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Gwyn's Platform Highlights: 'Cutting Deeper'

Posted: Fri May 09, 2014 8:27 pm
by Gwyneth Llewelyn
First and foremost, I'm an expansionist. This should immediately give potential voters a feeling of my ideology —

I'm all for:
  • Democratic procedures that are clear, open, and transparent to all.
  • Fairness and equality of treatment of all citizens, no matter if they're ancient/brand new/part of a group/refuse to join any group/hateful/lovable. All are the same under the law. All deserve the best that our democratic community can give them. The CDS is about its people — the ones from the past, the ones from the present, and the ones that will come in the future. Respect them and protect their rights, even if they hate me and my ideas.
  • Growth. In all areas. Add new regions; add more citizens; do more events; promote the CDS, its community, its events to an increasingly wide audience. This means being inclusive — in all aspects of our lives (social, political, governmental...) — and fighting ostracism and bullying.
  • Fair chance for all to be allowed to have a saying, both in-world and off-world, about each and any issue in our community; but set the example to engage in discussion politely and in a respectful manner, and encourage — by example — others to do the same. But at the same time prevent that 'excessive talk' is used as a pretext for stalling growth!
  • Apply caution and strict risk management when financial resources are scarce and the future is uncertain; be liberal and generous when the opposite is true.
  • Encourage rotativity: let newer citizens carry the spirit of the CDS further; respect, protect, and promote our history, but not let it be a burden or an obstacle to diversity and to new ideas (and people).
  • Encourage anyone actively interested in developing the CDS further; encourage new activities and new ideas that have never been implemented before, no matter how strange they might sound, or how much they go against 'established principles'; draw encouragement and an uplifting spirit from those who have bright new ideas instead of fighting every inch of the way to suppress their plans.
  • Embrace change. Try new things out just for the sake of being 'new'. Learn from past mistakes, but do not fear from experimenting new things.
  • Do not be afraid of being inconsistent and contradictory :) Defend contrary opinions if they're better than mine. People change. We gain experience and see the world differently. Nobody is always right or always wrong. Attack ideas, not people.
  • Remember that nobody's perfect, and the CDS isn't perfect either; democracy is a true 'utopia in progress'. The way is long and full of pitfalls; but it's only by pointing to the future (while standing on the glorious past) that we can progress towards a more inclusive and democratic society in our community.
I'm completely against:
  • Groups that, under the pretense of democracy (even with a majority vote!), strive to steer the CDS away from an inclusive and egalitarian society, but instead see the CDS as their own personal sandbox.
  • Bullying and ostracism. Expose any attempts to do so and work (under the provisions of our legislation) to create better laws that prevent it.
  • Secrecy and obscurity. No 'Star Chambers' allowed! Every decision made by CDS officials has to be public and transparent, giving everybody a fair chance to comment upon it publicly, without fear of persecution, discrimination, or ostracism.
  • Power-grabbing. Explore means to ensure rotativity and giving all citizens, old and new, a fair chance to lead the CDS.
  • Privilege. No citizen is above the law; but, conversely, no citizen is below the law, either. All should have fair access to resources, discussions, and general participation in the community.
  • Conservatism. Our history and traditions are important, they have to be respected, often even protected, and definitely always remembered. But we should never fall into the mistake of letting history and tradition burden us and create obstacles to growth. This does not mean that we have constantly to start from scratch: good ideas of the past, if they still apply, should be preserved. Bad ideas who were already bad when presented in the past should be eradicated from the CDS, even if it's still 'tradition'.
  • Stalling. Nothing is easier in the CDS than starting every discussion from scratch, over and over again, even if the arguments are good and compelling (or even new).
  • Drama. There is a thin line separating 'freedom of expression' from 'libel'. The former is to be protected and defended at all costs; the latter is to be admonished and prevented.
And this is my personal ethical conduct:
  • People are fundamentally important. Respect them all. Stick to politeness, regardless of what the person thinks about me.
  • Nobody is fundamentally bad. We all have good sides. Strip away the cover of darkness to reveal the precious gem shining beneath the surface.
  • My view is always clouded by my perceptions. Never take for granted how things appear to be, because that's not how they really are.
  • Refrain from harming others; strive to make them feel happy and encouraged!
  • Do not be afraid of defending opinions contrary to mine. Attack or support ideas, but strive to love people defending those ideas.
  • I'm not always right. But that doesn't mean I'm always wrong, either!
  • Fairness and equality of treatment towards everybody. If I don't set an example of what I believe in, at the personal level, how can I hope others to do the same?
  • I'm not perfect. I make mistakes. People will hate me for that. Strive for perfection, while fully knowing that there will be always someone who will disagree.
  • I'm willing to defend contrary opinions. You can always persuade me that you're right and I'm wrong, so long as you're willing to present a good argument. I will strive to do the same. This is not hypocrisy; it's called 'learning'. More knowledge means better opinions, and sometimes enough knowledge will change my mind.
  • Everything changes. That's the nature of the universe. Embrace change, don't fight it — it's a losing battle anyway: things will change, no matter what.
  • 'Good' is not what I like, but what makes others happier.
Enough philosophy, now let's get to business :)

