Greedy Goblin

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Greater internet f.. theory vs 4 fun ppl theory

We all know the infamous comic:

It's consensually accepted, even among scientists. We see it all the time in action over the internet. But two recent researches offer a much brighter perspective that I'll call "4 fun ppl theory". The first research I reviewed on Monday, stating that people with bad personality traits are likely to post annoying or idiotic messages:
Please note that these people posted on their own Facebook page, identified with their real life name, clearly to be seen by family and co-workers. So anonymity, which is key part of the greater internet f... theory was not present.

The second research was done by the young winner of the Google Science Fair: she found that 93% of the posters do not publish a comment if they are warned that it is hurtful. She simply created a software that seeked hurtful words and created a pop-up informing the user that his message will hurt people, is he sure to proceed publishing? Those who mean to be trolls would ignore a popup.

Let me offer the "4 fun ppl theory", which explains the widespread horrible behavior and the recent research: those we consider trolls are people with honest intention to positively socialize, but their extremely low social skills cause them to post hurtful or annoying things instead. My formula is "basement dweller + audience + lack of clear rules or authority = total f..wad".

I know it's hard to believe that one can be so incompetent that he posts obviously hurtful messages without hurting intent. But that comes from our narrow scope of people. The ones you consider "socially inept" are still part of your circles, like the co-worker who always skips the chat at the water cooler. Just like the ones you call dumb are still part of your professional life, like the janitor. But you are aware of the fact that there are almost a billion illiterates in the World, people who are much-much "dumber" than your janitor. Then there must be similar amount of "social illiterates" who are similarly much worse than your introvert co-worker.

The "4 fun peep xd" is a bizarre mental image in the head of basement dwellers about a socially successful person who is funny, friendly, sexy and connected. Of course their image is horribly flawed and
  • what they consider funny, others see annoying or dumb
  • what they consider friendly, others see as fraternization (think of "bro"-spamming)
  • what they consider sexy, others see misogynist and sexist
  • what they consider being connected ("in the know"), others see meme-spamming and word butchering
Why don't we see them behave the same way in real life? Because of the clear rules and authority. They are not mentally ill, they are capable of following rules. They know that they are supposed to ask for items from a shopkeeper and not telling him jokes. They know that they are supposed to work in their workplace instead of having sex. If they'd forget themselves, an authority figure would soon appear and put an end to their "fun". However in relaxed social situations they try to be friendly and fun which never ends well.

The solution to the harmful internet presence is, removing the key feature of the "4 fun ppl theory": "lack of clear rules or authority". A group that has to include basement dwellers must have clear and present rules and officers keeping it. It's crucial to understand that general guidelines like "don't be a dick" don't work, as the basement dwellers are unable to understand that their "4 fun" behavior is "being a dick" for everyone else. Rather using certain words, posting offtopic, posting with bad grammar should be banned. The rules must be literal, clear, written with the goal to be understandable with someone of zero social skills. So "don't insult women" is bad rule, "don't say anything about sex, genitals or nudity" is a good rule, because they are unable to see that women don't find it funny if a stranger tells them to "post pix of ur tits". I know it's hard to believe that they don't know that. But they are virgins for a reason.

The tragedy of the "4 fun ppl" is that they put their worst inability, their lack of social skills to the front, by trying to be funny and friendly. The goal is to make them focus on their existing (or at least improvable) abilities instead of their disastrous "4 fun peep xd" persona. To make them think of themselves as a "good scout" or "reliable logi pilot" instead of "funny guy" or "good friend". Why? Because "good scout" is something they can become, but they will never, in a million years will be a "funny guy" and whenever they try, they'll fail and usually insult or annoy people in the process.

Please note that I did not deny that some people are purposefully abusive. They are the 7% who posted their comment after the warning. But they are a criminal minority and most of the "trolls" are just too unskilled to see what they are doing.


maxim said...

What you are talking about has been somewhat recently termed "toxic behaviour", and game studios have been looking for ways to deal with it.

