Robin Linden and Colin Rule discuss Dispute Resolution

Our very own Robin Harper (Linden) was recently interviewed by Colin Rule, eBay’s Director of Online Dispute Resolution, “on these evolving social spaces and the place of dispute resolution therein” as it mentions on the original ODR page.

Good stuff — check it out!

==> Click here to download the Podcast in MP3 (28 min., 26 MB)

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44 Responses to Robin Linden and Colin Rule discuss Dispute Resolution

  1. Crucial Armitage says:

    awesome interview Robin, it was a pleasure to hear you speak on this subject very interesting listen. 🙂

  2. Macphisto Angelus says:

    Interesting interview. Does this indicate LL may be looking into official dispute resolution avenues?

    Thanks for the link to listen to it Torley.

  3. Aster says:

    Very Niffty Indeed.

    I was thinking about social stuffs like you discussed a while back, and my conclusion was that parcels need to allow multiple groups for inclusion/exclusion. Of course this opens the way for really complicated and/or rules reguarding who can enter a parcel for example: User must be in the “Better Business Bureau” Group and the “I promise to talk Like a Prirate in pirateland ” Group but not in the “I Love to Grief” Group to enter this parcel. But if you could do that… that would be awesome.

  4. Prokofy Neva says:

    I was quite dismayed, hearing the dulcet tones and tinkling laughter in this chat between what felt like two game gods chuckling over their pesky server populations whom they view as squabbling pettily among themselves, and fussily proving resistant to change, freaking out over every little software design change.

    It was condescending, and a bit chilling to think of how people in charge of Internet and software companies like this are increasingly going to be taking over large chunks of our lives. Robin said very forcefully that she simply cannot conceive of ever having representative government in SL, merely because it LL is a business.

    But who says businesses should remain set in this ancient 19th century mold of all-powerful CEOs, boards of trustees, and dependent customers living in knocked-together company towns owing their soul to the company store? The ebay guy said there was no way that ebay or similar services could have viable “courts” because they’d be forced to render decisions on people that they also expected to be coming back and continuing to pay them money the next day. It was all so disconcerting. Robin put a lot of stake on the land covenants, but conceded that there really isn’t a good way to enforce them. She said that like all things Second Life, courts/justice/disputes resolution would have to be organized by residents. That prospect is singularly unpleasant, given the culture of inhumanity one can often find in SL. The only faintly promising indication was that Robin said LL would not be endorsing any of these mediator services; or at least they had not guaranteed any of them yet, because they had no way to vouch for them — but really what concerned her was that LL couldn’t enforce another party’s decisions that might impact their business goals.

    Who decided corporations could take over our lives like these, even our intimate lives online in various communities? And please don’t tell me that if you don’t like it you can leave. I pay money — paying money should mean a greater form of partnership than we have — and more of a sense of respect — we are not elves to be pushed around from server to server. Yes, there’s something very wrong with this picture, and I suspect it will be changing and evolving in ways none of us can anticipate.

  5. Lewis Nerd says:

    There are many well established modes of dispute resolution within online communities – a report, investigation, a warning, and an appeals process; in fact I spent a considerable amount of time with you a few months back Robin discussing them, at your request.

    You simply have to do two things.

    1) When issuing a warning of any kind, inform the user of what they did to deserve the warning. This may include relevant parts of chat logs or forum posts, and the relevant parts of the CS that were violated.

    2) Actually respond to appeal emails.

    It may be discouraging. It may not be pleasant. You may not have the staff. Well that solution is easy; it’s a necessary part of the work, so get someone specifically to deal with it. If it’s their job, they can hardly complain that it’s not nice work, when they were employed specifically to deal with that issue.

    The sad thing is that this issue is *not* cutting edge future-of-the-metaverse stuff – it’s about as basic as you can get, and has been part of online gaming in some capacity ever since online gaming began.


  6. Nick Marquette says:

    I enjoyed listening to your interview. You noted in this interview that behavioural issues are a huge percentage of the complaints. While the various kinds of disputes make this topic interesting, I am wondering what training you provide for your staff and volunteers to hande disputes.

    While most of my support calls are handled professionally by volunteers and staff, some of the reponses I have seen lately have been low quality. Recently one dicusion degraded from technical technical issues to name calling. This may be violating federal harassment laws that cover your employees, vendors and customers. What training do you provide your supervisors, staff and volunteers to meet federal regulations and better serve your customers?

    Thanks for the podcast.

  7. John Horner says:

    Very interesting Robin. I actually delayed starting a day job activity to listen to that pod.

    I have an idea.

    A type of self Government can emerge within Second Life but you lot are American so you may need to grasp a hard straw to go forward.

    Governor Linden has the wrong name.

    King Lindon is much better, after all it acknowledges a simple basic fact, he is an ABSOLUTE monarch.

    Now the Island Owners could perhaps be called Dukes…for example Her Grace the Duchess of Chung. After all Island owners have a greater degree of control over their land than mainland owners. They can both tax and rule only subject to the Divine right of Kings.

    Land Owners on the mainland are effective Barons. Less authority or control but masters of their land subject to the Kings absolute Divine right.

    The Lindon Terms of Service are a type of Magna Carter.

    Non-landowners are peasants. Subject to both rule by Barons, Dukes, and the King.

    The King levies tax which all must pay. Dukes and Barons pay tax to the king and may levy tax on each other and the peasants

    The Dukes and Barons may participate in basic lower level decisions via membership of The House Of Lords

    A few peasants may establish a House Of Commons and elect a Speaker to represent them to the Barons, Dukes, and the King.

    Being English I understand these things, after all the British way of life and legal system has lasted around a thousand years, so it has proven worth.

    Oh yes, the Lord Chancellor…..that’s YOU Robin. Just be careful you do not emulate Thomas Moore

  8. Khamon says:

    It works this way now John. Second Life has always functioned under a royal court politcal structure. Land is power. It’s a fairly easy system to flow through if you know how. Well, any system is easy to flow through if you know how or are willing to learn.

    You’re correct to say “hard straw.” Most of the American players, including the Lindens, won’t even admit this fact, much less entertain the idea of affirming it with titles et al.

  9. Lewis Nerd says:

    I think the idea of an officially endorsed, player run government, will be the death of Second Life.

    Whilst individuals can, of course, choose to live in a region, such as Neualtenberg (or whatever it calls itself these days) and operate in a roleplay government system… most of us do not want to, and live our second lives appropriately.

    At least there, it’s people’s choice – I have no obligation whatsoever to accept or follow any of their rules unless I choose to go to that region.

    However, if it is introduced gamewide and some idiot comes up and says “I am the official tax collector, give me 10% of your wealth”, then I will tell them where to shove it sideways.

    I’ve seen so many ‘governments’ in Sims Online, where a little group think they can go around telling other people how to play their game, and every single one failed eventually.


  10. Khamon says:

    “I’ve seen so many ‘governments’ in Sims Online, where a little group think they can go around telling other people how to play their game, and every single one failed eventually.” – Lewis

    We see this in the real world too Lewis, it just takes years, sometimes decades before another party takes over or the system collapses entirely. No human government has ever lasted very long.

  11. John Horner says:

    Be a great idea though Khamon. Its called fedualism.

    OH yes one more subtle twist that occured to me. Two classes of peasents, Freemen/Freewoman which would be those who have provided payment information, and Surfs…those who have not.

    All higher classes of people can tax Surfs at will, unless they pertition the King as they provide a special service/need

    Chuckle…..its actually not a bad idea,…..and secretly most Americans love titles, they just won’t admit it

  12. Prokofy Neva says:


    Re: >A few peasants may establish a House Of Commons and elect a Speaker to represent them to the Barons, Dukes, and the King.

    Great concept — we have part of this already in SL as Khamon is explaining — but you just heard Lord Chancellor Robin Linden herself tell us that we cannot have representative government. Full stop. Can’t be done. It’s a company — too bad for you, etc.

    Yes, we thought of this last year, we asked about essentially a freeholders/free men and women type of arrangement if you will, by having a) more granulated group tools and land tools and b) code of ethics from Lindens (this is what the other thread about groups and Lindens is about).
    Some of the group tools reforms have happened but essentially, we’re all tenants of Governor Linden, nothing for it.

    I point-blank asked Philip Linden in September 2005, at a meeting a group of land barons called to petition His Majesty, whether he would consider signing a Magna Charta.

    His Majesty said, “Such a document would be awesome.”

    The “awesomeness” of it did not move His Highness to sign it or work in a drafting committee however.

    Much work still to be done!

  13. John Horner says:

    Prokofy, perhaps we should run with this as loyal subjects, and humbly petition His Royal Highness King Phillip 1. After all He rules by Divine right and as of such can expand His Realm (and taxation) at His pleasure, and modify Magna Carta at His Absolute Will.

    Unless of course He should suffer the fate of Charles 1……

    Seriously its not a bad idea for an evolving on-line community in this subjects humble opinion, but as my wife said we are but common clay. Its not for us to question the Will of the King

  14. Maklin Deckard says:

    I just don’t undertstand the folks like Prokofy and their obsession with ingame ‘democracy’ and ‘representation’. Robin is 100% right, there is NO WAY any company is going to give the self-centered masses control.

    For the sake of arguement, let us say SL gave the players this representative stake and actually implemented the player will (without implementation, it would be a sham and same as no representation). And due to bad/self-centerd decisions by the masses, SL folds. For the VAST majority of the players, its ‘Damn, now I have to find another game’ and no real impact on their lives. For King Phil, Robin, etc., its ‘Damn, now I have to find another will I pay my bills?’. No SANE company is going to risk its financial future just for the feel-goodism of online democracy. One merely has to look at RL politics to see how folks vote single issues (anti-abortion/religion) to the detriment of all else and the system is open to monied exploitation (the gun lobby). And when it comes right down to it, everyone thinks sacrifice for the greater good is wonderful, long as its NIMBY (not in my back yard). Human nature in all its ugliness.

    The ONLY way the Profoky’s of the world are going to get what they want would be if a group of sociologists who just happened to be rich philanthropists created a ‘SL-like’ game with representation built in and ran it as a non-profit/break even enterprise. No sane for-profit corporation is ever going to do more than give the appearance of public participation…the chances of it being economic suicide for the company are just too great.

  15. Maklin Deckard says:

    (I wish you could edit here, brushed the touchpad on the laptop and it took that as enter)

    For my own part, having experienced the collective intellectual level of many SL groups firsthand, I do NOT wish them to have any control over me or my activities. I will take the benevolent, if sometimes benignly neglectful, rule of King Phillip I, and the actively helpful rule of Duke Shang of Caledon any day. 🙂

  16. Khamon says:

    “Some of the group tools reforms have happened but essentially, we’re all tenants of Governor Linden, nothing for it.” – Prokofy

    Land is power and, ultimately, servers are land. Virtual world owners don’t rule with armies and courts, but with power outlets and account files.

    “Unless of course He should suffer the fate of Charles 1……” – John

    It works backward though. We can’t exile Philip from Second Life, but will have to leave ourselves. The good news is that as virtual worlds come online by the dozens over the next few years, we won’t be risking life and limb to do so.

  17. Wilson Hat says:

    Prokofy is exactly on the money. All this jibber-jabber amounts to a potential virtual dictatorship. Mark my words, if this continues, there could be virtual blood on the virtual cobblestones.

  18. Cheyenne Marquez says:

    John, your proposal is very well written and thought out. I, for one, would love to see a system in SL like the one you propose if for nothing else but to impart some type of order and organization to an otherwise “anarcho-capitalist” type society.

    Appealing as it is, I doubt the Lindens would adopt it simply because it would in effect automatically “officially” assign the Lindens a greater degree of accountability and responsibility for many of the mundane every-day activities in SL. By not implementing such a system, and remaining in the “perceived” background, the Lindens are able to pick and choose those areas that want to be involved in, while remaining in the background in those areas they’d rather not be bothered with. It’s a win-win for the Lindens although in reality the system as it stands is much as you describe, minus the titles. Overall though, Im of the opinion that the Lindens are doing a very good job polishing the “diamond in the rough” that is SL.

  19. Fushichou Mfume says:

    A resident-run government will probably never, ever be allowed, because regardless of Lindenspeak to the contrary, SL is LindenLab’s product and is the source of their income. Ultimately, critical decisions regarding the direction of their product will remain solely in their purview. They can listen to our feedback, rants, and desires and take them under consideration, but ultimately it is KING Linden and his company employees who make all of the decisions about what to do with SL. (Yes, “Governer Linden” is indeed a misnomer and a typical example of what I call “Lindenspeak”.)

    Regardless, a model that *could* be easily implemented is a very simple one that does not conflict with the corporate needs of LindenLab.

    1) Give mainland Landowners absolute control over their parcel territory.

    2) Give estate Landowners absolute control over their Estate territory.

    3) By absolute control, that means the nominal officers of the parcel/estate are allowed to use any means necessary to control their parcel/estate, without fear of having an abuse report filed against them. Ban/orbit/cage/freeze–whatever. If a person attempts to file an abuse report against a controlling officer of an estate/parcel for an event that occured on the parcel/estate, then LindenLab says “hands off this one” and closes the abuse report without further action.

    4) By “nominal officer” of the parcel/estate, I mean specifically: A) individuals given “Estate Manager” privs on an estate, and B) officer ranks or higher in a group that owns a mainland parcel, and C) an individual parcel owner if the parcel is not group-owned.

    By implementing a system like this, LindenLab is simply *delegating* some of their conflict resolution headaches to the residents in a manner that does not violate the SPIRIT of the TOS or of the concept of “land ownership” in SL. Who could reasonably argue that a parcel owner or estate owner, who paid significant real-world money for their parcels (or island(s)) and pays a significant monthly leasing fee to retain control of those properties, should not be allowed absolute control over their parcel, even to the point of using force to get rid of people they don’t want on their parcel/estate, for whatever reason? It’s THEIR land, pure and simple, and in any country the concept of land ownership and the rights of land owners is pretty comprehensively in favor of the land owner being able to do pretty much anything they want to protect their property and their privacy.

  20. Fushichou Mfume says:

    BTW, a system like I’ve described is essential because SL as a “world” or “nation” lacks one crucial thing that real-world nations have: a government-run police force that protects the rights of property owners. In SL, we cannot “call the police” if a griefer will not leave our property. Sure we have *some* tools to eject/ban a griefer, but there are still ways to hassle us even if they cannot physically enter our parcel. (And for island owners, a banned resident can still TP onto your island and cause grief–all that happens is they’re stuck in one corner until they leave.)

