Whenever I read the comment section of my local newspapers, I’m appalled by the comments and ideas held by readers. I can only hope that they are either trolling or are under the influence of the Internet Dickwad Theory, as illustrated below from Penny Arcade:
That said, I feel that one should have to publically stand behind public statements. Too often newsmakers use “background” briefings from “anonymous sources” or non-substantiated trends from some people. But how about in something done for private pleasure, such as gaming? Blizzard – creator of the very popular “World of Warcraft” – has changed their forum commenting policy to end anonymous commenting (emphasis mine):
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. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. The classic Battle.net forums, including those for Diablo II and Warcraft III, will be moving to a new legacy forum section with the release of the StarCraft II community site and at that time will also transition to using Real ID for posting.
The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.
Now, I don’t game – at all. I can certainly sympathize with the concerns some gamers have on being stigmatized by current and future employers. At the same time, anonymity breeds a certain kind of bad behavior in forums that I can’t really explain. There are certain to be unanticipated consequences that may be more severe than flame wars and hurt feelings.
There are a variety of reasons to push for authenticated identities online, such as fear of child predators or terrorism. It’s far more likely that the push is for advertising and taxation. In any case, our online behavior would likely change drastically based on who is watching and our level of anonymity. The unmasking of players and revealing of their true selves may also change the very dynamics of the game.
Why leverage engagement as a driver of behavior?
Scientists have found, and our own experience confirms, that human beings have a mix of drives. One is the biological drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty and have sex to satisfy our carnal urges. That first drive is part of what it is to be human. Few would dispute that. But equally, few would argue that the biological drive explains everything it is to be human (except perhaps in the case of young men between the ages of 15 and 18).
After all, we also have a second drive. You, I and the rest of our species often respond exquisitely to rewards and punishments in our environment. Promise us a pay rise or a bonus, and we’ll work harder. Threaten to dock us for showing up late or for incorrectly completing a form, and we’ll arrive on time and tick every box. This second drive “ our reward-and-punishment drive “ is part of who we are. But once again, it’s not all we are.
Because human beings also have a third drive. We do things even when they don’t satisfy our biological urges, win us a reward or help us avoid a punishment. We play musical instruments during the weekend simply to master something challenging. We quit high-paying jobs to take new jobs that are less lucrative but more meaningful. Human beings, says University of Rochester psychologist Edward Deci, have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore and to learn . Few would deny that this third drive is also part of what it is to be human.
In the business world, however, we too often stop at that second drive. We organise our enterprises around the belief that the way to improve performance is through an elaborate architecture of carrots and sticks. If we reward the behaviour we seek, and punish the behaviour we dislike, individuals will perform at a high level and their organisations will flourish. Or so the theory goes. In the 19th and 20th century, that approach “ enacted in businesses large and small on both sides of the Atlantic “ had a sturdy logic. Indeed, it works quite well when people are doing relatively simple, routine, rule-based work, whether this involves turning a screw on an assembly line or processing paper in an office.