Monday, February 26, 2007

This blog is 'retired'.

Its been a few years since I last visited this blog. Quite a long time to leave one's blog unattended. Hence, I am officially retiring - albeit late - this blog. :)

Not blogging like I used to during my postgrad days in Utah State (good times!), but I still try to maintain at least one 'proper' blog these days. For those interested, the new permanent blog is at: http://www.shummerville.com/elearning/

But if one still finds interesting things to comment on old writings of mine, you are welcomed to comment or email me to start a dialogue.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Understanding MMO - Part 2

This week (wk13) , Wiley's reading requirements asks us to examine the following questions:



  • Are teaching and learning really done differently here than in classrooms? If so, how? If not, why?

  • Use general constructs in your discussion, like guidance, feedback, practice, presentation of information, timing of presentation, etc. Illustrate your points with examples from your own gaming experience.


Q: ‘When does MMO start to get boring?'

A week ago, I asked on Wiley's blog ‘When does MMO start to get boring?' And Marion posted the same question this week. Just like Marion , I was a Counter Strike (CS) buff too. But CS as a game never got too boring… because as a first shooter game, you never know when an enemy is going to cut your throat from behind… or a crazy teammate shoot you by mistake.


But I did find co-operating with other players in CS difficult. Mostly because I did not stick to a 'clan' or group. And did not foster enough trust or feel part of that group. However, I did fight teams that worked very well, and epitomizes cooperation and teamwork. With snipers (a.k.a. camper!) stationed at strategic spots , that made breaking through defenses a pain. 'fire in the hole!' via bombs or smoke grenades was the only way to get through... ah, memories! :)


I enjoyed my initial experience with lineage, but got bored soon when much boring leveling-up activity was needed before my character could progress. It did not have a clear achievable aim compared to games like AOE, Starcraft. Even CS had a simple 'save the hostages' aim for the player to achieve. In terms of hoarding property... or whatever currency that fuels the economies of MMO game, it bored me.


Unlike Mark , I did not meet mean people, but had people thinking I was 'faking' it. they felt that I knew more than I was 'acting'. I have suspected some 'weak' players in other games before, you know... those who create accounts to react havoc on the scores of other players... (*blush* I was one of them) so that your own personal score gets better. But in lineage environment, I am not sure how this can occur. Maybe someone who reads this post can respond and explain to me why?


Although I felt that the online avatars were very helpful, but unlike Kami , I got frustrated with trying to keep up with my 'peers'. Peers meaning the other thousand of players online who have managed to join a blood pledge... The NPC could only guide one so far. Unlike AOE, where I could learn to examine strategies in battle play, I found lineage more of a treasure hunt... gathering commodities and trading inventories just to get to the level where you can participate in a real joint battle. But with so much emphasis placed on gathering those odds and ends... what happens should someone release a patch that made the demon amour (that took 100 hours to assemble) suddenly become obsolete? That thought alone was a real incentive killer. In my experience with other online multi-player strategy games like AOE or starcraft, when a strategy/tactic gets too strong, it is also 'patched up'. like the infamous 'marine rush', or 'reaver drop'... so, in essence nothing escapes the threat of 'Nerfs' ( Burke, June 2002 )


Shelly had an interesting way of summing her lineage experience. Compared to her, my Schema Theory changed when I found out that death resulted in no penalties until you reach level 10. Before that, I avoided and ran away from enemies I cannot beat. Now I commit ‘suicide' just to be able to restart at starting point (ok, I still don't know how to buy a damn transportation scroll!). She says Lineage supports constructivist theories of learning. Now for Constructivism to work, does it not require some form of prior knowledge before you can make sense of the newly acquired knowledge? Before lineage, did all of us even know what orc s were? or what a scimitar is? I have my doubts… But I do agree that lineage does provide an environment where 'I am allowed to construct and negotiate meaning with other players.


This post cannot be complete without an honorable mention of ‘ John Roe '. Like Dave Wiley commented in John's blog, I concur that we find wonders in dealing with people outside of class (relatively newbies). Some sage (probably a 13 yr old) will open your horizons to 'how deep the rabbit hole goes...' in lineage. :)


Truthfully, how many of us are going to continue playing this game? If it was not for class, and grades? I am really curious… :)


Cheers,

BH

Understanding MMO - Part 1

This week (wk12) , Wiley introduced to the class the world of online MMO gaming. The game reviewed is Lineage .


The aim this week (I think) is to relate how online gaming via MMO to ‘first principles' that facilitate learning. Dave ‘Elder' Merrill advocates that Learning is facilitated when:



  • Learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.

  • Existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge.

  • New knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.

