Perhaps it's just a byproduct of the digital world's need to be constantly entertained, but it seems that the mantra of the Web 2.0 era has become "interaction, whenever possible, whether needed or not." Even the most erudite among us have been blinded by this phase, and have proceeded to build entire businesses on the premise that users want to be involved in everything that they see and do.
But this isn't a critique of Newsvine, or del.ici.ous or any of the cavalcade of other social Internet sites that have sprung up in recent months. Hell, it's not even a half-hearted swipe at Web 2.0. Mostly, it's just concern about the concept of news "guilds."
At first blush, the idea of a guild is reasonable: why not allow users of a site as involved as Newsvine to group themselves? Internet publishing has taken on the form of a self-sustaining, multi-headed organism, each head of which is comprised of a gaggle of the angry, opinionated masses which happen to share the same things to be angry about. Organization seems like the easiest way to filter out redundancy and promote higher-quality discourse and writing.
The real issue with a guild of users, as well as the whole "Positive Feedback" tag I see below my name now, isn't the intentions behind it, but what it tends to do to users. There are plenty of benefits to user organization, but the very idea of opening the door for users to discriminate against each other with some quantifiable criteria strikes me as moderately objectionable. Users become free to view feedback numbers and guild membership as reason to discredit or herald the blathering (or not) of a particular poster, which defeats the whole idea of having the ability for anyone to contribute.
Here's the quickest example to look at: Plastic.com. Plastic uses a system called Karma to give users commendation based on the relative usefulness of their comments and articles. The only reason the Karma system works is because when articles are contributed and put in the submission queue for peer review, the name of the poster is never given. There's no telling whether a post comes from a well-established member of the community or from someone entirely unknown. Articles, therefore, are judged exclusively on their merits, without any of the messy interpersonal association that can taint "good" news, ensuring that new users are given an equal chance to establish themselves.
But on a site like Newsvine, where a user's name is attached to everything, the concept of a Karma-like system, or even guilds, is a little more troublesome. A guild of users might become a voting bloc, ignoring community standards to serve egotistical needs. Alternatively, certain guilds might gain MMORPG-like notoriety and have their output heralded by default, and their members crowned as something of an artificial elite of the syndication world.
That kind of publishing elite is something that Newsvine, in its relative infancy, has the ability and obligation to avoid. The only question is whether those who care for the site will have the rationality to do so.