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02/14/2006

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jauani

"To date, with nearly three years of existence, Second Life has no rule of law."

that's because it's a virtual world community hosted by a corporation that we pop in and out of at our leisure, and not the real world. if you stop to think about the fact that SL is not a country, but a media tool, you might realize why everyone is going to skip everything after the first (ill concieved) sentence.

expecting there to be laws within SL is like expecting laws withing the www. it's plainly ridiculous.

Prokofy Neva

No, it's not plainly ridiculous, it's normal. It's a country, with a GNP -- they even hired an economist to calculate that GNP! It has foreign currency, and even imports and exports and stuff.

Yeah, for some people it's a media tool for their own self-aggrandizement , but I find it pays to take them at face value, too, and criticize them at that level. Imagine, building the Supreme Court of the United States of America in a virtual world? ROFLMFAO!

jauani

what are you talking about? it doesn't have a GNP. it's not a nation. castranova needs to publish articles to get his tenure. get real!

face value: i don't have to sign a tos to be borna canadian citizen.

Prokofy Neva

Yes, but you have to abide by the laws of Canada if you want to stay out of jail. I don't get your point.

I didn't make up the thing about the GNP. When the Lindens announced this new gal Vasudha, they said she'd be calculating the GNP *shrugs*. I didn't think of it as a country until Philip started calling that. Castranova might be a two-bit economist who could only make a career as a virtual worlds economy guru, but he's right, it's going to seem very normal in 5-10 years.

beau

Prokofy, I am not sure what you are talking about with the "barely scraping by" comment. You depend mainly on the land side of the economy to make money right? I can name more than a few people who specualte on or rent land, and they come out with a nice ROI. No offence but I think maybe sometime you have to evaluate your own business strategy.

Prokofy Neva

I'm not seeing where your reference is to "barely scraping by" as those words don't appear in a FIND. What's the point?

Life on the mainland is hard, the Lindens make it harder, and since the telehubs were taken out, it has become even harder. Still, it's compelling enough to stick it out.

Oh, I evaluate my business models and strategies all the time. But I'm not really in SL to make money in some boring, routinized way. Most of the people who make money off rentals do so on the islands, where it is much, much easier and where customers don't mind being charged a full LL tier level like $25 US for a 4096 m2 because they have grief-free, ugly-free, etc. living. Mainland rentals aren't economical, and everyone in the business knows that, and combines renting with other kinds of activities.

On the mainland, sure, there are people with whole sims who can save money by building themselves if they are talented, or they make what I think of as micro-climate sims that have a club/shopping/activity/ and rentals also to produce the income. Some are heavily dependent on dwellopers' awards.

I find it more interesting to rough it out on the mainland with other people on sims, not to just work on one sim by myself, but have neighbours, challenges, interesting problems to solve.

And if you chose that route, you are always buying the view out of the water, and always struggling with asswipes with huge spinning pink towers. It's interesting!

I know you'd like to do some sort of smackdown and prove I'm an incompetent and a failure, but you can take that elsewhere.

I don't like islands. They are big, and hard to sell off. They have black voids around them and I find the terraforming on the with those drop-offs wierd and ugly. They're more expensive to start up, whatever their income later. I also don't like bidding on the auction against Anshe and buying overpriced land, I gave that up ages ago. And I don't like buying land and speculating and flipping, it's arduous work to do right, and I'd rather spend that time on customers and developing areas.

If you get stuck half way through your tier month with an empty tier, you're drive to buy MORE land even if the prices aren't good at the moment; or vice-versa, if you are stuck with trading tiers at month's end you have to shave your margins or hold it over another month and see the margins erode and disappear -- it's not for the faint-hearted. I first learned this from Jauani Wu, who made these realities clear, I tried it, I made money when it was to be made and bought land when it was cheap, but it's not a consistent means of income given the falling Linden and the falling cashouts.

I prefer more of the micro-brew type of selling when I sell only to neighbours or interested people who have come into the commmunity and know exactly what they want, or when I have a few things like good flat mature waterfront or flat mature roadside for building stores that I can rent, or sell if it doesn't rent.

I do a variety of things from selling and renting land to actually making and selling my own content -- imagine that! Geez, it's hard to picture, eh? But true.