  • new knowledge is applied by the learner

  • New knowledge is integrated into the learner's world.


So, I tried my hand at Lineage to see if activities inherent within MMO environments could achieve these ‘first principles'. Jose has a hybrid version (MMO learning & teaching) of Merrill's 5 star instruction boarding on copyright infringement :)


My approach in doing this game as an assignment is similar to Mark Mason 's approach. i.e. ‘to experience the game as it exists with no explanations other than what I would find in the game itself.'


Recap of Adventures in Lineage


Fun with the class



• I explored HV with some of my classmates who arranged to log-on at same time. It was a nice feeling to be moving around together in a group. Ability to ask a question, and have them respond because they knew you and wanted to help was a very comforting thing. Earlier before the pre-arranged meeting, I had some frustration with the game. Granted I did NOT read the 184 page PDF which could have greatly helped, but instead wondered around and asked (shouted more likely) questions when I came into a fix.


• I had the good fortune to meet a knowledable and helpful veteran player who explained certain commands and concepts to me. He went beyond the call of duty, even giving me items for free! He brought me to the avatars that were actually disguised as online tutorials. These tutorials helped us understand better the intricacies of the game. Even Kami agreed with this.



Fun on my own



• After my fun trip with the class, I explored the lineage environment on my own for a bit.


• This time, I consulted the 184 pg PDF doc by the guides to get some sense of direction. But I still made errors. E.g. errors include: killing cows for meat was wrong. (But I like beef!)… Cost me honor points. I only realized this when passersby told me about it.



First Impressions:



• Some super-friendly individuals (remind me of myself *blush*) completely took me by surprise. How willing strangers were willing to come lead me through certain things (E.g. get a skeletal shoe to have permanent haste applied on my character. He gave me entire loads of cash and items via the trade menu for nothing in return. I was embarrassed but took his offer anyway). It was unconditional help, and it surprised me how this can take place without prerequisite trust earned…


• Later when we had time to chat, he said that he was similarly helped on the first day when he first played the game. So, he is just returning the favor. I had a jolt at this point! During my post grad at USU, I was in an exact similar position. Experience. I had some seniors (Ms Allen) who really helped show me the way and made my life easier at USU. It was strange to me why they showed so much compassion and help to me. But it made me want to return the favor to others. So, a year later, I found myself helping others in my situation. Be it student housing, school work, projects, relocating, etc. I was offering help to others much to their surprise. Some people responded warmly, others never returned a wink. Reminds me of a movie ‘play it forward' (played by Haley Joel Osment). Such a simple concept, that actually works in online gaming environments.


• The 3 different personality types was a good touch. Whether you want to be law-abiding citizen, neutral, or evil they rate you based on your style of game play.



Online character bio:



  • character's name: classified (secret identity!)

  • class, race: knight (human)

  • weapons: long sword, scimitar, long shield, skeleton boots (haste), bows, brave pots, healing potions, etc.

  • appearance: macho looking knight. Male.

  • Fav creature: a Diablo looking demon with flames surrounding it. (realized later that it is because the player had a full demon suit on him)

  • Frequency of death: uncountable

  • Most embarrassing death: getting killed by a wild boar.

  • Most honorable death: fighting bare-handed in the dungeons of HV!


Insight1: Even online, you have to obey laws (E.g. there is a price of everything, the guards within lineage are unkillable, etc.).


Insight2:‘Did you know that you could get married within lineage?' How's that for social software!


Cheers,

BH


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Indiana vs. Detroit & the fans: What a fight!

For those basketball fans out there... check out the latest game (http://www.nba.com/pacers/) between detriot and indiana. It was a nice game to watch... pacers played better and deserved to win. But with a few seconds left in the game, things got heated up, and Ben wallace over-reacted to a ron artest (who else?) foul by pushing him in the face. Artest walked away silently. Moments later - artest lying down - a beer came flying at him from the stands hitting him.

Next thing, artest charged into the crowd. Funny thing was, even with players from both sides restraining their team mates, the crowd would not let up... people coming from the back and continued to fight the pacer players... scene got so ugly the game was called off. It was a big fight... interesting to watch, but you feel bad for the players and the league involved. There were old people getting hurt, children getting scared (metal chairs were seen flying)... alcohol probably had something to do with the fan's behavior too... see more of it in the news.

The question I like to ask is: "what kinds of penalty/compensation is going to be mett out?"

I personally think that the players should not have to pay fines for this particular fighting incident. I am not for fighting (esp. brawls), unless you are protecting yourself or loved ones. In this particular case, some fans ran right onto the basketball court and glared fiercely at Artest. What you expect Artest to do after getting punched by several detriot fans? Of course he hit them... Besides Artest, Jermaine O'neal also landed several heavy punches on the fans. One guy was totally floored by O'neal...