What I've learned in the past term

This 20th term was very short (in terms of the 'productive time' allocated to RA meetings), but it exposed additional flaws of our system. On my previous platform, I identified four key areas: 'hidden' power groups steering the CDS; issues with land purchases; issues with covenants; abuse of power by the Chancellor.

During this term, it seemed that all of those areas could be resumed to one: clearly defining the boundaries of the Chancellor's powers and making sure that all Executive actions are clearly defined, transparent, and accessible by all — and that they can be appealed to in fairness and equality.

Bagheera's interrupted term exposed a lot of issues surrounding the figure of the Chancellor. The Executive is supposed to have a lot of power over land issues, and to be able to delegate those powers to its staff (the 'civil service'). However, there is no provision for the Chancellor to appoint a staff and delegate those powers correctly. People receiving 'special powers' under previous administrations are reluctant to relinquish them — worse than that, there is no mechanism to 'force' them out of their 'special powers'. Instead, existing Chancellors have to 'beg' for aid among the several people who have 'powers'. I'm talking mostly about Estate Manager powers and membership in groups which control land or access to group roles, notices, and so forth.

Furthermore, the Chancellor also has some powers, bestowed upon him or her by law, but that they cannot fully exercise without acceptance of a wide range of non-elected, self-appointed 'guardians of the CDS'. We saw that happening during the LA redevelopment, where 'power struggles' between Bagheera and those who opposed her (as a person, not necessarily for what she stood for) delayed the redevelopment for months and months. Finally, unable to tackle all the issues that her position entailed, she was forced to resign. The new Chancellor, having encouragement from all those 'guardians', had absolutely no problem in getting ahead and finish the redevelopment in a fraction of time.

Putting it bluntly, either you are part of the 'powers that be', and they lend you full support, or, as an elected Chancellor, you have absolutely no power to set forth the policies that you were elected to enact.

And reversely, by over-interpreting what powers the Chancellor is supposed to have, overstepping them is an easy process — all it takes is the support of the 'guardians of the CDS'.

This is a complete perversion of our democratic system. It means that either we continuously elect new Chancellors that have the support of the 'guardians of the CDS', or any other Chancellor who opposes them is effectively boycotted and their office paralysed, until they give up and resign.

An attempt has been made to probe into this. By proposing new legislation that would clarify what powers the Chancellor has, and suggesting new measures that require a much higher degree of transparency, the status quo was stirred. The reaction, not surprisingly, was very strong, and totally opposed to any changes.

What I propose to do

If elected, I will address the following issues, in degree of priority:

1) Celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the CDS with at least one new region

Going as back in time as I managed, I saw that the first 'decisions' regarding the 6th region were made in 2010 — four years ago! In the mean time, resistance to growth has become unbearable. We are at the doorsteps of our 10th Anniversary Commemorations, and people are still devising new means of stalling the implementation of a new region.

Four years is too much. It's unacceptable!

Thankfully, we currently have a Chancellor who believes that adding a new region is imperative and the top priority for the CDS. I fully agree and intend, to the limit of the powers as a RA member, to stubbornly push for the deployment of that region, as quickly as possible, no matter what. I have even considered very seriously that we should not even look at the financial issues, because we certainly can pay for the new region, at least for the duration of the 10th Anniversary celebrations. I intend to put all my efforts and struggle to celebrate the 10th Anniversary with the opening of a new region to the public.

In parallel, discussions about the celebrations have been lukewarm at best, and I will strive to encourage further discussions and planning around that major event. Maybe this will require a standing committee for the celebrations. Whatever the means, I fully expect all branches of Government to work closely together so that this event becomes a major success!

And once it's over, expect from me a persistent push towards the next region... yes, the 7th!

2) Revise the system that manages tier

Our 'old' system, which had been commissioned by the RA with a list of requirements, became hard to manage, costly to operate, and too dependant on one single programmer, hired by the CDS, to maintain. In particular, it didn't allow parcels to be paid in advance, which created problems when collecting tier from citizens who were unable to log in to pay.

A decision was made to replace that 'home-grown' system by hippoRENT, at the time the most popular rental system in SL. Unfortunately, only last October I was made aware that this system is hardly acceptable for our purposes. It certainly allows people to pay tier in advance, but little else besides that. It is unable to supply us with a list of current citizens in real time — that has to be manually done. It cannot show us a list of currently held parcels, which parcels are vacant, and which are in arrears. Its backoffice, because it allows changing everything, is limited to a few selected individuals for security reasons — thus depriving us from a much-required necessity of having an updated list of citizens and what land they currently own. In order to extract some data (historical and otherwise) we need to rely upon land scanners (!), but mostly by manually and visually looking at in-world boxes and see if they are fine.

While I found it very hard to believe that the whole system cannot be run automatically, the truth is that I had never asked. I have also tried to contact HippoTech's customer support, offering to request from them a proposal to implement a few changes, but their response time seems to be very slow — I got no answer. Either they have too many customers (they claim 70,000?!) and are unable to answer all requests in time, or they simply are so filthy rich that they don't care any longer :)

Because the current system is barely able to fulfill even the simplest requirements (except, well, for allowing tier to be paid in advance), I shall strive, during the 21st term, to change the system — and not the laws, as some have suggested. It's the software that has to adapt to the will of the people, and not the other way round. As such, I consider almost offensive that we turn landowning citizens into mere renters, just because Hippo works better as a rental system! Even if that apparently seems to be the case, it is a bad excuse for fixing what's wrong — the software, not our community! Using the 'technical argument', one could coherently demonstrate that Second Life is not really the appropriate environment to establish a self-governed, democratic society, and so we should abandon every pretense of being one, and instead revert to the 'benign dictatorship' that is widespread among all communities in Second Life. That's ludicrous, because we are the living proof that we can adapt the system to our goals, instead of doing the opposite.

I propose that the first step shall be to understand, with the help of HippoTech, how we can configure their system to do what we need it to do. If that requires hiring HippoTech or their affiliates to make changes, I propose that we do so. If, after some rounds of discussion with HippoTech, we find that their system is unable to conform to our demands, then I propose that we abandon it and start shopping around for an alternative. I have already studied their main competitor, CasperLet, which has less features, but at least allows expanding its system by means of an external application programming interface, which we could use to develop some additional features and statistics. There are more, similar systems. And if all else fails, I propose that we hire a team of programmers to do that for us.

I'm no professional programmer, but I'm more than qualified to evaluate what is needed in technical terms, and what characteristics exist in the programming environment developed by Linden Lab to be aware that we can, indeed, develop something that fulfills our needs. It's always cheaper to buy something already done (and tested!) by others instead of reinventing the wheel, but, as a last resource, I know we can do it :)

As part of this process, it's also clear that certain citizens, who are very well-versed in 'land baroning techniques', are aware of very devious techniques to deal with land sales, being thus able to exclude certain people to become citizens, while, by contrast, allowing their 'friends' an unfair advantage at grabbing land. Since I'm not proficient in those areas, I cannot make any recommendations at this stage, but I shall encourage the discussion around this problem with the goal of finding a solution. It seems obvious to me that there has to be a way to publicly list land that is put back into the market, and match potentially interested parties with vacant land. The current method that allows direct sales with little control might require some revision, but, as said, right now I still don't have concrete suggestions on how this could be done.