    Since we cannot rely on a government-run police force to protect our property, the only rational course it to empower us to protect ourselves using whatever means necessary. If a griefer is standing outside the border of a parcel, griefing people within the parcel, a nominal officer of that parcel should be able to repeatedly orbit the griefer or otherwise keep the griefer far enough away to do no harm, without fear of reprisial by the griefer filing an AR against the parcel officer.

  21. The current resident run gov’t I know of in Second Life are:

    The Confederation of Democratic Simulators (CDS) which a democracy containing the islands of Neufreistadt and Colonia Nova. We’re often dismissed as “roleplayers”; however the truth is that we represent voters and effectively run both sims as a gov’t. We are very close to passing a Judiciary bill which provides for binding formal dispute resolution.

    Main Site:
    Latest on the Judicary thread:

    Port Neualtenburg is an artisanal collective.

    Caledon is by far the largest and has a feudal gov’t and a steampunk Victorian theme.

    Goreans and Elvish lands (but I’m unsure of current status).

    John, we’d be happy to see another resident run gov’t such as the one you describe. If well built, the residents will come and when that happens we’ll be happy to build an embassy there. -Pel

  22. Prokofy Neva says:

    Fushichou, what you’re not realizing is that we already *have* resident government.

    First, we have an army of police-state informers that would make the KGB blush, all ratting out their fellow residents in a secretive, non-accountable system of abuse-reporting.

    Second, we have phalanxes of live helpers, greeters, mentors, and instructors, at least some of whom abuse the perks of office, who have a front-row seat at the lucrative, impressionable newbie stream to steer into their commerce circles.

    Third we have/had forums resmods.

    Fourth, we have the nobles and boyars who their service to the Crown, get special “stickies” in the forums; special meetings; special groups.

    Fifth, we have other features of that medieval type of state with craftsmen’s guilds that get the Crown’s favour or sustenance from some of the wealthy merchant families, like Medicis. And so on.

    Government is in place; if there are not formal quislings, regeants, stewards, etc. that’s because they’re just not done coding that piece of it. We have resident government; we’re getting *more* of it; and all the hooting and hollering that we should never have a significant portion of the citizenry selected and put in positions of power over us has only led to a situation where the King has been able to plant his regeants everywhere, in every sector from the stickifier to the greeter to the resmond to the rank-and-file AR’er. Done.

    In this podcast with the aptly named Mr. Rule of ebay, Robin also selected the most absurd examples of allowing democracy to be had, to help discredit the system. Gosh, how can you allow home rule? All the people will just vote to give more stipends to themselves and bankrupt the Crown. How can you let the inmates run the asylum? They are entitlement-happy hogs who will just laden every server with listening securit orbs, laggy poseballs, and bling, you can’t let them decide resource use. And so on — anything to make it as absurd and unlikely as possible.

    Anything to make it seem like it is politically or ideologically or emotionally impossible — Taiwan, Chechnya, Quebec — and nothing to make it seem practical and doable — Auland Island of Finland, Puerto Rico, etc.

    It’s more than possible to work outside these extremist examples, and introduce limited home role or more consent of the governed. The telehub story illustrated that amply — the Lindens couldn’t just erase the telehub tokens from their game board without the people who had bought land near those expensive objects suddenly devalued by a business decision being able to lobby for — and obtaining — just compensation even in the face of an “eminent domain” argument by countering with the “bait and switch” argument. The prim tax revolt of 2003 illustrated the limits of the King’s tyranny as well — even in a dictatorship, you have to have some kind of consent of the governed or they rebel all the time.

    While it might be a tempting solution to have an excess of “states’ rights” be the solution for tyranny, I wouldn’t recommend it. Some role-playing sims with really oppressive regimes want just what you say — the right to have the TOS not apply, and to have all abuse-reports eminating from their domain to be nullified and rerouted to the sim owner. Horrors. How will we hear the scream for help from the tortured?

    But then you have situations like Alabama in the 60s where whites then decide that blacks can’t be integrated in their schools — the basic norms of democratic society as it evolves are not adhered to, and the federal government has to step in to uphold the universal values. Who will uphold universal values? I certainly can’t rely on my unenlightened fellow residents to do that for me, which is why I can’t tolerate their rule — it’s hard enough expecting that from the King; yet the King, by the sanctity of God’s will for His Divine Rule, might be expected to be fair and compassionate.

    I’m not so sure that absolute control of parcels is in the interests even of the RL company Linden Lab. People make worst-case scenarios for resident government, imagining horrors like everybody voting for big stipends and bankrupting the country’s treasury. But why not then also imagine the horrors of absolutely Balkanized self-rule? Imagine in 90 percent of the sims filled up with deep-pocketed ageplayers, or if you want to play leftist, liberal, and lunatic, what if they filled up with deep-pocketed red-neck southern born-agains who hate gays — what would the
    media do with that, and who would then join Second Life?

