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Saturday, June 24, 2006

One thing I've learned

Organising the SL anniversary has taught me a lot of things. I'll likely talk about a bunch of them in time, but here's one.

SL communities (at the present time), form around seed people. If there aren't any pre-existing ones, or they becomes absent for a long period, the community self-selects them.Usually it's one or two. Rarely as many as four. SL communities organise themselves around who they see as the key person or people.

One of the downsides of this is the tendency for a community to suffer from organisational paralysis if the person or persons are absent, unavailable or just too busy. We encountered a lot of that with the community groups for the anniversary, many of who were just not able to get anything together in the temporary absence or preoccupation of their chosen folks.

In the end, nine out of ten of the communities who we were in touch with never got it together. Many more never contacted us at all. Certainly a lot of groups thought "Who? Us? Why would people be interested in us?". We missed you folks. Please - whoever is organising next year - contact them. SL is full of diverse communities and viewpoints. It's worth showing what you're all about, and any celebration of SL is diminished by your absence.

We got some of you, at least. I wish we could have gotten more. SL doesn't seem to lend itself to very well to non-hierarchical autocratic communities (there are some wonderful exceptions, of course), but the constraint of having a first life, makes it easier for people to pick someone to follow, and just follow along. When the majority do that, it makes things harder, both from the point of view of the leader(s) and the remainder who have other ideas.

I'm sure that will change over time - while SL has the tools to let you run a business that makes or loses real money, it's support for communication and collaboration is much more limited, and that puts very high prices in time and effort on better organisational models. Those prices are higher than most people with first-lives can afford. Perhaps by the next anniversary things will be very different on that front.

So..

  • What do communities need to organise themselves in better and more effective ways?
  • What tools do we - as residents - need to communicate and collaborate more effectively?
  • Remember to put yourselves forward next year, darnit! So many communities got missed that should have been showcased.

3 comments:

  1. It is something of an irony that groups work around a few particularly motivated people far more than they do in RL, but also, people disappear or just lose interest far more than they do in RL; it is a recipe for, well, nothing getting done. I have seen it many times.

    I think that changes in the way permissions work would be useful to allow collaborative building. At the moment, it is all predicated on the idea that people only build for themselves - unless you absolutely 100% trust the person you are collaborating with it's tricky to work on anything together, unless it is at different stages ("I'll build the tram and then you script it", and in any case that still requires trust that I am not going to sell the tram build or suchlike).

    I'm not quite sure whether there's a technological solution for that, but perhaps some sort of system whereby the full consent of all contributors to something is required when it is used might help. Apart from that it's a question of trust and forming that trust and that's always going to be a problematic issue in whatever world.

    Even if there is trust, there's also the question of people randomly disappearing or their computers breaking or suchlike. I think that that becomes a management and structural issue. The necessity is that for a particular project

    (a) it is known when someone has dropped out, temporarily or otherwise, as quickly as possible
    (b) their role is not absolutely essential to the project, in case nobody can be found to do it - as few bottlenecks as can be managed
    (c) if someone else can take over their role they should be easy to find and be able to build on what has already been done

    A lot of this means regular meetings, and people hate meetings and are often at differing timezones, so perhaps best dealt with on a private forum somewhere... it also means that people need to regularly document what needs doing, who is doing it and what it requires, and people hate doing that as well so it needs to be as easy as possible, practically automatic.

    Really just a few thoughts off the top of my head there. I think that I would advise anyone with a long term project to have something like a mailing list or forums, though, based on my experiences. I am thinking of speaking with Desmond Shang about something like that for Caledon.

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  2. Personally, I wish the Shelter could have been more involved in the Birthday Celebration.

    I also wish there were 36 hours in every day ;)

    It all comes down to time - something I never seem to have enough of these days.

    Some folks did express some interest in helping represent the Shelter early on - but I think each of those people who were serious, ended up becoming immersed in the celebration organizing activities themselves.

    Maybe I'll have an epiphany sometime between now & next year's celebration on how to delegate in such a way that truly frees up my time for other things. Hopefully that epiphany will come in the form of a new day-job :)

    In the mean time, (24 Hours) - Day Job hours - Shelter hours - Sleep hours = 0.

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  3. This is indeed the hardest thing in SL, dealing with people coming and going. While from a purely organisational point of view it's easier (it's just a question of proper hiearchies with redundancy and delegation), in-world things are not so simple because of permissions. You tend to have to redo things that someone did and then left SL without notice.

    A possibility is to create a group with alts just for the purpose of building something collaboratively, and have all the alts have "modify permissions" on each other's objects. Still, some very talented individuals resent that — just because they see their "creator tag" as being a way to do some simple advertising, when participating on projects with such exposure like the 3rd Anniversary.

    I guess there is no easy way out right now; we have to see what the new group tools and its "roles" bring us.

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