Implication? Some big time law suits for these 'lucky' fans who got punched by rich NBA stars. If the court does rule in favor of the scenario i painted above... it will only invite same repercussions should brawls of this magnitude ever occur again. Won't the enterprizing sod think... "lets run down to courtside and stare at him (provoked player) in the face... have him throw the first punch and we'll be rich! Easy... money!!"

Perhaps I am biased. But hell, if I were in those situations, I would want my teammates to fight by my side. I sure as hell would jump to their defence...

Bing

Friday, November 12, 2004

'Trust me, I know what I am doing' (Hammer, S.)

'Trust me, I know what I am doing' (Sledge Hammer). Back to this painful topic of trust again. My previous post on this topic talked about factors affecting internet-based reputation management systems, and how that affects cooperation in an online environment. This post will be a little less gloomy (yes, my dear readers, I finally got out of my depression! Not completely, but getting there…) and promises to be more fun. It deviates slightly by concentrating on the specifics of fake identity, purposes of deception, and importance of accountability. And something else is different too… I write this post without reading or linking a single blog posting from anyone else's blog on the topic. ‘Goes against “first principles” of blogging!” someone screams… but hey, I want to write something entirely original for a change. Will it kill my readership of two or three? I'll have blind faith in them, and will take that risk…


Title: Identity, Deception and Accountability Online


Who am I really?


‘I am the product of all the people I met in my life, and my interactions with them.' Without anonymity, my offline and online persona is essentially the same. With anonymity, I can be quite different (Carl Williams* anyone?).


*insider joke for students & staff at USU IT dept. – apologies to those who don't get it.


Fun way to learn importance of identity & accountability


In this week's readings , Dave asked ‘If people could act without accounting for their acts, how to suppose they would act?' My response to that is to go watch the two following movies.



Movie #1: Groundhog day ' (I liked the show so much, I bought it!). For the rest who are too lazy to check out the movie, or do not TRUST (eh, this post actually is related to the topic?) my recommendations, the movie basically shows a person who repeats the same cycle of each day. There is no tomorrow for Bill Murray in the movie. He just relieves everyday till it drove him crazy. Wouldn't you go nuts if everyday was exactly the same? Wouldn't you go bonkers if nothing you did (no matter how hard you tried) did not matter?



What has this got to do with anything? The realization that there is no repercussions to any of his actions meant that history of past actions no longer mattered; it was equivalent of being ‘ anonymous '. In other words, you can get away with anything, there is no accountability . It was fun to watch bill Murray turn from depressed sod, to crazed fanatic, to supervillian bank robber, and finally to the local superhero helping everyone in the town.



Movie #2: The Incredibles ' is another movie worth watching. Why is a super hero's secret identity important? In the words of Mrs. Incredible (a.k.a. elastic girl), ‘it's our only protection to lead normal lives.' (Incredible, 2004)



Come-on, a cartoon?! Hang on there… I am getting to the point. So, if anonymity can protect our dear superheroes' identity, can't they help protect our average Joe's innate desires to be superheroes, e.g. crazed-no-life-bloggers; (or super villains, e.g. Trolls) in an online environment? And still allow them to lead normal lives? Think about the people who play secondlife ( http://secondlife.com/ ) and have virtual marriages, virtual careers, virtual anything! Whether they choose to make constructive use of their time, e.g. building virtual schools and educational materials, or indulge in taboo virtual fantasies, ok… you get the picture, it's up to them. However, you will more likely appreciate the power of anonymity if you are in the latter category.


Stop and think



  • In what manner are identity and trust related?


If there is some legitimacy to your identity, e.g. an email with a proper domain name , or a past history of work (wikipedia does a wonderful job of tracking the edits you make as a member) it is more likely to be genuine, and more likely for people to trust you. Relating to personal experiences, when I was an intern with CED, I emailed vendors with an official someone@ntu.edu.sg account. And the same time I emailed others with a hotmail account. Needless to say, the official account was treated like a real potential customer; univeristy representative looking to license our product? Big bucks! As compared to who is this joker with the hotmail account? Is he for real?



  • To what degree can trust be established with anonymous or pseudonymynous individuals?


How many adults (like me) will be willing to admit reading manga & comics and writing fan fiction ? I believe that Pseudonymynous individuals can still obtain a high degree of trust. Look at fan fic . Most of the stories I read are from authors who will never reveal their identity online. I wrote an interesting and funny (but crude) story on fan fic and received 3 different feedback within next day of posting. Some writers who have become accustomed to the quality of others writers articles even suggested collaboration in writing together. Certainly a level of trust however minimal must be present for such cooperation to take place.



