John Suler's The Psychology of Cyberspace
This article dated April 97 (v1.0)
|Introduction - Echoes of Merlin
Powers, Privileges, Perks
|The Expanding Wizard Clan
- We Are Family
- To Bot or Not to Bot
- Wizard Colors (types of wizards)
- Don't Fence Us In
|Note: This article is best read as hypertext. If you intend to read it offline, save it as its source file (rather than as text) and open it with your browser when offline. Asterisks (*) in the text are links to comments by wizards and TPI officials who have read this article.|
The multimedia chat software called "Palace" has spawned a complex online community. There are many Palace sites located on servers across the internet, each being a unique visual/auditory environment where members use small graphics called "avatars" to represent themselves. The Main Mansion (aka, "Main") may hold more than 200 people on any given night. Other sites are very small, with as few as two people.... or sometimes only one lonely soul waiting for someone to come visit. The sites also vary widely in their mission and graphical themes. Some are commercial ventures. Some are the artistic, personal expression of an individual user.
But all Palace sites have something important in common. They all have WIZARDS. What exactly is a wizard? What purpose does the wizard serve? And, most importantly (to some people), how do you get to be a wizard?
The specific answers to these questions will vary from one Palace site to another. In this article, I'll focus mostly on the wizards who dwell at the sites maintained by TPI (The Palace Incorporated, which later merged with Electric Communities) sites - especially the main "Mansion," the oldest Palace site (some also call it "Main"), and "Welcome," the site where new users arrive. In the Palace universe, being a TPI/EC wizard is considered a high achievement. The membership at Mansion and Welcome is much larger than most other sites, so the "competition" for wizardship is considerably steep. Company officials also participate in the selection of these TPI/EC wizards, so approval is coming from the top, from the creators of the Palace universe.
Echoes of Merlin
First, let's take a quick look at the word "wizard." It's a term carried over from the world of fantasy-based multi-user games, such as Dungeons and Dragons. Although Jim Bumgardner steered Palace away from becoming a traditional virtual game and more towards an open social environment (see The History of Palace), his thinking nevertheless was influenced by the imaginative role-playing worlds of MOOs and MUDs. In many ways Palace indeed is a magical, dream-like realm.... Hence "wizards" fit right in.
According to legend, a wizard is someone who possesses magical powers - a sorcerer. In a more watered down fashion, the word also may be defined as someone who is exceptionally skilled or clever at some task. A more archaic definition is "sage" (from the Middle English "wisard," meaning "wise").
As we'll see, all of the above apply to Palace wizards and the three main jobs they perform: (1) hosting, advising, and socializing new users; (2) acting as consultants to TPI/EC, and; (3) controlling deviant behavior in the community (see "The Bad Boys of Cyberspace").
Powers, Privileges, Perks
(and the responsibilities that go with)
Wizards possess powers and privileges - and often knowledge - that separate them from ordinary members. As we all know, with powers and privileges comes responsibility. So there are price tags along with some of the perks.
To members, the most visible powers of the wizards are their abilities to "pin" (lock a user's avatar into the corner of the screen), "propgag" (lock a user's avatar into the standard smiley ), "kill" (disconnect a user from the server for a specified amount of time), and "ban" (exile user/s from a specific internet address). The self-imposed wizard code of honor states that these powers should only be used to control deviant users. So if you persist in spouting off obscenities, flashing nude props, attempting to crash other users, or indulging in any other of a variety of antisocial or downright mean behaviors, a wizard is going to discipline you. "Wizard," in this context, means "police." In fact, an important responsibility of wizards is to oversee - or perhaps even "patrol" - the site in order to locate, educate, control, and, if necessary, disconnect misbehaving users.****
The downside to possessing superuser powers? Because these powers are so visible to members, they may stimulate strong emotional reactions. Users often perceive wizards (sometimes unconsciously) as authority figures, even as surrogate parents. While some members may obsequiously try to suck up to the seemingly powerful wizard ("Can I become a wizard too?"), others will envy and/or hate them because of their powers. Pinning or killing someone reminds them of teachers and parents issuing time-outs (go sit in the corner!) or principals suspending them from school... or, even worse, parents kicking them out of the house. Defiance, hostility, and rebellion may fill their minds when they are targeted for such discipline, or even when they simply witness wizards doling out punishment to other users. In a long thread on the PUG (Palace User Group) mailing list, users debated whether people were being killed "for no reason" by unfeeling wizards - and even whether this was a kind of "murder."
In a less extreme attitude, some users may simply feel alienated from wizards who, "like all authority figures," appear to be cold, distant, and preoccupied with punishing people. Other users, to the contrary, may attempt to befriend wizards not as a genuine gesture of friendship, but rather as an ingratiating attempt to associate themselves with the wizards' authority and prestige - what one wizard called "the Celebrity Factor" which causes some wizards to be a bit skeptical of any inappropriately friendly users. Any of these emotional responses to wizards may be "transference" reactions that reveal more about the personality of the user than about the wizards. They may be reactions specifically to the wizard's disciplinary powers, or more generally to the wizard's perceived popularity, fame, and status as an elder.
Throughout their history, wizards have debated exactly when and how they should use their night sticks. For what crimes does one use which mode of discipline? When is it best to talk deviants down from their misbehavior, and when should they be killed on sight? At times the debates get heated. The differences in opinion reflect basic differences in personality style and attitudes about discipline, parenting, and what constitutes socially unacceptable behavior. Jim Bumgardner once jokingly drew the distinction between wizards who were "Bleeding Hearts" versus "Nazis." It's often hard for one personality type to fully understand the other. What complicates consensus even more is the fact that the complex social nature of deviant behavior at the Palace (as in real life) cannot be remedied by any one strategy. Sometimes a compassionate talk is needed. Sometimes a quick kick in the ass.*
Members do have access to their own night sticks. For example, they can block communications from any other user ("mute"). It's a powerful tool. After all, if you can't see anything a person is saying, what can they possibly do to harass you. Sit on you or display offensive props. Usually that's about all. While many members effectively use their nightsticks, some don't. They may not know they have this power, so they page a wizard for help. In some cases, even when users are familiar with the mute command, they would rather page a wizard to come discipline the offender. Perhaps they feel "mute" is not powerful enough to deal with the person. Some users, though, gain satisfaction out of seeing the offender punished by a wizard. It reflects a bit of an authoritarian personality style. For these types of users it is like "screaming for Mommy." It's yet another manifestation of the perception of the wizard as a parental figure - another type of transference reaction.* Unfortunately, frequent paging means wizards spend all of their time running around the Palace site trying to verify crimes and disciplining the offenders.
