Online communities often have rivalries with one another, especially if the topics that they cover are extremely similar. For example, one could imagine a vicious feud between two different communities of saltwater aquarium enthusiasts.
Maybe we can harness and direct this mean-spiritedness in an interesting way that will, if nothing else, at least entertain outside observers like the gladiatorial matches of the Roman Empire.
To this end, the proposal is to encourage these communities to battle each other in a “survival of the fittest” environment with tangible consequences beyond just ruining a person’s day over the internet.
For the initial setup, each community on the web site (e.g. each subforum or “subreddit” in Reddit terminology) is allocated ample server resources, so the community can function normally (Figure 1).
We can represent the total number of server resources as a continent (Figure 2), and the individual subforums as nations within that continent.
Then, each month, a certain percentage of server resources are considered to be “contested” war zones that communities can fight over (Figure 3).
If a subforum community has too few resources, the following negative consequences may occur:
- Extremely slow page loads.
- Images are artificially rate-limited to load slowly from top to bottom, to provide an “old modem” feel.
- Images downsampled to highly-compressed JPEGs.
- Images downsampled to 256 colors (or even lower).
- Videos re-scaled to VHS quality.
- Inability to register new subforum members.
- Deletion of old / historical posts.
Fig. 2: This is a map of a fictional continent, where “nations” (the various colors) represent the server resources applied toward each subforum. Larger territory indicates more server resources.
Since forum “combat” is highly metaphorical, there are a number of ways that it could be quantified and used to determine winning / losing subforums.
- The number of long-running conversations in a subforum that can be successfully derailed and closed by infiltrating agents of an “enemy” subforum. Example: if a forum thread about remote-control helicopters can be transformed into a vitriolic argument about the nature of capitalism, it will count as a “win” for the infiltrating agents if that thread is closed by moderators for being off-topic / overly-toxic.
- The number of successful emotional reactions that can be baited out of one subforum by trolls from another subforum. This could be indicated by either automated “word sentiment analysis” or by counting the number of instances of posts that are flagged for inappropriate content.
- The number of irrelevant / off-topic meme images that can be placed in an “enemy” subforum, derailing any productive conversation.
This is a great way to increase user loyalty and cause users to become more emotionally invested in your social media site or forum hosting site.
PROS: Increases user engagement and (potentially) ad revenue.
CONS: Increases man’s inhumanity to man.