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Posted by Kaige on 10/16

TANSTAAFL (long) There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Or What Can We Do About Free Ride Problems?

"If individuals are unlikely to interact in the future, there is a huge temptation to behave selfishly and free-ride. On the other hand, knowing that one will be interacting with others on a continual basis can lead to the creation of reputations and serve as a powerful deterrent to short-run, selfish behavior."

This describes a "disposable character mentality" for me in a nutshell. Why care what anyone else thinks of you or your actions if you're just going to slip into a new identity momentarily anyway? Unfortunately, most of us aren't skilled enough at roleplaying to successfully pull this off and eventually alts get revealed and the perceptions of the alts are carried over to the new characters.

Oh, did I use that term that many people find offensive for no good reason that I can discern? Let me explain what I mean by "roleplaying" and why I personally find it offensive when anyone logged in tries to claim they aren't doing it.

Roleplaying: controlling the persona and actions of a character that isn't your real life. (Of course, some people roleplay their way through real life as well, but that's not part of this commentary.) I don't know ANY mudders who consistently (as in every second they're logged in) put forth their real life identity and act out only the actions they would do in real life. So as far as I am concerned, everyone is playing a role when they log in whether they admit it or not.

But I digress somewhat... back to free ride problems...

The idea of free ride is pretty simple, "What I do isn't important in the grand scheme of things. If I just sit here in this nice cozy spot and coast along minding my own business, everything will go along nicely and I won't have to lift a finger."

"Some participants lurk rather than contribute to the give and take that is essential to any community, or they violate the local rules of decorum. The more people free-ride, the more difficult it is to produce useful information and interaction. In other words, the signal-to-noise ratio deteriorates and the challenge becomes how a group of individuals can 'organize and govern themselves to obtain collective benefits in situations where the temptations to free-ride and to break commitments are substantial.'"

One of the things that people always seem to cite is "Back in the good old days..." Maybe they have something, maybe they don't. Maybe it just means that instead of relying on everyone else to provide the community for us, we need to go out and build a bit of it ourselves, especially since people complain about the "shrinking playerbase" and others wish to see it increase.

Many people complain they're not heard or not listened to when they do try to bring up ideas. It's hard to sort out the signal from the noise when there is so much static. All I can say is keep trying, and if a method isn't working for you, try another more direct approach.

"The larger the group, the less it will further its common interests."

Researchers have identified a number of reasons why cooperation may be more difficult as group size increases. As a group becomes larger, the apparent costs of an individual's decision to free-ride are spread over a greater number of people. There are simply more people to "pick up the slack." Likewise, if you can't recognize direct links between your actions or inactions and the affects on others, the temptation to free-ride increases. Many people are discouraaged from cooperating if their actions carry no noticeable affects.

The anonymity that comes with a larger group, especially one such as a MUD that already carries an inherent sense of anonymity with it, also lends greatly to the ability to free-ride without others noticing your inaction. So if you're one of the little church mice out there who doesn't particularly like what's happening, stop just taking what crumbs come your way and give something back.

Think about how this relates to grouping on the mud itself. It's always easiest to coordinate things if you're a loner Ė- it's just you. You KNOW who has to do what to get the job done. It's still pretty easy to group in pairs and do things effectively. But what a nightmare it can be to lead a large group into a dangerous area like ShadowLands or Pirate's Den or whatever the new power group of the week is doing.

The costs of organizing also increasea in larger groups where it becomes more difficult to communicate with others and coordinate the activities of members in order to benefit everyone and discourage free-riding. How not another one." When someone chats, "Hey! Someone get this for me!" or "Hey! Someone do that for me!" How many people see someone doing something they donít like and just ignore it because they think everyone else is? How many people ask (or even demand) to be re-equipped instead of organizing a party to go out and do it?

"The costs of free-riding are not truly diffused as the number of participants in the community increases. Indeed, one could argue that the effects of free-riding increase as community membership increases because there are a greater number of participants to be inconvenienced or angered by such actions."

Note the cries of woe and disbelief as farewell posts go up on the news board. What have you personally done lately to give back to the community instead of just idly standing by, minding your own business? We're all guilty of this.

"Often the cultural rules that define what is and is not appropriate are implicit or poorly understood and articulated, which can itself lead to conflict as participants with different expectations attempt to interact. Whatever the local rules of decorum, it is important that most participants follow them. However, there is the temptation to free-ride on others' efforts to maintain norms of civility while violating those norms oneself, saying whatever one wants to without any self-regulation."

We've tried revising and clarifying the rules endlessly. There will always be people who choose to ignore them, or at least ignore that they are meant for them too.

"Monitoring and sanctioning is important not simply as a way of punishing rule-breakers, but also as a way of assuring members that others are doing their part. Many researchers have argued that many individuals are willing to comply with a set of rules governing collective goods if they believe the rules are efficacious and if they believe most others are complying with the rules. That is, many people are contingent cooperators, willing to cooperate as long as most others do. Thus, monitoring and sanctioning serves the important function of providing information about other persons' actions."

Too many times have I heard the argument, "But So-n-so does it ALL the time..." And I'm not talking just recently. Several people have suggested many methods to deal with the perceived (and possibly true) inequities regarding the applications of Legendís rules. People have suggested an account system where a "social karma counter" would be attached to all the characters in that account. People have suggested public warning records. I'm not sure these are the full scope of a possible solution. I think if more people followed and upheld a set of rules themselves instead of expecting the immortals to legislate everything for them, the community would be stronger as well.

