Building Communities

Polska RepublikaLinden Lab announced a bold move, “back to the mainland” — finally recognising officially that they have been doing a rather poor job of maintaining it. On Linden Lab’s official blog, Jack Linden underlines some of the key issues that Linden Lab will tackle again: more control, more attention to urban planning, more enforcement (specially on the nasty ad farms that cover the nice views!), and zoning. Their recent experiments with Bay City — Linden Lab actively promoting a mainland-based rental community, competing with residents providing rental services — might have encouraged them to preserve one of the most valuable assets of the Second Life® environment: in SL, communities are created around buildings.

Interesting for me, the connection between both has not always been clear to me. But the revelation struck me when all of a sudden a lot of different kinds of communities started to pop up here and there.

Second Life’s Self-Governance Attempts

Plodding along for four years and into its 9th term of constitutionally elected members, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators (CDS), Second Life’s first democratically-run territory, has always been one of those projects that refuse to disappear from the face of the grid, no matter how many people have opposed it from the very start. Its foundation was quite simple — communities that depend on a single person to own the land and provide the buildings have always a “succession problem”: if the owner goes away, the community disbands pretty quickly. It’s hard to replace benevolent dictators, as everybody in SL has experienced once in a while, when their rented land is suddenly sold to a different landlord.

The CDS is unique in that regard. There is no “owner” of the four regions that make its territory. Instead, residents owning a plot of land in the CDS get a vote and can get elected for Government, which will manage the regions on behalf of the citizens. If you disagree with the Government’s views and plans, you can just elect a new Government after 6 months — or become a candidate yourself and gather voters to elect you. It neatly solves the issue of depending on a benevolent dictator, although, like all democracies where a lot has to be discussed and voted upon, it grows quite slowly, and not without pain: people with radically different views have to co-exist somewhat pacifically in the same area. The “will of the majority” rules, but the minorities will grumble and protest (all the time), like on any other democracy, and will publicly protest on the forums or in in-world meetings, specially on the more lively Representative Assembly meetings. It’s all part of running a territory under a democracy. It works; although it’s not so efficient as a benevolent dictatorship, at least it gives power to whom most deserves it: the tier-paying residents.

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