Photomontage by Schwanson Schlegel
Imagine if you sat in your office at Linden Lab at 1100 Sansome Street in San Francisco, CA, and you had to *live with the group tools you have installed in Second Life* only in RL.
Your personally as an individual entrepreneur, and some of your colleagues, have invested incredible time, talent, and treasure into this venture called Linden Lab which created Second Life.
Imagine if, each time a customer bought a subscription, each time a venture capitalist sent you a check, each time you sold sims on the auction, each time your stock generated dividends, the amount would circulate equally to every single person in the office -- to you, as CEO, and to the clerk in the mail room -- exactly equally.
Imagine, if you then tried to convince this staff you had just so handsomely rewarded, despite entirely different levels of contribution and work, to understand that they at least had to kick some back to pay for your server leases or payroll tax -- and they laughed in your face and said they wanted you instead to provide them three free meals a day and a trip to Cancun.
Imagine the chaos if regardless of your investment, regardless of your up-front purchase and your monthly costs, any revenue coming into the company would split 100 ways, or however many staff, consultants, and vendors you have in your operation.
Imagine if this amazing software you created had to have a function clicked off on it called "share with group" and "deed" in order to have anybody in the office use it. But if you decided to store it or put it away -- to send the tapes to another office -- they automatically destroyed, never to be retrieved (that's actually what happens to deeded objects returned from group land, and the system now even warns you that will happen when you attempt to clear up prims).
Imagine if in this system, someone called in sick for 3 days, or someone had to leave on maternity leave, or you were forced to fire someone -- and your entire corporation disbanded because there weren't enough people in it anymore, and the state of California seized it (that's what happens due to groups automatically disbanding if they have less than 3 members, within 3 days).
Imagine if the pizza guy came to deliver a pizza, and you had to click off options that enabled him to come in your door, and enable him to set the pizza on the table, and then clear the box away, let's say -- and then you woke up the next morning to discover that the pizza guy stole your entire parcel of land, your office building, and all your computers and equipment. The pizza guy! Merely because you wanted him to have the function of being able to deliver, and then throw out the pizza box!
Imagine if you wanted to avoid this problem of the pizza guy stealing your entire operation, but to work around that, you had to take some of your assets to, say, participate in an exhibit and make travel advances and ship equipment somewhere to another state, but doing that required you to put your entire operation at risk (this would be like having to deliberately under-tier your group in SL in order to take land out of the group and set it to sale to yourself personally).
Imagine if you devised a piece of software and needed everyone on the team to help develop and finish it, so you to click off "set to group," but the guy in the copy room who is copying your press release then grabs the software, puts it into his knapsack, and takes it home, never again to be seen.
Imagine if anybody in your office could anonymously flip a switch and vote you out of your job as CEO, merely by collecting enough angry employees who may have only more health benefits or free lunches on their mind, and not the company's bottom line.
Imagine if anybody in the lunchroom could get up a group of disgruntled employees and decide to vote any one of their number to the status of board member -- and do this aggressively enough times, so that a new board could sell you to your competitor against your will.
Sit and look at your group tools as they are now, imagine if you had to live in RL with them, and please, run, don't walk away in horror from these group tools as you have them now, in every way.
You realize you need to reform these tools. But you haven't *really* thought about what it is *really like* to live with them because you *don't have to*. But we do.
Right now, some people want to keep these tools exactly as they are now, and in fact graft your concept of the "covenant" on them. Just as you and your colleagues did when you began SL with these group tools as they are now, they want to encourage what seemed like the ideal project -- a group of intelligent, like-minded people of good will getting together, each putting in exactly the same amount of money to buy a sim, and each paying exactly the same amount of tier, to do some cooperative project or business or educational group of some type.
You didn't do this when you started LL, really -- you didn't tell the pizza guy and the copy room guy that they would get thousands of your dollars just because you had a bright idea, a resume, and a venture capitalist.
Yet that's what happens in SL with group tools.
The reality is that except for Neualtenberg, a socialist experiment, and a few other very tightly-knit and small groups, this utopian idea of the 10 good-willed friends sharing a sim exactly equally isn't the norm in SL, it isn't viable, and it is not what free people chose in a free market.
