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Monday, September 18, 2006

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Gwyneth Llewelyn

Ah yes, the old drama is back on stage again :)

After so much time has passed, it's interesting to look back in time, and identify some interesting aspects of what happened. Somewhen, in ye olden times, very early in the history of Neualtenburg, Ulrika once claimed that she would play the role of "Infamous Antagonist" just to stress out the democratic processes. This is well buried in the forums — the very same group forums that will be closed down soon, after several thousands of posts just in the "Neualtenburg Projekt" — so it mostly will remain buried there, but it's still there for people to find it. I believe that at the time people have laughed or at least smile about the concept — the famous supporter of democracy in Second Life, playing the role of the destructor of a democratic society? It would be unthinkable!

But, who knows, perhaps it was also a necessary step. Democratic processes have weaknesses, but in theory, they should be able to survive any attack thrown against them. If they can't, something is rotten inside the democracy — and it's up to the citizens to vote for new procedures.

I now believe that Ulrika did, indeed, test the system out. In her mind, like in the minds of most of the residents of Second Life, Neualtenburg was a frail construct, based mostly on a group of close friends who stuck together and were stubborn enough to go on. Shake them at their foundations, and watch the structure crumble to dust, as everybody runs to avoid the impeding catastrophe.

And shaking the foundation is what Ulrika effectively did. Armed with a written statement that all textures used in her content, designed by Kendra Bancroft, were hers to use (a statement that I can confirm that Kendra did indeed place into writing), as well as with some ancient posts proving that she was the first person in SL to use the name "Neualtenburg", as well as some hidden comments on her old website to claim her ownership of all documents related to Neualtenburg (hidden to humans — but not to computers, which can read those), she thought she had a rather good way to inflict terror and anxiety in the minds of the citizens of Neualtenburg. Put into other words: having the name, a large part of the content, and the documentation in her hands, and then take all of that away — the city will crumble to dust. There would be no more city. This was a good test to try out.

Add a few more inflamatory comments here and there, create a huge drama against the city, make people believe that she was dead serious in her claims, and there would be no way that people would survive the maelstrom of impending doom. And, indeed, once again people all over SL prophesised The End of Neualtenburg and of silly democratic processes in SL, once and for all. Like they have been consistently predicting every month :)

Well. Sadly, the alarmists forgot one very important aspect of this whole process. Neualtenburg was never about pretty buildings and a nice urban layout — but about *people*, and their undying belief that some things are "above" people: the law and the order it implies, and the right to change that very same law under which a community is governed, through democratic processes. I believe that at some point Ulrika understood that as well — she attacked specific people then, trying to get them to break down under the pressure, to make them "doubt" those very same proposition. As we all know, you can't lose your mind in the world of Second Life, and simply post whatever you wish. The enforcement of ToS against "personal attacks" and "hate speech" against a group is being strictly watched by Linden Lab (and apparently, it is being enforced even on third-party sites as well — defame someone publicly in your own blog, and you might see your account suspended), although a few people are exempt from that rule, for some unknown reason. It was clear, though, that one would not be able to reply with "an eye for an eye", but humbly accept the public slandering and libeling, and struggle onwards, ignoring the drama.

Under the old group rules, it was quite hard to force someone to leave a group once that someone became a group officer. Whenever things came to a stalemate in the negotiations, Ulrika thus managed to delete several structures, some of hers and from other people — trying, very likely, to elicit a strong and violent verbal response from the ones affected. Keeping those people calm and controlled was not an easy task. I must admit that at several points I was almost sure that someone, at some point, would cry out loud against Ulrika and Linden Lab and make a too-strong case demanding for justice — and be immediately banned for making a personal attack. This did not happen — but it was certainly a very close call.

What was the end of the story? Well, the city never received a DMCA claim to remove any copyrights, and neither did our lawyers. The city was already prepared to file not only a counter-claim, but fully go all the way through a DMCA process. Most people have no clue on how DMCA processes truly work. They're just mostly a legal process to allow a copyright owner to have a "carrier" (in this case, Linden Lab) to remove digital content that is under dispute — but it does not enable Linden Lab to become a "judge" in the process. Rather, a counter-claim is filed, and LL would have to restore all content as it was before the original claim is received. And then things would be discussed further in court. For Ulrika, this would mean revealing her RL data and appearing with all her documentation (the burden of proof would fall on her) in front of a RL judge, and suing Linden Lab (yes, that is how it works!). For the Neualtenburgers, they would calmly present two reports on the whole process, over 20 pages each, with transcripts of the (failed) negotiation process, and peacefully watch what happened next. It wouldn't be fun, but it would be the logical next step.

