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« The Lordfly Demographic | Main | Good Godwin »

January 14, 2006

Comments

Justice Soothsayer

Outstanding explanation, and a very apt analogy.

In addition, when the Pizza Guy steals LL, at least Phillip can call the cops. No such rule of law exists in SL, and I am coming to believe that its absence stunts the growth of the SL economy.

Khamon

This is a very well written article, one that Philip et al at Linden Lab should read and take to heart.

Prokofy Neva

Justice, it's not just that we can't call the cops (or more properly, that the cops will turn out to be merely the Pizza Guy's alt, brothers, or fathers, i.e. Lindens who five minutes ago were residents, who have networks and possibly axes to grind). The problem is that no steps are taken to prevent the Pizza Guy's theft in the first place.

If you really believe a just rule of law should prevail over the group-think collectivism socialist ideology that some coders advocae *instead of law* or the Darwinist Randian slash-and-burn capitalism that some designers advocate *instead of law* then do not support the collectist or fascistic ideologies that are being purveyed in the name of "not giving into Prok's ideology".

Khamon, I view the discussion of political systems, and the frank condemnation of socialism of this forced distributive type, to be absolutely vital to this discussion. You want to throw it out and it seems "tired" or "a drumbeat" to you. But you aren't grappling with this problem as one of a set of mind memes and zealotries that grip a certain determined minority in Linden Lab and in the resident population who keep pushing these types of tools at us, in the mistaken belief that maybe this time, they can get that utopian ideal finally fulfilled on earth.

I noticed Dianne Mechanique, an avowed socialist, tries this gambit by trying to portray me as somehow "blind" to the notion that "I have an ideology, too". Well, all systems of thoughts are ideologies in a sense, but look closely at what the "liberal ideology" advocates: tolerance for the socialist ideology -- the very socialist ideology that ruins the world, that ruins liberalism itself, which itself likes to stamp out other ideologies.

Dianne, like others, imagines herself to be "the norm" or "at the center" and someone like Prok to be "out there" and "with a terrible hidden agenda" blah blah. Nothing of the kind. The problem is that Dianne or Ulrika or Gwyn or whomever in fact are in the distinct minority, and in fact trying to portray their set of elaborate and very distinct ideological platforms as "the norm" when it isn't.

Notice I said that this forced distributive justice is not what the market choses, and not what people chose in SL. There are NOT hundreds of projects of happy campers equally sharing and distributing sims that are all cooperatives with non-capitalist bonds and eco stores and non-exploitative land dealing blah blah blah. They don't exist. They are a FICTION.

See, that's what I hate MOST about socialism. It is always fake, always trying to rewrite and cover up reality, always trying to portray its own artificial hot-house model as a living breathing organism when it is death, an artifice, held up falsely with false injections of free sims or people's gifts or their intense labour -- without sense, without awareness, that it does not lead to life and prosperity.

That isn't to say that some modes of capitalism are any different in their rigidity and their disregard of reality, especial human realities. But there's a basic working consensus of the RL society and the synthetic societies of SL that let us know that people do NOT chose to work the tools this way and when they DO chose them, even when they don't make a profit, and don't break even sometimes, they do NOT chose to use them this way, but devise dozens of strategems to work AROUND them.

Just because a few communists and skins and squatters and anarchists from W-HAT or SA can invade every town hall and every public meeting and heckle with outdated radical and hysterical communist ideas doesn't mean there is some kind of viability of this as a platform, some real sort of legitimacy and movement that is genuinely supported by people with awareness and intelligence. It is not.

So often I find young people in SL, like at our meeting at the Dam last night, spouting communist tripe without a clue in their pretty little heads about what they are talking about, and who really has to pay for stuff and do the work. Communism is always easiest to have as an ideology on Daddy's dime.

I find it's very important to be as intense and as visible and even cartoonish about this very distinct ideological problem in SL precisely because everybody thinks they are so kewl and modern and that there are no ideologies like this anymore.

But of course there are. That's why we have the dumbass tools that we do.

Dianne, like various Lindens discussing this, claim it's just a default, a generic, not thought out, not deliberate. Hell, no. It sure is HELL deliberate and very much part and parcel of the Better World faction at SL. And that's why it has to be ruthlessly exposed as unviable, or they will try to keep putting money and influence to once again try socialist experiments on the backs of the people who actually suffer from them most -- even as they have no consequences. This is an old story.