3) Clarify the role of the Chancellor, the Executive and the Civil Service

It is clear to me that at the very least, the following has to be changed:
  • At the beginning of a term, if a new Chancellor holds office, all Civil Servants have to be removed from office. This means losing any and all 'privileges' — land managing roles, group roles, etc. — even if they feel that these are 'justified' for some reason (for example, to be able to hold events on public land). Someone has to be appointed to verify that nobody has any 'privileges' at the start of a new Chancellor term.
  • Then the Chancellor publishes the list of the new staff members. The Chancellor shall appoint formally and publicly new people for the role of PIO, for the roles of Janitors, and so forth, and the actual 'powers' that these positions entail shall also be made public (the Treasurer and Estate Owner are special cases, already covered under NL 5-5 Treasurer Act and NL 5-6 Estate Owner Act; so is the PIO). No other person outside this published list is allowed to retain any 'special powers', no matter what reason is given for holding them. Of course, new Chancellors will always have the option of continuing to work with people from previous administrations, if they so wish.
  • Decisions of the Chancellor, just like the decisions of the RA, are to be made public, in all cases. The Chancellor is a publicly elected representative of the people, and so is the RA. There is no reason why publicly elected officials of the CDS operate under different rules.
  • Decisions by anyone in the Executive shall have some form of appeal. Many suggestions (some by candidates for the role of Chancellor) have been proposed — from delegating every appeal to the SC to creating a Board of Appeal, independent of all branches.
  • The whole role of the Executive, in its philosophical framework, should be discussed. Conflicting views are at odds, and this is reflected even in the Constitution. Originally the Chancellor was little more than the 'executive branch of the RA' because there was no separately elected executive branch — it was little more than the Head of the Civil Service but with some degree of autonomy. Then, thanks to the universal suffrage allowing Chancellors to be elected separately, the Chancellor became a political role — but now wishing to decide policy and neglect daily chores at whim. In effect, we went from parliamentarism to presidentialism, but sadly a more Russian version of presidentialism, where Putin and his Gazprom buddies fill all the roles of power, and delegate to the Duma just minor issues.
I would certainly have much more in mind to do :) But considering that we will have to tackle a new region and the 10th anniversary commemorations, which should keep us busy for many months, I shall make no further promises beyond those.

Why 'Cutting Deeper'?

From the vantage point of an outsider, or even a new citizen, the CDS seems to work well, and has done so for a decade. But scratch the surface, and not all is as it seems. Start peeling it layer by layer, and the core seems to be rotten. To get the CDS back to track — back to defending democracy, fairness, equality, transparency, and general happiness — we have to cut much deeper than the surface. I want to cut deep to get that shiny gem at the core of the CDS burning brightly again!

Re: Gwyn's Platform Highlights: 'Cutting Deeper'

Posted: Wed May 21, 2014 12:38 pm
by cleopatraxigalia
Gwyn
Thank you for all the time and efforts and brainpower you give to CDS. I totally support your manifesto as I understand it! I do hope you will be elected to the 21st RA of CDS.

Re: Gwyn's Platform Highlights: 'Cutting Deeper'

Posted: Wed May 21, 2014 1:11 pm
by Cadence Theas
Gwyneth Llewelyn wrote:over-interpreting what powers the Chancellor is supposed to have, overstepping them is an easy process
Gwyn, I think this is possible regardless. If you look over her communications and her actions during her time in office, Bags, in my opinion over-interpreted the powers of the chancellory. Others would say the same of previous chancellors. I really think what we need is a complete rewrite of the powers of the different branches of government, with better checks and balances, and verifications. I am also in favor of citizen over-sight committees in the absence of constitutional reforms.

Re: Gwyn's Platform Highlights: 'Cutting Deeper'

Posted: Sun Jun 01, 2014 1:01 pm
by Gwyneth Llewelyn
Cadence, I certainly agree — and it happened before, and will happen again, unless we (the RA) clarify the powers better, and make them a little less ambiguous. Thus my proposal for listing in a more thorough way what the Chancellor is supposed to do.