I also have philanthropic activity -- the public land preserve, the newbie communities, public discussions, etc.

I've tried my hand at all the investments from Ginkos to Cyberlands even to camp chairs as experiments, I've had clubs and malls, and I also have casinos going in some areas.

While it may not be a game, it's play. I always feel like every night, I get a hand of cards dealt by the chance of the game -- some nights they're good, some nights they suck, every once in awhile there's a royal flush. I try to make sure I come out even if not ahead.

Sure, you can figure out a mathematical formula to buy Daimani marble houses, plunk 15 of them out on 4096s on a sim you bought for $1000, put up a rentomatic, and lather, rinse, repeat. That would bore the hell out of me. I have RL jobs that pay real money. This job I look on as a part-time job that enables me to do a few less boring RL things every month to make money. I also save on TV and magazines, which I never get any more lol.

What's your point, Beau? I think it would be goddamn boring to copy poses off the Internet and sell them in animation boxes and make money. I have CDs in the bank for boring but interest-bearing stuff like that : )

beau

"The rest of us have to scrape by as best we can, dodging arbitrary rulings, trying to bend unjust rulings to obtain fairness, engaging in all the strategies that people engage in when they live under injustices."

Its right there, in your first paragraph. It is sad you utter such complete nonsense you need to use a "find" feature to remember the word that rolled off your very own finger tips.

Your constant cried of favoritism, disagreement with LL decisions and fight against content creators really contradicts the statement you just made about not being too worried about how much money you make with in SecondLife.

I do agree with your interesting ways to make money statements. Though if you choose to be truely inovative in regards to that, prepare to have a longer harder road to success. I think its more of a trick of taking a proven business model that works and creating a balance of originality.

As far as The SL Supream Court thing you speak about. I remember hearing about that at SLCC and thinking to myself how it would be long gone before the next SLCC.

Prokofy Neva

Oh, this:
"scrape by as best we can
is about the question of justice and fairness, not about business success or failure. It means "we have to get along as best we can".'

Funny -- sad, really -- that you should view a statement like that only in business terms. Shows just how you view the political struggles of SL, as a winner-take-all for certain businesses fighting others, I guess.

I did a search on "scraping" and racked my brains to think of where I had written about any struggles for business to get along. Business booms in SL. I have more customers than ever before. But I have constant costs, too. And the Linden is falling, making the cashout less. And stuff happens like an entire day of work with placing buildings, etc. gone down the tubes when there was a power outage, and another entire sim completely borked, with all the builds tossed up in the air, and delinked, scattering literally hundreds of pieces of builds all over the grid, returning in bits for days and days. I lost 2 tenants that way who literally had all their buildings smashed. This was due to a "hardware failure".

Honestly, people who just stick their vendors out on their old free 4096s, plunk down $5000 for the classifieds, and log off, have no idea of the struggles involved in trying to cope with this game's vicissitudes.

I imagine you've never had the experience of an entire sim's builds being destroyed in a second. I've now had this happen four times on four different sims -- when you work with enough sims, you see it happen. It loses me tenants, and some of those tenants even just quit the game, they get so angry -- the Lindens really do nothing about this, nor can they.

Yes, scraping by means having no justice to address not only basic complaints like this but larger philosophical issues like unfair favouritism and insider bids.

Re: "Your constant cried of favoritism, disagreement with LL decisions and fight against content creators really contradicts the statement you just made about not being too worried about how much money you make with in SecondLife."

See, there's a very stark indication of how YOU see the world -- a world in which complaints against insiderism could ONLY be seen as some economical death-match, in which one group cries foul merely to get the perks the other has.

The concept that one could complain about justice just because it's injust and unfair is probably over your head.

If I wanted to make money in a big time way with this game, I assure you, the first thing I'd do is suck up to people on the forums and never even write a blog. But I don't wish to sacrifice freedom in that fashion : )

I don't think the Supreme Court tried a single case.

As for "business models," I think that one of the things that amateur business people do in Second Life to kind of show off their new-found entrepreneurial personas is to sit around talking sagely about their business models, or to whack at somebody else whom they believe to have a poor business model.

