Chess clubs and other competitive groups often have a "ladder" --- a ranked list of players --- to foster friendly rivalry and maintain a long-term record of performance in a simple, visual fashion. Play a challenge match against someone near your rung of the ladder: if you win you move up, while s/he moves down. New members start in the middle but soon settle into a zone where they can find good, well-balanced competition.

In another sphere: bad driving is endemic. Dolts behind the wheel swerve, cut in line, fail to signal, disrupt the flow of traffic, and otherwise cause accidents for the innocent parties who are just trying to get around. Feedback loops --- tickets, higher insurance rates, and the like --- are too slow and sporadic to ensure decent behavior by the thoughtless.

Modest Proposal: rank drivers, in a visible way, based on their historical performance. Assign license plates or color-keyed stickers, starting in the middle of the spectrum and moving up or down based on year-by-year ratings. Include positive and negative feedback ---- kudos and pings --- awarded by witnesses to good or bad activity. Filter out shills and cliques that attempt to boost scores by faking reports. Give extra weight to red-light cameras, police reports, insurance company claim histories, and other quasi-objective inputs.

Then when somebody with a crimson "Z minus" sticker blitzes by, you can keep a close eye out for bad behavior --- knowing that they've got a history of rudeness --- and perhaps thereby avoid trouble. Contrariwise, when an out-of-towner bearing a green "A plus" picks the wrong lane and has to merge at the last moment, make rooom with the realization that it's an exception and not a habit. In both cases safety is improved by having a clear reputation-indication.

TopicHumor - TopicSociety - 2004-10-29

(correlates: BrakeTax, IdeaChampions, WarGames, ...)