In the world of MUDs, commands like kill and pin can be enjoyed as just part of the game. Using "allscray" to turn everyone's avatar into the generic, "naked" smiley could be a hoot. But Palace wizards usually have to hold back on their powers. Some members won't experience these antics as fun at all. They will see it as an demeaning display of powers that they don't possess - a rubbing of their noses into a class/power distinction. For wizards, the playful feeling of pinning and allscraying must be repressed, resulting in a frustration that finally gets relieved when wizards hang out together in private and indulge in "pinning parties" Pinning is a tradition for the newbie wizards at their induction ceremony (at some non-TPI/EC sites, "wizard wars" are a main attraction). When Mansion wizards gleefully pin each other in their private gatherings, this also may be a displayed frustration. While on patrol, how many annoying users did they really WANT to pin or kill, but didn't?
Wizards experience mixed emotions about their powers. It's potential fun. It's status, and a bit of a headtrip. It's a great way to redirect the frustrations from your own personal life onto snert targets. It means you can engage in a battle of wits as much as you want with a snert, and in the end you always get the last word. But the wizard is also an authority figure, a role model, a professional, who is expected to be fair and responsible. Nightsticks, in this context, are the tools of the trade to be used with discretion and maturity. They are a bit of a... burden.
Unfortunately, other important wizard activities are not nearly as visible as their night sticks. Because they are perceived as knowledgeable authority figures, users frequently approach them with technical questions. That perception of authority even leads some users to seek them out as counselors who can help them with personal problems - sometimes severe problems like depression and suicidal tendencies. True to the Middle English definition of "wisard," the wizards are expected to be "wise" in many different respects. Also a manifestation of transference, the perceptions of the wizard as a therapist or ultimate rescuer can become unrealistic demands on their time, energy, and abilities. The "police" functions of the wizards are more obvious to the public, but they are not any more important than the wizards' various roles as technical and social advisors.*
Many users assume that they can play with their name, avatar, and identity at the Palace while keeping their true identity hidden. For the most part, that's true. Palace is a highly anonymous environment. Whispers, for example, can't be seen by anyone except the person you're whispering to - not even by wizards and gods. However, wizards have at their disposal a command that enables them to see a user's IP address, DNS hookup, and registration key signature (which is assigned by TPI/EC to each registered member). In other words, as Dr. Xenu has described it, they possess "x-ray vision." They also can tell if you're a guest, member, wizard, or god - as well as call on the server to track you whenever you sign on.
Why were they given this power to override the anonymity that lures so many users to cyberspace in general and environments like the Palace in particular? Mostly, to control the snerts. As Sun Tzu suggested, the more you know about your enemies, the better your chances of contending with them. At the Palace it would be mighty hard to keep track of and discipline name-and-shape-shifting deviants without this x-ray vision. Just letting trouble-makers know that you "have their number" can sometimes shock them out of their anonymous antics and into compliance. If that fails, and a wizard uses a night stick to discipline the snert, all wizards automatically are notified via the paging system of the deviant's identifying stats. For those wizards who sign on later, the system keeps a record of who has been killed and banned. In some extreme cases, wizards have contacted the administrators of ISPs to let them know just how bad a boy (or girl) one of their users has been.
Respecting the privacy of users, most wizards will only use this power when they must contend with a trouble-maker. However, I heard one story about a wizard who routinely summoned up the identifying stats of everyone in the room. If true, it's a bit voyeuristic. It's a flexing of muscles, of power. After all, knowledge - especially knowledge that others don't have - is power.
Whereas any user can send a message into the paging system, only wizards can see those messages - which appear in a text balloon in the upper corner of the screen. The messages usually consist of members asking for help with a snert or a technical question, chat among the wizards, and automated information from the server (what wizards have signed on and off; how many wizards are on the site; who has attempted the wizard password but failed; what deviants have been disciplined, by which wizard, and with what method).
What's unique about the paging system is that it is the only method for a group of users (the wizards) to communicate regardless of their being in different rooms. It's a Group ESP experience. As indicated by the automated messages, a primary purpose of the paging system is to assist wizards in their policing the site. Wizards on the job often page the group to discuss the problematic members they are encountering and how to deal with them. They call for second opinions on whether an avatar is inappropriate and for assistance in talking to a troubled user. Or they discuss any technical problems with the site that they have discovered. But they don't just use the paging system for business. Wizards also rely on the system as a channel for socializing. As a group, they chat and joke with each other. It's a Group ESP Hangout.
Newbie wizards who plug in the password for the first time often marvel at this hidden layer of wizard communication that goes on behind the scenes of Palace activity. It's as if there is a layer of "collective wizard consciousness" that sits on top of all activity at the Palace site. As a result, the paging system helps unify the wizards as a group. It may also help integrate the entire site itself since the wizards can relay information to each other about what is happening in the various rooms. On the other hand, when wizards get very caught up in their paging system chat, they sometimes become a bit removed from the activity around them. It's like Mystery Science Theater 2000. The wizards lay back in the paging system and comment on the Palace dramas and antics that are unfolding before their eyes.
When a member pages for help with a snert, it's not unusual for several wizards to appear simultaneously - or in rapid sequence - at the scene of the crime. What does this say about the wizards? Feeling responsible, they all may be eager to help. Feeling feisty, they all may be looking for a kill. Feeling bored, they may want something interesting to do. The mass response could be a sign that they're supporting and/or competing with each other (usually one defers to the first wizard on the scene, or the more senior wizard). One thing is for sure. The wizards - in their collective consciousness - pay attention to pages.
Parting the Waters.... Maybe
Wizards have considerably more power than members over the Palace environment. They can run and alter scripts in any room, which gives them the power to program all sorts of activities involving prop and text balloon behaviors. They can enter rooms where occupancy is "full" (i.e., more members can't get in). They can send "global messages" that everyone at the site will see. With their "clone" command, they can copy an avatar right off anyone's back. They can turn scripts and painting abilities on or off, change background room graphics, and add links to rooms.
They use most of these powers sparingly. Major changes to room appearance, scripts, and links usually requires TPI/EC approval. Cloning someone's prop without their permission - which is tantamount to stealing their identity - is considered very bad etiquette. A global message that isn't conveying some important announcement would be perceived as a very tacky or unnecessary exhibitionist display. Excessive runs of script will result in lag, which everyone hates. As such, wizards are a bit like Moses with his hands (or rather staff) tied behind his back. All decked out in superuser powers, but limited opportunities to apply them. It wouldn't be surprising if some wizards, especially the technically sophisticated ones, are a bit frustrated by this. A solution would be to create your own Palace site. But would anyone come to witness the marvels you created? *
In the early days of Palace, when the number of users and wizards at Mansion were relatively small, people who hung around long enough learned who the wizards were. Things were more intimate back then. Wizards were just one of the gang. As the population grew and the intimate atmosphere began to fade, it wasn't as easy for members to identity the wizards. As the group of wizards itself grew to over 50, some of the wizards themselves weren't even familiar with some of their cronies. Yet the need to identify a bonafide wizard was becoming more necessary within the community. With the growing population, users needed more help in dealing with snerts. Even worse, some deviants dared to call themselves "wizard" when in reality they just wished they were. The real wizards couldn't let impostors run around misrepresenting them. They couldn't let average users wander around not knowing how to find a real wizard.
Something had to be done to make the wizards more visible and identifiable. The Palace program was modified so that only wizards could place an asterisk before their names. The asterisk became their "badge." If you had any doubts about whether someone was really a wizard, just ask him or her to put on the star.
However, wizards only rarely wear their badges. Why? There were a variety of reasons. In part, it was modesty. Some wizards may feel that the badge is a bit exhibitionist or ostentatious as a display of power and status. A basic philosophical tenet of the internet is that cyberspace is the great equalizer. "In cyberspace, we all have equal status." That attitude may influence the wizards and lead them to avoid open displays of class distinctions. They would rather feel like one of gang. Hiding their badges also may be an attempt to protect themselves. With their tin stars flashing, they make a much more obvious target for a barrage of newbie questions, brown-nosing, and anti-authority acting out from the snerts. Wearing a badge means you have clearly identified yourself as "working" - and wizards sometimes just want to hang out and socialize. They implicitly assume that if someone needs help, they can use the paging system to ask for it. In the meanwhile, the wizards often prefer a little bit of anonymity so they can relax and play.
Despite their tendency to underplay their status by not wearing their asterisk, most wizards get annoyed with anyone who pretends to be a wizard. Playing with identity and self-presentation is the Palace way of life. Yet masquerading as a wizard will get you in trouble. Letting wiz impostors run around may lead to an abuse of status, damage to wizards' group reputation, and general confusion among the members. But that may not be the only reason why wizards come down hard on charlatans. Even though most wizards underplay their status, they do not like it violated.* It is an important part of their identity at the Palace. They were singled out and individually chosen for that role. They may feel they worked hard to earn it, or are special because they were selected. So any cavalier pretender may be treading on thin ice.
The asterisk creates three distinct alternatives for the wizard's online presence: (1) A wizard can sign onto Palace without "wizzing up" (entering the wizard password), thereby remaining an ordinary member without all those wizard powers. Advantage? You don't have to worry about wizard responsibilities. Disadvantage? Well, no nightstick or special scripting powers, but it would only take a few seconds to wiz up and get them. More important is the fact that you wouldn't be able to use the paging system, which would cut you off from the wizard collective consciousness. Wizards who haven't wizzed up are missing out on that connection to their colleagues and news about what's happening across the whole site. This may be an important reason why many wizards do not hang out as ordinary members; (2) A wizard can wiz up and don the asterisk, thereby making a clear public statement that "I'm a wizard-on-the-job." TPI encouraged working wizards to wear the asterisk. (3) A wizard can wiz up and NOT wear an asterisk. In some cases, the wizard may be working "under cover" in order to locate misbehaving users who might otherwise behave if they knew a wizard was in the room. Or the badgeless wizard might be trying to blend the advantages of alternatives 1 and 2 - i.e., have those powers and access to the collective wizard consciousness, but NOT have to deal with the hassles of wearing the badge.
In the Know (the wizard mailing list)
All wizards are invited to join the wizard e-mail list. Much like an ongoing meeting, the list is the single most important "place" where wizards gather as a whole group to discuss Palace. In fact, it is the only psychological space that all wizards share at the same time. A message sent to the list is like standing up in a meeting hall and speaking to the whole gathering. Outside the list, there are, no doubt, a flurry of private e-mails in which dyads secretly talk about their reactions to the list discussions. Sometimes those reactions are brought to the list. Sometimes not. The degree of unity among the wizards as a group is largely reflected in and influenced by what happens on the list. Typical activity on the list includes (roughly, in descending order of frequency):
- discussions of technical issues concerning the Palace softwareTo belong to the wizard list is to be "in the know." The wizards are some of the most knowledgeable and experienced users of Palace. No other group spends more time online and knows more about Palace technology, history, and culture than the wizards. Their collective wisdom resides in the mailing list. The posts to the list are the Cliff Notes of everything important happening in the Palace universe. The list is a central organizing "mind" or "consciousness" of the community. According to Finchy, who helped create the list, "It was a major breakthrough, as it really helped to solidify our community and to serve as a record of our trials and tribulations, which there have been a few."
- discussions of Palace rules, problematic users, and how to handle them
- suggestions for improving the technical and social features of Palace
- ribbing each other, and general joking around
- announcements of upcoming events
- intellectual philosophizing about Palace
- electing new wizards
- personal disagreements and flaming
For these reasons, TPI/EC officials also subscribe to the list and use the wizard group as consultants. Many TPI/EC workers and officials ARE wizards (since they know the wizard password), although some of the volunteer ("working") wizards spend more time at the Palace than some company officials. The wizards are very much in tune with the day-to-day events in the community. Company officials are the masters of Palace technology and business, while the working wizards are "in the trenches." Discussions on the list often reflect this hands-on attitude towards coping with technical and social problems.
Occasionally there have been requests to limit the types of messages posted to the wizard list. No personal bantering. No one-liner jokes. No flames or spam. In the long run the list has remained mostly "free." Bumgardner, who was instrumental in its creation, prefers that the wizards use the list in any way they deem fit. Jokes, flames, and spam are all part of the group process and all potentially solidify the group when openly expressed and discussed. Conflicts are inevitable, as they are in any group. It is far better to discuss them than it is to suppress their expression, which forces them underground and then to resurface in a much more insidious manner.
The problem facing the list is the increasing number of subscribing wizards. Lists with more members tends to result in more schisms, arguments, lurking, less intimacy and openness, and a pressure to institute more rules about acceptable and unacceptable posts.
To Make Palace a Better Place
"Wizards exist for one principle reason," Bumgardner stated in the manual he wrote for them. "To help make the Palace a better place." On the surface, that statement seems pretty straightforward. Upon closer examination, the issues get more complex. What is a "better" place? It implies Palace is in a state of transition, that things need improving. But what?
