The MMO community is an odd group. We're cynical, dismissive, opinionated and incredibly demanding. At the same time we are also incredibly naive, lazy and a bunch of drama-loving gossips. It's a weird mix, and one that sees a lot of discussion created without ever bothering to go back to checking the facts.
For example, their was a minor scandal recently when it was revealed that Ferraro, a cute blonde woman running a Paladin information blog, was actually stealing pictures from another site, so probably wasn't a cute blonde woman after all. Then she said she was seven people, which was quickly questioned as being a highly suspicious claim and it being likely s/he was lying again. That it took 5 years for someone to uncover this wasn't a case of "no-one really car[ing]", but a case of taking things at face value. If no-one cared about identity (and gender), then this wouldn't have been the drama that it was. (Looking today, Ferraro's blog is back up with its Paladin guides.)
Remember back to last year and the news that recruiters weren't hiring WoW players? Perhaps you even saw it in the New York Times. That all came from one discussion between one person and his recruiter friend in Australia. Apparently some unnamed employers in the online media field have had some bad experiences with WoW players and don't want them hired... especially if they are so enamoured in WoW / online gaming that they include it in their resume and / or on their work clothes. It was a minor point of interest that the original poster thought worth commenting on when on their usual MMO forum, then Raph Koster picked it up and before common sense could catch up with the 'Create Entry' button MMO players on forums all over were commenting widely how stupid it was they might possibly not be employed for playing WoW. Which was never an issue, unless you were going for a job in the online media industry in Australia through this recruiter (and didn't know well enough that the correct answer to, "So, what are your hobbies?" doesn't include, "I dress up as a sexy Night Elf Hunter and pwn n00bs hard in Barrens' chat.").
Most recently there was the story that a Russian porn star was going to have an RMT site's URL tattooed across her large breasts for $500 000. It was posted across forums all over - particularly tinged with a 'is there anything RMT sites won't stoop to?' vibe, until a bit of common sense revealed that it was all a publicity stunt. And one that worked very well too, with MMO-related forums doing a lot of free advertising for the RMT company.
I mentioned DD breasts in the title, but this is the only picture in the article. Hmmm.
There have been other cases and I'm sure they will continue in the future. For all the commentary that the internet generation (such as it is) is savvy and digital natives - which should mean that they see through these kind of things easily - I don't see it happening. It doesn't take much - a cute face, a news story with sex or money involved, whatever - for someone to throw a link up on a forum and go, "What do you think about this?" that leads to obviously weak (if not outright wrong) information being flung all over the web.
People rarely click back to the original link - to check the context of the quote or story, to ensure that what they are being told is actually on target - but are instead quite content to take things at face value. And that's face value on an internet forum / blog site, which most normal people would admit should be considered to have as much informational integrity as the Iraqi Information Minister.
At this point, here's a question: did any of the links I included above actually link to the things I said they did? Did you check? Or did you take it at face value? I think I linked to the right articles, but perhaps I didn't. However, simply having the links there make what I say look a lot more authoritative.
MMO players trust text. It's a core part of both the internet and gameplay. However, just because it is written down, it doesn't mean we should take it at face value. And we should always, always check back to the original link before commenting on something.