Tuesday, July 06, 2010

RealId and Forums

Most of us have heard of John Gabriel's Greater Internet F******d Theory (link slightly NSFW). I would wager that the majority of gamers even believe it to be true.

But it has never truly been proven, or conclusively demonstrated. So for that alone, I am looking forward to Blizzard's plan to integrate RealId with the WoW forums. Maybe it will turn out to be a good idea, maybe it will turn out to be a bad idea. But at least we'll know. There's something to be said for actual experimentation, rather than just armchair theorycrafting.

Heck, maybe the *real* problems with RealId on the forums will turn out to be completely different than anything that has been thought of.

Sometimes I think our society spends too much time worrying over potential outcomes, and not enough time actually doing things. Not to say that we shouldn't think ahead, but there is a balance, and right now I think we've swung too far to the worrying side.

I think that, on the whole, RealId integration with the forums will work out well. I think the official forums will become much more usable. Many people, both good and bad, will migrate to other forums like Tankspot, and that might pump up some of the non-official sites. But I could be wrong. Maybe there will be many negative consequences.

In some ways, this is probably a tipping point for gaming companies and the internet. If the forums calm down and Blizzard does not lose customers, every gaming company that can will follow their lead. If Blizzard does end up losing money, then we'll probably never hear these schemes again.

Though, kind of honestly, it's going to be weird seeing Greg Street post instead of Ghostcrawler.


  1. I love forums. Probably my greatest internet time-suckage is reading forums and posting on forums. Mostly gaming-related.

    And yet, despite spending five years playing WoW, and racking up maybe thousands of posts on various forums, I've never done more than dip my toe into the official forums a few times.

    Why? Because they're terrible. An absolute cesspool of morons, trolls, whiners and illiterate children. Any good content that might exist is completely swamped and lost in a sea of idiocy.

    So this experiment can only have positive outcomes. Even if it drives away every single good contributor due to them not wanting to sacrifice their anonymity, the forums would be no less useful to me than they are now.

  2. It screws guild leaders who use the official forums for recruiting. That works reasonably well and isn't a cesspool. But now many of those folks will be unable to use the forums as they can't lose their anonymity (lots of adults in serious professions just can't be outed as gamers).

    The drooling idiots will STILL shit the place up since they won't care who knows their real name.

    Blizzard is insane.

  3. I personally feel that the vast majority of people are overreacting, and that it is highly unlikely for any real-life negative consequences to occur to someone in the manner that so many people seem to be thinking of.

    Unfortunately, with a sample size as large as WoW's, someone WILL be affected negatively by it. I think there's some law of statistics that says that you can predict, for example, how many people will die next year, but not who will die next year, and I think it applies here: while I think the chances of people getting negatively affected by this decision is remarkably low (barring people attempting to show why it is a bad idea by engaging in exactly the sort of behavior they're afraid of), I think it is a certainty that some people will be affected negatively by this decision.

  4. The commentors over at WoW Insider are having a total meltdown about this, with a lot of people citing privacy issues.

    I'm curious, how many of those people use Facebook? Flickr or Foursquare? I really have a hard time believing that WoW players are some how more privacy aware than general internet populace.

    That being said, the forum trolls have got to go. Bliz has been needing to overhaul the forums for quite some time now.

  5. I'm not afraid of someone tracking me down and harassing me. I am a little bit worried about potential employers / clients / review boards /etc googling me and linking me to a negative gaming stereotype. Or just analyzing what I'm writing about a video game. I really don't think it will stop forum trolling, and because it is being implemented with a rating system for posts, we won't ever really know if it was real id or the ratings (which works very well elsewhere, like at wowhead).

    I don't really think there is a benefit tor requiring real names. I'm not sure why everyone thinks it would reduce trolling. Do trolls care if they are named toll_06 or Micah Whipple? It's not illegal. Maybe it will make a few think twice, but I still see some pretty bad flame wars happening over in some threads at Facebook and they've got real names.

  6. I think the reason people believe it will end most forum trolling is because suddenly posting on the forums has consequences. So, like the revamp to the vote kick system where if you try to vote kick a lot you are prevented from doing so for 15 minutes while other people can vote kick immediately, the point is not to stop you completely from the posting, but to ensure that when you do post, you really mean what you say.

    Of course, there will still be forum trolls, but I'd imagine there will still be moderators and bannings and simply ignoring people who are ignorant as well.

  7. I'm not afraid of someone tracking me down and harassing me. I am a little bit worried about potential employers / clients / review boards /etc googling me and linking me to a negative gaming stereotype.

    While this is a real concern, sometimes I wonder if our instinct to hide our gaming side contributes to this stereotype.

    If the normal, well-adjusted people won't admit to being gamers, then the non-gamers only see the freaks who admit to being gamers, and thus the negative stereotype is formed. The best way to break stereotypes is for people to encounter many examples where the stereotype doesn't match reality.

