There are so many things in Second Life that need work, so many things that are wrong, that it almost seems a luxury to fiddle around making "Principles for Mentors," but that's what the Lindens are up to now, so we're forced to respond.
Of course, I could make the rather pointed statement that we need "Principles for Lindens" before we could even begin to outline "Principles for Mentors," and among these might be things like, "Residents who become Lindens are required to refrain from major business, non-profit, media, or other projects in their roles as residents, as these present a conflict of interest given their connection to Linden Lab." Indeed, until we see that "Principles for Lindens" could be cleaned up so that it could beget "Principles of Mentors," it's really premature to inflict "Principles for Mentors" on us. Of course, I think I'm probably one of the very few in SL who even cares about his abstract issue...
I care, because it's abundantly clear that the Lindens have every intention of turning this awful system into resident governance. It's the horror everyone purports to fear and to fight against unto the death, in favour of their own anarchism, and yet it's the horror everyone is now letting seep in with their daily streaming world. As I put it on Robin's blog, where this stuff was first floated:
"The chief tragedy here is that it utterly ruins for now the possiblities of authentic grassroots government by residents, or even any kind of group governance. Instead of governance -- which should include among its functions the aid of immigrants/newbies -- we have a phalanx of Linden-filtered and caste-filtered mentors/helpers/greeters who take on the functions of world governance illegitimately, without even acclaim, let alone democratic vote. Having a mentor become a cult leader among newbies with their own named group of 77 isn't a substitute for being *elected by peers* or even *acclaimed by a wider cross section of the diverse community*."
First, I should make it clear that I've always held the opinion that the entire system of Mentors should be scrapped. Dismantled. And greeters/helpers/instructors, too. They are artifacts of MMORPG game culture, artifacts of the Middle Ages and various hierarchical systems and societies, and they have no place in an open, free, modern world. Their *functions* can and should be adopted by a host of volunteer organizations and commercial businesses created by residents for different purposes -- but as a caste society, as a restrictive guild system, they need to be scrapped.
In RL, to use Philip's beloved example, when I come to Grand Central Station, I am not greeted by a phalanx of Mentors and Greeters who tell me all kinds of stuff like 'You Don't Need Land to Have Fun," and hurl landmarks to their stores where I am expected to come and spend my initial stash. I don't telephone "Live Help" and get a series of sometimes laughably incompetent mediocrities, some of whom are about five minutes older than me in town. I don't resign myself to endless hours sitting with "Instructors" learning arcane information to create unnecessary skills.
No, I am greeted by...stores and kiosks. Where the owners *sell maps and handbooks*. I might ask a kindly soul, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" and he might reply with the old joke, "Practice, practice, practice!"
A taxi driver will make himself readily available...but for a price. There would be double-decker tour bus to acquaint myself with the city...but it will cost something. A fellow with a sandwhich board will stroll up and down 42nd Street...but the clothes or electronics he offers, while cheap, still cost something. Someone else might press a flyer into my hand to learn Word or get my Novell license or learn how to bar-tend -- but these courses will all cost me something.
Of course, somewhere there's probably some Big Apple consortium or Welcome Wagon that tries to make sure that there is information and help for tourists of various types, including very visible policemen in Time's Square. But the bulk of services needed for day-to-day life are offered *for pay*. It's understood that the free market does best in offering these services, especially competitively, and most people don't go complaining to the Mayor that there was no one available in Grand Central at 1:00 a.m. to spend hours explaining to them that the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, and Avenue of Americas is actually 6th Avenue.
It doesn't matter that there are good mentors in Second Life; sure, there are good mentors. What matters is that the whole premise of mentors is a bad one. It implies that Second Life is so complicated, so hard, so scary, so fraught with evils, that you need a special guide -- that Second Life is a quest, to kill monsters, from which you might not come back alive.
Baloney! Second Life is just second life -- and you already had plenty of preparation from it, without ever having played a single game -- it's called "First Life"!
Mentors abound in games -- wizards, game-masters, whatever they call them, they're a type. And a type that we're supposed to appreciate for their "selfless work" and "help to mankind" but who we secretly find annoying. Even at their best, they have a tendency toward being smug and condescending.