  • What is the role of accountability in creating trust?


If there is no accountability, there is no danger, and no threat of repercussions. You can get away with anything. See above comment on ‘groundhog day '. How do you create trust then? Like Jose Gomez 's comment to my earlier post ,



‘…I still not convinced that informed consumers are satisfied with blind belief. I think as consumer becomes more experienced and aware of the dangers of the internet (esp. those involving monetary transactions), we do become cynical and do not just conduct themselves on blind faith but with a critical mind…' (Gomez, 2004)



So, if you had worked well with someone for 27 times, do you expect it to go well on the 28th? Reputation built on past behaviors and rationality would tell me 'yes'. Personal experience taught me 'no'. I learnt never take anything for granted. Blind faith can only bring you so far… you never know when your 28th stumbling step is... My point is, even with accountability, there is no guarantee of creating trust. But I am still a believer, and a fool.



  • What are the roles of accountability and trust in facilitating cooperation?


Just earlier I mentioned how fan fic is a possible avenue where people with Pseudo-names are able to collaborate together to write a story. But with anonymous identity, I think cooperation breaks down. If you don't even know someone, how do you work with him/her? There has to be a minimal amount of accountability to show genuine interest and concern. In Donath's article, he mentioned how even an email whose account names (e.g. bing@domain) is important as the domain gives contextual clues about the reliability of the writer.


Donath ( ?, p6) expressed it best with:



‘While the name of the individual writer may be unfamiliar, often the name of the domain is not. Like notes written on letterhead, a posting submitted from a well-known site shares in its reputation: a posting about oceanography has added authority if it came from whoi.edu (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) and a question about security breaches may seem more intriguing if it came from .mil (the U.S. military)'



So, having a respectable domain name makes a significant difference. But wait! Does it not back fire as well? Flip it around, and think from that perspective…


Quiz time: win a prize!


Q: When you post stuff and have your official domain (university, or company domain) traceable, it indirectly links you as owning the commentary. How is this a problem?


There was a real life case that occurred where a university professor who made stereotypical remarks about the gay community caused a major uproar in gay sensitive groups. The university involved lambasted him but still had to protect the instructor because he was protected under first amendment rights to free speech. But the net effect was bad press for the school, and lots of bruised egos.


~ Note: if you manage to use google or yahoo to identify the name of the instructor & university I mentioned, and email me (bbchia@cc.usu.edu) your result. If you get it right, I will give you a prize – No joke. :)



  • How does category deception affect our perception of others?


Hence, trolls who engage in category deception can adversely affect our impression of a social software. They are destructive mechanisms that the web will be better without. Donath (?, p 18) explains how our perception of others is not one of wholly unique individuals, but of patterns of social categories. According to him, first impressions count. These first impressions will affect how we see old acquaintances, meet new ones, and determine the degree of suspicion/trust in their motives and behaviors. Funny thing is I can actually relate donath's insight in the offline world as well as the online one. Scares the sh** out of me.



  • What Online multi-player games out there leverages on 'Identity, Trust and Accountability' to promote cooperation?


Game #1: Age of Empires III (a.k.a. Age of Kings)

http://aok.heavengames.com/


Personal experience in this game made me realize that I employed deception tactics when I was playing AOE II series. I had some excellent team mates whom I trusted and worked rather well with. It never occurred to me how well we worked as a team… employing the same deception tactics (e.g. during a random sorting of teams, we would arrange ahead of time to team-up, but act like strangers going into the sorting room). Player Rating meant everything then (achiever player type). You could see from the win-losses how good a player was. The higher your ratings got, the more accountable you were for your own actions. Because now there is much bigger stake at hand… Trust naturally becomes an important issue (you won 15 in a row, will you take a risky alliance with someone else whom you don't know and risk your perfect record?). You want good team mates, they want the same. Some smart (highly skilled) players would use new accounts to disrupt the records of rival players, either through sabotage or using cheat codes. So, cooperation and trust don't come easy when the stakes are raised.


Game #2: Final Fantasy XI

http://www.playonline.com/ff11us/index.shtml


Those players who have not earned enough respect, i.e. at least a mildly respectable level 40, will find themselves unprepared to take on the game. Because the difficulty of the game play has been raised so high, you are unable to advance by yourself in this game. You need a party of 12 to 18 people to complete, after which they'll have to split into groups of six to fight the expletive-inducing bosses (Vassar, 2004). So alliance in battle plays a big part in helping you get through the stages. Regardless of Player prerogatives (killers, explorers, achievers, etc.) have to work together to advance in the game. Chances are that if you find a good group, you want to work with them continually (sound like a PhD gathering…). Again, cooperation and trust don't come easy when the stakes are raised.


