The Balkanisation of the interweb

The interweb is an amazing thing, open to all it puts the sum of human knowledge at your fingertips. And with blogs, forums, social networking and content aggregators it has opened up it’s amazing power to everyone. The led to a few golden years when people were largely positive and the interweb grew exponentially in richness.

These days are now over as increasingly people abuse the interweb and everything that is in it for their own narrow agenda. Now a world expert university professor can and will be shouted down by an ignorant 14 year old. And there are lots of ignorant 14 year olds in the world and they have lots of spare time on their hands. This alone has led to many valuable contributors walking away from the interweb, they don’t need the abuse.

A good example in gaming is the story aggregation and social bookmarking site N4G which has been truly excellent. In one place you could get a feel for what was happening to gaming news over the whole interweb. This made N4G a very valuable resource for keen gamers, industry professionals and journalists. It was the pulse of the games industry.

Now N4G is broken, taken over by Sony fanboys with a narrow agenda. If an article is submitted that could be considered to be in any way critical of Sony (which is quite easy, the way they have screwed up this generation) they pounce on it en masse, marking it down so it never make acceptance. Obviously any pro Sony stories are massively marked up so they get instant acceptance and rise to the top of the points scoring system. So the whole output of N4G is now massively distorted and has lost it’s value.

Not only that, the Sony fanboys also boost each other’s reputation on the social scoring system and knock the reputation of anyone who does not follow their agenda. So the whole social side is abused, distorted and now pretty much useless. To be fair to N4G, they are aware of this and are fixing it. However the fix inevitably means that the site will be less open and more restricted. A prime example of the Balkanisation of the interweb.

Then there was Fatbabies, a forum for games industry professionals. Lots of non professionals joined and ran amok, shouting down those who knew better in typical fanboy style. The site imploded and the game professionals moved to The Chaos Engine and made the site closed to access by outsiders with membership only by invitation to known industry professionals. So all the immensely valuable content created by these industry professionals can only be seen by themselves. This is typical of interweb Balkanisation reducing the availability of the good stuff to everyday users.

Also look at VGChartz, a potentially useful site with guestimates of industry activity. However it is difficult for anyone to take it seriously because on their front page there is a forum dominated by rabid, ignorant fanboys. Which makes any serious discussion impossible. So they lose credibility and are Balkanised.

And then there is Bruceongames. This site started with an open comments policy but started receiving so much vitriolic abuse from ignorant fanboys that now every comment is held until it is approved, which can be for days when I am travelling. Not only that, I send the abusive comments to Akismet, something the fanboys probably don’t know about. And Akismet progressively closes down that person’s rights on the interweb. So they are less able to be a nusiance in future. But which also means further Balkanisation.

I also run a great forum for artists, it is a friendly and supportive community for practicing artists. Yet a full 50% of people who join do so with a narrow agenda of promoting their goods or services and are mostly not even artists. This, obviously, is very damaging to the community. So I have been forced to make the rules stricter and to implement them more thoroughly in order to protect this great community. And once again it Balkanises the interweb a little more.

So every time the interweb is abused it leads to a reaction to prevent future abuse. Which means putting limits and restrictions down. The fanboys damage themselves because what they can get out of the interweb is being continuously throttled as a reaction to their stupidity.

This makes life very difficult for the online marketeer. Blogs and forums will be attacked by idiots which means that they need stricter rules and policing which reduces their quality and usefulness. Community liaison continually come up against agressive fanboys with a narrow agenda shouting down anything they don’t agree with. It is a changing reality that makes things a lot less Web 2.0 and a lot more like the we talk you listen days of old.


  1. If you want to see examples of the inanity of ‘yoof’ check out the comments section on any random YouTube video. I really wish google would allow me an option to never see the comments, as I find them depressing observations of my fellow man.

    I’d be worried though about any unregulated system of “reporting” commentators a person didn’t like, and your manner of putting it: “And Akismet progressively closes down that person’s rights on the interweb” is very worrying. If Akismet has no avenue for a person to defend themself against an accusation, especially given the ease of mistaken identity on the internet, I’d say its a bad thing. I love the freedom of the internet and am happy to tolerate some chaos rather then see rules imposed.

    Oh, and Playstation u sux and Xbox360 rulez 🙂 And Bruce is a big girls blouse!! 🙂

  2. Hi Bruce,

    On the whole I agree with your points here. Going back a few years the internet was a great tool for developers and publishers to get some buzz and excitement around their titles.

    Increasingly though you find that video games forums are being posted full of negative comments and flaming of the products you work on, by and large from people (and ignorant 14 year olds!) who have never made a video game, have no grounding in technology or creative, and who are trying to score points by being as negative and abusive as they can be.

    Even within closed forums I am finding this increasingly common, such as the forum for an MMO I am looking at during its closed beta.

    I’m all for freedom of speech, but if you have nothing valid to contribute other than narrow minded opinion and sensationalism then perhaps the best place these people can exercise their freedom is away from public domain such as the internet?