These tools got this way because people assumed they'd work, and their ideology was inchoate or unexamined perhaps. But I see that the way in which people are prepared to fight even very viciously to keep them, slandering those who just want to manage a property (like Travis describes, for example) even without any capitalist agenda, as "tyrants".

forseti

yes

RL corporate structures, roles, rules and checkpoints evolved for a reason.

Entrepreneurs like Philip depend on those rules to run an effective organization.

What are some examples Philip probably relies on? LL contracts should be signed only by an officer... checks above a certain limit usually require two signatures... LL's bank accounts are managed by a select group of people only, who take care of distributing cash to employees and subcontractors. And LL's investors have a whole set of rules as well that they rely on, baked into such things as the articles of incorporation and the VC term sheet.

Silicon Valley would not be the vibrant engine of creation it is without such things.

This does not change because we're in a virtual world -- rather rules and structures become EVEN MORE IMPORTANT because of the globally distributed and often anonymous nature of online business relationships.

good post

Prokofy Neva

yes, the concept of the two signatures that must be authorized by the board and presented to the bank with verified signatures -- very good call, an equivalent to the founder and then granting founder/return prim status to one or more other officers, and in fact the kind of thing some day you hope would be built into "company in a box" tools.

Kyrah Abattoir

the pizza guy ^^

already running out of ideas to use this discutable analogy to fuel your propaganda?

Huh

what the hell is a "discutable analogy" ?

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Thumbs-up on one of the best comments on why the current group tools are basically worthless. Hopefully it won't be the Pizza Guys that will rewrite the rules — but the CEO.

Cocoanut Koala

Excellent.

coco

firefly

you're an ageist. some of those young 'uns are pretty smart, despite you're constant put downs.

omgomgomg

O_o I can't belive I actually kinda agree with Prokofy on this one o_O

Prokofy Neva

The problem with the concept of "having the CEO write it" is that *this particular CEO* bears responsibility for the current communistic tools as they are now. Whether he did this as some kind of generic default is debatable, but I'm going to go by what Colin Linden once explained to me: that the easier, default coding would have been to allow the founder of the group to be "king" of the whole thing, just as he was in TSO with the power to run the lot, fill the buffet, give build perms, etc.

But instead, a *conscious decisions was made* to override what was the easier default and put in these commune tools. That means people worked harder, and overtime, to make the hippie tools -- they did not just "let them happen".

I'm sorry that I simply must keep drilling on that point, because I find that over and over again, those who are either open or tacit or crypto supporters of the communistic tools keep coming back to claiming this feature is not a conscious choice of LL as a reason why I need to stop hammering about socialism. Or that "they didn't realize it will be used this way. And I dispute that heartily -- whether the people in the coding room, whether the pizza guy, the tools favour social engineering to force equal distribution and forced sharing -- the age-old utopian ideal.

The problem, then, with letting *this CEO* (institutionally speaking, not personally Philip Linden, as he apparently delegated this task to Robin and other community team Lindens) re-do these tools, is that we have no idea if they are still pursuing their social-engineering goals.

LL is a company with a social mission, and a liberal social mission at that. It might be their liberal notions are in fact shared by many of us, but we might have different concepts about how you "effect change" in society. To me, having a million tekkies group-think and mob-justice everybody isn't the way to make social change.

THAT they are after deliberate social change, they make no bones about. When Jesse Linden says "we want to make groups tools to effect change," he means they view tools as having a social mission, a "better world" type mission. Of course, he's admittedly vague on the goals and outcome here when he says "TBD" to me at a town hall meeting. But that he's like a million other young people with vaguely utopian and social-engineering concepts of "sharing to make a better world" I have no doubt.

This is a company easily guilt-tripped about pizza guys. They may feel pizza guys had unhappy, disadvantaged childhoods and needs lots of special attention, educational grants, affirmative action, etc. to become equal to others in life. People war constantly in RL over these concepts of whether you need equal opportunity or equal outcomes by forced equal distribution.

The pizza guy is always ready to take advantage of such sappy idealistic liberals by simply stealing the store.

If you want to understand why I really don't think *this particular CEO* (as a person or as an influencer of a company) can be relied on to do something really different than the hippie tools, read this:

http://secondlife.blogs.com/philip/2005/04/vote.html#more

What I find scary is that he is reading an essay from 1937 (not a good year!) and using it to inform his current thinking. It's not the out-of-date part that bothers me; it's the problem of all the collectivist and utopian ideologies that were floating around in the 1930s, everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to communist to fascism, and the problem in once again turning to these "better world" concepts relying on "group think" to "make people better" and ignoring the realities of human nature and the role of the individual, and for that matter, the state. There's also the problem that this essay of his is a mish-mosh of concepts about corporations, old and new, and then linking that to the problem of voting and democracy, essentially positioning himself to be a kind of "good" Mr. Lee of Greater Hong Kong who's company will morph into a kind of good country.