But that would cost money. Lots of money. Ulrika always claimed she was financially broke because of the new addition to her family, and thus the willingness of the city to pay *her* instead of a lawyer to settle on agreement. Was it worth fighting for a name — a rather silly one, in any case — just because it somehow embodied the spirit of a special project in Second Life?

At some time, the name "Neualtenburg" became not only worthless, but associated to everything that the city is *not*. It became tainted with the notion tyrannical, obsessive control, inside a Stalinist society with extremist, even fundamentalist, opinions. The city of Neualtenburg was perhaps one of the first to be attacked by cyberterrorism in this virtual world: in the old sense of the word, "terrorism" was simply a means for a minority to exert pressure over a government, by, well, "infusing terror" (today it is a politically incorrect word to be used in polite conversation). One would never know when the next attack would come — in-world, on the forums, through email. People lived in fear of what would happen next. Their reputation was publicly slandered, and there was nothing one could do about it, except to get a lawyer and be prepared for a nasty legal battle in a Californian court — something that most people in the city could not afford. Terrorism is created in the minds of people, not necessarily only through violent destruction, but mostly through emotional processes and responses, that is, by the *thought* that people are not safe and that destruction might come at any point, and you'll be not prepared to deal with it.

Not the sort of concepts one associates with "democracy", isn't it?

It was clear that a city that claimed to adhere to some democratic principles would not be able to tolerate that kind of thing. So, like the USSR discarding their 70-year-old name and adopting a new one when the soviet regime was discarded, the city felt that a symbolic change was needed — one that would, at the same time, solve all the problems and mark the difference from the past. There are no tyrannical leaders in Neufreistadt any more — just elected ones — and in good Neufreistadtian tradition, it's mostly the newer citizens that get elected and rule the city. This was allegedly the whole purpose of the whole project — showing that a group of people, using democratic institutions to forge their way ahead, and recognising, through a social contract, that the law is above *everybody*, can, indeed, survive the most strong crisis (this was by far not the first or the most dangerous one, and will not be the last — it was only the most dramatised one) and go ahead, growing and expanding — slowly, of course, compared to other models in SL, but solidly.

Once that was over, and the mess was cleaned, the streets paved again, the structures rebuilt, what did Neufreistadt do? Mostly, after learning the lesson, it was time to let the SL world understand what the lesson truly is — democratic procedures are the best way to promote peace between individuals and groups, and to learn what it means to compromise between radical opinions. It is by no chance that several organisations trying to do the same are slowly gravitating towards SL. R. J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of the University of Hawaii, now gives seminars on his house in Neufreistadt on the Democratic Peace theory. A rather large group of Neufreistadters are participating with Chili Carson's establishment of a SL Chamber of Commerce — order brought to the anarchic state of business relationships in SL, at last. Lawyers and professors of law come to Neufreistadt to study and experiment with models of law for the virtual world. Economists examine the possibility of using an incorporation model for SL-based companies, under Neufreistadt Law — still the only spot that has the ability to enforce law under a democratic system, truly an island in the middle of the chaotic and anarchic world of Second Life. International groups experiment with SL as a base for promoting their concepts and ideas and launch their free press — at a limited scale, of course — from inside Neufreistadt, but models are being devised to bring Neufreistadt Law to the mainland as well (the new group tools being able to help to do that).

So, yes, this means that Neufreistadt is simply not just "pretty houses in a cute sim". It still has those pretty houses, and will probably keep them. But now it's much more than that — it's a locus for all sorts of projects that require true democratic processes and a code of law to grow and expand.