Game #3: Counter Strike

http://www.counter-strike.net/


My personal addiction to this game about 2 years ago still brings back a smile (rare thing these days). Domain names concept applies here to the ‘clans' you belong to. I was never that good at the game, but I improved quite a bit when I joined a faction, and learnt team tactics. The intense rivalries between some of these clans make a fierce but friendly competition between the groups. Veterans dispatch advice to the eager new ‘recruits', and over time, highly skilled players are invited to join different clans. Trust is not as big an issue in this game as compared to the above two, how come? One possible reason is that there is no history of past performance tagged onto a player profile. Although each session you play enables others to see your skill level through game play and ‘frag' (kill) ratio.


Leave you thinking


I conclude this post with Donath's (?, p 23) golden question: ‘How can social software (blogs, Usenet, discussion boards) be redesigned to allow for better communication of social cues?'


Cheers,

BH


Ps+ And thanks Dave, for referencing Gene Hargrove's 9 pages essay on Tom Bombadil , who made no sense to me at all. Lucky for you, I like Tolkien fan fic, or I would have really found it a waste of time.


Reference:


Donath, J. S. (year ?). Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community. Retrieved on November 12th, 2004 from source: http://smg.media.mit.edu/people/Judith/Identity/IdentityDeception.html


The Incredibles -- The Official Movie Website. Retrieved on November 12th, 2004 from source: http://www.theincredibles.com/


Vassar, D (Nov, 2004) Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia Review. Retrieved on November 12th, 2004 from source:

http://www.g4techtv.com/xplay/features/50206/Final_Fantasy_XI_Chains_of_Promathia_Review.html


Face Off (part 2): Pizza night

Always interesting to meet the people face-to-face after interacting them for a while in an online environment. Tonight was the second meeting of the Inst 7150 group. Surprised that some people showed up despite my email warning that I will be there… perhaps they did not know? I would have posted the group pictures online, but remembered that not everyone liked to have their faces taken by me. Close call!


Found out some interesting things during the 2 hour session, namely:



  • Did not realize how tough it was for ‘Joe' (real name protected in case the LambdaMOO people find him and wishes to torture him again) trying out the LambdaMOO environment. Man, was he screwed big time... Joe was mocked for his education, typing ability, etc. The attacks were ruthless. As one guy described him, ‘he had the word “newbie” tattooed on his forehead.' It was strange for me, as I felt bad for him, even worse that I found his mishap funny, but at the same time I identified at some level with him, being a newbie at LambdaMOO myself.



  • Did not realize that people were linking to the AECT copyright committee site already within days of publications. That was a pleasant surprise. Example, having distance education guru Nathan list our AECT copyright committee blog on his blogroll was nice!



  • Did not know that some classmates were actually reading my ‘blog-a-bing' . I thought that I was writing to a readership of one, namely Dave . But this dude is paid to read my blogs… so I don't feel so bad subjecting him to my (at times garbage) posts. Having people who are not compelled to, come up to me and say, ‘ go read his (mine) blog… its ok. ' was priceless.


The most important thing I took away from tonight was that how a feeling of ‘no comments' can dampen even the strongest of blogging spirits (hang in there, mark ). So, next time you read someone's blog, leave a damn comment ! A bunch of us agreed that even a ‘Joe has read this post.' or ‘Joe thinks this is a shitty post.' is worth something. Simply because it tells us that we have at least a readership of one. So guys, lets practice what we preach. Hey, but if the person finds your comment invaluable or ‘ugly' and sends you a mail saying ‘leave me alone!', then be nice and stop it. If you can identify with the following scenario below, I think you are in good company.






Reading & referencing Research articles ==== [5 hours]


Reading & referencing others' blogs ======= [4 hours]


Writing own ideas for blog posting ======== [2 hours]


Editing and checking spelling errors ======== [1 hour]


Actual posting on blog =============== [.25 hours]


Seeing ‘no comments' every week ======== [Priceless]


There are some things worth wasting time on, for everything else, there's Wiley's class .

(Just kidding Dave, but you know me.)


Cheers,

BH

Monday, November 08, 2004

I don't get no RespeCt… in IRC'

I don't get no R espeCt… in IRC'


rodney


My experience with mIRC


Set up was embarrassingly for me. I heard all about IRC before, but first time I actually took part in one. Below are some of the channels I wasted my time at:



  • #newbies

    • Great place to start off learning about IRC. Very friendly people there. Shared neat tricks with how to do formatting & stuff… way faster to learn than reading the texts & manuals.