The solution "make rules and enforce them" was the one that has been used on internets since the dawn of time. Basically, you hire a team of mods / GMs and then banhammer stuff. Since these guys also double as CMs and tech support, this kind of worked for a while, as long as games didn't have thousands of players.

However, this started breaking down when the amounts of players in games became larger. And the issue here is not just that it becomes hard to maintain adequately sized mod teams. The actual problem that manifested is that you only need one toxic player every so often to ruin the game experience for hundreds through ruining a specific game and then causing ripple effects to other games.

So, even if you remove everyone who you deem "incompetent basement dwellers", you still don't really solve toxicity in the game, because most of toxicity doesn't actually come from "incompetent basement dwellers", but rather comes from a much larger amount of very normal people just having a bad day outside of the game.

The most advanced system i know of for dealing with toxic behaviour so far is Riot Games' tribunal, where the power to police players is given to players themselves -

TLDR: you are right that simply pointing out to the toxic person that he is being / about to be toxic goes a great way towards dealing with the problem.
However, straight up bans are not a great way to go about it, because you can't ban everyone. What you need is to create actual social norms that the game community itself communicates and enforces. You can't do it with bans.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you always have a troll in your network, only in RL you can handle them far better b severely chastising such morons.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: you don't have to ban people, you have to ban behaviors. Mods are only needed because only "too offensive" comments are banned, while "having some fun" is allowed.

The solution is automatic blocking all kind of off-topic speech, because the socially incompetent ones can't see the line. Any kind of "fooling around" ends up being offensive because they are basement dwellers.

Dàchéng said...

Here's an example where the extremely low social skills of one person led to toxic behaviour that was so bad that it led me to call for his removal from Azeroth.

Gevlon said...

@Dacheng: that's not low social skills. I filled the raid, making them do what I want, so high social skills by definition. Read:

And it wasn't toxic either as the raid completed the encounter, so everyone left happy.

Being competitive (taking X from another to get it for yourself) is OK. These "4 fun ppl" annoy everyone while not getting anything in return.

maxim said...


Practice suggests that this kind of across-the-board automatic bans result in communities becoming lifeless and dry very quickly. People don't take kindly to being policed by machines when it comes to social interactions and choose to game elsewhere.

Mature filters is really the only true automation the industry is able to enforce at the moment.

Anonymous said...

" Being competitive (taking X from another to get it for yourself) is OK. These "4 fun ppl" annoy everyone while not getting anything in return. "

Why would you think that? I mean they obviously continue doing it so they must at least think that they get something out of it.
The problem is where the google research (didn't read it in detail though) might come in:
instead of it being an authority, they just point out that 'nobody finds your joke funny'. a strategy that you proposed in the past as well against racist / sexist jokes (don't join in, ask instead 'why would she make you a sandwich?' etc).
they think their joke is appreciated by a large number of people (because they see others do them as well and are copying them). this perception of 'others are doing it' + 'nobody complains' + 'the only feedback is laughter (and the others are just no-fun or afk)' could be one of the root causes.

=> the problem is lack of social interactions and feedback. on bad behavior.
as an introvert asocial myself with little experience in 'friendly convo', i make mistakes as well. stupid/inappropriate comments/topics/'jokes' or some that are 'too complicated' -> not understood.
but at least i for one realised it and try to improve it ... that's what they should do (and i guess they will once they get into the workplace / find an offline hobby).

maxim said...

Also many people heavily identify with their behaviours, so they treat behaviour bans the same as personal bans.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: lifeless and dry is the best they can achieve.

@Anonymous: corrective feedback is hard because most people afraid of confrontation. Typing "lol" or just sitting silently is much easier than saying "your joke is sexist/racist/dumb". Some authority figure must take up this task.

maxim said...

"Lifeless and dry is the best they can achieve"
Correction. Lifeless and dry is the best that people unaffected by ban can achieve once everyone else is banned.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: I don't want to ban people. I want to ban texts. So guy writes "show ur tits", his chat is not processed and he gets a feedback "your chat was not sent as its sexist".

