Local Government Study Group meeting @ Sunbelt Software Island

The next meeting of the Local Government Study Group will be this Sunday, the 15th of April 2007, at 12.30PM SLT at the Sunbelt Software Auditorium. This will be part II of the discussion on the benefits of local governance. Note that this will not be a meeting to discuss the detail of the tools proposals: a further meeting will be arranged to discuss that in due course.

Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to join the Local Government Study Group (open enrollment, no enrollment charge), but membership of the group is not a prerequisite to attending the meeting.

SLUrl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/sunbelt%20software/205/98

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About Gwyneth Llewelyn

I’m just a virtual girl in a virtual world…

  • I am a member of the LGSG although I do not share the opinions of the group organizers.

    Local governments are and will be inevitable in SL just the way role playing is a big part of SL. But I don’t think that a governance system that mimics RL governments is the solution to the problems we encounter in SL. More than that, SL has a hystorical opportunity and even a hystorical duty to create a new, better system.

    We should focus on creating better tools for individuals to govern themselves rather than tools for RL-like governments.

  • For all who care, there is now a Wiki for the Local Government Study Group at http://lgsg.wetpaint.com/ and the transcripts of the meetings are both there as well as on the SL Homepage forums.

  • Ashcroft Burnham

    Lem, the tools that I propose would enable a huge range of different sorts of governments to be created, from the wholly traditional, to the slightly novel, to the entirely off-the-wall. If the tools were implemented, individuals would be able to decide with what, if any, government to be associated. Ultimately, market forces would decide which governments thrived and which fell by the wayside. Why do you not think that a marketplace for governments is not a better system than the prevalence of monopoly providers?

    In any event, what exactly are “tools for people to govern themselves”? The tools that I propose are specifically aimed at giving groups of people a chance to govern themselves in virtually any way that they can imagine. Those who do not want to be part of any group at all will not have to be. If you have any ideas as to what tools might help those people, then I should certainly like to know what they are. The Lindens might be interested, too. But having ideas of that sort is no reason to deny the large number of people who do want tools that enable group-based government of either traditional or non-traditional form the ability to do so.

  • Ashcroft, nobody is “denying” anyone the ability to organize themselves in group-based governments and certainly I don’t (even if I am looking down on such governments). Like I said originally, I think that such governments are inevitable in SL.

    However, I think that it is more important to give “individuals” more power and tools to govern themselves. And, although I am concerned that LGSG is distracting SL from developing these tools for individuals, I am not saying either that we should focus ONLY on those tools.

    Personally, I think that the idea of ratings has great potential. Ratings should be much more efficient in controlling commerce than any local governments. LL is making the choice to abandon ratings instead. Fortunately, other rating tools are already being developed.

    I also think that one of the ideas that came up during one of the LGSG meetings, to improve identification based perhaps on IP addresses, has great value. Between that and muting and banning, handling griefers should be relatively easy.

    Getting back to local governments though, I have very little confidence in the ability of any such government to be useful, no matter what tools will be provided. And that’s because of the people who usually get involved in governing (tools have very little to do with it).

  • Lem, think not of “government” in the RL sense of the word, but in “management”, like an non-profit association or a company has.

    Imagine that a group of residents create a non-profit co-op to manage their land collectively, and wish to implement a series of rules to enforce a common covenant, and delegate roles and functions to each member of the co-op. This works using the group tools if the co-op is not really a co-op, but an autocratic structure where the “manager” is the landowner and group owner and decides everything (including kicking out members that don’t comply with their rules).

    But now imagine that the co-op (like RL co-ops) needs to do enforcement based on a common agreement of the majority of members. Using the current group tools, you’ll see that either the group owner agrees with “majority ruling”, or nothing will come out of it — the group owner, estate owner, etc. will always have the ultimate word on what goes on with their land/group.

    Ashcroft’s ideas present suggestions for having groups of people where all members have collective ownership and management of a group; each one has effectively the power to decide (by voting or any other mechanism) what should be enforced in their common land/group — and what should not.

    Obviously this does not dictate that all such organisations need to be “democratic”. RL gives us two models: companies (autocratic — the boss is the one that controls everything) and associations (usually democratic, but sometimes the right to vote/decide can be limited to a group of members; the others are “users” of a service but not “voting members”).

    Now while your comment that “governments will not work because of the people who usually get involved in governing” might apply to true governments, but I’m pretty sure that people who claim those things will not claim that “companies will not work because of the people who usually get involved in running businesses” or “co-ops/associations/NGOs will not work because of people who usually get involved in running those organisations”. In fact, the very same argument is usually extended to: “government is a bad idea, let people run their own businesses and organisations without government interference and all will be better”.

    While I don’t necessarily subscribe to that view (ie. the usual “all politicians are corrupt” etc.), I definitely agree that companies and organisations iRL can work much more efficiently than most governments.

    What Ashcroft is proposing is a series of mechanisms that would allow people to form companies or organisations and use those “governance tools” to set them up, independently of the role of the “founder” or “creator”. A few of those organisations might call themselves “local governments” and go all the way to establish elections, parties, judicial systems, etc. Most will not — but most will certainly embrace the notion that a group of users could, indeed, co-own land and co-manage groups, without relying upon the “owner/founder” to give them “permission”.

    Notice that co-ownership also means a way to have, say, an island or an estate in the name of a group, and not a single person. Just like iRL, where companies and organisations own real estate in the name of the company, not in the name of the CEO/Director/President.

    I hope that clarifies things. Calling the resulting organisation a “democratic government” is just one of the many possible uses of the “governance tools” that Ashcroft is proposing, and by far not the only possible one. I tend to believe it will actually be the least used. In any case, this will be an opt-in system — people still wanting the full enforcement of the current autocratic group structure with land ownership will obviously still get it.

  • Ashcroft Burnham


    I don’t know why you think that the LGSG is “distracting” Linden Lab from developing necessary tools by suggesting that it develop other necessary tools. I am not aware of any evidence to suggest that the LGSG has caused LL to change its priorities: they are interested in developing local governance tools anyway: it is simply a question of persuading them to develop good governance tools.

    The only two examples that you gave (ratings and identity verification) do not bear out your claim about distraction. Ratings were removed because of their effect on database load (the alternative ratings providers use independent databases), and Linden Lab is planning to implement secure identity verification mechanisms, before it does anything with local governance.

    Really, if you think that there are things that Linden Lab ought be doing that it isn’t doing, then the best thing to do is not criticise the LGSG, but form your own “individual user tool group” (or something) and take a positive, rather than a negative approach.


    the tools that I propose can indeed be used for things other than conventional governments: they are, as I wrote above, specifically designed to be extremely flexible. (More or less) conventional governments do, however, have a place in virtual worlds, and the tools should enable those to emerge, too.