In part, "better" means "more pleasant." To make Palace a more pleasant place often means curbing the unpleasant users. This is why wizards have been given their night sticks. Sweep, identify, eliminate... i.e., find then tame or boot people who violate other people's rights. But here again the issues get sticky for the working wizard. What ARE people's rights and when do they get violated? Some cases are clear. If you deliberately crash other users, spout language that would make sailors cringe, or spew forth props depicting fornicating bodies... you are begging for a wizardly intervention. In other cases, the line between "deviance" and "play" gets mighty fuzzy.
Palace was intended to be a bit of a naughty place (see The History of Palace). It was designed primarily as an adult environment. But HOW naughty and HOW adult? For example, how does one define an "indecent" avatar. Supreme court justices have a hard time splitting these hairs. Over time the wizards have debated and established more and more refined (and usually restrictive) guidelines about what props are acceptable, in what rooms they are acceptable, and when to propgag or kill. Other debates arose over "hate props" such as Nazi symbols. Should they be banned, or would that be a violation of freedom of speech? Even more slippery is the issue of foul language. When is language colorful and expressive? When is it offensive? Will users - especially the adults - be annoyed at wizards who threatened to wash their mouths with soap?
The answer to these questions is "It depends." It depends on the perpetrator and the other people present in the room. It depends on the situation. It depends on whether children are present in the room, which isn't always clear because everyone is wearing little icons that may have very little to do with their actual demographics. Although the final word for setting rules about acceptable and unacceptable behavior comes from TPI/EC, the wizards are instrumental in testing, interpreting, modifying, and administering those rules. They sometimes may play the role of police "enforcer," but they also act as legislators and lawyers.
To make Palace a "better" place means that wizards have to grapple with many complex social and political questions. It means they indeed have to be "wise." It also means they have to be good role models. Ph's horse mentions in his guidelines for wizards:
As TPI Wizards, most of the world sees us as representing the company in almost everything we do while online. As such, we should endeavor to be as well tempered, balanced and most importantly, fair in our dealings with users. Not that we need to act like angels all the time, but certainly we can be careful as to our use of language and props.Being a role model can be a bit stifling. Making Palace Better sometimes means wizards have to sacrifice a bit of their own playful self-expression and experimentation. It wouldn't be surprising if some wizards felt they could only be themselves when around other wizards. However, "letting their hair down" may be exactly what they need to do in some situations. Some members cherish those memorable moments when wizards let loose and have fun just like one of the gang. "It lets them relax and feel special to witness this and to be a part of it," one user noted. "And it makes the wizards more human and not so out of reach." Being a good wizard and Making Palace a Better Place may involve the ability to switch effectively between the "role model" and being "one of the gang."
Making Palace "Better" has other meanings too. It means improving the software and social friendliness of the environment. Wizards are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the software so people can more easily interact within and between sites, play with their props and scripts, and communicate. Wizards also try to improve the social environment by acting as "helpers" and "hosts." They answer questions, chat, and try to make people feel at home.
Acting as mentor to newbies can be rewarding to a wizard. It bolsters the wizard's self-esteem as a knowledgeable and experienced oldtimer. That, in itself, can be very satisfying. Unfortunately, with large numbers of people coming to Palace, being a helper and host also can be very tiring. Sometimes wizards would like to hang out with their own friends rather than have to attend to newbies. After all, they're volunteers. In order to motivate wizards to accommodate the mass of newcomers who were showing up at Palace, TPI instituted an incentive plan. Whenever a wizard successfully encouraged a guest to register as a member, a monetary credit would be awarded. Previously, almost all wizards were pure volunteers, receiving only occasional (and cherished) perks like free Palace t-shirts and software. For the most part, wizards gladly accepted their role as volunteers. Just having those superuser powers, privileges and perks - and the implicit "special" recognition of being elected wizard - made them more than happy. Now, with the incentive plan, those wizards who accepted the challenge became a bit like commissioned recruiters or salespeople.
Another meaning becomes attached to the idea of "making Palace a better place." It means increasing the size of the Palace population - maybe even encouraging Palace sites to expand across the internet. Better is bigger. Better is more sales. "Making Palace Better" means more explicitly supporting Palace as a business.
The history of the wizards is essentially the history of a balancing or juggling act. It's a self-correcting process of steering a middle course between the original Palace philosophy and the necessities of accommodating a growing community and the business behind it. "Let users be naughty" and "Let them feel like they are getting away with something" were two basic premises of Bumgardner's original vision for Palace. The wizards try to remain true to that vision while also attempting to adhere to some basic dictums for a "better" community - dictums like "Stop people from abusing each other!" and "Maintain standards of public decency!" and "Increase Registrations." By no means is it an easy juggling act. Some wizards have expressed a concern that Mansion - in its attempts to appeal to a growing and more general population - may become a "plain vanilla" flavor or a good, solid "white bread" that will be agreeable to most everyone. If this is the case, the wizards may find themselves in the position of bakers.*
In their efforts to make Palace a better place, the wizards must grapple with a variety of roles as well as other users' PERCEPTIONS of their roles. On the wizard list, Nitehunter succintly summarized this dilemma in a "poem":
Wizards are not:
RAF pilots strafing a a nazi convoy.
Guests at a cocktail party.
The upholders of bygone puritanism.
Creators of a new world order
They are Andy Frane Ushers who pleasantly:
Seat the patrons
Keep the noise down
Stop the children from throwing popcorn
and clean up the spilled Coke in the aisle.
Peg responded to Nitehunter's message by suggesting that the following qualities be added to list of what wizards ARE (or perhaps "should" be?):amateur psychotherapists
humorous as needed (or even when not)
Dynamics of the Expanding Wizard Clan
When Palace first opened in November of 1995, the wizard group consisted of a handful of people. Over the coming year, as the community grew larger, the size of wizard group had to be increased. It expanded to over 60 by the spring of 1997. As is true of any working group that increases in size, a whole new set of changes faced the wizards. Factions developed in their group. Some arguments ensued, which sometimes led to the resolution of important problems, and sometimes simply created hard feelings. Many of these changes were manifested in the mailing list. Debates and flaming became more frequent - which is a common developmental feature of any mailing list. Unlike other lists, however, the wizards don't simply use the list to shoot the breeze. It is a forum for WORKING together. The wizards have a job to do: To make Palace a better place. That common bond and necessity of performing a task together helps the group endure. When at their best, the wizards learn from the conflicts that surface.
Even without its rapid growth, the wizard group would have experienced similar trials and tribulations - similar cycles of misunderstandings, conflicts, and reconciliations. In other words, the wizards are a lot like a family. Many of them talk about the group as if it WERE a family.
