Today sees the current SL fora and blogs (the “blogrum”) switch to read-only mode until the 2nd March, in order to pave the way for the new Community Platform, which looks like it is to be powered by Lithium.
I commented on the new platform the other day, noting some concern over the plan to develop “contribution based roles” for users. I’ve been nosing around the Lithium website trying to find out a little more and came across something called the “Lithium Reputation Engine“, and I have to say that it has left me cold as to what it might mean. Essentially, this system provides rewards and gives kudos for their participation in the platform.
On the surface, these may seem like good ideas – particularly where things like providing help, answers and support for other users are concerned. God knows, there are a lot of exceptionally helpful people who take a lot of time to share knowledge, provide help and generally give advices to those of us having problems, through the arch of Second Life Answers (SLA). It would be nice to see these people receive recognition for their work, and to have them able to structure Q&A threads responsibly to correct any inaccurate information appearing, etc.
The issue here is whether this Reputation Engine is going to be restricted to things like the new Knowledge Base, whatever “replaces” SLA. The Lithium website suggests that the Reputation Engine is a system-wide “wrapper”, that can be applied across-the-board. Let’s look at the idea of Kudos. Here’s what the Lithium website states:
Positive feedback is an important part of turning social customers into brand advocates. Kudos let community members tell each other what they like and highlight the most popular content on a forum’s front page. You can moderate, defining which users can give kudos and whose opinions matter most. [my emphasis]
Again, used on something like Second Life Answers, this could actually be hugely beneficial – the “issues of the moment” affecting users can be put up in lights on the front page of the “Help forum”, enabling people to get the required advice / solutions quickly and easily.
But…Linden Lab has – whether they are prepared to admit it or not – a reputation for cherry-picking in their communications “with” users. We’ve seen it time and time again when a blog post is made, opened for comments, and then perhaps one or two Lindens (the OP, for example) hopping back in a few times and focus almost entire on positive comments, or the “easier” questions posed by users. Anything of a critical nature – however valid – is generally ignored. Given this penchant for cherry-picking, if Kudos is simply applied across the board on all the new forums, I tend to wonder if some at Linden Lab will be able to resist the temptation to engineer precisely which topics appear up-front on the forum as well as tweak the system so that only the more positive of comments / threads are visible?
Then we have the idea of Rewards:
Rewards and Permissions
The Lithium Reputation Engine makes it easy to reward engaged members in a given rank with privileges they value. You can assign over 100 privileges to higher ranking members that allow them to edit messages, edit, and author Tribal Knowledge Base articles, post tags, edit tags, moderate blog comments, personalize their signatures or icons, and manage Kudos. You can also give them special access to community and company VIP areas.
Again, recognition and permissions for those generating usable Knowledge Base articles, providing support, taking the time to impart experience in a structured and readable manner – fine.
But…moderate comments? Again, in the wider context of the current forums – particularly general discussion fora – I sincerely hope that wise heads will prevail at LL and “rewards” and “permissions” don’t extend that far.
As it stands, the (now “closed”) SL GD forum can be one of the most unpleasant places in which to spend time, laden as it is with protracted bouts on in-fighting, cat-calling and assorted other viciousness, which all-to-frequently includes misguided beliefs in their own individual moral / intellectual superiority over others, vindictive an unnecessary carrying-forward of grudges from one thread to another; so much so that frankly, the last thing we need is for someone at LL to view the handing out of “rewards” on a broad basis as a “really good idea”.
Granted, the Lithium blurb refers specifically to “blog comments”, but even then, even the nature of the “leading” participants in the “old “blogrum” environment (and leaving aside those who did prove genuine help and support), should LL opt to adopt the rewards system wholesale, then I fear that when it comes to Second Life, Lithium may well live up to its definition:
Lithium ( /ˈlɪθiəm/, LI-thee-əm) is a soft, silver-white metal that belongs to the alkali metal group of chemical elements… lithium is highly reactive and flammable.