Why won't it work? There are a few reasons, but let's first review what Rusty has in mind:
The idea is this: someone creates a new account. They go through the normal email confirmation. At this point they cannot do anything. Before you have the privileges of a user, you must get an existing user to sponsor you. That just means that some user with the ability to sponsor others goes to a page and enters the new user's nickname. These two are now associated, and if a user gets kicked off the site, their sponsor does too.
Our hypothetical new user, after being sponsored, is now a full user of K5 in all senses but one. They can post comments and diaries, they can submit stories, they can vote and rate comments. The only thing they can't do yet is sponsor other users. The criteria for this are adjustable, but I'm leaning toward a requirement of 60 days of sponsored membership and 40 positively-rated comments before you can sponsor others. Yes, that is a high bar. I think it should be pretty high. Also, you will be restricted to a maximum of something like two users sponsored per week.
I really believe that this is a flawed and unfair system. Here's why:
1. Lack of incentive to join Kuro5hin.
Why would anyone want to join? Firstly they've got to go thorugh the hastle of finding a sponsor. Then, before you become a full user you have to make sure that you post comments where you get rated highly. I just don't see people wanting to come to a website with such restrictions, it's far too much effort.
2. The sponsorship model is inherently flawed against the sponsor.
Rusty has already told us that he "can't stress enough the point that if someone you sponsor does something to get themselves kicked out, you get kicked out too". Excuse me? In other words, you go to the effort of sponsoring someone, they act up and get kicked off and you get kicked out too? What happens if you've had an argument with that person, then that person decides be a prick and starts to really play up with the site - unleashes an unholy crap-flood, trolls and baits members (in a not funny way), widens pages, mod-bombs everyone (not that this is such an issue anymore...), junks up the story queue and fills up the diary page with 15 diaries that consist entirely of spaces and carriage returns. Sure they get kicked - and rightly so! - but then so does the sponsor.
Placing the responsiblity of policing someone else's behaviour is not only stupid and foolhardy, on K5 it's actually impossible. Unless you are an editor, you can't delete an account, remove stories or comments, nullify user accounts or in fact do anything that effectively disciplines a sponsored user. If sponsored users can't be disciplined, then existing users who dare to sponsor a newbie will run the risk of being kicked from K5 for something they didn't do!
Really, this aspect is troubling. I realise that Rusty has had to discipline users in the past by using his good judgement, but when users got privileges taken off them, or they were kicked off the site, it always affected only them. It never effected an innocent third party.
Now effectively how long are you going to be a user's sponsor? Forever? A year? Six months? Three weeks? Two weeks? How long is a current user going to have to keep checking on a user to see if they're playing up? Can you revoke a sponsorship if you don't like the person any more? If so, will they still be able to participate, or will they need another sponsor?
For this last question: If the answer is "Yes", then I'd argue that this is unfair to the sponsored user because then they're beholden to their sponsor and are thus not truly independent on this site. After all, if they got sponsored by someone who doesn't like their viewpoint, then they could have their sponsorship taken away, and this might influence the way they contribute to the site. In this case the balance of power is weighted to highly towards the sponsor.
If the answer to the last question is "No", then what's the point of the sanctions against the sponsor? All that will happen is that new users create an account then existing users sponsor them. Then, the existing users "unsponsor" themselves from that user. In other words, the system then becomes pointless.
You see the problems I'm already finding so far?
3. The sponsorship system will unfairly affect some people.
Let's face it, not everybody who joins Kuro5hin knows someone already on the site. Kuro5hin is fairly cosmopolitan, and many new users who have the potential to contribute greatly to the site have not known anyone at all. Kuro5hin is a community of users, but let's not forget that the reason for this is because of the free flow of ideas between different people. It didn't become a community until people started interacting for it was only after people started having conversations that relationships were formed!
How are those people who have the potential to contribute towards Kuro5hin yet don't have a friend on the site going to get a sponsor? Remember, they can't post to the site until they get a sponsor, and given the sanctions that existing members will face I know I'm definitely not going to sponsor a user who I don't know.
Say for instance Salam Pax, the "Baghdad Blogger" decided he wanted to join the K5 community. Now he's a fairly interesting character, and would I'll bet a few very interesting article on Iraq would be soon on the story queue - obviously he would nicely balance out the views on this site. But who's going to sponsor him? There really is a good chance nobody knows him on this board. It would take a gigantic gamble for someone to sponsor the user.
I'd also like to point out that nobody would have sponsored me on this site (take this as you will). I somehow doubt that MichaelMoore, debacle, Baldrson, jjayson, Egg Troll or drduck would have been sponsored by anyone had they viewed their comment histories. Yet every one of the users I've noted here has contributed something to Kuro5hin - no matter whether you've agreed with them or not!
4. No one has defined what bad behaviour is on this site.
What exactly is the standard that we are going to hold new users to? So far I've not seen any really concrete rules of conduct for this site. Will we get one of these? Do we want one of these???
The need for a definition would not be so important if a user's behaviour only affected their own ability to be a member of Kuro5hin. The need for a defintion is critical if the sponsor will be kicked off the site as well as the user he/she's sponsored!
Now this leads me onto another issue: who's going to be doing the judging of whether a user has committed a K5 "crime"? I know that if I sponsored a user and they started behaving in a way that had the potential to get them kicked I'd want to have a say about their behaviour. If I knew I was going to get kicked off the site also, even though I'd done nothing wrong, I'd most certainly want to defend them! It sounds wrong, but I like this site, so I wouldn't be defending their stupidity because I liked it or approved of it, I'd be doing it for self-preservation reasons alone.
5. Critical flaws in Rusty's plan that make all my previous points moot.
It's not hard to work around the new system. Here's what you do:
- An already registered user creates a new account, then sponsors that account.
- This new account is used to create a whole set of new dummy dupe accounts.
- New accounts are used to cause trouble. Rusty kills the account, along with the accounts sponsor.
- Original account is still intact, go back to step 1 and watch as Rusty plays cancel account whack-a-mole and never fixes the problem.
The only way around this problem is to link up those people who sponsor accounts, then link the accounts that this new user sponsors, etc. Then when abuse happens and you need to kill off the accounts you can then kill all users in the chain. Which of course means you lose half of K5. Hey, maybe this isn't such a bad idea! (j/k)
Furthermore, what happens if a user gets canned, and the sponsor also gets canned. What happens to the people the sponsor sponsored as well as the people the misbehaving user sponsored? Do they then become unsponsored (with all the implications that entails), or does their sponsor then become a special "parent" user, much like the Unix way of handling processes? Truly, the whole madcap idea is beginning to unwind...
Let me just finish this off by saying that I understand the motivations behind why Rusty proposed this new sponsorship system. People have come into this free and open environment, which has only the smallest number of restrictions, and have basically tried to pull the system to pieces. Some have done this by prodding at the edges (even some times ago I witnessed rmg's great page widening debacle) or through sheer nastiness (posting Rusty's wife's head on a porn picture is just plain evil). Clearly, those who abuse the system need to be dealt with, and measures must be put into place to try to curtail such abuses on Kuro5hin. It's just I don't think that Rusty's proposed sponsorship model is the solution.
Rusty: sorry mate. Find a better way!