I’m a software developer, as many of you know. A few months ago, a friend of mine took me to lunch a few times to talk about a web-based game he was interested in producing. It didn’t pan out, but it was interesting to have a design discussion with someone who has a lot of business experience but is something of a rookie where web games are concerned.
Ultimately the game idea has been tabled, but without getting into any detail, part of the design was intended to allow people to upload multiple pictures to be used as character avatars. The assumption was that it would be clip art or cartoon doodles, stuff like that.
Being a practical type when it comes to gathering requirements, I asked him: “Have you thought about what safeguards you will put in place to keep people from uploading objectionable content?”
My friend was surprised that I thought this would happen. So I told him about the sordid history of Chat Roulette. Chat Roulette was envisioned as a randomized video chat. You hit a button and get automatically matched with somebody else online, and have a conversation.
And apparently one in eight times, you would find yourself having a conversation with somebody’s ***k, because that’s what dudes point the camera at when there are no rules.
Now, my friend considered this and said, ”Well, I don’t want to CENSOR people. If they want to upload pictures of their ***ks, then they should be allowed to, because that’s just the free market at work.”
So I said, “Maybe you’re not understanding this from a business point of view. If your game becomes known as ‘that game with all the ***ks’ then… first of all, kids can’t play it.”
He said “So we say the game is for mature audiences.”
I said, “Yeah right, that’s an ironic use of the word ‘mature.’ Because second of all, many people who are not kids may like the idea of your game, but they will be a bit put off when they log in and see a screen full of ***ks. Ergo, you can EITHER let the ***k uploaders run wild and have their freedom… OR, you can have a game that is welcoming to kids and non-crotch obsessed adults. But you can’t have both. Now you tell me… which one is a bigger customer base?”
I am reminded of this conversation when I hear people complaining about the moderation policy in the chat room during the TV show. The chat room used to be unmoderated, and a lot worse than it is now. When we started moderating it, most weeks we would kick out dozens of people. Afterwards, we would hear about it in email. Some people say they were confused about the rules, and promise not to do it again. Those people are usually allowed to return. More often, they get angry at being kicked out for rules transgressions, curse us out, call us “big brother” or whatever, and then vow that they’ll never watch our dumb show again.
On the other hand, in recent times we’ve had some shows where almost nobody has been banned at all. People follow the rules, and they have productive discussions, and they don’t miss the people who have been banned for bad behavior or left because of the impositions on their freedom. In metaphorical terms, we’ve gotten rid of all the ***ks so that the chat room can be more inclusive for everyone else.
It may seem paradoxical, and it’s surely part of the growing pains for every social group that goes beyond a certain number of members. But when you regulate people with destructive behavior, you become more inclusive. If you create social consequences for slurs against women, gays, and racial minorities, you anger a lot of misogynists, homophobes, and racists, and you invite claims that you’re oppressing them. Or perhaps #FTBullying them. But frankly, I’d rather have the people who stick around and welcome the more friendly environment that is left.
And that’s another reason I agree with Atheism+.