To Bot or Not to Bot
Wizards experimented with automating their tasks in order to lighten their work with the growing community. An automated help center was created, as well as an automated tour of Palace. Wizards created scripts that could display pre-written signs containing instructions or warnings for members with questions or attitude problems. Some wizards tinkered with scripts that could kill upon detecting an obscene word, or that would nudge blockers off their victims. A bot was created that would sit at the Members site, wait for someone to page a wizard, and then report the page to the wizards at Mansion (where most of them hung out). Some of these changes were necessary and helpful. All of them placed automation in front of the user rather than personal contact with a wizard.*
To counteract the "institutional" feel that was evolving, efforts were also made to rekindle the personal touch. A technical support room, staffed by real-live wizards, was opened (for the first time in wizard history, work schedules were established to staff the room). A few dedicated wizards also took it upon themselves to personally nurture the newbies who popped up at the Gate at the Mansion and Welcome Palaces. TPI's recruitment incentive plan attempted to reinforce such efforts. Ideally, personal contact would recruit new members more effectively than automated information or simply letting newcomers wander around on their own. But there was a small price to pay for the new policy. While some wizards assisted and socialized with newbies simply because they wanted to, now there was a financial reward for doing so. In the eyes of some suspicious guests, a friendly wizard represented not simply a benign helper or a potential friend, but rather a business strategy.*
As the wizards grew in numbers, the group started to differentiate (mostly unofficially) into various wizard roles, levels, and types. Some of the categories that I list below overlap. Other categories may be considered different FACETS of a wizard personality. For example, some multi-talented people may combine the features of a "philosophical," "technical" and "task" wizard.
NEWBIE WIZARDS - The new kids on the block. Newbie wizards usually act humble about their elevated station in Palace life. They routinely defer to and accept the guidance from the oldtimers. Perhaps overly eager about their newly acquired powers and the accompanying mission to clean up deviant behavior, a few newbies have been known to get a bit trigger-happy while patrolling the site. Oldtimers tried to reign them in. Activity on the wizard list usually intensifies immediately after the election of new wizards, probably due to the enthusiasm the newcomers bring to the list. It's hard to say how long a wizard retains the label "newbie." It's a state of mind as much as anything else. I've seen wizards whom I considered experienced refer to themselves as newbies. At the very least, one is a newbie wizard until the next round of elections, which is every two or three months.
TRAINERS - Sometimes newbie wizards are assigned sponsors or trainers who show them the ropes. The "buddy system" is a well-known and effective strategy in group development. It offers the newbie a role model and the oldtimer a chance to bolster his or her knowledge, self-esteem, and commitment to the group.
OLDTIMERS - A handful of wizards have been onboard since the very early days of Palace. At the writing of this article, that means a little over a year - which is a fairly long time in the history of a cyberspace community. It's as long as these multimedia chat communities have existed. These oldtimers lived through the many trials, tribulations, and transformations involved in the early childhood development of the Palace software and community. That perspective gives them a definitive edge in understanding Palace. They seem to experience some ambivalence about the rapid growth of Palace. On the one had, they long for the simplicity and intimate atmosphere of the early, SMALL community. On the other hand, they are proud and excited about playing a role in the expansion of the Palace universe.
TECHNICAL WIZARDS - Some wizards are highly knowledgeable about Palace technology. They might have been chosen for wizardship because of their skills. Other wizards respect, admire, envy, or are in downright awe, of these skills. No doubt, their talent and the admiration they receive is a source of self-esteem for the technical wizard. They often are quite generous in sharing their knowledge. For example, they write and share scripts that help other wizards perform their day-to-day chores.
TASK WIZARDS - Some wizards are (using a social-psychological term) "task leaders." They are skilled at organizing and facilitating other users in the accomplishment of a specific project or agenda. As in any group, such people often are identified by others as a clearly visible "leader." People tend to rally around them. In the history of Palace, task leaders became especially important when large technical and/or social events were undertaken, such as the creation of new Palace sites or the highly publicized online concerts.
SOCIO-EMOTIONAL WIZARDS - Some wizards are (again using a social-psychological term) "socio-emotional leaders." They are skilled at handling the social and emotional dynamics of a group - for example, easing tension in the group, encouraging and supporting people, resolving conflicts and building trust among people. At the Palace, socio-emotional wizards are most noticeable in their skill at handling snerts by TALKING to them, rather than using a night stick. Some members stand out as potential wizard material because they are snert-savvy. Socio-emotional wizards will most likely be the ones who find themselves acting as helpers to the members and as counselors to troubled users. Unlike the task leader, socio-emotional leaders usually are NOT identified as group "leaders" even though their role in helping a group carry out it's task is just as important. The skills of a socio-emotional leader usually work subtly beneath the surface of group activity. Only rarely can one person act as both task and socio-emotional leader, since these roles often conflict (i.e., the boss can't always be "nice"). Socio-emotional wizards tend not to dwell on the "policing" functions and do not like to emphasize this aspect of wizard responsibilities.
PHILOSOPHICAL WIZARDS - These are the intellectuals of the group who like abstract discussions about Palace, such as it's purpose as a virtual community, or what constitutes "anonymity" and "deviance."
HIRED WIZARDS - Most wizards are volunteers. Some have been paid employees of the company. With a very few exceptions, most TPI-employed wizards were not hired from the wizard ranks. They were original members of the Palace team at Time-Warner or were later hired by TPI (when it incorporated) and given the wizard password. In many important respects, the TPI/EC officials are the innermost circle of the Palace world. That's where the most important decisions about Palace software - and by consequence, the Palace community - are made. To rise within the ranks from Palace member to Hired Wizard is the ultimate achievement for those ambitious users who have their eye on upwardly mobility in the social hierarchy. Because one has attained a "higher" status, the "promotion" might result in respect, admiration, envy, or alienation from the other wizards. Wizards hired from within the ranks are given specific responsibilities above and beyond those of the volunteer wizard - for example, doing tech support work or managing special events.