"The existence of a large variety of [muds] makes it easy for individuals to find others who share specific interests and goals but also makes those who want to disrupt those groups able to find them."

No, I'm not saying "If you don't like it, don't let the door hit you in the butt..." what I'm trying to say is simply this:

If you do like it, be an active part of it.


From: Ariel Tuesday, September 28, 12:04AM

I see what you're getting at, but I'm not sure anything can be done about it. There are always going to be twinks who want to get something for nothing. There are always going to be folks who get their kicks by being jerks to others. And so it's natural for others to get discouraged. You seem to be implying that the recent bunch of people leaving are the fault of the mud populace in general for not giving enough to the mud. Maybe so, but I'm afraid that's life. The symptoms you described are not unique to muds, but can be seen in just about any social situation. I'd be willing to bet that Strom Thurman gets all nostalgic about the good old days in the Senate (when he was in his seventies or so). As people change, and as their situation change, it's natural for people to discover that a place they once called home is no longer a place where they feel comfortable spending time. Rather than saying "everyone's leaving because you players don't give them a reason to stay" OR saying "everyone's leaving because the imms suck," an attitude which I find equally obtuse, why don't we realize that it's natural for people to change and to move on, and let them go their own way without making too much of a fuss about it.

I realize that I only really addressed one of your points, and I'm very sleepy so it's entirely possible that I missed your point entirely, in which case please do correct me. Anyway. That's it.


From: Blargg Tuesday, September 28, 04:43AM

-cheer Kaige- Heinlein couldn't have said it better himself! :)

From: Darkheart Tuesday, September 28, 09:02AM

Not quite sure where this is coming from, nor can I say, without meaning offense, that I 'care' of this issue.

The mudding experience for me can be divided into a few categories:
1. anonymity
2. availability
3. isolation
4. indulgence
5. ability to disconnect

By anonymity i mean that nobody here knows me the way people do in real life. Different parts of me are emphasized here, and through this I am totally myself yet totally different. This is quite possibly one of my main motives in mudding -- exploration.

Availability means that the mud is here for me (other than the few downtim es experienced in the past) when I want, and only when I want. The code will always be here, inherently allowing me to get at least something out even when nobody else is present. (basically, it's not like a tv program where you have to fit yourself into the program -- instead you are letting the mud fit into your life)

Isolation means that everything that goes on around here has absolutely nothing to do with me nor does it affect me when looking at a slightly bigger picture of things. Basically, this is a pastime, nothing more.

Indulgence means that I don't care for others' needs and wants as I would in real life, just mine. I don't know anyone here, and as long as I am equipped to deal with certain costs (that don't affect me, see Isolation) I am free to do whatever I want.

Ability to disconnect is fairly linked with isolation -- it basically means that nothing happens to me even if i am not here. It is a timeless world where passage of time mean near nothing, and basically means that if the mudding experience's costs outweigh the benefits, it can be cut off at no cost.

What I am trying to say in all this, i guess, is that free riding itself is an action taken rather actively by some who see the mud in a certain wa y. I personally find anyone that do not imm a free-rider to a great extent, although things could be said for those who actively try being social or helpful not only to satisfy themselves but to make this a better place (think i went past that stage of being infatuated with this mud -- seriously felt "loyal" and thought i should bring others here).

Don't get me wrong, I like it here, I mud fairly often, but I don't see this place as something i will spend a lot of time and effort trying to bend it to my tastes. I mostly abide by my cost/benefit formula (which, of course, has been adjusted drastically with my play here) and choose to free-ride because even changes for the worse fit into my formula. Hrm, guess I sort of ended up reinforcing Kaige's point of view somehow. Oh well, don't mind me, my brain's totally addled after 8 hrs of translating and 4 hours of bible study.


From: Elisa Tuesday, September 28, 07:25PM

I don't quite get your point. Do you mean that the jellyfish is not as valuable a member of the ocean community as the shark? The way I see it, the shark may get where it is going faster, but the jellyfish is happier to be wherever he goes.

my 0 sense, er, cents,

Elisa the sea urchin (happy crawling on the bottom)

From: Adolph Saturday, October 02, 04:18PM

As A long-time player of Legend, I have a few words on this as well.

point 1: It is up to the "oldbies" to instill the same morals and values that we ourselves were brought up with, when we started playing this mud.

what I mean by this is simple, it isn't an immortals job to make the playerbase happy, it is our job, we make ourselves happy.

point 2: when most of us "oldbies" started playing here, we had played other muds, we knew the general scheme of how things work, such things include but are not limited to: friendliness, ettiquete, respect, etc.

The generation we are playing with now has not been taught such things, an d therefor I blame us, the "older" crowd. This Generation of Mudders is a very young generation, a generation in their teens that still depend on others, that being their parents, etc. So, is it up to us to teach them the basic morals we know so well? I say yes, it is. Obviously something has happened with this generation, perhaps the thought of a family with two working parents, but they are lazy, period. They get a free ride in real life and they expect.. the demand the same here.

This is why we have stopped helping others, in my opinion. But this can easily be changed. If you are helping someone, do just that, if by chance they start demanding things of you, which I see so very often, simply say no, and then tactfully explain your motives to them, and let them know that what they did is rude, and simply not accepted. Tell them they need to do things on their own, but show them how to do such, perhaps add that they might find better xp in this area or that area.

Too many times I've pitted against a pk'er, a fairly good pk'er, beaten them, and even sometimes lost to them, and then 20 minutes later see them ask on chat for directions from tara to modern london. This is unacceptabl e to me.

Again, these people are a product of us, A reflection of ourselves, if you will, and it is up to us to change them.



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