Follow his reading of these 1937 concepts, then see how he seques into the voting features -- it's interesting, although a muddle.

Philip Linden and his friends are the people we have to thank for a features voting system in which *you cannot vote no*. While this might instantly sound like something from the Soviet Union, the scary part is that when you ask Lindens, including the coding Lindens, why you can't vote "no," rather than say, "golly, gee, we FORGET that! Oop!" they start to mumble all kinds of defensive, justifying crap like:

1) "We want people to be positive and affect positive change".
2) "We don't want people just to complain."
3) "It's an imperfect system, we're working on it."
4) "It's worked great so far, look people were able to ask for p2p and get p2p which really was what people wanted."

Give them five more minutes, and you can be sure they'll be staring into the middle distance and saying, "It's a *good* life..."

I hope some of the people reading this are intelligent enough to see what's awful about all this, how it inexorably leads us to yet another group-think "positive thinking" sort of cult-like utopia.

See, if enough people could have registered "no" on p2p and begun to explain their reasons (128/128 problem not solved first, closed networks being rewarded, telehub issue needs more time to phase out, etc.) then that might have been a mitigating factor in what LL did.

Listen to what Philip writes about customer feedback and how it used to be gained:

"You had to rely instead on the 'experts' you had hired to guess about what people thought about your product. But in Second Life, you can just GO THERE. It takes only seconds to be discussing the impact of a change or asking people what is going on. The cost of very deeply involving people in SL in designing SL is very small - so small that I think it will change things in a profound way."

Perhaps this feeling is obtained for Philip personally by being able to log-on to SL and instantly attract at least 40 people from all over the United States and indeed the world, a random sampling of which often can fairly well tell him what's up with his game.

Well, I'm sorry, but when you have a features system that only votes yes, and can't accommodate complex policy and social issues like "a bill of rights" etc. then you do not have democratic participation in design even if you can make a flash-mob in Dore for Philip.

When you have only five percent reading the forums, you do not have an informed public and you do not have democratic and "deep participation". You only have the skillful engineers you feel are already like-minded as your feted and cossetted future employees and current soundboards. That's not democracy. It's aristocracy. Let's be clear about that.

Look what else our friend Philip cites, as if it is merely "interesting" and not "controversial":

"There is an interesting body of knowledge suggesting that for many many cases, the aggregated opinion of a diverse audience can outperform any single human decision maker. A great book summarizing these studies is 'The Wisdom of Crowds', by James Surowiecki."

I had to endure Iron Perth lecturing me about the "wisdom of crowds" the other day -- in defense of having the group tools stay as the communistic type of tools forcing sharing and equal distribution.

Do you not see how this works???

It's really scary stuff when idealistic engineers like Philip Linden talk about how "groups can outperform individuals". It means they are ready to set up automatic systems that always step on individuals, and that's wrong.

That indeed is what they have now, with their voting system, their system of bans, and their sanitized and heavily controlled forums.

Look at how your friend Philip, Gwyn, talks about the issue of the "needing the class of 40 to make the genius of 1" versus the "feting the one" schools of thought:

"It is certainly the case that innovation is discontinuous and often the brainchild of a single person, but valuing the potential impact of even something fairly hard to imagine will be (I bet) better predicted by a group of diverse users."

So once again, he is predicating the group as superior to even a brilliant individual like himself -- and that's exactly why I am trying to get him to stop giving away the store to the pizza guy.

Frankly, at my own little level, if I have a brainchild, a business in SL, I want to run it, and I don't want the group to run it who haven't paid for it. It's just that simple. And if they do pay for it equally, I want to make sure they answer to a charter or by-laws, and not to their own tekkie concepts of morality -- which as we see from people like Morgaine writing on Philip's blog, include just dumping every community you don't like and flying away to make a new one your own way with My Friends and My Sim, without any consideration of the destructiveness this has for the whole fabric of society.

There is a lot to be worried about in Philip's post about corporations, voting, and customer feedback. It's made difficult by behing scattered and incoherent. It would be better if he could articulate these concepts in more clear, practical terms.

For example, I'm still waiting to hear whether his concept of the "fixed wage" and such means that everyone at LL gets the same salary and has exactly the same stock options.

Kyrah Abattoir

i think that what Phillip apply in his company insn't related in anyway with what he decide to apply inworld

Aspen Normandy

This is something I can agree with you on -- the group tools do need a top-to-bottom overhaul.

Thomas Malaby

The original post is the best account of the limits of the current group tools I've seen. Kudos, Prokofy.

Brace

Excellent post!

I've often mused about how many of the current problems in SL stem from the fact LL employees don't LIVE in Second Life as we do.

Obviously they can't. So they should pay attention and listen up to those who do.

Jake Reitveld

Nothing I can add that would improve anything here. Just to say welcome aboard to Justice-I concurr entirely about the rule of law issue.

Jarod Godel

So, what you're saying is that, in Second Life, code should be law and the programmers should be the law makers. I agree with that.

Jesse Linden

When I say something referring to group tools as a means to effect social change in SL, I only mean removal of the obvious roadblocks and obstacles that are currently causing grief. It's clear that the needs of our population have far outgrown the capabilities of the group tools. I have no personal agenda involving socialist utopianism. I am, however, very interested 'social software' type applications. Despite their flaws, I am a big fan of services like MySpace and Friendster and believe some iteration of that kind of technology would be extremely useful for SL and a way to better integrate SL with the web at large. There are several effective online group management services currently existing. The trick for us is to come up with a design that takes into consideration the unique properties of Second Life as an interactive medium. Getting everyone involved in a conversation about this is a good way to start...


Prokofy Neva

No, Jarod, nothing of the sort, I do not say that code should be law, and I don't know where on earth you are getting that. Indeed, I'm saying that the code=law that these coders made, with these limited and literal group tools, forced an absurd, unjust, and even criminal "law" that has no sense to it. In fact, if I wanted to find an example of how code=law leads to crime, and how socialism leads to crime, I couldn't come up with a single better thing in the universe than the SL group tools!

And what I advocate is making more customizing available to the groups, so that more human judgement and interaction can be deployed on the tools which -- after all -- are just tools.

And even customized tools interacting with choice and judgement are not enough to run a business in SL, and there are many other "non-code" things that enter into it.

In other writings, I've made the point that the Lindens need desk policies as distinct from their tsar-like code-edicts (they need policies like one against those who use security scripts without warning such as to teleport home) rather than code (deprecating the function "teleporthome"). Or they need mustering the will to enforce 3 (admittedly overbroad) sections of the TOS and CS against the Bush guy, rather than trying to code up some ridiculous "make invisible" function (Cocoanut has a very good post on the absurdities implied with this, especialy as new people come in, and can't be expected to have included in their game all the functions to erase out the Bush guy and all the other "guys").

So I'd honestly have to see what on earth you're talking about Jared, other than trying to make a clever repartee.
No way should programmers be lawmakers. We see what happens when programmers are lawmakers. They make crappy group tools, and they make a voting thinger where you can't vote no. The solution isn't to make merely new refined group tools, also with code=law, or merely code in the "no". The solution is to have a mixture of technology and social norms and culture and law of the old sort which is made up of consensus and drafting and adoption procedures in which people have democratic participation, instead of it being the province of just a few with arcane knowledge.

Jesse, whether you are prepared to acknowledge it or not, when you make statements like "I want to have the tools effect social change," you are containing packed within that whole phrase an entire ideology and outlook.

It's an assumption that your tool could be fixed or modified to get rid of the Bush guy, or expecting that at least in the radiant future, when we all have group tools and buy a sim together, there will be no Bush guy.

But you can't get rid of the Bush guy by tools; the Bush guy problem isn't only a tragedy-of-the-commons problem social in nature and not technical, really; it's a problem at the core of liberalism itself which often can't seem to overcome its own seeds of undoing (the guilty-tripping of illiberals to make it's liberality endlessly available).

There is the problem of how all it takes is one person in the group even created magically with new group tools who decides to defect against the group consensus and sell his 64m2 for possibly even a high price to the Bush guy -- to betray the group. Then your only recourse is back at square one -- making sure that the founder of the group can decide in advance if he wants to deal with treacherous officers or not.

There are 3 TOS and CS clauses that can be deployed to address the Bush guy, as I've stated independently for weeks, and as other people who try to come at this thoughtfully are saying independetly of their own, inworld or on the forums. Great minds think alike in this regard LOL. You don't have to be a wizard to look at the TOS and say, oh, geez, why don't they use this! And for extra credit, add to the TOS notions of "egregious" or "systematic" or "gross" which many laws in RL have contained in them as a guidance for enforcement.

