Oded told me about a major website vandalizing the Consumer Electronics Show by turning off TV monitors using a remote control. They took down entire walls of monitors and interrupted presentations.

Sorry, guys, but this is just like shoplifting or spam or breaking windows. It’s not ‘no big deal’, it’s a very big deal. Here’s why:

First, in a society where we make concepts, services and ideas as opposed to stuff, breaking that process is identical to breaking the stuff was back then. In other words, it’s vandalism.

Worse, what happens when everyone does it? I remember getting my first piece of spam in 1995 or so. Back then, one piece a day was no big deal. But 500 people at CES would be enough to bring the entire show down. Can I protect my monitor with a piece of black electrical tape? Sure. But why should I have to give up using my (authorized) remote in order to put on a public display that people are actually paying to see? When there’s two or three or five people at every movie with a laser pointer, the movie is no longer fun to watch.

Here’s the downside of the openness that the Web is promoting: the next group of people coming online from around the world will have a lot more to gain by gaming the system, by running confidence games, by spamming comments, by figuring out how to rip you off… It’s a lot easier to leave the doors of your house unlocked when you live in a remote village–one where everyone knows your name.

If the standard of the culture we’re building online is already low, then it makes it even easier for organized crime (and just plain disorganized scammers) to have a serious impact on the rest of us. Anonymity is the enemy, whether it’s online or walking around a trade show with a clicker in your pocket.

Tolerating vandalism doesn’t seem to have a lot of upside for the community, imho.