ENTRY 257: The Black Spot
Rep systems are more than networks of mutual cooperation where friends upvote each other so that they can all enjoy the benefits of the one with the highest rep. Reputation systems are also societies and family-substitutes in their own way, with their own etiquette and relationships. They are designed to help members get what they need, but they are not designed to help members get what they want. This is a distinction that many egos sometimes fail to grasp, and so many a greedy, self-centered, individual has been perplexed at how low their reputation score is, and why they cannot seem to improve it when others seem to get nice things…and there are the truly give-nothing-back types who seek to game the system to their own advantage and the detriment of others. This type of regressive behavior is usually recognized quite quickly by members of the network that know the signs, and if the several warnings and helpful and frank advice don’t work to curb the individual’s network-destructive ways, then the individual’s account is typically blackmarked, and the individual is effectively ostracized from the rep system. Whatever their score was before, whatever deeds they had done to earn any reputation, they are now considered persona non grata, often deliberately ignored and suffering social repercussions beyond the immediate extant of their network—in a small enough habitat dominated by a particular rep system, a morph might even starve to death if they become blackmarked. In some rep systems, network members even lose rep if they are known to help someone whom the network has blackmarked.
Yet being blackmarked is not the end. Rep systems are designed for the promotion of charitable and equitable giving between all members, even those with black marks on their record. So it is that most rep systems also include the Black Spot, a special designation among the blackmarked that signals out an individual who has the potential to learn and become a useful and contributing member of the network. Transhumans that help intercede on behalf of an individual with the Black Spot and set them on the course to participating fully with the rep system typically receive generous boosts in rep in return. In the war of ideology, the Black Spots represent those converts that the rep systems are most wanting to make, the regressives and atavists whose greed caused so much turmoil in traditional socio-economic systems, and if they can bring these prodigal transhumans back into the fold, then the members of the network generally consider it well worth the time and expenditure of resources. One the individual with the Black Spot has managed to work off their black mark through show of recalcitrance, good faith, and works, the Black Spot passes on to some other blackmarked member.
The Black Spot is an optional addendum to the rep rules, generally reserved either for storytelling opportunities or when a player character has basically used, abused, and burned out most of their rep in one or more systems. Rather than just kick the character out of the network entirely, the rep system algorithms or admins decide to mark the character out for corrective action. For a PC, this means various characters will arrive in their life attempting to guide them back to the path of being a contributing member of the rep system—often a matter of a good deal of selfless work, although sometimes one big act will earn a lot of forgiveness. The exact details are up to the gamemaster, but should generally tailor them to the system in question. An r-rep Black Spot, for example, will earn the character several offers to assist in scientific research and endeavors for the good of the Research Network Associates, under the guidance of a senior researcher. Guanxi Black Spots are given the opportunity to prove their worth and trust in a series of criminal activities. @-rep Black Spots generally invite the character to give classes on whatever their particular skillset is. In each case, the Black Spot character is not given a blank slate, nor is their rep restored or black mark removed—they are simply given the opportunity, if they can rise to the occasion, to dig themselves out of the negative rep hole they’ve dug themselves, and if they prove willing they will receive help and guidance from individual network members (who themselves earn rep by helping the Black Spot character) along the way.