THE WIZARD "MANAGER" - In the Fall of 1996 the wizard clan decided to elect a "chairperson." Ph's horse - a widely respected and liked oldtimer - was selected for the job, although he thinks the term "wizard manager" might be more accurate. His original mission was twofold. Because the wizard clan had grown to over 50, the group discussions and decision-making on the mailing list had became more complex - and at times chaotic and hostile. As the list facilitator (some might say "mother"), Ph helped organize and temper the list activities. He also acted as liaison between the wizards and the TPI officials. With their hands full trying to run the business end of Palace, the TPI folks (especially the highly respected Jim Bumgardner) had become less active on the mailing list, leaving the wizards wondering whether they were abandoned and home alone without the feedback and guidance they were used to. The TPI officials needed someone to keep them informed of the wizard activity and to keep the wizards informed of TPI activity. Over time, Ph's role shifted in emphasis. "True, I was originally portrayed as a sort of chairperson by Jim," Ph stated after reading this section of this article, "but 'officially', I have become more involved with TPI's interests and making sure the Wizard group is tuned to that." Despite being the "alpha male" (as one wizard described him), Ph's leadership style usually leans in the democratic, laissez-faire direction - a style similar to that of Bumgardner, the alpha male of the Palace universe and prior leader of the list. As the wizard group and the community get larger, more complex, and sometimes more chaotic, Ph's style may become more authoritative.
HONORARY WIZARDS - Members invited to become wizards usually have been spending a great deal time at the Palace. Once elected, they are expected to maintain their attendance and help out. An exception to this rule are Honorary Wizards. They are invited to the group out of respect for their accomplishments and/or for some contribution they can make to the wizard group (other than working the sites). A good example is Randy Farmer, one of the pioneers of graphical chat environments. AsKi (me) is also an Honorary Wizard.
WELCOME WIZARDS - In the Winter of 1997, TPI encouraged the selection of wizards to work specifically at the Welcome site. Because newbies signing on for the first time defaulted to this site, TPI wanted to insure that there were enough wizards to help them, recruit them, and control any offensive snerts whose behavior might drive people away from registering. To encourage the Welcome wizards to remain at Welcome (rather than move to Mansion where most wizards hang out), they were given the wizard password only for that site. On the wizard list, debates arose as to whether the Welcome wizards might feel one-down since they could not wiz at Mansion, and whether different "classes" of wizards were evolving. In the past, the wizards tended to be critical of anything that might lead to a class distinction. Shortly after the Welcome wizards came onboard, they were given the password to Mansion and welcomed as "regular" TPI wizards, like all the rest.
WIZARD HELPERS - At Welcome, some members are selected as "Helpers" who assisted wizards in greeting, educating, and recruiting new arrivals. These Helpers, as well as members of the Magus, fall somewhere between members and wizards in the social hierarchy. It wouldn't be surprising if Helpers had their eye on an eventual promotion to wizardship. They probably will be considered as candidates. As the Tao Te Ching states, the one becomes two and the two becomes the many. As soon as a social dichotomy appears in a community, it inevitably leads to further differentiations.
FADING AND DROPOUT WIZARDS - Some wizards become less active at the Palace or disappear completely. They may have grown tired of Palacing, or just of TPI/EC sites. So they move on to other Palace sites, or other cyberspace worlds, or "real" world challenges. They may be disillusioned by the politics and interpersonal conflicts. Some might have had their feelings hurt. Some simply need a temporary break from their "addiction" - which tends to be intensified as a result of becoming a wizard. A universal rule might be that dropouts are not getting what they want or thought they wanted from Palace, whatever that need might be. So they move on. On occasion, active wizards discuss what to do about their fading and dropout comrades. Should they be enticed back? Is it important to find out why they are withdrawing from Palace? (a question that might raise some insecurities and self-doubts in the active wizard's mind) Because it's the wizard' s job to supervise the community, and these dropouts are not pulling their weight, should they be expelled? This hasn't happened yet. The door is left open. You don't eject family. There seems to be an implicit rule that "once a wizard, always a wizard."
Don't Fence Us In
As the community grows, there has been a force among the wizards that resists the inevitable movement towards social differentiation and legislation. Traditionally, the wizard group has been very free-form. They didn't like the idea of class distinctions. They didn't like too many rules or regulations. They didn't particularly like the idea of having "leaders" and probably only accepted TPI officials as authority figures because TPI had been very anti-autocratic and respectful of wizard self-regulation. These egalitarian and independent-minded attitudes are inherent in basic internet ideology as well in the original Palace philosophy.
The self-regulatory and free-form quality of the wizard group is both its strength and weakness. It makes the group flexible and adaptable. It gives the wizards a feeling of ownership for their group. The big question is whether these qualities can adapt to the strains of an expanding, increasingly more complex community. For a large and integrated community to survive, rules, regulations, class distinctions, and hierarchies of authority may be both unavoidable and necessary.
Making WizThe Carrot
Most members would like to become a wizard. The more you hang out at Palace, the more noticeable and attractive wizardship becomes. A few members say that they're not concerned about it. Some of those users may be rationalizing their disinterest. There's no sense in longing for something that probably won't happen. Wanting wizardship is an understandable desire. Wizards seem to have a special status. They seem to know everyone and everything in the Palace universe, and everyone seems to know and want to talk to them. Sort of like a hybrid between a Zen Master and a rock star, except wizards can't easily sing a tune (at least, not at the Palace). Most impressively, they have those unique powers to pin and kill, which enables them to triumph over evil almost EVERY time.
Being asked to become a wizard often is a powerful experience for a user. It is an acceptance into an inner circle of the Palace community. It fulfills that need for status, power, identity, and the feeling that one belongs. Making wizard means that you were special and stood out. It meant that your skills and knowledge were both valued and needed in the service of the community. Here's how one oldtimer described it:
My most memorable early Palace moment was when jbum asked me if I wanted to be a wizard. I was overwhelmed. I remember my heart beating faster, and getting flushed. Wow! Of course I said yes, and he told me that I would be initiated, and when. I was amazed.... I'll never forget my initiation. I was so terribly excited that day, as I waited for the appointed hour to meet jbum on Main. I went to the cafe as instructed, and was totally confused. Where was everyone? Then Spingo came in and whispered to me to utter an incantation and I was magically transported to a room I didn't know existed! It was a hidden room, Murmoorerer, a copy of the Moor. My whole family crowded around the monitor to watch, and I was so excited I could barely type!... As I remember, Coyote, jbum, Digital, Spingo, Sleepy and dChurch were the only ones there that night. Because of the top secret nature of the Wizard Induction Ceremony, I cannot divulge what occurred after that to the general Palace public. Needless to say, it was thrilling, enchanting and hysterically funny!As the Palace population grew, making TPI wizard became an even more distinctive achievement because one was being selected out of the masses. Wizardship became an important motivating factor for some users. It encouraged them to spend more time Palacing, befriending wizards, and making some contribution to the community that would distinguish them from everyone else.