But come on, what's a business model in Second Life? Let's not be too precious here. Most of SL business models that succeed in extracting cash from avatars and making avatars stick so they dwell and spend more money are really only repetitions, or variations on things discovered in the 19th and 20th centuries, like P.T. Barnum's "There's a sucker born every minute," and Johnny Wannamaker's concepts of putting out huge amounts of cheap but diverse merchandise in huge bins and rows over vast expanses to make it easier to see and get at and not be fetched with that old method where they used to send little metal baskets back to a stock room (ever see one of those? They actually have them still working in the stores in a small town I grew up in).

Johnny Wannamaker was also credited with the concept of the "99 cent item" and sometimes it was punned about his name, "wanna maker her buy" -- because the "99 cents" was supposed to fool even sharp housewives into thinking they were spending thriftily under a dollar or a quarter or a nickel. They were called "five and dime stores".

I really don't think we've done much more than those two giants of merchandising and entertainment, because most success in SL revolves around finding a fool who is eager to part with his money (and we're in the first line-up of fools, of course) and dealing in huge volumes to ensure a cash flow.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Just a question, Prokofy, from your text it wasn't clear how exactly a legal system could arise from Second Life.

Usually, legal systems are tied towards enforceability by an authority, and in SL, this means Linden Lab.

Now, since LL are reluctant to pass that authority upon other "enforcers" (and I may well understand their position), my question is, what alternatives are there?

The long roll of "failed" experiments of self-appointed "legal support groups" or whatever people care to call themselves just seem to indicate that they have something in common: without authority, and delegation of power from the ones that they really have it (eg. Linden Lab), how can a legal system be created?

I'm all for it, though — the only solution so far seems the "My Sim, My Rule" which in turn can exchange information with neighbouring sims with their own rules, and create "international law" between sims (ie. my rules will apply to your sim, if your sim accepts to abide my mine as well). This is a very painful and slow progress. What alternatives do you suggest?

jauani

"Castranova might be a two-bit economist who could only make a career as a virtual worlds economy guru, but he's right, it's going to seem very normal in 5-10 years."

it will never seem normal. you can't have a country which people can just log out of without consequence. you can't have a country that is privately owned and legally bound within the laws of the united states of america.

SL is not really a country. country is a metaphor. all i know about castranova is his talk at sop3 and basically he was saying that like .coms, there will be ".SLs" listed on the nasdaq, except in a really wierd mataphorical way that really undermined his message. it's not a revelation that if sl shoots of that companies like ESC could become a big thing.

Prokofy Neva

>>>Just a question, Prokofy, from your text it wasn't clear how exactly a legal system could arise from Second Life.

I already explained here and elsewhere that interest groups, grassroots citizens' initiatives, invoking existing real-world universal law and values, as well as universalist laws and norms that have developed in the virtual worlds, are the basis for a rudimentary rule of law. A constituent assembly, with the election of a representative government, and possibly some kind of correctives in the modern forms of individuals and groups consulting in a more integrated fashion with elected representatives (as they increasingly do in RL), would be the minimum start of some eventual formation of a "government".

And I already said that if lawyers, bar associations, courts, justices begin to grapple with injustices that occur even under the very limited "law" of the TOS, it will have the kind of gathering momentum that goes beyond rhetorical value and begins to influence decisions and behaviour on the part of the rulers and the inner circles.

>>>Usually, legal systems are tied towards enforceability by an authority, and in SL, this means Linden Lab.

Well, yes and no. Those are RL concepts. If I enforce the return of prims on my sims against griefers or even just non-tenants, there is authority and enforcibility. Nobody has really studied suitably that I can tell the real realm of enforcibility in virtual worlds, preferring to just toss it all off as a log-off problem. It's not, when people spend 4 and 8 and 12 hours a day online. They don't log-off. Thereofre you have a persistence of their participation and the worlds they are in that require taking seriously.

Everybody always says the Pope doesn't have an army. Without any army, the Pope has played a significant role in a lot of issues and countries, i.e. the overthrow of communism. The spiritual realm is important, too. Enforcement in the spiritual realm is of a different order.