  • #philosophy

    • I found many people in heated discussions here. But I did not run into wader's experience of foul commentary…



  • #helsing

    • My current favorite manga. So I spent time looking for other fans to discuss same topics.



  • #cybersex

    • For the less inclined, you should stay away from this channel. For those with pure academic hearts (as if!) this place will show you the dark side of IRC. ‘Beware of the dark side…' (Yoda, ?)



  • # singapore

    • went looking to find locals. But all were concentrating on private chats nothing there.



  • #japan

    • just a bunch of people who liked to text chat. Spent the bulk of my time sharing my experience of learning nihongo, and sharing stuff about Japanese culture.




What my classmates had to say:


Kami wrote ‘lots of folks were signing in and then out, but were not involved in conversant activity. What is that all about? Do people sign in and then immediately go to a private chat?' I was thinking the very same thing initially, then dismissed it as the norm. Also, we share the same thoughts that IRC chat was purely a venue for socialization, while LambdaMOO was more of a game where people could indulge in the game or each other.


Mark is out-doing everyone else again. Filled with lots of insights, and linked to even more resources, it's a gem of a post. I did not know that people were having virtual marriages in http://secondlife.com/ , I did not know that kids killed themselves over losing a game in EverQuest (best I ever irritated an arrogant opponent was beating him and making him cry in a chess tournament), etc. Read his blog. Just go.


Key Insight:


‘I don't get no respect' ( Rodney Dangerfield ).


In lamdamoo, there was a unique social dynamic between the relationships of the killer-achiever-socializer-explorer. There was a level of respect that came associated with your experience in using lamdamoo, as opposed to none with IRC. You had to prove yourself (even as an explorer) before the killers will think twice about taking you on.


rodney


Heather had this to say about this same thing… ‘LambdaMoo were very specific to your purpose for being there. And, for newbies, that interaction was hard. You had to prove that you could do things and know before you gained respect from others. The IRC didn't come with any notions of I'm better since I've been here more.' Glad to find people who feel the same way… :)


Conclusion:


Some people love the IRC environment, and found opportunities to work together and share insights. The synchronous nature of IRC is probably its main draw.


Personally, I dislike IRC – period. It's synchronous nature is a put off for me as I don't have the time to go and chat with these people on a regular basis. Like wader said, I prefer bulletin boards and fan fics' asynchronous nature because they let us contemplate before posting. Same reason why I had a hard time with blogging not so long ago.


Cheers,

BH

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Nothing to ‘MOO' about

Q: What the hell is MUDs & MOOs?


For a quick introduction to MUDs & MOOs, read pavel Curtis' article ‘ the incredible tale of lamdaMOO ' that was featured on tech TV.


For those who know what MUDs & MOOs are, I think it's worthy to mention that a stable MUD occurs when the four principle player types balance each other out (bartle, 1996). It is interesting to note that balance is not achieved in terms of equal number of each player type, but in understanding the relationships that exist between the four categories. The social dynamics that exist between them is reason enough to read the Bartle's article .


When is it not considered a MUD?



  • Players: When all sense of elsewhere-presence is lost, you no longer have a MUD

  • World: If there is no-one to tell, you don't have a MUD

  • Interacting: If players can't play, its not a MUD

  • Acting: Without depth, you have no MUD


Xin had one of the better summaries explaining the features of MUDs & MOOs. I like her take on how, ‘ the ability to create artifacts make the way people communicate with each other more living, interactive and interesting. The artifacts (rooms, trails, buildings, furniture, etc.) play an important role in mediating the interactions'.


I agree with Caixia who describes MOO as a ‘simple, text-based virtual reality where you can communicate with other friends, create something you like, and interaction with the virtual world' . She also feels that MOO emphasizes the interaction between players, while zork focuses on the interaction between player and the virtual reality.


Q: How do they differ from other social software such as blogs, newsgroup, USENET, fan fic, etc?


Caixia sees that Moo differs in 3 fundamental ways. namely: (1) creates both a “space” and a “place” for players, and (2) provides them with more affective clues and (3) synchronous interactions. Read her blog post for more details.


Personally I see Bloggers (and myself) falling under the category of ‘socialisers'. This is a group that is proud of their friendships, their contacts, and their influence (bartle, 1996).


What my other classmates had to MOO about:


John Delin did us a favor summarizing the 3 key articles this week. I agree with John that MOOs as a method to get people excited about programming is quite a stretch. I want to learn programming. Does MOO spark the flame within me? No friggin' way!