    There’s no need to have these discussions always reduce to extremes. Some more limited home rule is possible. More enlightened despots are possible.

    More police powers including shooting and orbiting aren’t the answer because there is no one to adjudicate. You may decide the person standing outside your parcel is a griefer because you don’t like their face, or they are your former boyfriend. But what if they live next door and own the parcel and have every right to fly home without being molested by your orbiting? And how will these policing functions be appealed when shattered into a 1000 little fiefdoms?

    I think what makes more sense is to look at a short menu of realistic goals with the Lindens, borrowing a few pages of past historical struggles and mindful of current different realities.

    1. Decriminalize the copying of chatlogs when made in public places such as events put on the events calendar, malls, stores, clubs, etc. A major part of policing fraud, griefing, texture theft, etc. is accomplished by gathering evidence, including chats. In general, a far less punitive reaction to the reality of conversation copying is in order, and the ability to make a copy of chat logs that is verified, i.e. time/date stamped and verified as not tampered with further after that stamp, is needed.

    2. Code property lines so that nothing can be placed within 1 meter of them, i.e. no trees can be waved, no buildings build smack on the line. Alternatively, make trees unplantable unless 1 meter away from any property line.

    3. Create jobs — cleaning up prims from Governor Linden land; planting or laying roads; greeting new people and steering them to orientation; whatever sort of Works Progress Administration could be conceived so that people have useful employment when they come to SL and don’t turn immediately to griefing. I have a poll asking how the new user experience could be improved; the majority are replying “jobs” as an answer.

    4. Create an ombudsman Linden. The office could have strict guidelines not to take any case of matters already covered by lower courts of the TOS and the abuse-reporting system; and could have strict guidelines to require the exhausting of local remedies, to be defined, i.e. direct negotiations, use of mediator services, etc. People need a way to get the Lindens to act on those minority of serious cases that really harm people’s enjoyment of SL. A class-action suit against the Bush guy should have been accepted; the Lindens should have weighed the enormous amount of property devaluation, forced sales, extortion, etc. against the fulfilment of their hedonist utopian dreams, and weighed in on the side of property values and protecting property rights on both sides of the aisles, not just the extortionists. The Lindens should accept for review under the TOS cases where people can demonstrate systematic extortion with intent to harm.

    5. Create a council of elders. While I’d rather have a parliament, since the Lindens are already putting all these residents into power, let them do it openly and transparently, and let them rotate them. Let them accept applications for the positions — or run them by lottery and put them on the auction to be bid for or any mixture of the above — and discuss how to make a system which, though not at all a feature of a democratic, liberal society, can be used to some advantage in a closed society. Let them drop their fake claims to anarchy and libertarianism, and come to grips with the reality of the system they’ve created.

  23. Cocoanut Koala says:

    I’m an American. I love titles! I admit it!

    Princess of Quite a Lot

  24. Lewis Nerd says:

    I’m British, we invented pointless titles.

    Lewis Nerd
    Supreme Commander of my 8000 sq m of Rosieri

  25. Vincent Nacon says:

    Has any of you realizes Linden Labs is actually located within USA?
    They have to follow USA’s government as well…. and they might be forcing them, us, and you to pay them taxes over something sold to in Second Life.

    In other words, them Dukes are screwed.

  26. Seven Overdrive says:

    The only way i could feel comfortable with a representative government in SL is if there was a Bill of Rights that would protect minority groups of residents from all legislated hate by the majority. Until i have that guarantee, i hope it never happens. RL has enough of that and i don’t need it in my SL.

  27. John Horner says:

    The suggestion was written half in fun and half more seriously but I think a more formal feudal system could work within certain bounds imho. Had a report to write this pm, this almost distracted me and was chuckling thinking about the enthronement of Phillip I but…

    Its is unlikely that Dukes (qualification one Island Sim or more) are going act against either their or Lindens perceived views because they have too much to loose. After all Linden Labs could take their land away with no recourse (banishment from the Realm)

    You could extend some rights to Marquis (one or more mainland Sim)

    Earl (half a Sim or more)

    Viscount (quarter of a sim or more)

    Baron (1 square acre ((4096 sq meters) or more

    Knight (a land owner)

    Freeman (min number of Lindens held on account with payment info0

    The Groups could be called Guilds

    King Phillip 1 could grant royal warrants (on payment in US dollars or Lindens) for good Second Life products.

    Surfs could do work for their keep

    In short a limited amount of policing could/can be achieved by people with a financial commitment to Second Life who would want that honour (responsibility)
    and you could have the very early start of a governing on-line community.

    Besides… is very very very profitable. People willingly pay for titles; the going rate today for The House of Lords is about 1 million pounds. Do a google on it.

    And I don’t think it would compromise Second Life in a commercial sense… fact it could earn them loads of money and new subscribers.

  28. Seven Overdrive says:

    “Besides… is very very very profitable. People willingly pay for titles; the going rate today for The House of Lords is about 1 million pounds. Do a google on it.

    And I don’t think it would compromise Second Life in a commercial sense… fact it could earn them loads of money and new subscribers. ”

    Everyone wants a title and eveyone wants to be “special”. I would have no problem with special titles if they had no power over those that cannot afford to buy one.

  29. katykiwi Moonflower says:

    Covenants that “run with the land” are an old concept in property law and served a good purpose prior to zoning and municipal government laws. Modern judicial decisions have struck down covenants when they contain land use restrictions that violate the law, such as “no people of color may purchase this land.” Other covenants, such as a business noncompete agreement, can be upheld as long as the covenant does not render the land useless or nonconveyable.

    The establishment of covenants in SL would be an effective tool for dispute resolution and land management and not present a situation where a private covenant would attempt to bind Linden Lab as a party to the covenant. It would be unacceptable to have private agreements between members attach to Linden Lab as a corporate entity.

    What I envision is a covenant page in the land interface tools where the original purchaser of the land could select certain use options that are either permitted or forbidden on the land. This would be a system more geared toward an entire sim, particularly on the main grid, and not small individual parcels in an existing sim.

    For example, lets say I purchase an entire sim at auction. As the orginal purchaser I would be able to select from a menu of permitted/restricted land use items to define what uses I want individual tenants or purchasers of subdivided parcels to abide by. The predefined usage items could be things like commercial, residential, casino, signs or no signs, camping chairs, limit on number of visitors at once, etc. All of the items on this predetermined list would be terms that would apply to members only and would be preapproved by Linden Lab as restrictions or uses that would not attempt to restrict or bind Linden Lab as a party to the covenant.

    I actually envision the covenant form as an additional page in the estate tools interface where there would be boxes to check for inclusion in the covenant. Once established and placed into effect the covenant would be unable to be changed by the creator without approval by all those who purchased land relying upon the covenant. In addition, after approval by vote, the covenant could be cancelled upon payment of a cash fee to Linden Lab, sufficiently high in order to discourage covenant cancellation for inappropriate reasons.

    Other features could include whether the covenant would “run with the land,” meaning would the covenant apply to down the road when a future owner purchased the sim or entire land area subject to the covenant. Usage items could be added to the covenant creation menu over time as needed. The owner of the land, the one who created the covenant or to whom the covenant has passed by purchase, should be the arbiter of disputes arising from the covenant he set into place. It would be left up to the covenant creator whether other land owners residing on covenant protected land would participate in the dispute resolution process sitting as a jury. The appropriate estate land tools could be established to allow effective enforcement.

    Allowing covenants to be entered between members in a way similar to what I am proposing is one way to steer the resolution of disputes into the hands of members and allow the covenant creator the power of enforcement. In essence, the original purchaser of a sim would set into place a covenant that would remain with the land over time and apply to subsequent purchasers and would have sole authority for enforcement of the covenant provisions as well as related dispute resolution.

    One final thought about dispute resolution inside SL. Any member volunteer to participates in a Linden supported enforcement program should remain anonymous. An example of this would be that each forum resmod would be named “forum moderator” and not reveal his or her SL account name. This would ensure that the person volunteering, and then granted authority over other members, be participating for the right reasons and not for personal glory or to enjoy a power trip over others.

  30. Vincent Nacon says:

    Whoa whoa, slow down there… what about the new inproved group? Use it.

    Land can be set to group, everyone can decide if they want “British” title or “American” title or “Samurai” title govern style. In fact, it kinda already done in Second Life.

    Have you been out as much in SL?

    They works.

  31. Prokofy Neva says:

    katy, what I worry about with the covenants, which they already have in the tools, though I think all the aspects of them are worked out and may be coming in future patches, is that I could buy an entire sim, then 16 people could buy their parcels (buy the deed rights to the island parcel), then over time, let’s say 8 of them sell the land back. Let’s say I realize that the theme I chose, let’s say white sand pancake style, is just over-represented on the market. I realize I need to move to mountain pine forests and actually allow some stores because many tenants want to be near their store/workshops and I frequently get requests for commercial/residential to be mixed or at least proximate.

    Now all of a sudden I’m stuck with 8 pancake-dwellers. What do I do? I have no flexibility in my business — I can’t respond to the free market and natural demands by changing things. Instead, I have this socialist-style collective agreement binding me hand and foot. Those 8 people didn’t pay the upfront purchase price, nor the transfer fee, though of course they paid some “purchase price” and tier. I now have 8 lots I can’t unload that I have to carry just to keep the agreement honoured — or pay this steep fee you’re advising I pay to get control of my land back. Of course, this is one of the things that makes islands difficult — you really can’t cut them up and REALLY sell them and get the issue of tier to LL off your hands — you have to keep finding new renters essentially.

    What to do? You have to start then finding someone to buy the island willing to carry it, that can be risky.

    I don’t understand covenants. They don’t seem necessary to me at all on the mainland; each rentals agent makes up his rules and enforces them with evictions if need be. On the islands, there may be sense in having something to bind arbitrary and capricious island landlords, but for the most part, they don’t get into business if they have those traits.

    I just see this system eventually generating more disputes than it solves. I don’t get why it’s needed. If the owner of the island wants to make rules for selling deeds, they make rules and put them on a notecard or a website with a scripted object. If they need to change rules as SL evolves, as the market changes, they do so, and those who don’t like it, then can hit “refund” or “cancel” or now, even have a much easier time of selling their parcel even out of the land list.

    On the mainland, a covenant will do nothing to protect me against 16m2 sign griefers.

    Honestly, I do not think this system has been thought through with actual field data from SL in mind.

  32. Lewis Nerd says:

    Vincent, the way I see it is that whilst it is possible for any group to create any government style they wish, it is purely a roleplay thing which is only relevant on the group’s land and mostly amongst its own members.

    I would take a serious objection, and like many would probably quit, if a group of players were given powers over other players to rule however they wished. It’s my game, and I’ll play it how I want, not under the guidelines set up by a group of players that weren’t even chosen by the majority.

    The only people that have any authority to tell me how to play my game are those with Linden titles, based on the community standards (however inaccurately they may be applied) that we signed up and agreed to abide by. Anyone else can take a flying leap.


  33. John Horner says:

    I think the use of covenants on mainland property is something to be looked at with caution. There might be a small chance it could work providing the covenants are limited in choice and preset by Linden Labs, such as commercial, residential, or mixed. Apart from that I agree with Prokofy insomuch as they could cause more business problems than they would solve.

    Islands/Private Estates are a seperate issue because despite the recent enhancements they are still not treated as mainland in terms of ongoing buying/selling and tier payments. In other words my understanding is that the Island owner only pays tier (or sells the whole Island on or gives it up)

    Lewis; a formal Fedual system would only really set what already exists. I think I am correct insomuch as you could wind up as a Baron/Earl being able to resolve any issues that occure on your land only. Putting yourself in a position where other avatars have control over you would require you to consent to be so ruled, i.e moving to a private island estate. That actually applies at present insomuch as if you either rent or “own” land on a private Island your arrangements are with the Island owner not Linden (in the main) And if I walk on your road I have to accept you may set some rules, which you already do following the “empty box con”

    But who knows where online communities are going in the future?

    For example Desmond Shang of Caloden allows his subjects to elect their own steward and he in turn allows that steward to access many if not all of the private Island Estate tools. It is one of the best areas in SL imho, I have still to explore all of it.

    And if you have read Sir Arther C Clarkes “3001” he has envisaged a future where one entainment option is what he calls a “brain cap” It allows direct electronic communication between man and machine and of course some people spend their entire life in virtual reality. Imagine what it could be like to WALK or FLY in SL and feel the ground under your feet or air as you fly, and be not able to tell the difference. Today serious work is underway on this and it is already possible to provide disabled people with a mechanical/electronic device to enable them to “think” where the mouse cursor is “on screen”

    I think some Linden comments would be appreciated on this thread/blogs posts. Be interesting to hear from them……..

  34. Khamon says:

    “For example, lets say I purchase an entire sim at auction. As the orginal purchaser I would be able to select from a menu of permitted/restricted land use items to define what uses I want individual tenants or purchasers of subdivided parcels to abide by. The predefined usage items could be things like commercial, residential, casino, signs or no signs, camping chairs, limit on number of visitors at once,” Kati

    If we’re going this far, why not all the way. Rather than itemizing symptomatic terms, such as casino and camping chairs, impose a limit of numbers of scripts, impose a limit of scripting commands, impose a limit on the size of textures. Covenant the heart of the community’s needs.

    Signs or no signs? What problem will that solve? Might it work better to covenant a reasonably fair system for the residents to classify something ugly, non-thematic or intrusive and require its removal? We all talk about covenants in terms of fixing our own little peeves rather than as a general tool that any group of people may use effectively to maintain their environment.

  35. Prokofy Neva says:

    John, with all due respect to Desmond’s incredible work in Caledon, I think it’s important to note that when he has a “free election of a steward” it’s an election that can take place decorously, by intelligent, reasoned human beings, because Desmond essentially steers. He can afford to steer. He has such valuable property with so many orders, that if he gets an IM that says “wot u got do u got a vampyre house” he can ignore it. He can wait for the more genteel, better spellers. Furthermore, only the well-resourced, relatively speaking, are going to pay the higher rents there — the cost is higher than on the mainland. And that’s fine. It creates a more refined society — a refined theme, some filtering of the applicants, some ordering of lists just by financial resources.
    Pick a better demos — hey, you get a better democracy. Pick Algeria — you get Algeria.