Coming into the Fold (stages in wizard elections)
Every three months or so, new wizards are chosen. The formal election process takes place mostly on the wizard mailing list. Undoubtedly, there also is hidden lobbying and campaigning taking place at the Palace sites and via e-mail. The election process on the list is rather free-form, which on occasion has led to some confusion and complaints about whether the right choices were made. Usually the process is fast paced, taking no more than a few days. The election usually happens in 7 stages:
STAGE 1: DETERMINING THE NEED - Either a volunteer wizard or TPI/EC official mentions on the mailing list that more coverage is needed on the company's sites. The slack in wizard presence might be at specific times of the day or at specific locations (usually Welcome). The impetus for choosing new wizards is therefore need-driven. At times the process is a bit pressured because of that need. If the call for more wizards is coming from the volunteers (rather than the company), the list might discuss the problem with coverage and then attempt to convince the company to give the go-ahead for nominations. The most critical issue is to determine exactly HOW MANY new wizards are needed. Not making that specific determination has lead to confusions and controversy in the election process.
STAGE 2: NOMINATIONS - With the company's approval, an announcement is made to the list to "start nominating." Names are tossed out. The merits of each nominee are discussed. List activity reaches an all-time peak (wizards take the election of new wizards very seriously). The most commonly mentioned merits of a nominee include: (a) the person is friendly, mature, helpful or generically "great," (b) the person is good at handling snerts and/or helping new users, (c) the person is knowledgeable about Palace technology and culture, and, most importantly, (c) the person is online a lot (especially important if they are online at the time and place that coverage is needed).
STAGE 3: VOTING - A list of nominees grows and is continually circulated to the list. The Chairperson keeps track of who endorses which nominees and usually includes the tallies on the list. This stage is intertwined with the nomination stage. In other words, campaigning, nominations, debates, and elections are all occurring simultaneously - which can lead to confusion and controversy. The exact criteria for who "wins" the election varies from one election to another. Generally speaking, the nominees with the most votes win.
STAGE 4: COMPANY APPROVAL - When stage 3 seems to be tapering off, the results of the voting are sent to the company for their approval. Rarely (if at all) has the company overturned the results of the elections. They trust the judgment of the wizards. To overturn the elections would be a serious blow to the confidence and pride of the wizard group. Electing new wizards is the only group decision made by the wizards that occurs on a regular basis and leads to a very specific and important outcome. Most other important decisions are made within the company. Electing new wizards is essential to the self-esteem and self-efficacy of the wizard group.
STAGE 5: NOTIFICATION - Company officials notify the members that they have been chosen for wizardship. To avoid crashed hopes, a rule of thumb is that members are NOT informed of their having being nominated. The election process is secretive, although leaks probably occur (most likely from wizards who are nominating their friends). Unlike real world elections, those chosen for wizardship may have no idea that they have been elected until after the elections. To my knowledge, no one has ever turned down the appointment.
STAGE 6: THE INDUCTION - At a formal gathering, the new wizards are initiated into the fold. A few traditions have evolved for the ceremony. The initiates line up at the bottom of the screen and take their oath - usually a humorous pledge that highlights the woes and/or grandiosity of being a wizard, and the questionable sanity of anyone who would agree to becoming one. Then they are all ceremoniously pinned, which usually triggers a round of LOLs, feigned cries for help, and screeches of delight (if they haven't learned yet how to unpin themselves, some older wizard must take pity and do it for them). Sometimes the pinning party spreads to consume everyone in the room. Scripts are played to demonstrate wizardly magic - like transforming everyone's avatar into the three stooges. It's all a cathartic release of wizardly frustrations and a bonding in the experience of what it means to be a wizard. Finally, when the company official in charge eventually quiets the rambunctious group, some serious topics of discussion are introduced. The topics reflect the technical and social issues of the day - usually some problem that is facing the community.
STAGE 7: STARTING WORK - The new wizards jump head first into their work. Training sessions, on-site sponsors, and written documentation (e.g., the Wizard Manual written by Bumgardner) may help ease them into the technical and social aspects of the job. They also join the mailing list, where they are greeted with rounds of warm welcomes, friendly insults, and more jokes about the woes, grandiosity, and questionable sanity of being a wizard.
Guidelines for the WannaBe
Exactly how does one go about achieving wizardship? Below are some generally accepted, "unofficial" guidelines at Mansion. The rules may be different at non-company sites, but a lot of these ideas are good common sense anywhere.
DON'T ASK TO BE WIZARD - This rule of thumb, originally proposed by Bumgardner, is a bit paradoxical. It's like really wanting a particular job, but in order to get it you can't apply. Or like Enlightenment, according to the great mystics. If you say you want it, you've already blown your chances. The logic behind this guideline is mostly practical. It's designed to prevent people from campaigning for wizardship and bugging wizards about being inducted. If you're wizard material, and don't ask to be wizard, you're also more likely to be humble and less power hungry. Of course, there's a vast difference between a newbie teenager who hounds and begs to be wizard and a 40 year old, long-standing Palace citizen who in earnest expresses an interest in the position. Some people may simply be curious about the mysterious process of wizard selection. In at least one case, a younger member did actively campaign for the position, got it, and eventually turned out to be a valuable wizard.* So there are flaws in the "don't ask" rule.
In one fascinating (but not entirely verified) story, a member who asked to be a wizard and was not considered "wizard material" switched personae in order to develop a character who WOULD be considered good wizard material. The strategy worked, resulting in heated arguments between wizards who knew about the personae and those who didn't. I wouldn't recommend "deception" as a tactic in attaining wizardship. Although identity play is part of Palace life, doing so to maneuver your way into the wizard clan will not sit well with some members of the establishment.
BE HELPFUL AND KNOWLEDGEABLE - If you're making some kind of useful contribution to the community, you're more likely to be asked to be wizard. Maybe you have valuable technical skills. Maybe you have good social skills, as in making people feel welcome at Palace or handling snerts (converting a snert into a respectful citizen is a HIGHLY admired skill). Or just offer to help out with activities. You don't have to be a genius at Palace technology and social structure, but you must have a good working knowledge of this world. If you have a UNIQUE skill to offer the community, put it to use. If you're a wizard at another site, that might be "job experience" to help you attain another wizard position - although the establishment may worry about your "divided loyalty."
ACT MATURE AND FRIENDLY - People don't like to work with anyone who lies, manipulates, loses their temper, boasts excessively, or puts others down. Wizards are people too. Another rule of thumb among the wizards (which HAS been broken on occasion) is "No males under 25."