>>Now, since LL are reluctant to pass that authority upon other "enforcers" (and I may well understand their position), my question is, what alternatives are there?

Oh, come off it. We've seen our dear Jeska just pass off all kinds of authority in the resmod system, replete with little hortatory lectures along the way about letting residents take up the reins, etc.

All they're doing is putting in their own reagants and overlords to do their bidding given the limits of their reach.

>>>The long roll of "failed" experiments of self-appointed "legal support groups" or whatever people care to call themselves just seem to indicate that they have something in common: without authority, and delegation of power from the ones that they really have it (eg. Linden Lab), how can a legal system be created?

Oh, I disagree. There's a long roll of failed groups. But that's ok. They will eventually pick up steam and coalesce around a burning issue, most likely in the consumer rights realm or in the issue of governance on forums or in land use or some issue that affects people, and that will galvanize interest and participation.

Groups fail not merely because there's no force to call upon to enforce the rule of law, but because they cannot keep and express their solidarity long enough to force the enforcement from below. That is really how it has to be. And each time "law" comes up as a subject, there's always some asstard who wants to be the one to be that law and that force over another, and so elaborate structures are created for government, or enforcement with secret police, security, and police, or the privileges and trappings of executive power, but the real force for the rule of law, people sense of justice, their solidarity with each other in the face of injustice, and their refusal to tolerate injustice -- that takes awhile to form and is of course always being betrayed, coopted, and derailed.


>>I'm all for it, though — the only solution so far seems the "My Sim, My Rule" which in turn can exchange information with neighbouring sims with their own rules, and create "international law" between sims (ie. my rules will apply to your sim, if your sim accepts to abide my mine as well). This is a very painful and slow progress. What alternatives do you suggest?

No, I don't advocate the formation of "international law" as merely a set of transaction between My Sim and Your Sim -- I don't buy that various nodes in the "archipelago of assholes" should trade notes and white lists and black lists and then arrogate themselves as the "international law" over me.

I don't see any other way but through various umbrella groups, movements, groups, discussions, forums, newspapers, etc. getting together and moving all these ideas and debates, as people sort themselves out, to eventually have a parliament of parties. It might not be a parliament as rigidly structured as a RL parliament, as it might have more permeability to individuals and groups.

I don't think, like Lenin said, every cook can run the state. And I don't think that, like Beth Noveck comes across as saying, that groups are going to run the state, either. Especialy if her vaunted groups are merely virulent little insular possesses of aggressive, single-minded zealots bent on throwing this or that forum. The personalities and tactics on the SL forums ought to give one pause there.

It seems to me that rule of law wise, things are going along in SL not so bad, given that it is really a repressive, third-world like dictatorship. To be sure, there have been people executed at dawn, and some stadium shootings. To be sure, some people have been coopted and are now spouting nonsense. Some have simply disappeared (where is Colin Linden???).

But, meanwhile, a group of influential citizens, banded together in the Metaverse Justice Watch, did compel the Lindens to put out a deck of cards about their own internal rules for governing themselves and their relations with the citizens. That's progress. It was thin and flimsy, it lacks important stuff (no sexual abuse policy) but it's progress.

Getting the executive to at least live under a Reichstat, or a state that governs by law (there's still the question of whether it will submit to a higher law than itself), that keeps to its own law, is always the first step in the struggle against injustice.

Separation of powers, delegation of powers -- this all has to happen to. One of the reasons why the Resmod system can seem so phoney and disingenuous is that there is delegation of executive power to a loyalist group, without first a separation of powers and a sharing of powers so that there are independent bodies of the governing power such as to have checks and balances.

Prokofy Neva

Jauani, it's not interesting to keep having the same debate, you say it's not a country, which which you really try to tell me that you "have a life" and "it's a game" and I should "get a life" and I say no, it is a country, sure walks like a country, talks like a country, and my having or not having a life doesn't affect that.

Castronova said that in a few years time, the seminar won't have the prefix "cyberworld stock exchanges" or whatever it had, but just "stock exchanges" because they'll all be virtual. And he also spoke very earnesly about how everyone would find it normal to be online and do things online a good deal of time in the future.