Mentors are supposed to be defending the soul of the game. But...they tend to defend their own "honour of uniform," i.e. they circle the wagons to protect their own. If one is criticized, you're apt to hear 10 others gang up on your and tell you that Mentors are wonderful, the group is wonderful, and that one you didn't like is just a bad egg. But...bad eggs flourish, and the whole system stinks, really, because it is a prototype of resident government that we didn't pick, didn't participate in, didn't get to discuss, didn't get to shape, and which has no accountability whatsoever. It's for these reasons that mentors tend not to serve the bulk of the population. And why should they? Service is not their credo; protection of their own superior status is their credo.
Let's parse the draft Mentors' Principles (I have no doubt this is yet another example of Linden push media where under the guise of "discussion," all that's happening is the waters of the masses are being tested to see how badly it sucks, but to push it nonetheless.)
Proposed Mentor Principles --Proposed by whom? And why would only Lindens and Mentors themselves get to discuss this in the mentors' section? Why not the rest of us? How about making this the first of a proposal system that proposes policies and not just features in the software?
We believe this important first connection can make all the difference in the early SL experience. By hanging out on Help Island, the Welcome Areas and other spaces in-world answering questions and handing out information, you provide a crucial step in weaving the Second Life community together.
Actually, many of us believe that the "first connection" is one that the user needs to pick himself, and many savvy users simply bypass all this meeter-greeter stuff as being the "lame" part of a new game, the horrid newbie phase that many people want to skip over. So, hands off my first connection please. You don't own it. I don't care if you don't get a second chance to make a first impression -- I don't want you at all.
Why are you hanging out in places where newbies stream in once...but can't get back to? Why let the randomness and brevity of the help island experience, and the randomness and often deliberate pranksterism and griefing of the Welcome Area, define your presentation?
It would make a lot more sense to do two other things: if you're going to have a system of mentors, have them be on their own parcel -- let people chose to come to them, and let them define the space and keep out the banana-phone clip players. But more importantly, let them fan out throughout SL, at clubs, large events, first land areas, etc. and not just official welcome areas, so that they can be really useful -- that is, if they're willing to drop their dumb MMORPG wizard crap and actually serve the public instead of acquiring more reputation enhancement points.
When you put your Mentor title on, you are representing the Second Life volunteers as a whole and the Mentor group in particular. Mentors embody all of the best things available in the Second Life community; keeping the following Principles in mind will empower you and your fellow Mentors to continue creating an even better Second Life for all.
This is by far the worst feature of these proposals. Mentors don't represent me, and I'm a volunteer, too. I'm an unofficial volunteer who spends many hours helping new people and providing subsidized rentals and activities areas. More to the point, I don't at all believe that Mentors "embody all the best things available in the SL community" -- this is the worst possible definition of someone who in fact often takes on this role for personal gain or fake altruism to appear as if he is doing good.
Mentors should not embody "what is best"; they should uphold what is best. See the difference? "What is best" is a universal value, and an abstraction, above us all. It pertains, regardless of whether any one person "embodies" it or not. Mentors are not an end in themselves. There is something higher, which is "the best of SL and what is best for SL". This higher power is not the Mentors; it is above them. Mentors should serve the public; not do all kinds of vain "embodying" of "what is best" as individuals. They aren't necessarily the best, and we don't even want those who we might imagine as "embodying the best" to be then adding to that bestness by helping newbies. No, there is "what is best" about SL -- its creativity, its helpful people, its opportunities -- as something higher than us all -- and there is the wish of this or that concrete person to articulate and embody these principles. This is a subtle but important distinction and one the framers of these principles are either deliberately or stupidly blind about. Mentors aren't what's best about SL. As a class, they are merely old people with a hankering to appear altruistic. They can exemplify the best of SL only when they stop serving their own vanity, their class vanity, and serve the newbie in articulating the highest principles of SL.
Be inclusive, active, and encouraging. Demonstrate and communicate tolerance, respect and civility to all Residents. Promote a sense of community and foster the formation and growth of communities in Second Life, and with your fellow volunteers.