    So when you have elections among the fine and refined ladies and gentlemen of Caledon, you can get a steward that you can be sure not only reflects the democratic will, but who won’t steal Desmond’s hard-earned sim or destroy his buildings or do anything rash and stupid.

    I can speak from many bitter and harsh lessons in Second Life that when you don’t steer, filter, or raise the price bar as high, and yet you give people access to things like building, tier donation, or even officer status in your landed group, you can expect a huge risk of disaster and outright theft and destruction.

    It would be fun to have elections in Ravenglass and have a steward. But the problem is I have very cheap rentals, some as low as $25 for a stall, $100 for a 512, and an open group — anybody can join it, even if they aren’t tenants. So that means griefers from W-Hat factions bent on destruction can mass bomb it too with alts. So now I have elections, let’s say, and I get a rabble of destructive griefers and uninformed low-price renters incited to hatred by somebody simply taking over the notices in the group or something, and all of a sudden, I lose my investment because the elected steward literally hijacks or steals my sim. That’s Second Life. I’ve learned to order these things very differently as a result.

    As for island ownership, with the new tools, pieces of them can be sold, but you still retain essential rights to them, so that if the person doesn’t abide by your rules who buys the new piece, you can expel that new owner, if I understood correctly.

    Lindens don’t comment on blogs. If you follow the pattern here, they post their thing, they let everybody talk until they wear themselves out, they only come in if there is a factual correction or a literal update to be made, and then they wait for the next blog to post. I’m gathering the impression that it’s not the venue where you can engage them significantly on their ideas, except to hope they glance at the comments now and then in their busy lives.

    Khamon, I’ve long sought that elusive common denominator of blight and grief that we could all agree on. I’m convinced the golden mean does exist. I don’t think that blight and grief is merely in the eye of the beholder. I think men and women of good will and reason can come to a short list of what they view as the minimum of what blight and grief is. I think that reason is common to all people, and that short list of the basics is indeed possible. Yet it becomes elusive mainly because people constantly, in that kind of impish and vindictive spirit that people get into on forums, counter and parry and thrust all kinds of “what ifs” as if a simple matter of basic decent and the Golden Rule is not possible in a place like Second Life.

    I think there are some bare minimums that many will agree on, and only a small minority of contrarians could be expected to reject, in part just out of a desire to troll and annoy.

    These would include:

    o no spinning signs or spinning boxes or objects above the building
    o no signs except by the roadside
    o no signs in water or on waterfront
    o no waving of trees or other plants
    o no building smack at the property line
    o no builds that fully obstruct access to one’s own property on 3 or more sides
    o no builds that obstructure the viewline completely from those behind or near
    o no clubs with camp chairs and casinos in areas primarily residential or low-impact commercial

  36. This morning, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators’ Representative Assembly approved the Judiciary Act, which sets out a formal, sophisticated, professional judiciary for its citizens. We are currently working on a model called “Franchulates” whereby we may expand to mainland terratories. The system would bring, amongst other things, enforcability of contracts, a “police force” against greifers, and democracy to those lands that choose to annexe themselves to us.

    There is an article to be published on Monday (the 2nd of October) in the SecondLife Business Magazine that explains all about what we are doing in the CDS, and our unique system of enforcement and dispute resolution.

  37. Addendum: read about the legal system here: (look for page 80).

  38. Prokofy Neva says:

    >This morning, the Confederation of Democratic Simulators’ Representative Assembly approved the Judiciary Act, which sets out a formal, sophisticated, professional judiciary for its citizens. We are currently working on a model called “Franchulates? whereby we may expand to mainland terratories. The system would bring, amongst other things, enforcability of contracts, a “police force? against greifers, and democracy to those lands that choose to annexe themselves to us.

    No thanks.

    *Opt out.*

  39. Tobey Cook says:

    Prokofy, in reading some of what you’ve posted here in response to the entry, I have to say I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. What’s happening in Caledon is exactly the type of virtual governing we need to see. Caledon is very structured and works well for that particular sim simply because the residents there have built up a measure of trust among their group.

    The problem is unless you can find people you can trust, government in a virtual society is not going to work. I think Caledon is sort of the exception here simply because Desmond has really set his group apart from everything I’ve seen around. While I have yet to fully explore it, I’m definitely interested in learning more about how their “government” works as a whole, mainly out of curiosity.

  40. prokofy says:


    Desmond doesn’t scale.

    We need process, policies, procedures that take root culturally if not legally to have better governance on sims. Not just dictators, even if benign.

  41. Dallas Lexus says:

    I found your point of view very interesting. In a world full of automated posts and rehashed articles, I commend a bold well written post. Where can I read more of your writing or similar articles?

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