Anonymous said...

Who are you to decide what is and isn't OK to say? Many people enjoy off topic and even offensive entertainment, which is why shows like South Park thrive. I like to sit around having a laugh in alliance chat, local and channels like eve-radio. Why should that not be allowed because you take computer games way too seriously and treat them like a job? Games are made for fun. 99% of developers number 1 priority is making sure their game is fun, that it's entertaining. You want to make it super serious, but that doesn't make you right.

By the way, who would decide what can and can't be said? You call people morons and slackers, and you call goons (the players not the characters) evil, all of which are personal attacks. So would that be allowed? If so, why? Just because you said it?

I do find it amusing that you try to talk about what people are and aren't allowed to do socially while clearly displaying that your understanding of social norms is even worse than terrible. Do you honestly think you have enough understanding to talk seriously about this subject without just coming across as someone screaming "I don't like X therefore X should not be allowed anywhere by anyone"?

Gevlon said...

@Anonymous: The No1 goal of game developers is to sell games. It goes better if "fun ppl" who like to "sit around and laugh" don't chase away their customers with racist, sexist, homophobic or simply childish chat.

Dàchéng said...

Gevlon replied to my earlier comment:

"@Dacheng: that's not low social skills. I filled the raid, making them do what I want, so high social skills by definition. Read:"

It's interesting to hear a self-acknowledged sociopath telling me of his high social skills.

And not only "high social skills, but "high social skills by definition" (where the definition is one of his own making, rather than the socially accepted meaning).

In effect, like all psychopathic people, you believe that high social skills means tricking others into doing things for you. More normal people use their social skills to find mutually beneficial solutions to problems. You just want to leech on them.

In any case, most people will agree that your behaviour was toxic. Your claim that it was not, because "the raid completed the encounter, so everyone left happy", is another example of your selectivity. The raid completed, but it would have completed under the other tank's leadership, also. You selectively exclude him (and the others in his raid) from "everyone" because you see him as a non-person, a moron (you called him that for no reason except that he suggested tactics in a battle that you disagreed with, and you started calling him 'moron' in public).

He was not happy. Nor were the people in his raid that you undercut. You lied to the people in your own raid, and slowed down how long it would take for a raid to form. The average person in your raid would have joined the other raid and completed it successfully and faster if you had not lied to them. So while they were happy to have completed, I very much doubt they were happy with your behaviour in lying to them.

Gevlon said...

@Dacheng: read the wikipedia page: "Interpersonal skills are sometimes also referred to as people skills or communication skills.Interpersonal skills are the skills a person uses to communicate and interact with others. They include persuasion, active listening, delegation, and leadership." In summary "tricking people into doing what I want".

It is true that social people don't trick other socials into harmful things intentionally (just by mistake), but it doesn't change the fact that a social person does what others with high social skills tell him.

About that raid: we know for sure that it completed but we can't know if it succeeded under the other group. Also, if there are 40 people for 25 spots, 15 must miss out, why me?

Dàchéng said...

You would have been welcomed into his raid if you hadn't spent the previous fifteen minutes calling him a moron.

Gevlon said...

@Dacheng: but SOMEONE must have missed the raid (otherwise there would be 2 full raids)

Also, he wanted to build "train" which was a 100% sure loss strategy, so he was a moron. Calling a moron a moron isn't being mean, it's merely truthful. Or are you one of those mad liberals who say "teachers shouldn't give marks to kids because it stresses them, let's tell everyone he is a unique snowflake and perfect as he is, even if he can't add 1+1"?

Anonymous said...

Well. A Troll will always do with intend.

the people you want to shut up are the normal people with attitude on maybe a bad day and in lesser cases their normal mental state.

Trolls want people to fight each other in a highly emotional twitch finger responsive way. Some might consider this art. The king of trolls will post only one comment and watches how a whole forum will close down in flames over a couple days.

Practice suggests that this kind of across-the-board automatic bans result in communities becoming lifeless and dry very quickly. People don't take kindly to being policed by machines when it comes to social interactions and choose to game elsewhere.

yes. and there are ways to let them think they are not policed.
here are some solutions tested with "Die Trolldrossel" (German language, sorry, I'll searched for a international version of it, with no luck.)
In a nutshell. They Analyse grammar and sentences and calculate a "captcha fail coefficient" per user comment log or single comment. So if someone wants their bullshit posted the user will have to fill in several correct captchas until the slim chance grants the post.
They also tried flagging trolls so they still can post but only trolls will see their posts of each other inbetween "normal posts". So others are not bothered and successfully ignore the trolls.

The "4 fun ppl" are one of the major reasons why I don't PUG in onlinegames. And only group up with people I know in RL, so that we can decrease the chance to deal with this bread of human being.

Anonymous said...

@ Dachdeng:

So I read your comments now...

Lots of confirmation bias. People in the comments agree with you, they only support you.

In Gevlon's comments, discussion is more objective, with disagreement when need be, contradicting him and calling him out.

Which one provides a better environment to think, and improve our understanding of the world? The one which challenges you, or the one which reinforces you?

Calling him a bully for instance... a bully tries to hurt other people because it makes him feel in power. Gevlon doesn't actively try to hurt other people, he's tired of the bullcrap he's seen in games and with good reason. In WoW, Trade chat is a place full of drivel and stupid trolling. In Cata, when they made instances harder, people kept failing the instances, wasting my time.

Not all goal oriented players have the time to go into a high level guild. This makes it pretty difficult to find equally skilled players. We need to filter out the baddies however we can. Then they take it personal and we're bullies?

We should accept them despite them playing objectively bad (gear, not focusing on the game, talking too much even during fights, builds) for the

If you collect pets you can do it however you want. But if you want to come into raids with your pet collector's build, which is provably bad because you did it for lols, without gems and gear... We should accept you anyway?

Troutmonkey said...

Interesting post. However, I think the research by the google science fair person is flawed, if the entirety of her experiment is what you described.

She needs a control group. So she should have done the "harmful language" pop up for people's comments that were completely benign. Like if somebody asked when the season of game of thrones was going to start. Do the popup saying its harmful and see if the person changes their behavior solely because of the popup. This would tell you if it was the popup changing behavior, or if it was the popup causing people to rethink what they were gonna say, and realize it was inappropriate.

Gevlon said...

@Troutmonkey: she had a control group, "baseline" that didn't get popup, just counter. Read her research.

Dàchéng said...


I did not moderate the comments on my article. The bias you allege is not due to me filtering out people who agree with Gevlon. It's because people just don't agree with Gevlon, by and large.

As for the rest of your comments, as they seem to be constructing a strawman argument that nobody but you has put forward, I will leave you to defend it.

Troutmonkey said...

@ Gevlon

Ok, I clicked through the link to her research site. Im afraid I dont have time today to follow every link she posted, but I was able to quickly read her whole site, and I think I have a handle on her method.

I still think her control needs some work. I couldn't find a definition of what she considered mean/hurtful language. I think she needed to do the rethink pop up on some comments that were not mean/hurtful to see if the test group was actually rethinking posting the comments or just giving in to/submitting to authority.

I think if you were to lie to people telling them their comments are mean/hurtful, when they actually are perfectly normal comments. Then you would probably see a lot of those people "rethink" their comments are choose not to post them. Even though there is nothing wrong with the comment.

Of course I haven't done my own research on this, so its just a hunch. Lots of people are sheep and will change their behavior if somebody in authority tells them to, whether its right or not.

I'd be very interested to see the experiment done again with the additional control I mentioned added in.

Gevlon said...

@Troutmonkey: at first, there is no objective definition of "hurtful comment". She simply filtered for phrases she considered hurtful.

Actually, it doesn't matter if the comments were considered hurtful by anyone. The result stays: 93% of the commenters doesn't want to insult other people and doesn't send a comment that is "considered" hurtful.

Lucas Kell said...

I believe you've misunderstood the research and applied it to the wrong groups of people again.