This part is the sort of cloying Mr. Roger's Neighbourhood stuff we're often force-fed in SL. SL is a big fucking place, people. It's not your little sandbox. It's not your village. Get over yourself. I don't need you to define "the communitY' as there are lots of communities and any larger, overarching community is something way bigger than you, or the concept of "Mentors". Get off the fanboyz band wagon here. You're not needed to be inclusive, rounding up everybody to get into your posse, putting them all into Tateru Nino's cultic group. We don't need false Polyannas that sugarcoat the difficulties of SL especially in the early days. Communities foster their own growth, with their own leaders which they pick, not the Lindens. So get off it, already. The only thing you should foster is the realization of each person's possibilities, providing them with tools to enjoy the freedom and creativity of the world while also being a good neighbour. To the extent that any use whatsoever can be gotten from this ghastly class of know-it-alls, we could rely on them, I suppose, to disseminate the values of good neighbourliness -- I don't leave out giant plywood boxes for months on end to give my neighbours ulcers and eyebleeds; I don't put out hugely laggy scripts and particles; I don't build RIGHT SMACK on the property line; I experiment on builds in sandboxes then put them away; I don't come to big events with all my hoochies on turned up loud and talking and proud, etc. etc.
Frankly, I'm even reluctant to let these Mentors define what being a good neighbour is, so driven are they by self-interest.
The absolutely appalling show of fuck-you hedonism displayed now in the forums thread about PG vs. M behaviour is the hallmark of this corrupt outfit -- corrupt because the concept is corrupt, even if this or that individual is decent and tries to help.
Mentors who are furries or BDSM or want to appear nearly naked in their slave outfits with their pierced nips hanging out and all the rest are insisting, in typical fuck-you aggressive hedonistic SL fashion, that they should Do the Fuck What They Want. In fact, ReallyRick cites other mentors and Lindens as telling him that they should "do whatever they feel comfortable with". Newbies coming in who might want to take one giant step backwards if they were met by a bound and trussed and controlled Pony Girl are instructed to Be Tolerant. Bleh to all this.
Greeters should be neutral. Neutrality means PG. That means they should pocket their sexual preferences in this non-sexual space of greeting, which is hard work, and often involves vulnerable people. You don't turn sex on all day 24/7, it has its appropriate place in your life, alongside work or other pursuits. So why should SL have to be different, just because it's a lucid dream? Keep the whips and chains at home -- newbies didn't consent to play your RP and you should be the tolerant one and not inflict it on them, not insist that they "be tolerant".
Fostering communities with fellow volunteers? Why? We don't need this New Class to keep bonding and elevating itself above us. Dismantle it, replace a lot of these functions with paid contractors, or various dedicated groups of volunteers that are resident, not Linden run, and which don't require this ridiculously arbitrarily concept of "the clean Linden rap sheet". Cocoanut is as helpful as all get-out. What, she is sidelined 3 days for telling Siggy he's a foul-mouthed thug and engaging in sexual harassment -- and she can then never be a Mentor? that's ridiculous. This SL growth thing is a all-hands-on-deck affair. I can only HOPE that SL will grow so fast that it will just overwhelm this ridiculous fanboyz MMORPG system of wizards decided to spoon-feed newbies into commerce circles. In fact, it is already overwhelmed, and that's a good thing. Thank God for independent alternatives like NCI.
Be helpful, answer questions. Communicate with your fellow Residents. Turn data into useful, relevant information. Provide information, not misinformation. Show other Residents how and when to report abuse. Learn from each other!
This sort of happy sounding crap avoids the obvious: the word LISTEN is never entered. How about LISTENING to the needs of newbies? HEARING what they need and want? SERVING them? Why is it all about me and my push media and my COMMUNICATING and not my LISTENING? What sort of wierd Newspeak are we talking here with this "turn data into useful, relevant information". Since when do you present server statistics to newbies anyway? What on earth does a seemingly useful statement like this really unpack as? Can't we just say, "keep explanations simple and geered toward the newbies' level of understanding?"