I liked Marion 's quote ‘Online there is nothing but words. No tonal variance, no comforting squeeze of the hand, and on the positive side, no slap on the face when offence is taken. There is nothing but words.' He added how in an online environment, non-verbal communication such as emoticons and abbreviations have made their way into our daily online communication. Moving onto a MOO environment, people can not only display their emotions with words, e.g. ‘I hate you', but also throw a chair at the person. They now have as Marion said, ‘objects and an environment with which to interact'.


Like Kami , I was glued to Bartle's article that described the synergetic relationship that exists between players who fall under 4 major categories. I never thought of social dynamics that existed in players who took to the different role.


Personally, I can't put myself specifically to any one particular group. In Diablo I was a player killer once, in Counter Strike & Star craft I was an achiever, in Ultima I was an explorer (had no drive to complete the game objectives, just wanted to explore), in Age of methodology, I was a socialiser & explorer (I spent more time reading on the different cultures and ‘talking' to people than actual fighting). These games are not pure MOOs but the article got me thinking how depending on the game, I switch between roles.


Q: What has this got to do with instructional design at all?


Mark 's post is post of the week. If you have no time for others' blogs catch this one for this week's topic. I liked his comparison of MUDs to board games, and especially liked his bit on ‘MUD Learning Theory and Its Application in a Classroom Environment'. In it he raised the question of ‘ What happens in a classroom when the ratio of achievers, socializers, explorers, and imposers is out of balance? And added ‘how do instructional designers first measure, and second meet the needs of different kinds of learners?'


His question got me thinking the following scenario:



Imagining that one day course management systems like blackboard and WebCT somehow incorporates the additive nature of MUDS & MOOs into their system, and also imaging that if we someday figure out a manner in which we can categorize learners (Maggie Martinez's learning orientation research is a start) & customize instructions as envisioned by mark above, have we truly reached a utopian learning environment?



Ah! What will happen to the social dynamics within an online class if you manage to suit the instructions to all your individual students' needs? Will it cause imbalance like Bartle described in his article? I wonder…


Stop & think


Check out Tappedin (http://tappedin.org/tappedin/) site. What do you think?


Cheers,

BH


Reference:


Cherny, L. (1995). THE MODAL COMPLEXITY OF SPEECH EVENTS IN A SOCIAL MUD. Retrieved on November 4th, 2004 from source: http://fragment.nl/mirror/Cherny/The_modal_complexity.txt


Bartle, R. (1996). HEARTS, CLUBS, DIAMONDS, SPADES: PLAYERS WHO SUIT MUDS. Retrieved on November 4 th , 2004 from source: http://www.MUD.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Don't trust me: I make use of people

Slightly embarrassed to be writing a posting on trust… something I thought I knew a lot about, but was apparently wrong. But an assignment is an assignment, so here goes:


Title: Trust in online/face2face interaction, & Reputation Management Systems


Think about the popularity of fan fic, blogs, Usenet, forums, etc. for a minute. Why do you subscribe to certain writers, bloggers, Usenet newsgroups, forums? Like it or not, there is a certain level of ‘trust' you have in that medium that keeps you going back, even if you don't like that particular person's agenda (e.g. Bush or Michael More haters). So, ‘trust' in an online environment is something worthy of discussion.


Dealing with trust in an online (or in a face2face) environment boils down to past interactions with the other party. More accurately, it is the history of past interactions that gives you a better representation of that party's abilities and trust worthiness (Resnick, 2000, p2). It does not matter if we have never dealt with that person, so long as a clear history of transaction by others who had dealt with that person is made available to us.


Reputation management systems in an online environment give us this opportunity of a ‘third eye' to evaluate people based on the reviews of others who interacted with them. Resnick (2000) believes that for reputation systems to work there have to be 3 properties in place:



  1. longevity of entities

  2. current feedback is captured and distributed transparently

  3. Past feedback posted to guide buyer decisions


Longevity of entities ensures that future interaction will occur. This creates expectation and adds to the belief that the reputation system works. A transparent system of past and present feedback will help others who have never dealt with him/her before to paint a picture of that person, and better gauge their credibility.


In theory, Economists will point out that in eBay's system where feedback is overwhelmingly positive, that a potential ‘lemons market' could develop, whereby some sellers can take advantage of the system of predominantly trust and good relationships to sell some poor quality products.


In practice, this is not the case. So what prevents a lemons market from developing?


Kollock (1999) likens informal online markets to the financial exchanges that happen in wall street stock markets. Basically both environments offer conditions that promote trust among buyers and sellers. The environment has to have 1) matching service, to pair off buyers and sellers; 2) method of information exchange, where past and present transactions are recorded, and distributed; 3) a clearing service, (e.g. escrow) where by transactions can be completed safely.


