Personal Experience with Operant Conditioning
I joined the website http://www.teamliquid.net/ on December 12, 2006. As of September 15, 2008, I have posted 3,362 times. Team Liquid is not your average online community. It is an internet forum based on a computer game called Starcraft, which was created by Blizzard Entertainment in 1998. The website was founded in early 2002, and has since grown to become the premiere English-based community for Starcraft. Team Liquid’s focus is special as it is the best English-language site to learn the latest news in the Korean professional Starcraft circuit. (Yes, Korea has a professional Starcraft scene.) Players can make large salaries playing a computer game for hours daily. However, competition is very stiff and one you reach the top, it is extremely difficult to maintain your dominance.
Team Liquid’s defining characteristic is that it is very intolerant of stupid behavior. This includes making immature comments, cracking jokes that are in bad taste, and also posting without content, such as one-word or one-line replies. In fact, Team Liquid even has an official “Ten Commandments” where it clearly iterates what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Here are a few of the commandments for example: Thou shall think before posting; Thou shall not spam; Thou shall respect forum veterans; and Thou shall contribute to the site. Failure to live up to these standards will inevitably lead to a ban. The administrators and moderators of the website are not shy about banning members who are deemed at fault. On any given day, one or two members will be banned. Every year, there is an annual “purge,” where many of members are banned within a short span of time.
When I first joined the website, all these rules were a bit intimidating. Initially, I did not post much in fear of getting banned. However, after a week or so I started posting more frequently. When viewing my post history, I notice that the vast majority of my early posts were of the “Go Player X!” or “Player Y stinks!” variety. Eventually I started getting into live-reporting. This is one of the easiest ways to contribute to the site. Some people watch the games broadcasted live via internet stream and post play-by-play written commentary of what is occurring. This helps people without access to the stream or those who read the thread the next day get caught up with all the action.
However, there is one obstacle that separates the South Korean progaming industry and the rest of the world. The language barrier makes it very difficult for non-Koreans to access the information that they want. At the time I joined the site, there were already several well-known Korean members who translated articles from Korean into English. I decided to follow their precedent, as this would be a great way for me to contribute, as well. Since one of my majors is Korean, it was beneficial for me to practice translating.
Eventually, I became a “veteran member” myself, and gained recognition from the staff and community for my contributions. Most recently, I was offered a free ticket to BlizzCon, an annual gaming convention in Anaheim hosted by Blizzard Entertainment. The market value of the ticket is approximately 100 dollars.
One may become a member of the staff by being an outstanding contributor. In fact, nearly every single current staff member was picked to be staff due to their involvement with the website. This is a great system because it ensures that anyone on staff has truly deserved it. Also, all are capable of fulfilling their obligations because they already have a great track record.
This system of rewards and promotions in combination, with the constant possibility of being banned regardless of veteran status, causes members to behave more appropriately than other forums that have a user base with similar demographics. A high standard of posting gives legitimacy to the website, as can be seen by Blizzard Entertainment employees reading various articles on Team Liquid for feedback about their game. It also encourages new members to become contributing members themselves in whatever way possible. I have personally experienced this, and have reaped the benefits of playing a helpful role on the site. This reinforces my desire to contribute to the site. I am doubly motivated to help improve the site, and I look forward to what new innovations other members will create for Team Liquid.