As for "misinformation," nobody admits to ever doing that! I'd word this completely differently: "Be willing to admit your wrong." The other day I got one of those aggressive new Lindens who kept haranguing me and trying to set me straight and arguing with me that she was right and I was wrong about a perfectly ordinary and obvious group tools distinction between "set to group" and "share with group". This gal had clearly never been IN a group and wouldnt' know a returning prim unset to group if it bit her in the ass. I abuse-reported this Linden, not because she gave out incorrect information -- that happens, it's a big game, it takes awhile to learn, you never learn all of it, etc. I abuse-reported her because she wouldn't listen to the citation of the facts, wouldn't concede she might not know something, and kept aggressively insisting not only that she was right, but that another Linden was backing her up on this.
This is what I mean by the horrid wagon-circling. They don't defend higher principles, principles before which they are humble, principles they serve, like the newbies should be served. Instead, they only defend their man-made institution, as if it was demonstrably excellent and we should all genuflect. Well, it isn't. And we shouldn't.
Be informed and informative. Keep up with in-world bulletins and forum announcements. Maintain good communication with your fellow volunteers and don’t be afraid to share information. This includes using the mentor group channel for good, not evil.
Gosh, these Lindens and wizards really don't like the word "listen" or the word "serve" do they? Everyone knows what it means to SERVE THE PUBLIC. It's work, it's service, it means putting another human being before yourself, not crushing them and getting them to adapt to the exigencies of your class, and its need for a constant fresh feed of a commerce stream. Can't we get some of that across???
The mentor group channel shouldn't exist. If the mentors can't eat the game's dogfood and use the same tools we all use, they are good for nothing and shouldn't represent SL.
Be positive, courteous, professional and pleasant. Smile. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Be welcoming, fun, and helpful.
Um, I'm going to leave aside the problem of how you get your wooden avatar's face to SMILE, and the problem of how people who incessantly type *smiles* are merely signalling themselves as having come from some horrid mmorpeggy culture where people were always writing about themselves in the third person. As for the hortatory "be fun," I can only laugh. Be fun!
Be reliable. Do your best to represent the community in a positive way. Maintain PG standards of appearance and manners when wearing the Mentor tag. Live your Second Life by the Community Standards as a shining example to others.
I hope Jeska, if she does nothing else with this exercise, keeps the PG standards stuff. She should fight for that against the hedonistic, aggressive bunch in SL because PG isn't about sex or about swear words, it's about maintaining a more generic, neutral space that doesn't have the imposition upon it of this or that lifestyle or choice.
Why are we waiting until the end to invoke the rule of law over this privileged class? It ought to come at the beginning. When you serve your country and the Constitution, you serve something higher than your class and uniform. Any system of officials or helpers has to start by invoking the higher principles, not end with them. The system of helpers is worthless, unless it always and everwhere invokes something higher than itself that makes it accountable; that is the Community Standards.
Be accepting of other nationalities, cultures and subcultures. Inspire curiosity, open-mindedness, and let the diversity of Second Life be your guide as you help fellow Residents.
This seems like a poor, politically-correct, and vague nostrum. I think here, the word has to be "tolerant" but not "accepting". I shouldn't have to *accept* a sub-culture that is antithetical to my own value for universality and for women's rights and human rights overall, and have to "accept" slavery or violence. I'm not REQUIRED to accept somebody's idea of fun, I'm merely asked to be tolerant and not interfere with their freedom of expression under the TOS. By the same token, I don't want them to be interfering with MY freedom of expression, and that means NOT ACCEPTING some cultures, sub-cultures, and ideas in SL. Hell, no.
No, I don't want the "diversity of SL" to be my guide. Again, it's not people and their sub-cultures I want to be whipsawing me hither and yon, I want something higher, called "the community standards" which I invoke as my flag and my standard in serving the public.
