Privacy Stripped: Upcoming Changes to Blizzard's Official ForumsPosted: July 6, 2010
MMO Champion has a story up explaining a significant change coming to Blizzard’s official forums come StarCraft 2’s launch period. If you don’t want to read the PR blurb, it can be summed up as follows: privacy on Blizzard’s forums is soon to go the way of Microsoft’s Kin.
Explaining the situation, Blizzard (accurately) laid out that the forums are a seething pit of trolling, flaming, and neverending arguments. This phenomenon is summed up by Gabe’s G.I.F.T., and is a big problem in online communities. They think they have a plan to fix it!
Even though these changes could cure some of the taint the forums have been overrun with, I have a huge issue with Blizzard’s implementation. Chiefly because it’s not going to solve the issues they’re setting out to fix. Here’s why:
- Legitimate posters will not want their identities released, and will think twice before contributing their post or comments. This will inhibit just as many flame posts as useful ones.
- Letting every forum user know your real name allows the malicious ones to track down your personal information, which very well might include your e-mail. The same e-mail you use as your RealID, inviting unsolicited friend requests in-game. Worse, it might be the e-mail you ended up signing up with at other websites, letting them know your aliases.
- Trolls and malicious posters will just opt to purchase game cards and naming their accounts “Trolly McYousuck”, since the game card doesn’t verify names like credit card subscriptions do. Unless Blizzard is so intent on cleaning up the forums they’ll require name verification for even game card users, this loophole’s going to destroy their ecosystem.
Now, if they really wanted to fix the issues they’re presenting (like increasing accountability for what you post, cleaning up the community, preventing trolling, and increasing the quality of posts), here are some ideas that would actually work:
- Display an account’s characters by clicking the poster’s name. Let the community self-police people who post defamatory things under level 1 alts. (And if trolls are so serious about their trade they’re going to spend $15/mo to maintain a separate account, let them.)
- Only implement a post/comment voting system so users can judge the quality of posts. Let the users determine who gets to be heard. There’s no need to jump the shark and display real names along with a voting system. Tons of social news websites get by just fine with comment voting.
- Force posters who are consistently blocked/reported to submit comments for moderator approval without the ability to post-edit once it’s on the forums. Once a month lapses, allow them to post without moderation until they shape up or become moderated again. Losing control over their ability to post and having more stringent rules will drive them away.
It’s important to note these privacy changes only impact Blizzard’s new forum systems, and the old forums will remain the same (with no personal information displayed). Blizzard dedicated a whole 5 words to this significant distinction in their announcement, so until people pick up on this, expect a river of tears and complaints.
Hopefully they’ll give some more thought into how they’re going to sell this to their customers so everyone doesn’t feel like their identities are being put out on the curb for anyone to pick up. For now, enjoy reading the massive amounts of angry comments on WoW fansites!
UPDATE: Not even 5 hours after this announcement, one of Blizzard’s reps decided it would be smart to open the personal information floodgates to prove a point. Well, the point he proved was when you’re a high-profile individual in the midst of a controversial situation and release information that can tie back to your phone number, house address, and family… groups of angry nerds will employ their resources for evil. Here’s the aftermath. There’s rumors this isn’t even the correct person, so he potentially slammed an innocent, unknowing guy with tons of angry phone calls and Facebook requests. Harmless, indeed.
Blizzard’s got a doozy of a PR blunder to fix. And it all stemmed from an announcement that left much to be desired. At least this will be a good lesson to learn from for future controversial communications.