First of all, her target group was adolescents, specifically for the reason that her hypothesis was that the prefrontal cortex of adolescents is underdeveloped, and therefore they may not understand the implications of what they are posting. If this were applied to EVE, where the average age is what, 28, the research would be irrelevant.

Secondly, you said this: "She simply created a software that seeked hurtful words and created a pop-up informing the user that his message will hurt people, is he sure to proceed publishing?"
This is actually incorrect. What she did was she took 5 example comments that were hurtful, and she presented them to her subjects, with the question "Would you post this comment?". They had to click Yes or No. The baseline group had no further prompting, however the test group were then warned that the message was hurtful, and asked if they would still post it.

The problem with this is that there's no context. It's not a message the subject chose to write, it's a message that's been prewritten, so when asked "this is offensive, are you sure you'd post this?" the majority would of course say no. The results would likely be very different had they written the message themselves and written it to someone specific.

Gevlon said...

@Lucas: that "adolescent" speech was just politically correct. Or you honestly claim that after the age of 22 everyone is intelligent?

The source of the comments is irrelevant. The baseline group accepted them, the rethink group rejected them. There is no reason to assume that other comments would fare better.

Lucas Kell said...

"that "adolescent" speech was just politically correct. Or you honestly claim that after the age of 22 everyone is intelligent?"
Uh what? I'm not sure why you are talking about political correctness there... But it's a known fact that your prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain used for executive functions, which include deciding whether or not to post a given comment and the implication of the same. It's also know that this does not fully develop until your early to mid twenties. The research you are looking at were performed on children between the ages of 12 and 18. I do have to ask, have you actually read the whole of that research paper?

Do I believe that everyone after the age of 22 is intelligent? No, of course not, but a MUCH higher proportion of people over the age of 22 will have a better capability of deciding whether something should or shouldn't be posted.

"The source of the comments is irrelevant. The baseline group accepted them, the rethink group rejected them. There is no reason to assume that other comments would fare better."
How is it irrelevant? It's completely relevant, since the comments aren't the subjects words, so they have no context. There's no reason to think that the same results wouldn't be seen from pre-selected non-offensive comments being called offensive by the system, and certainly no reason to assume that the same subject writing their own comment then being told it is offensive would change it. It's only not relevant to you because it wouldn't fit your narrative.

Anonymous said...

How do you propose to flag comments as "hurtful" without human intervention and potentially in real-time? Automatic filters currently cannot infer the context and would fail miserably in far too many instances.

Heck, I think even a human would have difficulties to flag a comment as "hurtful", especially given different cultures and group habits. As example some would consider your "calling moron a moron" to be a hurtful comment but in other contexts you would be praised for your pragmatism and goal-driven attitude.

Anonymous said...

So you are suggesting that despite all psychological, neurological and biological evidence to the contrary, that adolescents have fully developed frontal cortex? That they fully understand the implications of what they are doing?
That teenage drivers fully understand the implications of driving fast, that teenagers are fully capable of assessing risk and consequence of situations?

Intelligence!= maturity and fully developed cognitive processes. Why do you think most of us bald apes look back at our teenage years and go "Oh crap, did I really do that?"
Admittedly there is a further link between testosterone and impulse control, which also explains the difference in online abuse between male and female perpetrators, so, combining your favourite demographic, male gamers, with teenage brain chemistry, is not usually a recipe for logical thought processes.

As to when males get control of the testosterone? Well, we usually stop dying so much in car accidents at about 25.

Gevlon said...

Saying "adolescents aren't fully developed" is more politically correct than "people are dumb as dirt".

Sure adolescents are even dumber, but most adults are doing lowly paid jobs for a reason.

Anonymous said...

@ Dachdeng:

You think Gevlon is a liar, a bully, a bigot, and a sociopath, and yet you have his blog on your blogfeed. You seem a tad obsessed.


An interesting and insightful post. You seem to be getting more empathetic. That scares me.

maxim said...