It's no accident that notions of higher principles, universality, service to something higher than oneself; subordination of one's own wants and needs for the sake of another -- all these values are thrown overboard for the sake of Hedonistic Me and My Need for Showing Off My Altruism. It's the malady of modern life in general, not only Second Life. Yet there is still a chance to change -- if the Mentors and the other phalanxes of Linden-designated privileged parties aren't dismantled completely, then they should at least:
o admit when they're wrong
o keep an open mind
o serve the public
o make sacrifices to help others
Let's try to remember what other institutions instil. Let's take the Girl Scout Law, for example:
"On my honour" -- that means I'm conscious that my reputation as an individual, my own sense of honour is at stake, and is being staked on the enterprise of practicing the creed of Scouts;
"I will try" -- I have to make effort, I don't just get a tag after 30 days
"To do my duty" -- I'm expected to do something, it's not about forcing everyone else to "tolerate my lifestyle" but it's about me serving the public
"To God and my Country" -- focus on the idea of something higher here -- principles that are higher, like the Community Standards, that are above the office of mentor and any individual mentor
"To Help Other People at All Times" -- why is that sort of obvious tagline missing from the Mentors? Shouldn't they have SOME binding law urging them to HELP? Indeed, even a Hippocratic Oath, "Above All, Do No Harm?"
"And to Obey the Girl Scout Law" -- again, something higher, a law where I am not unto myself, but unto something above.
Here's the sort of static even Jeska's mild efforts to get some modicum of order into this headstrong bunch generates, from Eloise Pasteur:
"I'm a teacher too and recognise Jen's comments. On the other hand, what if I'm asked to mentor in a Gorean sim (which has happened) - the "community" standard might require me to dress and act appropriately for the location in some sims, which isn't necessarily PG. Failing to do so could be regarded as implicit judgement of their lifestyle which is also against the guidelines.
OK, you'd hope the locals would understand, but the wording is sufficiently highblown that it is possible to be in a situation where they contradict each other without thinking hard about it. I don't know any kajirae who mentor, but any that do would be in a really tricky situation. Mind you, there are definitely furry mentors who would violate the local rules in most Gorean sims too."
Everything about this example is fake. Nobody is asked to mentor in a Gorean sim -- Goreans have their own elaborate induction and mentoring system called "dom and slave" etc. and have no need of another layer. Gorean is something people join usually after coming into SL, and it's silly to warp the newbie experience around some pre-anticipated "tolerance" of this "lifestyle".
No, Eloise, it's not "against the guidelines" even as written to have any kind of implicit judgement of a lifestyle. Hey, they get to have a lifestyle, and i get to implicitly judge it against what I view should be the perfect lifestyle. That's life in the big city. Nobody has to make way for somebody else's vaunted lifestyle and shut the fuck up. What can be done, however, is to keep a neutral public space -- a space that Goreans must be expected to honour as much as furries or norms. No one group and its mores should be allowed to dominate that public space or make others uncomfortable. Civic neutrality should be the norm here, not a politically-correct splintering into a million little splinter groups.
If the Goreans can't understand that it's in their best interests to have the existence of a neutral, broad, civic space in SL, which is the place where the rule of law emerges as the community standards, then they are being allowed to tear the whole fabric of society in the interests of their own belief system. No one should be allowed to prevail in SL in that fashion.
Bitzer Balderdash then retaliates, against those who would expect a PG neutrality, "If the rule becomes that I MUST ALWAYS act PG (which I generally do anyway) when wearing my tag, I will simply stop wearing it when I am not on HI / WA - which would be a real shame, since I get several people a week asking me questions that start "Oh, I see you are a mentor, could you tell me..." in all sorts of situations and locations."
...And now we are getting to the really rub with this whole Mentor thing. It's not just a defined role, a service, a task one does for a set amount of hours, but something that people expect to be "always on" -- and to gain all the social good and perks that accrue to it. Well...why? Ask not what Mentors can do for you. Ask what you can do for Mentors. Yes, stop wearing your tag when not on the HI/WA, please, or when you're not specifically willing to be "on duty," say, at a large public event. If people have questions, they know where to find you -- your mentor status is a group on your profile, without you having to wear the cap -- while dancing naked in a club with your piece hanging out.
This refusal to accept some limitations on one's behaviour lets me know that these Mentors are not willing to throw over some of their own selfishness and sense of entitlement and *serve the public*. They are not fit to lead us. We can and should overthrow them. Fortunately, we won't have to work very hard at this, as hopefully more and more people will bypass them and their old-fashioned insular and backward ways.