  8. I've been stalked in real life. If this change had happened while that episode was going on, I literally would not have been able to post on the forums at all - the moment the stalker found out he'd start harassing me and my guildies in-game. Yeah, this change wil scare off some of the trolls, but a bunch of them just won't care and some will go register a fake name Bnet account and go to town. Removing some anonymity would be a good thing. Stripping any layer of remove between in-game and real-life persona is horribly overkill and is going to scare off more *good* users (even relative to population) than bad, IMO. I for one made one post in the thread and until they change this have no intentions of posting again if I can at all avoid it, even before they add in this farce.

  9. I value my privacy, so I don't like this change, and no, I'm not using Real ID in game, I'm not publishing my full name in guild applications, I'm not posting in threads "post your irl pic", I don't use facebook or similar stuff, if I give people my e-mail, it will be a different one than the one I log in to wow with.

    And another question is, if they don't like so many people to get hacked and give GMs additional work, why did they shift from login handle to e-mail and now encourage us to give that e-mail away (as a part of Real ID), and well... once I almost fell for one of those phishing e-mails from hackers, I only noticed "oh, but this isn't my wow-registered e-mail so the message cannot come form Blizzard". If you reveal your e-mail, you're inevitably sooner or later going to receive spam mails. If that's your wow-registered e-mail... how many people will fall victims to "hacking" and "stealing accounts"? And if you reveal your name... soon hackers won't program the mails like "dear player" only "dear (real name)", it is psychologically proven people are more gullible to fall for it when someone addresses them with a name instead of impersonal title. Marketing uses this trick all the time "subscribe to our list, write your name and e-mail", and then make advertisement e-mails with "customized" content modified with "insert (name)" in some parts.

    P.S. Same reason is why I post as "Anonymous", doesn't mean everyone posting as "Anonymous" do so only to freely insult others...

  10. When I heard about this, I wasn't so sure how I felt about it. I currently don't use RealID and I'm not very active on the forums anyway.

    But in the end, I think that this is a terrible choice. I've read some excellent blog posts on this subject by now (including this one!) and as expected, not everybody agrees on the actual impact.

    This, for me, is the exact reason why I'm against it. If people don't *want* to have their real name posted on a public forum, they should have a choice. And I don't consider not posting a choice.

  11. personally, I don't use facebook O(though after the whole real ID announcement I made a search and found someone using the same name as me there O_O), but correct me if I'm wrong here - on both flikr and facebook, you can use pseudonym, right? you don't have to reveal your actual name etc if you don't wish to?

    in addition, contributing to gaming stereotype or not, fact is, there's still la negative connotation to it, especially when it comes to potential employment. some poeple are willing to be the martyrs who pave the way to the rest of us and change perceptions? me? I have far too much to lose and not nearly enough to gain short term to see it as a good idea.

    remember the doom and gloom people predicted about lfg and what it will do to people's behavior and how at first it didn't come true? well, its coming true now, with a vengeance. the anonymity, the lack of reputation penalties result and more and more people behaving like idiots just becasue they can. and new vote kick system only made it worse.

    real ID will not stop the trolling.

  12. Very good post. I would just add one thing. Blizzard cannot loose money on that as the forum is completely irrelevant. There are a few people who read and write in the forum but they are a very small minority. The majority just plays the game, and the next big group just reads MMO-Champion and both are not affected by this change.

    But, what happens if your real name is "Greg Street"? Will they allow you to post under that name? :-)

  13. I have a facebook account, there is no link to my gaming, the personal information on there is very very minimal. I have an LJ, the information on that is also very minimal and friends locked. I have spent 15 years making sure that I keep "me" and "me online" as separate entities. A lesson learnt with usenet trolls, who could teach the kiddies on the forums a lesson or three.

    This is a bad change, it is being done to make money from the punters (Announcement), they could achieve the same end in cleaning up the forums in other ways, just like all the other forums out there.

  14. As exciting as social experimentation and breaking down stereotypes is, it ought to be undertaken by people who choose to do so. Victims of stalking, people who worry about their professional credibility, and women who fear sexual harassment should not be at the forefront of what you, Blizzard, and a handful of other players feel "could be pretty interesting." It's not about effect, or even potential effect; it's about choice.

  15. This idea has to be the worst one to ever come out of Blizz HQ. I think it would just have been better to close all the other forums except the Tech Support forum and be done with the trolls.

    But to put my and others real name out there is wrong. I know the ToS mean Blizz owns all thing WoW but me real name is not their's to share. Anyhoo this is just one wrongfull death/injury lawsuit from shutting down

  16. I don't think that putting our real name in forums will help Blizzard will help them resolve the issue in moderating the forum. I bet that's it is not the real reason why they want us to have a Real ID in forum. Are they trying to become facebook in any sense?

  17. Rohan,

    I appreciate and share your desire to see trolling diminished, and for a time I shared your enthusiasm for using RealID to shine light into the dark troll cave. However, having carefully considered the potential impact on people other than myself, I've since changed my mind.

    First, a webcomic: http://www.cad-comic.com/cad/20100707 It illustrates the point that we have no real assurances that requiring RealID on forums will really accomplish much in terms of stopping trolling. In fact, a lot of the holier-than-thou folks may even be thrilled to have their real name attached to their tired spew of whose gearscore is terrible and whose isn't.

    Second, this will drive anyone who has experienced stalking (whether personally, or seen it through a close acquaintance) away from the forums. Google does index the WoW forums, and when you're a stalking victim, every connection your name's Google results have to your real life is a potential security hazard.

    Third, this will drive women away from the forums. The gamer community is prone to misogyny, but many women are able to participate in forum discussions behind the veil of a character name. Even the most stereotypically-feminine names and toons (pretty blonde blood elf) are sometimes played by men, so there is always gender ambiguity. With real names exposed, any woman who chooses to participate on the forums will be subject to the full brunt of "lol girls dont play wow stfu".

    Similarly, women are disproportionately likely to be the target of threats or actual violence. It's one thing to have a troll call you an idiot for calling for a class nerf; it's another thing to have that same troll find your workplace, school, etc. on the Internet. Remember when BBB professed his love of bacon, and someone found his child's school and threatened to kill the boy? Those kinds of people are out there.

    To build on that point - whether or not those people have any ability or intention of following through on those threats is immaterial. Just being threatened is enough to (a) traumatize someone and (b) drive them away from the community entirely.

    Fourth, this will to some extent drive racial minorities away from the forums. On my server, at least, there are periodic flare-ups of anti-Muslim sentiment in /2. I don't care much about exposing my first name, Neil, as it's a fairly generic male name, but if it were Ahmed or Saleem? I'd be a lot more reluctant.

    Fifth, although in theory it would help break the bad gamer stereotypes for well-adjusted, competent folks to be open gamers, not many are willing to put their careers on the line to advance that cause. I'm fortunate enough to be in a line of work (software engineering) where I'm more likely to find fellow WoW players at work than to be judged for it, but I doubt many professions share that trait.

    To sum up, adding RealID to the forums is a great idea for those who have nothing to risk or nothing to lose. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have plenty to risk and plenty to lose, and they predominantly belong to groups (women, minorities, stalking victims) who are already marginalized. This measure further drives them away and forces them to hide.

    Thanks for reading my wall of text :)


  18. There are many, many other ways to combat trolling/flaming on the forums. Real ID may work for a few, but there's nothing preventing you from using a pseudonym on your Battle.net account (I know a couple people who created their second accounts under fake names because they thought it was against the ToS to multibox.) What would be more effective would be to force everyone to post with their main (by /played time for example) and be unable to hide behind level 1 alts.

    I don't think stopping trolling is their main drive behind this feature, even though it seems to be the one everyone is latching on to. I think they're really pushing into integrating into social media and are hoping to build up a brand name/community to rival services like Steam. The issue is that with most social networking sites, is that you can make your details private to the internet at large and visible only to those you choose to reveal it to. With this forum change, you don't have that choice.

    This is also pretty bad news for 'famous' people. There are quite a few celebrities that have mentioned that they play WoW, and there are probably quite a few more who don't want to announce it publicly. Can you imagine all the unwanted attention trying to post on the forum if you were Mila Kunis?

    One other thing to consider: the community seems pretty split between 'omg this is horrible' and 'meh, who cares', but there really isn't any group that says 'omg this new feature will be amazing!'

  19. Its refreshing to see so many people commenting here and not being bothered by the whole thing.

    Like most sane people I dont go on the forums, as Carson 63000 said its full of morons, trolls and whiners. You can barely post anything without someone trying to be "funny".

    The last time I actually posted something on the offical forums it was a post in the tech-support page and Blizzard and everyone else ignored it.(and subsequently deleted!)

    So I dont use them any more - all the info I need about WoW i get from blogs and MMO-Champion or from the WoW-europe.com. No need to read any forums.

  20. Sometimes I think our society spends too much time worrying over potential outcomes, and not enough time actually doing things.

    Here's the problem, though -- there are some outcomes so horrible, they greatly outweigh any potential benefits to "forum civility". Like this:


    One in a million? Sure. And twelve million people play WoW. Is getting rid of trolls on the forum worth a life? Six lives? Twenty? And this was in an instance where the guy didn't already have the victim's real name neatly presented to him. Why make it even easier and cut out the six month search?

