Multi User Dungeons have been around on the
Internet for atleast 14 years, and have spawned
many articles articles like this one. Initially,
hosting was not something that was for sale,
and a dedicated Internet connection was out of
reason of anywhere but the largest research
institutions. A couple dozen machines tolerated
a MUD running on it. Players who "beat the game"
had the option of becoming a "wizard", where they
could create new areas and puzzles, even add
code interactively. It became apparent that very
few people wanted to play the game and everyone
wanted to contribute to creating it. As the
Internet became commercial and widespread, this
shifted: people didn't want to contribute to
games, they wanted to make new ones. The few games
splintered, fragmented, dissolved, and spawned
into hundreds, quickly reaching the point where
there were far more games than players.
The Internet has witnessed the same thing with
web pages. More and more, these web pages are
running blogs. People publish things on private
blogs they would never massmail to their friends,
and their friends will religously come looking
for new posts, or use an aggregator to suck down
the XML RSS feeds. My daily dose of fact-fiction
includes a mixture of mainstream news, overseas
events, aggrigation of aggrigations (eg, aggregating Slashdot) - and friends opinions.
Some aggregators, like http://www.newsisfree.com,
harvest from thousands.
In addition to picking a topic, a blog will pick
a personality of user. This is partially due
the mechanics of the site, partially due the
administrations interferance, and partially
out of anyones control. MUDs experienced this -
some had very nice people, some very nasty. The
ones with nasty people liked having an outlet.
They would run around, kill each other, steal
from each other, stalk in groups, and above all
else, try to outwit each other with elaborate
tricks. The idea that negitive people are an asset might be worthy of recosideration - they tolerate each other and represent a large portion of the user base. They have real needs and desires, just like goodie two shoes users. I praise the author of this original article for mentioning badvogato.org - an example of exactly this. There is no reason a single person can't be a helpful code mentor by day and a loathed evil inciter by night - and many are. MUDs have real issue with multiple characters and scripting for obvious reason. In doing analysis of people who play multiple characters, it is remarkable how often one person with an extreme personality will have a secret, second, opposite personality.
Given the endless push towards having more control over the universe - running your own server with your own hacked up software - and having higher bandwidth, more content rich, more technically complex push and pull flow with your friends - I can only sit and imagine the forum of the future. Like Instant Messaging, it will follow you. Like Wiki, it will be collaborative organized and refactored. Like RSS, it will be pulled and aggregated. Like Advogato and upcoming P2P, it will rely heavily on trust metrics and distributed authentication. Like anonymous posting, it will allow you to both help people with their frustrations and take out your own. Like MUD and Slashdot, the rules of the universe will be one of the most interesting, engaging aspects of the universe.