The Usenet was introduced to us in 1979, allowing users to read and post public messages to each other regarding specific topics. Once being able to count on a single hand the amount of bulletin boards created by Usenet when it first came around. There are now countless amounts of bulletin boards on the Internet as a result. It is great! People can discuss common topics with each other from all around the world, getting all different kinds of opinions and ideas. Although and unfortunately along with the good comes bad and the Usenet shows some of both (Mostly good). An article written by Kollock and Smith (1996) primarily on the Usenet shows us problems we may run into. Just as Professor Stromer-Galley stated on our class blog spot (http://com430z.blogspot.com/) "Their essay focused on Usenet and the problem of cooperation in online environments where there are few rules and little by way of sanctioning to stop unwanted behavior"(Stromer-Galley, 2008).
For the past seven days I have been observing two motorcycle forums, just looking at the interactions between the people who posted and in some events the people who did not. The forums are for Kawasaki motorcycles but specifically for the Ninja 650r. I am currently an active member in the forums and check as well as make post on them daily. These forums are used to ask questions and in reply people will answer questions to the best of their ability. In addition, people sell and buy parts, accessories, and even bikes. We post pictures of our bikes, ourselves, and we also have a section for off topic postings where we can post anything we want about anything we want. So personally for me Usenet and these forums have become part of my daily life, checking them three sometimes four times a day.
On the second day of my observations I came to my first personal roadblock, the Free-Rider problem. "Free Riders are those who consume more than their fair share of a resource, or shoulder less than a fair share of the costs of its production" (Wikipedia.org, 2008). More or less this means that there are either people that contribute unrelated information, opinions, and flat out nonsense. Or they sit back letting everyone else contribute and end up benefiting from their work and efforts. I read about this in an article by Kollock and Smith where they explain in their article Managing the virtual commons that "Boundary and bandwidth restrictions would have a direct effect on each user of the group, by the Free Riders of the group" (Kollock and Smith, 2008, Pg. 116).
I saw on the forums that people were posting in wrong sections of the forums and even posting a question and not replying to the responses received from others. For example, on the forums is a section for "Off Topic Postings" in this section you can make threads and discuss what ever you would like. Even though this is available for people to post in I was still seeing political nonsense all over the other sections such as "Maintenance" and "For Sale". In fact, we had one person join the forums just to create spam. According to the online Wikipedia "Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to indiscriminately send unsolicited bulk messages"(Wikipedia.org, 2008). This person signed up for the purpose promoting political propaganda. They posted numerous times in several different sections; made up pictures and quotes all over the place. Fortunately, a moderator caught them banned their IP address and deleted all of their post. Precautions have now been made on the forums to stop these spammers who are taking us away from the real purpose of being on these forums. I truly believe, that if we ignore these spammers and free riders, and do not act bothered by them, that they will slowly start to disappear (At least off our forums).
Brining me to my next major issue, which is Identity. Most of these forums are really an identity free environment. By identity free I mean no one knows who you really are (Age, gender, and so on.). People who join, create a nickname a password and that is it, they are in. In most cases their faces are never seen and their true identity is never revealed. Now this may not always be such a bad thing, but in the case of spammers and free riders it is. For example in our class, we all entered a private Internet Relay Chat (IRC). When joining the IRC each student was given a random nickname, so no one knew who was who. The class had a specific topic to stay on top of, but since their true identity’s were never revealed and could in reality not get in trouble, students immediately spammed the IRC. Talking about penises, drinking, and a ton more of what I thought was actually funny stuff. My point being is that none of them would have ever acted in this way if their nicknames were their first and last names. So as you can see these problems all really link together.
Now on my forums we do not get many spammers. But in the case of identity problems I see a whole new one. Mine being that suppose I was to ask a question about an engine problem I might be having. I post the question and get a response from a user. How do I know that this user is a credible source of information? In other words, how do I know that this person is not telling me the exact opposite of what I should do? They might in fact be telling me something that might make the problem even worse. So not only is Identity an issue for spammers it is also an issue for credibility.
Personally for the forums I have been observing, the problems with free riding, spamming, and Identity have not really been a huge factor. I have only been watching for a short period and have not seen too many bad encounters, but that might not be the case for others. In the end I believe that if we ignore the spammers and free riders they will eventually go away. They might even go away faster if we could solve the issue of identity. People would not commit crimes if they knew they would get caught. Same concept applies to spamming, people would not spam if they knew they would be identified.
Usenet. (2008, September 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:10, September 24, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Usenet&oldid=238615653
Kollock, P. & Smith, M. (1996). Managing the virtual commons: Cooperation and conflict in computer communities. In S. C. Herring (Ed.), Computer-mediated communication: Linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives (pp.109-129). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.
Free rider problem. (2008, August 27). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 03:09, September 24, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Free_rider_problem&oldid=234653145
Spam (electronic). (2008, September 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:51, September 24, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Spam_(electronic)&oldid=240253542