I can't overstate enough that even the most robust and granulated group tools, and even the grafting upon them of the covenants notion, could address the Bush guy. And that is actually a useful test. The Bush guy goes to the core of what's wrong with SL society.

Here you have Chip Midnight waxing indignant about Nazi paraphrenalia and language and symbols, seemingly unaware that if he's going to push free speech as the setting for maximum creativity, in fact most "First Amendment" upholders (not even purists) would tolerate all Nazi expression as part of the "Defending My Enemy" concept of Skokie. So if you enter a world where the makers bar the Nazi expression as hate speech, not using any kind of Supreme Court test of "imminent action" etc., then you could reasonably expect that those same makers who restrain the incitement capacities of a Schulz-88 (or should) should restrain the spamming and extortion of someone trying to guilt-trip liberals by pushing the anti-Bush button.

I realize this is getting into a complicated and difficult discussion. But when you say you believe that people could take even improved tools and get rid of Bush, you're revealing your hand as a utopian social engineer. It's not personal Jesse -- you're making something that WE have to live with!

That's because the only way to deploy "tools" is on someone who already owns their property, and is already enjoying their rights under the TOS, and to dream up some tekkie solution like making his texture invisible, or extending ban lines up thousand of miles in the air making it impossible to fly around.

I'm not for making Lazarus Divine an un-person and invisible to all, as if nothing happens outside MySpace, and for restricting his freedom of movement around SL. That's where I differ from all those who want to reach for all kinds of fascistic solutions for this. I'm for enforcing the existing TOS against his signs, ordering him to remove them, and if he doesn't, banning him for 7, then 14 days, etc. in the normal way.

MySpace and Friendster are very popular except...when they aren't. Friendster depends on someone inviting you. It's the old story I'm always harping about, involving closed circles, spoon-feeding commerce, My p2p 2 U, and never coming out of its cage. MySpace in fact is not without controversy. In fact, none of the social software stuff is, IMHO.

I guess I don't think you need to go canvassing around the Internet to find groovay new social software thingies to just make a normal company LOL. That making a normal company with normal hierarchical functions seems to so run against your grain there at the Lab means that you have some social engineering utopian ethnic underlying you concept of this. I'm inviting you to examine it.

I could note that even with something like Yahoo Groups, which I love, and are very useful, there is one group founder, who has the power to delete misbehaving members, etc.

I agree that SL has unique interactive properties. I wonder sometimes -- what is the outer limit of a group? Let's say you had 1000 members. Would it start lagging? Could you talk all at once? I've been in groups with like 300 which function (like rentals) because people try to stick to the business at hand, using it for limited purpose. I've seen how absolutely zooey (and criminal) something like Metaverse Justice Watch becomes with under 100 because anybody can hijack it at any time (and does).

I continue to believe that introducing a simple template to enable people to write in coherent paragraphs even of 2 lines (as we have in TSO) is vital to improving the world.

Khamon

I remember that an account was banned, it seems during 1.2, for insitantly wearing a Hitler-like av because it was offensive to an ill-defined subset of the "community."

I wonder how many of us will need to be offended by the openly stated attacks on our current living president before they will grant us the same consideration.

Of course it may simply be the case that the Hitler av offended the employees of LL while that antics of the Bush guy don't.

Cocoanut Koala

I have so hated to think that, Khamon. But - I think it must have been a factor, I really do. In any case, they are revisiting this issue now, which is a good thing, since their populace is about ready to massacre the guy.

coco

Prokofy Neva

As Jesse said, "I only mean removal of the obvious roadblocks and obstacles that are currently causing grief. It's clear that the needs of our population have far outgrown the capabilities of the group tools."

I'm not sure what he means by the "obvious" roadblocks -- perhaps he means things like the treacherous officer problem, perhaps he means things like making groups safer so that more people will group together to buy land.

Unfortunately, that part is what I feel is utopian. In TSO, many people spontaneously game together and did work on group objects because there was incentive within them -- on that game level. You earned more cooperating with others than on your own. People like socializing and planning and making lots together. Of course it had its limitations, but it was accessible and had incentive.

The SL tools have the 10 percent bonus, but most people start out so confused about tier and how it relates to land that they don't even get that they have this bonus or how to use it. They face more frustrations than they get incentive. So I understand the Lindens are seriously addressing this now, and that's good. I give them credit for doing that. What I do worry about, however, is their underlying concept of groups. What are groups? And why privilege them? What are we promoting when we promote them? etc.

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