I haven't actually seen any game that "bans the text". Most games seem content with a basic filter that obfuscates bad words as a general solution and employs actual humans (whether mods or players themselves) to judge more complicated cases.

I am not sure what "banning the text" will achieve, compared to basic filtering. It is not like the person in question will suddenly become a more focused PvPer just because the chat doesn't let him say "tits".

"Banning the text", however, can result in a person in question electing to go play another game. Which is not an outcome that is very welcome from the perspective of game developers.

Lucas Kell said...

"Saying "adolescents aren't fully developed" is more politically correct than "people are dumb as dirt".

Sure adolescents are even dumber, but most adults are doing lowly paid jobs for a reason."
It's like you don't even read the comments at all. I never said anything about a reason for people being dumb. What I stated is that the research YOU LINKED TO is testing adolescents for something that DOES NOT EXIST in adults.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: obfuscation filters are useless. "Maxim you #@#$sucking mother#$@$#" is fully understandable and offensive.

Banning the text does exist, League of Legends and World of Tanks uses "no chatting" as first warning on offenses. I just suggest to automatize it.

Yes, some might quit the game and that's not what developers want. But they prefer an asshole quiting rather than a dozen customers bullied out by him.

@Lucas: stupidity and trolling doesn't exist in adults? That's new.

Lucas Kell said...

"stupidity and trolling doesn't exist in adults? That's new."
Of course it does, but that's not the point here is it? You are looking at research and saying "Oh look, if you get them to rethink, they'll change their mind", yet that isn't being tested correctly to then be applied to adults. You don't understand the research, then you apply it to the wrong people. And now you are being deliberately obtuse about it.

"But they prefer an asshole quiting rather than a dozen customers bullied out by him."
Prove that customers are being bullied out by people talking to their alliance about tits. The only person I've seen complaining about it to a serious degree is you, and you are still here.

Gevlon said...

"Prove that customers are being bullied out by people talking to their alliance about tits."

EVE has only 5% female subscribers.

maxim said...

There are numerous ways to bully people without using cuss words. The only game that has so far succeeded in stopping toxicity through limitations on chat is Journey, which reduced all player interactions to pings.

A bully that actually gets people to quit is a very talented bully indeed. Most people find ways to deal with them. The best way to handle in-game bullies has so far proven to be giving people more ways to deal with them once identified (votes, tribunals, that sort of thing). What you don't do is take player policing in your own hands, because this backfires.

And ultimately, it is a proven fact that when everyone in a game is being constructive and nice to each other, people run out of problems to solve rather quickly and lose all reasons to interact. I have said so before: you do actually need a small measure of toxic behaviour to maintain the community.

Eve's lack of popularity with female players has less to do with in-game bullies and more to do with the game lacking in aesthetics that are attractive to females (exploration, customization with strong visual impact, socialization regarding exploration and customization).

Even goal-driven female players usually prefer settings that are less hardcore and easier on the eyes.

Stubborn said...

It's been a while since I checked your site because, to be honest, our interests just diverged.

I have to say that this was probably the best possible re-introduction to your site that I could have hoped for. I got linked through Rohan, who, as I'm sure you've seen, wrote a very positive review of your idea.

I'm happy to say that I'm essentially in complete agreement with your point. To add some "real life" evidence, I've had students in 8th grade who used the word "gay" to mean "lame" who, when spoken to privately about it, quite literally didn't know it had another meaning. Their behavior changed, albeit slowly (it's hard to eliminate a word you use casually from your vocabulary quickly).

I also suspect anonymity, while I'm sure it contributes, isn't the primary reason behind jerk behavior on the Internet. I think part is ignorance, as you posit, but I also think that perceived "unreachability" is a factor. Online bullying, in particular, has become so popular among some crowds because of the perception that it's beyond the reach of parents, teachers, and other forces of justice or retribution. That's seen often in the later trials as young people seem shocked in their ignorance.

So, hello again, and I really enjoyed this post.

Skypirate said...

The "dunning-kruger effect" is related to what you're saying. Crudely put it is people who are "too stupid to realize they're stupid"