I agree that a country can't just keep springing from a company like out of Zeus' head -- it has to spawn off at some point. But I do believe in living in now *as if* it were a country because it will be some day. I don't want these Electric Sheep herding me.

jauani

first of all prokofy, i am not saying you don't have a life for calling SL a country. i take my sl business ventures just as seriously as you do. i see my ventures as selling cotton candy at an amusement park. just because the park owners sell tokens for people to spend at my stall, doesn't make it a country.

castranova didn't say anything that didn't already exist. people already find it normal to be online and do a good deal of things online. SL is a subset of this. people chat, email, surf for info, shop all online. virtual worlds are just a small segment of the internet world. they aren't something entirely new or revolutionary.

SL will never be a country. it might become a protocol.

Prokofy Neva

Jauani, the thrust of all your comments to me, inworld and outworld, on blogs on in persons, has always been "You're a hobbyist." So I know exactly what your agenda is. And it's pathetic. Get a life yourself.

What Castranova said that was interesting was not that people are online all the time -- they are online all day at work for 8 hours, and come home and spend another 4 hours at least in email, games, shopping. That's not the revolutionary news. His point was that major life institutions -- stock markets, banks, worlds, stores -- would be moving online into the Metaverse, the 3-D world. That's quite a staggering concept.

I'm as eager as you are to debunk all the hype around the Metaverse, especially when it comes from electrified sheeps and goats. But it is revolutionary and will have a sweeping effect, and not to recognize that is just to be contrary and petulant.

jauani

prokofy, i don't know why you are insisting that i should tell you to get a life. of, fine... get a life! satisfied?

it's not revolutionary at all. the migration he's talking about is non-existant. stock exchanges, banks, and stores are all accessible on the internet already. using a new format for their internet portal is not a social or economic revolution. it's a minor revolution in interface. definitely more intuitive than a flat html. it's like going from rotary phones to touch tone. or something like that.

Prokofy Neva

Stock-exchanges, banks, and stores have Internet pages with words and jpegs on them. But they aren't online as institutions you can walk in, and deal with avatars in, Jauani, geez, you are so literalist.

It's a much bigger deal that rotary to touch tone. I think it's more like going from those big cumbersome camberas with the big flashes and the powder and having to sit stock-still, with only one guy in the town serving as the photographer, to having Kodaks that anybody could use but still being dependent on developers to having Polaroids you could develop on your own. It's more like that.

Jake Reitveld

Interesting post, and, at its core, very telling. One of the problems I ran into with helping people with take down notices in SL, is that LL were pretty non-responsive. In short, they would not necessarily abide by the takedown notice, and it is not really worth it for people to litigate in federal court to get LL to respond and then have the expense of proving the underlying action. My impression is that when the takedown notice came from a corporation (i.e., potential corporate sponsor, the notice was rapidly abided by. In contrast, when it came from a resident, it was ignored.

Fundamentally, on the internet, the rule of law is the rule of law in the country where any transcation occurred, or in the country where you agree to be bound by those laws. So if, say, Amazon.com takes my money and fails to deliver my books, I have recourse-I sue them in RL court.

In SL we have a problem: its not real life. We don't know the names of the other residents, nor will they be provided by LL due to privacy considerations, so we are utterly without access to justice, except for that which LL chooses to enforce, for they are the sovereign, despite the fact that they do not want to be.

The trouble with this is that, ultimately, SL is not just another corporate owned media vehicle. SL proudly sells itself on users owning the rights to the content. They creat an expecation of a property interest in thier consumers, and then, by way of their refusal to enforce the property interests of the users, render them effectively meaningless.

So what we have is an effective denial of justice and denial of any rule of law. LL won't enforce inworld, and residents are effectively prohibited from seeking RL justice.

It is my thought, that LL truly expects some sort of residential collective society, with a government by consensus to grow from the SL residents. Like we should have our own constitution as residents. Whether this is some social expereiment on LL's part, or whether this is just LL's excuse for not wanting to invest in administration is unclear.
What is clear is that LL creats an expecation of protection of property interests, and then consistently fails to protect that expectation by taking the position that LL is in the business of innovation, not administration.

The only business I can see LL as truly being committed to is the PR business. And thus we are left with anarchy, where only the naive or rich have any recourse. And the only law is LL's arbitrary responses to whatever pressure is put on it by the media's cause of the day.