  3. True bruce,

    Im a 360 owner (well, kinda, my 2yr old 360 has just recently given up the ghost, now i have a HD and a stack of games and no console – im not bitter, just unlucky, i was one of those saddos who bought the PS2 when it first came out and had a machine that promptly died back on me then too lol) and I have to say that I am sick and tired of this fanboy war that seems to be raging. I dont think i have ever seen it this pervasive on the internet.

    I wouldn’t just say it is PS3 owners though. I came into contact with your blog via MCV, and that fine website is regularly ruined by all the fanboy comments that are posted by both 360 and PS3 zealots. I’m surprised, as a trade mag, comments aren’t restricted. I have noticed that indie store owners very rarely post comments now because of this issue.

    As mentioned before though bruce, you don’t mind the odd dig at Sony from time to time yourself though eh?

  4. That last link is an interesting read, but I’m buggered if I can work out how it amounts to “Blogs and forums being attacked by idiots”…

  5. No. Just … no.

    This behaviour was already common back in the early 1990’s. Which is before most people had even heard of the web. Google the Eternal September – FYI, that started in 1993.

    This has always been the case. In general, it’s naive blind faith in the ability of anyone to “control” information that causes sites to collapse. Do some research into Reputation Systems and you’ll find … there is – at present – no known reputation system on the planet that actually works. In the end, in a free democracy there’s almost nothing you can control anywhere, and the main difference with the web is that it tends to quickly destroy the illusion of control that many people have built up.

    But in most cases, they never had that control in the first place. They were some combination of: temporarily very lucky, naive (simply unaware of what was already happening in their own community), irrelevant (only a tiny minority of their target demographic actually participating), etc.

    And the biggest point of all: your example of the University Professor being shouted down by the 14 year old boy? Well, that’s exactly what we want. Yes, 90% of the time it sucks. But without the ignorant declaiming the stupidity of the wise, most of the important advances in human understanding wouldn’t have taken place. And who’s guarding the sanctity of these Professors anyway? I’ve known many university professors who were eclipsed by their own undergraduates. I’ve known a few who were eclipsed by teenage secondary school students.

    So, count me out of this culture of control :).

  6. I JUST had to stop reading Bruce.

    It’s like you have taken the words right out of my mind and put it on your own blog. N4G was once a great site, but not so now, because it’s taken over by Sony trolls. However, all hope is not lost and there are still some good posters.

    Almost all the anti articles I submit to N4g get bogged down in complaints. And if you write something like PS3 Kicks 360 A*s, you can be dead certain it will be hottest news of the week in N4G. I just hate fanboyism.

  7. It’s weird that since I left the games industry at the end of last year the amount of fanboyism I come across has reduced exponentially – travelling around the web is a breath of fresh air for me nowadays.

    There will always be “14-year-olds” (OK, they’re hardly ever 14 years old, they’re just limited in their world view and see the anonymous nature of the web as a means to reinforce their narrow value system) but working in a different indutry sector has made me realise that a lot of the angst I saw out there previously was simply because the tech-savvy audiences for gaming and the web correlate so highly.

    The best quote I came across about online communities came from

    “We should always think of community behaviour expectations in the same terms as a private party.

    “You’re welcome to come along, be polite, mingle and tell me that the guacamole could be improved with a little more salt.

    “You’re not welcome to turn up, bang a billboard into my front lawn, call the guests a bunch of morons, start a punch up and tell anyone who’ll listen that it’s a crap party compared to the parties you host before telling the hostess her arse looks too big in that dress and departing.”

    Gaming websites (for example) has the latter types in droves; luckily I’ve seen that in other arenas (the ones I work in nowadays) the former types are still plentiful.

  8. Whilst I too tire of the fanboy wars I am very strongly opposed to this Akismet solution. I believe more in people’s freedom of speech than one person’s appraisal of an opinion. Is your criteria consistent and unbiased when acting as judge, jury and executioner in this way or, as your writings suggest, is there a degree of favouritism shown in your practices?

    I don’t read N4G but, frankly, I’m not bothered about other’s activities like this. There are as many vocal MS fanboys as Nintendo and Sony ones. They’re more than capable of playing the same game by the same rules. If you refuse to participate then you have no grounds when you feel other parties have an ‘unfair’ advantage.

  9. Bruce, I share your dismay with what idiots (not always fanboys) have done to make many forums and blogs unpleasant to read. It is widespread and not limited to gaming sites. However, one thing that seems to feed the practice in gaming is that the industry pundits themselves often write articles or posts that are either openly biased or simply not well thought-out. Perhaps this is just a sympton of the industry’s youth, but it is really difficult to find consistently intelligent and balanced blogs and forums on the gaming industry.

    Frankly, Bruce, you occasionally demonstrate this weakness yourself. For example, your throw-away line about the “way they [Sony] have screwed up this generation” weakens the impact of the points you are trying to make in your post because it makes you come across as just another anti-Sony fanboy. You have a right to your opinion, of course (and especially on your own blog), but broad generalizations simply encourage others to engage in fanboyism also.

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