Instead of listening to professors and pundits pushing this concept of the utopian ideal, study what people actually make and do in SL -- and learn from the field experience instead of imposing ideological solutions generated by people who never pay for land but squat on others' land.
The reality is that despite these awful "hippie commune" group tools, despite the awful risks of everybody from the pizza guy to the copy room clerk being able to disrupt, freeze, injure, and even steal the land in a group -- and doing so! -- land groups in SL have thrived, usually because one individual is willing to take responsibility for most of the tier and expense, and take on the risk and constant need for judgement required in bringing others into their businesses.
The group tools need to be changed so that *just like you as a CEO at Linden Lab at 1100 Sansome Street in San Francisco, CA, Real Life* can have the SAME protections and benefits you enjoy in your own corporation.
We do not need, in the name of outworn and already disproven socialist ideals and social-engineering utopian ideas, to sit again and again together making plans and projects, only to have the pizza guy steal our groups and our land. If pizza guys need opportunities in life and need resources and education, there are better ways to organize that then enabling him to commit crime again and again -- and destroy our ability to function and prosper not only for ourselves, but for the good of the whole society.
When you conceive of any kind of covenant arrangement, despite what you hear from shrill forums fear-mongerers conjuring up visions of tyrants raging across sims, you must ensure that the same rights and privileges you enjoy as CEO of Linden Lab are extended to us, not only your customers, but your residents in your world which you say is supposed to be our world.
That means you cannot set up needless risk and injury by having a group-think prevail even in voluntary group associations that would cause a mob rule or simple majority to unseat an investor from his investment.
Getting help with management, sharing resources, enabling people to create and build on land you tier is NOT tyranny: it's good management, of the kind you yourself and your colleagues practice in your own corporation. Such assumption of responsiblity should not mean that you must also constantly expose oneself to terrible disruption and risk in the name of somebody's ideal of "justice".
That means there simply has to be gradation in the tools, so that the founder can opt either to click off boxes making every officer in the group equal, so that any officer can remove any other officer through a vote (i.e. to make the old officer recall function only within the group of officers and only by name, not by all members, and not anonymously). OR so that the founder can opt to have the other officers only be deputies, that is, able to return prims or set music or perform other functions but not remove him and not sell the land out from under him. After all, if they don't like his rule and his management, they can leave and form their own groups and pay for their own sims and tier them.
Those who wish to live under the old group tools, or any kind of "distributive-justice" tools must be allowed to do so. If they wish to have equal-forced distribution and perfect equal sharing of all income and resources, then they must be able to set this up on a sim they themselves purchase and pay the tier on.
They must not. however -- in the name of their ideologically-driven ambition and zeal be allowed to impose a social order -- to build this utopian concept into the tools themselves and spread this model over the entire grid. It is a model most reject, it is unworkable, and it is the chief reason why businesses have not flourished as much as they could in SL.
It's not a model you yourself live under in RL. There is no excuse to promote it in SL in the name of a Better World that time again in human history, has not resulted from collectivism -- instead, most often quite the opposite has occured.
Right now, Robin Linden is managing the community dialogue on this, and we are all working out a process for our input. The current model is to have half dozen focus groups, each with just 8 people in them, to be able to avoid some of the chaotic and disruptive huge town halls, or confusing community round tables, that often occur in the SL setting. Then all of this commentary and thinking will evidently be collated and distilled. It's not an ideal process, and depends heavily on the person doing the distillation, but I suppose it's worth trying.
Meanwhile, as you sit munching your pizza at the lunchroom table at 1100 Sansome Street in San Francisco, CA, Real Life, think of how the pizza guy would almost walk away with your store if you had to suffer under group tools in real life, and I want you to think of me sitting here in the Sutherland Dam in Second Life, unable to hire a manager and have him take care of my customers by removing stray crashed airplanes and griefing fire prims, unable to have a tenant be able to texture a house by putting it into "share with group" because she might just put it into inventory and steal it, unable to quickly sell off a parcel of land if I need to without under-tiering and resetting it to only myself to avoid 220 tenants each getting a piece of the sale price equally, and unable to even pay for the parcel fees myself some weeks, forcing tenants to share the burden equally with a few points off their stipend.
Imagine if the Pizza Guy stole LL, and change the group tools!