime players were never that motivated. There’s almost no way to block cheaters and it was brilliant to work around that by making it part of the game.

What I’ve played of Pokémon Go reminds me of something else I tried to get done on Life is Crime, but wasn’t able to. Built-in community discussions. It’s tough to implement because a straight-up bulletin board forum like phpbb isn’t going to work for a huge community like Pokémon Go. You’d need to localize it to a town and maybe by team, and hire local moderators. A good online community could change Pokémon Go from a fad lasting a few months into a stable group of players that could stick around for years.

Online Communities are not Doomed to Fail

Martin Belam:

What I’ve seen again and again is that a hardcore knot of the community become hyperactive on the board, and this begins to inhibit new users from posting. A classic example, from the Points Of View boards, would be that someone would post saying they think Bruno was being a bit harsh on Strictly with his judging. A regular would immediately reply along the lines of ‘yes we’ve done this topic to death, there’s a thread from the last series here.’ It’s not a welcome. It’s an intimidating conversation killer.

If you ever start saying that to the community, they immediately accuse you of lying, and say that no they welcome people with open arms. It doesn’t matter that you can see the metrics on new registrations and new posters. It doesn’t matter that you’ve done user-testing sessions where you’ve shown people the boards and they’ve told you that they’d quite like to post but they wouldn’t because it feels unfriendly. The community can’t see it.

The headline to this article is “Why I’ve found that online communities on media sites always seem doomed to fail.”

I don’t agree with Martin’s doom & gloom about online communities. Even if they’re on sites owned and operated by large media businesses, there is hope if there is good moderation & leadership.

However, Martin is right about people in communities being an insular & minority voice, compared to the whole audience. Sometimes business-folk need to take the consensus advice with a grain of salt, and publicly admit that they’re doing so.

If it doesn’t make business sense, or design sense, or for whatever the reason is. Just be honest with people about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and don’t use weaselly biz-speak to get out of it. The community is representative of your audience, even if they aren’t always right, and they deserve a straight answer about why you’re doing whatever you’re doing that pissed them off.