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SLDM FAQ w/ Strategy and Goals Version 1.0
This document is an informational text about the SL Democratic Movement (SLDM) and its goals. The document is written and decided on by the members of SLDM. It is a compilation of ideas that we accumulated over time and that has to crystallize in combination with (virtual) reality; therefore the text focuses on the most important visions and/or end goals for our organization, but leaves room for different approaches to and implementations of those, in recognition of diversity and changing reality.
The SL Democratic Movement (SLDM) believes that the governance of SL by Linden Lab (LL) is both in theory and practice completely unbalanced, while we believe that because SL is created by its residents this is unjustified. We believe that the residents of SL (and the Metaverse) should be able to govern themselves (and not only at the microlevel) which entails establishing rights in the LL (or that of any grid operator) Terms of Service (ToS) and implement venues and structures that empower and protect the individual (especially against a "benevolent" dictatorship).
For this purpose, SLDM educates, agitates and organizes. We use different tactics and strategies to campaign at a grassroots level, which include discussions, meetings, in world protests/demonstrations and raising awareness and cause attention to the general cause through events, blogs, and other media. As well as trying to find, change and/or create tools to enable democratic self governing of communities.
Q: So, what are the goals of SLDM? A: Many issues here are connected and overlapping, but the most stressing are (somewhat simplified):
1) Political rights;
The balance in power between Linden Lab and the Second Life community at large needs to be changed drastically. LL should acknowledge that this synthetic world is made by all the different investments individual residents make to this world on the platform that LL created. LL should acknowledge their dependency on these investments and accordingly implement:
-A structure in which the community at large (through empowering the individual resident) is able to voice their opinion; where a meaningful dialog is fostered between them and the community (not like the office hours, special interest groups, PJIRA and blog now, this is not a meaningful dialog, it is a facade in that regard); where policy and ToS changes are discussed *before* they are implemented and *before* residents need to agree. There is no consideration now whatsoever with what the community thinks and feels when they are about to implement a new policy or feature;
-A separate venue for proposing, discussing and voting on social-political-economical issues. Now this is all merged into the PJIRA-tool, the issue tracker for technical features and bugs (see URL at the bottom of this document with References&Links). The socio-political issues are not getting enough attention or none at all, while social-political views are implied in the technological discussions and decisions. This is in part also due to the PJIRA not being particular user friendly, and known, and because of the fragmented structure of the bug reporting, where the JIRA-tool is created for; i.e. technical issues. But besides that, Linden Lab also does not recognize the PJIRA as political forum.
-Regular macro-reports of the various development groups, like SLDev and AWG, that work in connection/collaboration with LL, to give the community an overview and idea of the general direction. It is impossible for someone that is not active in these communities to keep track of what goes on. Attending the meetings and office hours now and then do not create understanding of the bigger picture, since they are mostly focussed on particular technical issues, discussed (understandable) in jargon.
-(Binding) Referenda, plus the possibility for a "Residents Initiative" to demand a referendum.
(Ideally, the goal is to bring the SL Community and LL towards a full cooperative body with a decision making structure that enables a workable direct democracy.)
2) Balancing out the ToS: Right to not be exciled for no reason, Right of due process and other;
LL has to abolish ToS article 2.6, which states that "Linden Lab has the right at any time for any reason or no reason to suspend or terminate your Account, terminate this Agreement, and/or refuse any and all current or future use of the Service without notice or liability to you." LL has to abolish ToS article 3.2.b, which states that they can "delete any or all of your Content from Linden Lab's servers and from the Service, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and for any reason or no reason, without any liability of any kind to you or any other party" In fact, remove all text like "for any reason or no reason", "in Linden Lab's sole discretion", "without notice or liability to you" etc. from the ToS and other agreements, which effectively grant LL no accountability for actions taken.
Also, the abuse report system needs to be overhauled, in such a way that transparency and accountability (of all parties involved) become an integral part of it.
The current "appeal-process" in place should be replaced with a transparent, public and comprehensible process for appealing suspensions and bannings.
3) Right of ownership of your avatar and its assets;
LL should allow and make possible to create local backups of your avatar. Especially when considering the possibility of interoperable synthetic worlds, which might merge into a real Metaverse someday. We understand the difficulties with permissions regarding intergrid-content, but these back-ups could at least be implemented with content created by its owner and full permissions content.