Ashcroft Burnham

Jake: have you heard of the Metaverse Republic? It's a growing organisation dedicated to precisely that: a ground-up system of governance and justice for SecondLife (and other virtual worlds, eventually), with emphasis on a strict separation of powers and the rule of law.

If you are interested in joining, or would like more information, please IM me in-world, or see our website, http://www.metaverserepublic.org .

Prokofy Neva

I view LL as very much like one of these corporativist governments like Russia or China, with as big aspirations, ultimately, for their revolutionary zeal, and that's why I bother. They do things through connections, favour-banking, etc. So that's why FlipperPA and his lawyer can get the Lindens to turn over a John Doe name, and others are ignored. I think if all the cases you had taken up, Jake, involved FIC types, publicity, the news angle of a sex bed, etc. etc. you'd be that more favourably positioned. But of course that isn't the rule of law; it's the rule of tribes, it's the jungle.

The rash of cases that have gotten so much attention (ageplay, Bragg, Stroker) have led to this rising tide of expectations that RL law will now be able to save the day everywhere, and we are seeing it cannot, and perhaps should not, but this alternative, where we're supposed to build this glorious new revolutionary Creative Commons type of legal regime is also fake and manipulated constantly.

Yes, Jake, I know you've always made this point, that they haev this concept of "we give you guys the tools". But trust me -- if "we guys" and "our tools" were really to create this self-governed society and pose any challenge to them, they'd be very swift in breaking it up -- and they might do this almost unconsciously or with some prevarication that some of their lower ranks believe.

It's like the way they've replied to Forseti's SLOG letter about IP and how the Lindens are competing with their own residents, grabbing content, using it to show off LL, and never even

I saw this in full-blown regalia at VW07. There was a giant poster board of a mermaid, the epitome of virtual world experience. I immediately saw that she was a skin and attachments made by EmeraldEmerald Kline, who is one of my tenants. And I was surprised that at the corner of this giant picture, there were no credits -- nothing.

So I went up on stage after Joe Linden gave his very upbeat talk about open sourcing and blah blah blah, and I said, Joe, let me tell you what it's about, it's about this giant poster you have behind your PowerPoint talk which is content by a resident that you don't credit or barely seem aware of.

And he was so confused, and looking around and like, huh, wha?? Because he's fairly new there, and it's just not his job to worry about the "your world/your imagination" mantra given to the customers, who is somebody else's job -- Jeska's -- to placate.

Being inworld, we tend to buy some of this propaganda ourselves to some extent, unconsciously. I remember this marketing Linden who I don't think is there any more getting put out that the houses people made inworld just weren't attractive enough to help her sell the "look" she needed to hustle the first land in that special offer they did for awhile with zoned sims and houses offered on land. I just rolled my eyes at this. I saw the depths of how fake they are, even in their own internal corporate culture, about really making this our world. It's not. The TOS lets us know that.

Of course this claim of "self-governance" is grandly passing the buck of a federal responsibility, and turning it over to warring Balkan warlords and not framing the debate propertly even. And the results are predictable. And if the results were anything different -- and they can't be, while sectarians ilke Ashcroft dominate the discussion with crazy stuff like the Metaverse Republic -- then the Lindens can rest assured that nothing will ever come of it.

This is so true:

"What is clear is that LL creats an expecation of protection of property interests, and then consistently fails to protect that expectation by taking the position that LL is in the business of innovation, not administration."

The expectation, however, is built on an emulation and a simulation. And we know its flaws and their shortcomings. The extremist of what you're saying, however, is instantly belied by all the hundreds of people who do design content and sell it for real money. That's always what they can point to. Those that get burned doing that aren't the majority -- there hasn't yet been a Copybot-type total undermining of the system -- but there will be, likely when they open source.

I don't think the solution is to build a toy government and be patted on the head. I think a few very simple single-interest type of demands need to be placed on the Lindens by movements that don't fuss a lot about structuring a government on servers they can't own, with powers that won't cede their power or separate them, but influence them and mitigate their damage as you would with any corporation whose behaviour you seek to change.

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