If there were a Shirky's Law, it would be something like "The advantages of anonymity grow linearly with the population; the disadvantages grow with the square of the population." After decades where the native design assumption was that anything that minimized user flexibility was A Bad Thing®, we are in an era where the disadvantages of complete user freedom in communal settings have become too high to bear, whether from anonymous flamers, spammers, trolls, or whatever else.
One solution that seems to be emerging is the addition of semi-permeable membranes, which raise some threshold to participation, as with Six Apart's proposed TypeKey service. Now Rusty Foster of Kuro5hin has added his version to the membrane pattern, adding a "Managed Growth" pattern
, similar in spirit to LiveJournal's "Get a user to invite you" pattern of growth.
Says Rusty, characterizing the problem:
So the question is, how do we make it more difficult for obnoxious people to disrupt the site, without barring the gates altogether? And from a wider view, how can a large community like this continue to grow in an organic way? I think part of the initial success of the site was due to the word-of-mouth nature of who showed up to use it. Now that half of our pages are result number one for some google search or another, it seems like a lot of that person-to-person growth, and the sense of community that comes with it, has been lost.
I'd like to propose a strategy for this with four parts. The overall ideas behind it are first, to create more of a barrier to entry and thereby make losing accounts more of a hardship, and second, to recognize that some administrative oversight of who stays and who goes is necessary, while making it as accountable as we can to the wishes of other members (without, hopefully, turning it into a game itself).
He goes on to describe new ways of handing Sponsorship (creation of new accounts), Guidelines, Warnings, and Feedack, as well as some speculation about implementation.
As with everything Rusty does, it's both interesting and well-written, and true to Kuro5hin form, the comments are fantastic as well. Read the whole thing.