Stop and think


Let's suddenly bring this whole discussion to a halt, and now put it in exclusively in a Face2Face environment. What changes? … essentially nothing. Resnick (2001) points out 8 factors that affects trust in traditional exchange of goods. Caixia's blog actually retyped out these 8 factors (thanks!), and I agree with her that Reputations are more important in facilitating cooperation online than offline.' Dave wade is another supporter of this belief. However, I still fail to see how these 8 factors are related in an online environment.


What my classmates had to say…


I liked Marion's post on trust where he quoted from his own experience with his class where there was no cooperation among students and ultimately did not obtain the highest payoffs possible. It got me thinking of the following scenario:


Think about a situation in a classroom (face2face or online, it does not matter) where students are asked to peer-review each other. For those who know Prisoner's dilemma or Game theory (call them bonnie & Clyde), they will rate everyone in the class low, on the assumption that everyone else will rate each other fairly. This will result in bonnie & Clyde scoring significantly higher scores than everyone else . When high assessment stakes are on the line, what's trust got to do with anything?


Deonne's post approached it from a different angle, and asked a series of good questions to evaluate reputations in both online and offline environments, namely:



  • Are good reputations necessary? Rewarded?

  • How are reputations established?

  • How does reciprocity fit into the cycle?

  • What are the benefits of having a good reputation?

  • Are people honest when talking about others?

  • Should censorship be allowed?


I like this particular posting, probably post of the week among those I read. I agree with Deonne that in setting up online reputations like in eBay, ‘Newcomers are typically distrusted until they “prove” themselves.' It goes along with the critical mass some sellers/buyers attain after sometime where feedback becomes a norm for them, and they don't even bother to respond to negative feedback anymore.


The biggest gripe I have with offline reputations is the tricky business of eliciting feedback. Because in face2face situations we do not have the protection of the anonymity of the web. Deonne's example of students filling out class evaluation forms in the U of U is an excellent example of avoiding possible repercussions of honest feedback. And we all know how valuable those information are!


I did not really think of censorship in depth until I read her post. To me, this brings a new equation to the game. Censorship can determine what kinds of comments get posted, and who gets to post. Same thing applies to blog post & comments too.


For example, if we housed a blog system in a school, then technically all those post & comments belong to the school. Any repercussions that result from controversial post/comments will be directed to the educational institution. Who then determines what types of religious, stereotyping, political, other sensitive issues are to be considered taboo subjects? What about countries without first amendment right protection or freedom of speech? How is censorship different in those context? I do not the answers either, but like the observation Deonne raised.


Edisoabi offered some possible tools ( blogdex and Daypop ) to start researching on trust in blogging communities. Lastly, Curtis' blog beautifully uses the ‘santa-claus-principle' analogy to illustrate why eBay's system works even when people don't know how it works.


Considerations of an internet-based reputation system


What are the incentives & disincentives of providing good & bad feedback in an online environment?


Talk about blogs. You are a blogger. You want traffic. So, you read others blogs and post positive comments hoping that it will make them like you enough to read your own blog. Would you curse and swear at their blog, and say they are posting garbage even if 90% (my own biased estimate) of blogs out there are? Will you be not afraid of the repercussions out there? It's the same thing with how sellers, buyers work on eBay.


Resnick (2001) coined ‘high-courtesy-equilibrium' to explain the lack of free riders and rarity of neutral or negative feedback on eBay. eBay has created an environment that promotes people to give positive feedback, and hence spurn more transactions. The commenting system on eBay is flawed due to this biasesness, but it works.


Is one good feedback = one bad feedback? I think the challenge now is to balance the weights of the rare (but sought-after genuine negative feedback) as opposed to the avalanche of good feedback that surrounds us. Same thing goes to the post and comments in blogs/forums, etc. Closest thing I see to balancing this now is probably Slashdot . But that is for another discussion.






In a nutshell : it's not how the system works, but that its participants believe it works – even if they don't know why (Resnick, P., Zeckhauser, R., 2001). In an extreme sense, ‘Blind faith'.

Cheers,

BH


Reference:


Kollock, P. (1999). The Production of Trust in Online Mark ets. Retrieved on October 24 th , 2004 from source: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/faculty/kollock/papers/online_trust.htm


Resnick, P. (Dec, 2000). Reputation Systems. Retrieved on October 24 th , 2004 from source: http://www.si.umich.edu/~presnick/papers/cacm00/index.html


Resnick, P., Zeckhauser, R. (2001). Trust Among Strangers in Internet Transactions: Empirical Analysis of eBay's Reputation System. Retrieved on October 24 th , 2004 from source: http://www.si.umich.edu/~presnick/papers/ebayNBER/index.html