Thoughts on a new “reputation system”

This is taken directly from my post in the forums.

After a discussion on the rating system with Moon Adamant, we have figured out an interesting “alternative” rating system. It has a slight problem of “computational resources” required.

We both feel there is a need to “extra-rate” someone very special to you. Since ratings are over-abused, how can we mark in some way that “special friend” we love in SL?

Some forums/online dating systems have a “fan system” beyond simple “rating”. These ideas are loosely based on that.

First, “friends” are public. You expect people to know who you make friends with. So they will be listed in your profile somewhere. Like in RL, choosing the “wrong” friends means getting a “bad” reputation. Making friends with the “popular” people mean you are seen at with awe! To make things interesting, there should be an upper-scale limit – let’s assume 25. This makes profile still manageable and captures the spirit correctly.

So, “partners” are two-way commitments where both agree with the commitment. “Friends” are one-way commitments without need for the other party to agree (more on that later), but you assume the “friend” will reciprocate (or else you’re not really a “friend”, you’re a “groupie”!). The rest of the residents are “acquaintances” (and you keep their calling cards).

To keep the “friend” status, you need to spend with him, say, one hour per week. If you don’t, you get a warning – “Are you really sure X is your friend?? This week you haven’t even said hi to him/her” – and the “friend” just reverts to “acquaintance” status (ie. a normal contact on a calling card). Both will receive a message informing that the status was “lowered” to acquaintance (so your friend may become angry for being neglected…).

What is “spending an hour per week”? Well, in RL you go out with friends and phone/email them to keep in touch. Since IM can be easily abused – you can write a script to “spam” your “friend” and this would count toward “friend status” – I’d limit it to “physical presence”: being at the same place, at the same time, for at least an hour, every week. Ideally there should be a “limiting distance factor” to avoid abuse (ie. friends should be talking together, or going out to the same spot, etc.) but this would mean lots of additional processing. You can do it much more simply by listing the time both entered the same sim. It’s crude, but allows for offline processing of logs in a straightforward way. So at the very least, you’ll have to IM your friend with a “hey, it’s time we keep our status, let’s meet at X for an hour, we don’t really need to talk, just be there”. Of course, since you have to do this to up to 25 friends, time management will become an issue!

Also remember that “friendship” is not two-way. This means that you can list up to 25 people that you consider “friends”. But you can have several hundreds or thousands of residents considering themselves your friends (ie. “groupies”). They’ll try to get to same spot where you are to retain “friend status” – so a popular guy, hosting events, will probably get much more than 25 people listing him/her as friend. They’ll be at all events/places where he/she goes. This can be irritating, as “groupies” are irritating in RL, too!

Of course you can subvert the system. You can pay people to have them list you as a friend, and pay them every week to stay with you. However, this easily gets out of hand, and probably only the very wealthy, with lots of free time, will be able to do that. And will it “pay off” in the end? (you may need to pay people more than you’ll receive from “friend status”…). Remember that you can only have up to 25 friends – so how many of those will you keep as “payed friends”?

Sooner or later, you’ll have to make choices: you already have reached the limit, and have just met this fantastic guy you want to list as a friend. Which one will you drop? This is a similar choice that happens with the group limit, but here we are talking about social interaction. People will tend to keep friends they really, really like, and that are willing to spend some time with. So, like in RL, you won’t have time to spend with ALL your friends, even if this would mean earning lots of L$ for having many friends. Better to concentrate on a few key friends that you usually hang around with, instead of having a whole lot of 25 friends and never get time enough to spend with all of them.

This encourages grouping, or ganging together. Instead of having 5 separate friends, it’s much easier having your own group/gang. You 5 do everything together anyway. So it’s much easier to go out together, and spend 1 hour of online time with all five at the same time! This will encourage you to seek out a larger community, but not spread it too thinly.

So how would Lindens “encourage” friendships? Instead of a rating-based bonus, you would get a “friendship bonus” at PayDay, based on the number of hours you spend with each friend. This should be a balanced formula, so that spending 25 hours with just 1 friend (“my, he is really, really your friend!”) gives you a very good score, but spending 1 hour with each of 25 friends makes you more popular, so you should get much more. There are tradeoffs, however. A “recurring friend” (ie. someone that you keep week after week with “friend” status) should give extra bonuses. This means that a long-term relation pays off, instead of getting “a new friend every day”. This is also relatively easy to implement.

When you look at someone’s profile, you’ll see a list of friends he/she has, and you can order them by “popularity” or by the profile owner’s own preferences. “Popularity” is just a number of people that refer you as “friend”, multiplied by the number or hours that person actually spends with their “friends” online. But the profile owner may list “more special” people instead of “more popular” ones. After all, you may be an Eggy or Torley groupie (who isn’t, these days…? :-D), but still list your sweetheart first.

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