One of the biggest expenses in running There.com was customer support. I think that there were at least two reasons for this:
- We were a PG-13 world, which, like the real world, allowed minors to freely interact with non-minors. This placed a special burden on us with regards to content, behavior, and moderation in the world.
- Anonymity gave people a “cloak” under which they could do all sorts of things which they’d never do if they weren’t anonymous. Since they were, the burden fell on Customer Support to resolve the issues.
Lots of Customer Support issues were really issues of civility, ranging from name calling to stalking to you-name-it, in my book “incivility” covered this and everything in between.
To better understand the relationship between civility and anonymity, I suggest you watch the video in this TechCrunch article. Pierre has thought a lot about this, and we (he, I, and lots of other people) experienced it at eBay for many years. It’s a complicated subject.
Recently, I’ve been wondering what a virtual world would be like if:
You couldn’t be anonymous. Somewhere, probably on your profile, you’d have to put your real name.
- You have two choices vis-a-vis anonymity.
- For the regular monthly fee, you have to put your real name somewhere (probably your profile).
- If you want to be anonymous, you have to pay extra every month.
Clearly, some people wouldn’t like this sort of World, probably mostly because of the anonymity issue. That’s fine, as we’ve seen, there are plenty of other virtual worlds out there.
I’m not saying that such a world would ever exist, but if a News Site can try and bring civility back into online discourse, then why not a Virtual World, too?