While reading the WikiPatterns site I jumped over to this article on A List Apart (John Grohol, April 2006). Not exactly groundbreaking but not less relevant for that… and the comments are just as illustrative.
Back in the days I was designing my first fully administered forum (OK, so it was less than ten years ago) one of the issues was how to manage online identity. There was The Well method (full name and bank account), there was the wild web (log in as you wish, or don’t even log in to write), there was a lot in between.
The system we (there was three of us in the team back then) chose was very rigid but not as much as The Well. A compromise between the optimum and the manageable. It was probably the most usual, and it has indeed become the most widespread. We demanded a verifiable email (and verified it), and then allowed the user to pick a nickname of his/her own choosing. Reputation management only worked through the number of messages posted (it gives access to some extra services too). As an added twist, emails that are found to stop working get the user inhabilitated (after a warning and a nice wait).
It’s not perfect, but for our management needs (and time) it fit the bill. Indeed, it’s been refined over the years and the (harsh) experiences, and is now quite detailed about what sort of posts add up, how you can change your nick, how «post sprinters» get spotted and slapped, etcetera.
Which reminded me of this story-thread posted originally on the KnowledgeBoard and now very hard to find (such a pity that so much good work by so many people is now buried in the old SIG forums). The second page deals most specifically with reputation management. The story is about the then-ongoing battle to recover the character and the control of the social (not just «off-topic») part of the Macuarium community. It lasted months, or so it seems in retrospect. Early this month we dealt with something similar in a much more ordered, efficient, productive way, within a week… but it was only thanks to that experience. And it still hurt.
Relevant? I guess so. Most communities out there (free and independent, business-minded, or corporate-sponsored) are totally unprepared to deal with a user coup. And the raw mingling of friendship and community (also here).