In the mean time, Port Neualtenburg flourishes as well. Kendra Bancroft's buildings there are, not surprisingly, some of her best recent work. It's a lovely place with many shops from about 25 talented artisans, a community-mall that grows and prospers as well, under the motherly care of Kendra and her supervision, and it is no secret that we have some plans to collaborate on some common events, still to be roughen out together. Of course, it has discarded any pretense at "democracy" in the usual sense of the word: it's an Artisanal Collective, where everybody that is part of the group has a saying in the planning meetings with Kendra.

The lesson learned: if you want to keep the power in your hands, don't create a democracy, until you are prepared to relinquish it and accept that. "Voting" does not make a democracy; there is far more to that; and if you truly want to learn more, I would naturally point you out to Rudy Ruml's seminars (http://dp-sl.blogspot.com/) to learn more — this time, from academic researchers in the field :)

Quimby Rothschild

I've often wondered what went wrong at Neualtenburg and this helped...a little. I'm still a little confused.

It sounds like things were rosy, just moving along gloriously when one day Ulrika decided to move the "Neualtenburg Projekt" vision. Why? Why move at that time? Was Neualtenburg Island not the best place for Neaualtenburg? I think this is the biggest mystery to me.

"We were in negotiations for them to purchase the rights to the name 'Neualtenburg'," Ulrika told me in June.

-Who is "them"? Was Ulrika selling the whole thing? How was she planning on moving the "Neualtenburg Projekt" vision while selling the rights to the name Neualtenburg?

"Simultaneously, I discovered that the group doing the negotiations was acting illegally in that they were not involving democratically elected officials."

-So, Ulrika was of the opinion that she was selling the rights to the Neualtenburg name to a group representing the residents of the sim? Say huh?

Aliasi Stonebender

It's a long and involved story at this point, where I had my own minor point to play.

Basically, things WERE just rosy. Ulrika chose a specific moment - an amendment to change the nature of our "judicial branch" (the Scientific Council - don't blame us, it was named way back when and we're too used to it to change :) ) the branch she formerly headed, was on the table. She loudly protested it - despite apparently being totally absent from SL for months, and claiming she'd never be back - and made much ruckus about deleting all of "her" content. Given the old nature of the SL group tools, she had the theoretical ability to delete everything not on private land in the sim, since she was still an officer of the various "land-management" groups.

At the time, I was a sim manager by virtue of being a non-voting member of that same judicial branch. (I was a member of our "town council", and one of our laws is you can be in multiple branches, but you cannot exercise power in more than one.) I temporarily banned Ulrika after she made her threat, intending this to last only until the matter could be formally examined and heard.

That's pretty much when all hell broke loose; I suspect I offended her. ;)

The point about 'democratically elected officials' was always kind of silly, given that at one point the mailing list that was discussing this included (so far as I know) every active member of the sim. A full-on town hall and a moment of direct democracy - how horrible, eh?

'course, at this point everybody has a different view, and I for one am glad to put it all behind us. Ulrika and Kendra finally realized what they really wanted and did it, and the project they didn't actually mean to found prospers anyway!

Dianne Mechanique

Well I am gald Gwyn posted such a long and detailed account of what *actually* happened, so I feel no desire to reiterate it all, but I will correct your writing style and ability. :-)

Hamlet, I must say with all due respect, that your wiriting skills are really in need of a brush-up. You present this story as if it's the "tale of two visions," yet you exclusively give Ulrika's point of view. There is nothing wrong with that except the fact that the advertising doesn't match what you are actually presenting. If you had titled it "Interview with Ulrika Zugzwang" you would be closer to the truth.

I note three seperate occaisions for instance where you report Ulrikas report to you of her "intentions" yet you do not do the same for Gwyn, merely noting that she has another point of view. Such reporting of someone's statements about their thoughts is classic mis-reporting. It's not first hand facts, its not even second hand facts, it's second hand reporting of possible assertions.

Several times you report the most outrageous assertions by Ulrka and then merely add a disclaimer to the effect of "if you believe her" or some such thing without again, really telling the other point of view. This is the worst kind of senstionalistic, subjective journalism. Again, none of this is a problem if you merely present the story as "Hamlet talks to Ulrika and expounds on what he thinks about it." Do not try to pass this nonsense off as any kind of journallism because it's not.