4) Open source the server code and further the existing open source initiative;
While there has been some effort as to the opening of the code of the SL viewer to the general public, there is much more that can and should be done in regard to democratizing the code part of SL:
-Help people help you. The open source community has in the past been more than willing to help with software issues, going as far as to replace whole parts of SL with equivalent, if not better, open source parts. There have also been many patches and contributions with the goal of reducing memory usage, making the viewer more stable, getting better performance. Many of these patches never make it into the SL viewer, for reasons only known by LL. At the same time, LL uses it's own, private bug tracker, obfuscating what is being worked on and what not, or what makes it into the viewer and what not. Therefor, LL should stop the disregard for the free help of many willing people and should open up the "secret" bug tracker to the general community, so people willing and able to contribute can have a much more clearer oversight of what makes it in, what is being worked on, and what needs to be done. It would also show people that LL is truly committed to reducing instability etc, since they can actually see what is being worked on. The current Jira is not suited for this, both because it doesn't reflect the true status of the software (since it doesn't necessarily reflect the "secret" inner bugtracker), and because it is used and misused for several other things besides bug tracking.
-Open source the server code To become a true democratic metaverse, people should be able to choose other providers then LL, and even be able to host simulators themselves. The best way to do this, is opening up the server code. There is some support for people reverse engineering the current code to create a compatible viewer, but why not give them the best possible start to create a compatible sim: the current server code. The above of course also applies to this: make further development a transparent, cooperative process.
Q: Well, that sounds great! And I agree, but … is it realistic? A: That question has been raised before every big revolution in history (which is not to equate real world revolution or activism with their parts within a synthetic world.). We think it is realistic, that it is possible to change towards our goals. But this does ask for political will on LL’s part, which needs to be fueled and forced in that direction by the will and hopes of the SL Community, articulated through a multitude of venues. What is realistic (and probable) is that when LL wont change its ways and a real competitor of SL (with user created content) arrives the people will vote with their feet and leave SL to die. Which also brings us to the ultimate protest possible to demand change, which is that all people who are paying customer tier down to basic accounts; an all out strike. Tier payments are LL’s largest income and being a service provider their future.
Q: Who can become a member of SLDM? A: Anyone can become a member of SLDM. It is open membership. Anyone who is interested in sociological, political and economical issues regarding the world Second Life and the corporation owning and ruling it, Linden Lab, is welcome to join us to think and act for change towards a more democratic structure of the governance of SL as a whole. We do oppose any form of community organization and world view, that has it´s foundation in the exclusion of people based on their believes, ethnic background, gender etc. Those forms of segregation contradict our vision of humanity and society and can´t have any place anywhere in human society, let alone in a virtual world, that is meant to connect us all as the world is growing together more and more.
Q: How is SLDM structured itself? Do you have a leadership? Are you democratic yourself? A: SLDM does not have a separate leadership to decide on policies and actions. SLDM aims to be an organization by and for the members. The general membership decides on group policies and actions in regular meetings, held weekly on Sundays, at 11 am SLT. Due to inherent structure of permissions system of SL, both regarding the group and the group owned land and assets, we do have formal owners. That said, these “owners” work for the group, and not out of self interest and are of no more importance then anyone else regarding the policies and actions of the group. Besides that, communication channels are open for everyone.
Q: Can I join when I want to be informed of the groups progress and actions, but don’t have time to really be an active participant? A: Sure. And we encourage you to do so.
Q: Has SLDM public events I and my friends can attend? A: Yes. At the moment, we have a weekly public discussion, which is listed in the Events list in Search under Discussions. This series of SL Issues Discussion is focussed on the socio-political issues within and about SL/LL and takes place every Tuesday, at 12 pm SLT, at the SLDM HQ (see below with References&Links for the landmark to SLDM HQs). Besides this discussion, we have a weekly Membership Meeting, where SLDM membership puts forth and decides on SLDM internal affairs. This is held at Sundays, 11 AM SLT, at the SLDM HQs. And of course we throw the occasional party at our club.
Q: What can I do to help SLDM and her cause? A: There is a multitude of ways to do that:
Become a active member of SLDM and help organizing: -attend and participate in SLDM meetings and actions/events. -Submit proposals for events and actions, which will then be discussed in the next membership meeting. -Help organize events and actions. -Submit articles related to SL, SLDM and the cause, for publishing on our blog (http://www.sl-dm.co.uk). -Help host our events.
Help financially -Help with payments for SLDM assets. (We are completely reliable on donations at this moment) -Make viral content for campaign purposes (thus copyable, and transferable) or content for SLDM to sell (we have our own shop at the HQs) to support the payment of SLDM assets.
Educate and Campaign: -Pass on this document. -Spread info and content about SLDM and the cause on your own land and through your own events. -Discuss the issue with your friends and others. -Invite people to SLDM so they can keep up to date and help out in their turn.
Residents of SL
References and Links: