MOO-cows Mailing List Archive


Re: anonymity in moos

> We've been having a big debate on our MOO about whether or not to have
> player's email addresses be publically readable.  Reasons for it are to
> encourage a more mature player base, with people who are willing to be
> open about who they are (our MOO is intended to be a virtual community,
> as well as the usual social VR that most MOOs seem to be).  On the other
> hand, there's arguments that some people would rather remain anonymous,
> for one reason or another.

We had similar debates some time back on DU about this..  Since Diversity 
University, is supposed to be a serious application of MOO for educational 
use, several people felt that RL information such as email addresses 
should be publicly available (the idea being, as you mentioned, that it 
would promote responsibility for people's actions).  However, ultimately 
we decided against making email public for a couple of reasons.

The most important reason, to my mind, is precisely the same reason I
just mentioned why some people say email should be public.  While having
one's email address public may make some people feel a little more
responsible for their actions than they would otherwise, it can also have
the effect of stifling frank and free discussion of many issues.  Some
people would be a lot more hesitant to say what they really feel about
abortion, or gay rights, or (fill in the blank) if they know in the back
of their mind that some fanatic idiot (of which there are plenty on the
net) could pick up on that and end up sending them hate-email for the
rest of their lives over it..

The other thing is that, as people have mentioned, most of the people who 
are really likely to want to cause trouble, are also the kind of people 
who make a point of getting several email addresses, and may even be 
sophisticated enough to fake an email address (not that hard to do), 
completely defeating the purpose of such a requirement..  The end result 
is that you make the "good" users more paranoid while increasing the 
chances that the "bad" users will just make themselves untraceable.

On DU we have decided to keep email addresses private, but make them
available to authorized people (i.e. wizards can see anyone's email, of
course, and also if a teacher or someone else brings a group of people
onto DU and is given responsibility for that group, they can see who is
who).  I believe it's far more effective to simply establish set
requirements for behavior and have the admins make sure they're enforced,
than to open things up to essentially vigilante enforcement by saying 
"here's the person's email address, do what you feel like with it".

(It might be noted, BTW, DU also does not allow users to rename themselves 
(they have to get a wizard to do it for them).  This enforces some 
responsibility and community aspects by making sure that people can always 
identify people as being the same person online, and thus people are 
responsible for their effects on the community within the community 
itself, while at the same time keeping such responsibility within an 
environment where the wizards do have some control (i.e. limited to the 
MOO), and can make sure abuses of such information don't get out of hand.)

In my opinion any actions severe enough to warrant outside-the-MOO action
by anyone (and thus needing to know someone's email) should also be
something which the wizards are involved in dealing with anyway.


PS:  It's also important to note that Lambda's environment is far less a
result of lack of public email as it is a result of its essential lack of
any working policing/lawmaking/justice systems since the Great
      Alex Stewart - - Richelieu @ Diversity University MOO
            "Difficult answers lead to intelligent questions."

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