BE THERE - Bumgardner stated that wizardship is not a "reward" for people who have been on Palace a long time. In other words, it's not a certificate for longstanding attendance. However, if you're not around a lot, or not very social when you're at the Palace, people just aren't going to know who you are. A big part of most wizardwork *IS* to spend as much time as possible on Palace in order to help people and control the snerts. So, generally speaking, if you don't look like the kind of person who will be online often, you won't be asked to be a wizard. During the election process on the wizard list, the most frequently mentioned merit of a nominee is "he/she is around a lot."
BEFRIEND THE WIZARDS - If the wizards don't know you, you won't be asked to be a wizard. Duh. So talk to them, help them. If you're around a lot, this will happen naturally. DON'T be an opportunistic sycophant. Nobody likes an avatar with a brown nose.
Putting aside all these guidelines, it's important once again to remember that being asked to become a wizard is NOT a reward for good behavior or attendance. As if you're still in high school and accumulating points for being a good do-be. Some people get angry when they feel they've "met" the above criteria and still haven't been invited into wizdom. They get bitter when they see themselves being passed over for the big promotion. It's NOT A REWARD, they may be told.... But it sure often feels like that to people who ARE invited to wizardship.
The following are comments by wizards and TPI officials who have read this article. Asterisks (*) in the article are linked to these comments.
Drover: "Geez the more I looked at your piece the more it reminded me of how similar being a police officer and being a wizard is........strange how the two kind of meld together."
Randi: "[This] is really harsh I think. Makes us sound like Miami Vice or something. Whether it's true or not is a different story. ;-) I also recall someone telling us that we are NOT to think of ourselves as the 'police'".
Janet: "I never 'patrol'. But again I can only speak for myself. I hate the thought of any wizs 'patrolling' however and hope that none have this mindset. It's not that we do not have a policing function, I just thought that it shouldn't be presented as the main/primary function.
Glide: (summarizing Chrissy) "We dont sign on... with intent to kill, pin, mute, whatever. Wizzing should be secondary to Palace experiences. I deal with the room I am in... if a situation arises, I take care of business, if I get a page for help, I respond to it accordingly. Please dont hunt and peck these folks out, don't hold grudges.... Treat each as an individual, like YOU would want to be treated."
jbum: "I'm not so sure if wizards are any more offended by being impersonated than anyone else... it's just that they have more power to do something about it. The major concern here, I think, is the potential "general confusion among the members" as you put it... As palace spokespeople, the wizards clearly do have a concern that the message is clear or at least as close to clear as they can make it."
(The interesting thing about impersonating a wiz is that it's different than impersonating another member by using that person's name and avatar. Impersonating a wiz may simply involve impersonating the "status" of wiz and not the identity of a particular wiz. It's like "impersonating an officer." - J.S.)
jbum: "Wow. As someone with an intense dislike of things "white bready", this one scares me. I think the onus for this one should be put on TPI, rather than the wizards. I think one of the big challenges for TPI over the next couple years is going to be to preserve the Palace's inherent sillyness while attempting to turn it into a roaring success. A few notes here..."
"First of all, we don't have to be lewd to be lunatics. Lunacy is, and should continue to be a highly valued Palace commodity. Although the rules are getting stricter regarding "indecent" avatars, I see this more a result of communication issues that arise from population expansion more than a change in attitudes. The original "small" palace community wasn't overly fond of scanned lingerie models either, but this community had better communication and a higher level of conciousness."
"Secondly, one of the best things we have going for us are the "self-expression" features in the palace software. I think most of us at TPI realize this and we aren't about to put the curb on it. The ability for the Palace community to mold itself into it's own image will ultimately prevent it from becoming a homogenous lump of dough."
"Finally, I do think we can (and should) expect the quality of life at Main and other TPI servers to be less than the quality of life at smaller servers, due to its larger population. We shouldn't forget that Main does not equal Palace space. No doubt the most interesting things are happening at the fringes, as in the rest of society."
Randi: "Like sit for over an hour with a 12 year old at 5 a.m. trying to walk them through downloading the new client version so they can play with the trial membership. Or about the kids that come and confide about the terrors of the world just looking for an adult figure. We are much more than 'room sweepers' and killers."
Boo Boo Kitty: "I think that one point you're missing in the whole development of other palace sites is the fact that non-TPI sites don't have what I call the "electron gun" pointed at them. Main and Welcome have had the benefit/bane of being the primary server pointed to by the Palace's clients. The constant stream of people is akin to funnelling ants (a jbum metaphor) towards a certain point -- inevitably communities will rise and develop. How can they not?"
"Main and welcome also have the added benefit of having almost constant monitoring (i.e. wizzes online) -- i.e. there's almost always someone home to keep the light on for you (cf. Motel 6 franchises)."
(see the article on the History of Palace for a discussion of the Main Mansion community and the colonization of off-main sites - JS)
Randi: "I tried to ask people to mention my name when I first started wizzing thinking the extra cash was nice, but damn if I didn't feel like an amway salesman. I don't want people thinking that that is the only reason I'm helping them. It's not the reason I help."
Peg: "I try to be a kinder, gentler wiz to cause the least amount of disruption as possible. There are some who attempt to "egg on" a power trip by saying "smoke him, Peg" and other wonderful things.... I let them know I'm just a palace bouncer, cyber rent-a-cop, virtual mom etc... I've had alot of teens tell me I sound "just like mom" when talking to them about their behaviors online. ROFL I figure I must be doing something right then."
markj: "Originally, he campaigned for Wiz very heavily. He made little signs and left them all over the place. He began his illustrious career with us by hanging out on Rainbow (the experimental server we put up and gave out the wiz password to) and used his newfound powers to unceremoniously boot people out as they arrived. Ping! You were in Rainbow and then Ping! You've been kicked out. He would just stay at the gate and do this, deriving all kinds of adolescent pleasure from it.... Of course, we were not about to hand over the keys to the kingdom to this guy!... But then, he changed. He became much more interested in the community as a whole and in being a positive contributor. In time *I* started to push on everyone -- even jbum -- to let him in. Others started speaking up for him also, and eventually he was let in and made a pretty good wiz for a long time. He also continued from time to time to exhibit "young" judgement, but overall I think he did pretty well."
Janet: "I have never felt that frustration you mention about having powers and being unable to use them. Once again, only speaking for myself. And I'm not a scripting type wiz."
Janet: "Just today, I had a guest who under different circumstances might have gotten himself killed. I believe that he was merely acting hostile in response to obnoxious treatment by a member. But when I came in the room, he was being abusive. After speaking with him briefly and explaining what the consequences of his actions would be, he made a comment along the lines of 'I'm not gonna cry for mommy, I can handle myself.' This seems to be the other extreme of what you are explaining here."