  21. My name, associated with an activity I participate in, has value - just ask anyone who works in marketing. I hand it out in exchange for things I want, such as potential commercial gain (think business cards) or to maintain social contacts with people I care about (think Facebook). But I absolutely oppose Blizzard handing it out to eleven million strangers just to test some cartoonist's theory or (more likely) to create their own facebook to generate revenue for themselves.

  22. This presents problems for anyone with a profession that leads to visability on the internet.

    As a molecular biologist, I have papers published under my real name, and I'd rather not have someone googling me for information on my work coming across my posts on the WoW forums discussing pally tank concerns.

    This same problem applies to anyone with online visibility such as lawyers, politicians, authors, etc...

    I understand the intent of the change (I think), and I approve of the effort to improve the forums, I'm just not convinced that it will make things better enough to justify all the possible negative outcomes.

  23. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/05/27/2010-05-27_video_gamer_hunts_down_stabs_man_who_killed_his

    Can you imageing the lawsuit numbers that will be thrown around if something like this happens because of real ID? cause you know someone is going to say 11 mill x$15 Zomg sue sue sue

  24. Many people have already said that the chances of being negatively affected by RealID forums are small, but in a large sample, someone is guaranteed to experience them. That is obvious. Many intelligent people who understand the concept of "pot odds" and its inverse, which for today I'll call "unlikely but catastrophic events" will simply never post in the forums again, and the forums will be poorer for it.

    For example, I currently lead ICC25 pugs and advertise my run in the realm forums. I will no longer do so. A lot of cool, fairly niche events take place because the forums allow prior planning. One example would be Herald of the Titans runs, which basically have to be planned well in advance.

    I have to imagine that a lot of the people who have the intelligence and initiative to put together these groups will turn out to be people who value their privacy, and who reject taking a chance where there could be an unlikely but catastrophic outcome (job loss, stalking, etc.).

    If Blizzard wants to clean up the forums, they should start taking action on people whose posts get reported as inappropriate. And possibly redesign the "report this post" button, which is far from self-explanatory.

  25. I am sorry, taking my billing information and sharing it publicly is unacceptable for any reason.

  26. I think some of the outrage at this is a bit over the top.

    The reason why is in the annoucement. Its the last part.

    "The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID -- that is, their real-life first and last name -- with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it."

    That means that if you post your name will be on the post, but your character's name can be hidden. So the only people who can link your post to your character are your real(ID) friends (because they know your characters names and your real name).

    So forget anything you have read about people you know in game learning your name.

    However when you next get googled your name and your post may come up, so don't say anything you wouldn't put your name too on the forums...

  27. Let's take a step further and make it so that every character ingame displays the RealID, with billing address, phone, e-mail and credit card number over his head.
    This will certainly stop epics ninjaing, tradechat analspam and rude behaviour in-game.

  28. Rohan,

    I tend to agree with you and want to see how Blizzard's experiment works out. In theory, I support David Brin's ideas of a transparent society.
    But I was reminded of this post:

    Care to comment? Personally, I think your blog is more interesting because your identity is a mystery. Pen names have a rich history in the United States, and I think the mystery and freedom is part of the reason. Will Blizzard and Facebook be the ones to end that tradition?

    Just call me Taz.

  29. Uhh, Taz, Rohan is my real name. :)

    My full name is Rohan Verghese (hence an email address of rverghes@gmail.com).

    Heh, I guess I'll have to revisit that post. Perhaps my thinking on identity has changed in the past three years.

  30. Ha! I guess I fail as a stalker. For as long as I have been reading your blog, I can't believe I never looked at your email address.

    I guess I made a mental "Lord of the Rings" connection and assumed Rohan was a pseudonym.

  31. I use facebook -- but my account is under the pseudonym I use online. My real, legal name has very little presence on the internet. Facebook does not require you to create an account with your real name, and there's no billing information there to link me to my real identity.

    But I do so because I knew when I got into it that people will see that name, and I hate my legal name and hope to legally change it someday soon. I don't feel that the name given to me by my parents when I was born reflects the person I have become, so I don't use it when I have a choice.

    When I created my WoW account, I was assured that personal details about me would not be released to the public, so I went ahead and used my legal name so that it would be easier to provide documentation of my identity in the event my account got hacked later.

    Well, now Blizzard is deciding that my name is no longer personal information, but will not allow me to change the name on my battle.net account without providing documentation to prove that it is my real name.

    So... they're not getting any more bug reports from me, and if something happens to my game that prevents me from logging in, I might as well just cancel my account because I'm not posting on the tech support forums. I don't want to look at my legal name if I can avoid it, and I certainly don't want other people connecting it to me.

    Though something else I wonder about -- unlike login handles, names are not unique. I'm sure it is not too much of a stretch to say that some WoW players will have the same name. How are we going to tell them apart if neither one of them chooses to display their in-game character name?