For shame: Gotcha Web sites

Cut off in traffic? Report people's bad behavior.

Elsa Wenzel

Most social networking sites are built to help people make friends and play nicely with each other. In this era of digital exhibitionism and surveillance, however, a new generation of Web sites exists to out people for their public wrongdoings. This Wall Street Journal story (free preview) tracks the rise of "the snoop next door." Some highlights:

PlateWire lets you connect with other drivers by their license plate numbers, whether you need to express road rage or puppy love. Caughtya lets you tattle on those who park in the disabled spot. Holla Back NYC exposes pervy Santas and subway riders. RudePeople is a repository of horror stories about cell phones in the cineplex and so on. LitterButt is self-explanatory.
CaughtYa tracks people who park in spaces reserved for the disabled.
Park where you shouldn't?

However, none of these sites have that Ajax-y look and feel that scream "Web 2.0!" Maybe you'll be motivated to seek angel funding for your snazzy new social networking site that will keep tabs on your neighbors' devilish behavior.

Participating in a culture of shame is therapeutic when you want to lash out against the exploits of the wannabe Paris Hiltons, the lazy dog owners, and the incompetent drivers of the world. On the other hand, it might also make you watch your own back too studiously. And we should be careful not to catch innocents in the net, torturing 21st-century Hester Prynnes in the process.