By taking Ulrika and Kendra's summation as "the facts" you also present as fact many clear errors. Neualtenburg was "founded" by many people. Neualtenburg's major contributors form a list much much longer than just Ulrika and Kendra. Ulrika never had any intention at the time of the "problems" we had with her to take Neualtenburg anywhere else or "move the project." That was merely what was said after the fact to justfiy certain actions she took.

There is no mention of Ulrika hovering like a demonic Harpie over Neualtenburg deleting other peoples houses and builds and laughing about it in the forum the next day.

No mention of her deletion of the city walls out of sheer spite and then her lying about it the next day in the forums (that can be proven BTW).

No mention of her constant presence in our midst during all of the trouble she caused as various alt accounts (accounts known to several members), spying on our every word and deed.

Ashcroft Burnham

I am a citizen of Neufreistadt, who joined after the Zugzwang-Bancroft schism, and am heavily involved with developing for the state a new, sophisticated legal system.

When it is implemented (and many of us are hoping that that might be as soon as next week), many of the essential problems that gave rise to our little civil war will readily be solved. Already, citizens when they join us agree to terms of service (a contract binding in the real world, just like the Linden terms of service) that require them to obey in-world laws: when the new legal sysem is put fully into place, that requirement will be augmented with the requirement that any dispute about or relating to the subject-matter of the agreement be resolved by, and only by, the in-world courts in accordance with in-world law: a unique and potentially very powerful combination of arbitration and choice of law clause.

If real-world courts, if ever taxed upon to decide the matter, approach the matter sanely, this would mean that nobody would again be able to threaten to bring an action against us for IP rights violations where the IP in question is voluntarily handed over to the city on terms or otherwise (rather than just stolen by a passing citizen).

What nobody has mentioned is that during the Zugzwang dispute, there was a court hearing, of sorts, but conducted in the Scientific Council, none of whose members had any experience in deailing with legal proceedings, and which had no rules of procedure. Zugzwang was, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, unhappy with the result. A properly-constituted legal system, as I am helping to develop, would carry more weight than one run ad hoc, as our judiciary, such as it is, has been until now, but also have the potential to do great service to SecondLife more widely, as, as Gwyneth alluded, there may be the possibility in the future of people in the mainland voluntarily annexing their land to our territory, and thereby taking advantage of the enforcability of our laws.

A proper government and legal system in SecondLife has only ever been half-done before (i.e., without the proper legal system: without the rule of law, government is an arbitrary assemblage of de facto power): very soon, we hope, for the first time in history (so far as we are aware), to bring a real, proper, fully developed civilian legal jurisdiction to a virtual world.

Samothrace Crowley

Ah, so that's what happened.

I didn't learn about Neualtenburg 'til after all the drama, and even then I only had a vague inkling of what had happened from snippets of snippets that I had found in a couple of SL news sites, which basically boiled down to "It died of a coup".

It's good to find out the whole story.

Or at least, half the story, anyways.

While informative, the article does appear rather Zugzwang-centric. It would be interesting to read your take on Neufreistadt's side of the story.

It would also be more fair and objective to report all sides of the story. While several members of Neufreistadt have voiced their side of this story in the Comments, leaving them unaddressed in the Comments section would be like leaving their story in the appendix or endnotes at the back of a book, like they were an after-thought or unimportant to the larger story.

But then, that's just me.

Anyways, besides wanting to read the story from an alternate viewpoint, something does strike me as amiss...

Zugzwang's states: "I've also learned to get everything in writing because people whom you think are your friends are [not]."

Not a particularly profound statement, but from her words, it sounds like she feels like she's been betrayed.

Maybe I missed something, but I don't see much evidence of any betrayal.

But then, I'm only a third-party observer here who's still only learning about what happened after the fact.

Tor Karlsvalt

Just browsing through your old articles and found this one pertaining to a period of Neufreistadt history that is now more part of the "national myth" of CDS than anything relevant today.

Neufreistadt is still in SL and not in any danger of disappearing. This Oktoberfest we traditionally celebrate our founding, just as was done during the time of Kendra and Ulrika. This Oktoberfest will mark the ninth anniversary of the foundation of Neualtenburg. Yes we were renamed, but alas the citizens of Neufreistadt were on the land while our prominent members left to form a different group, Port Neualtenburg, which has since closed back in 2008.

Today, Neufreistadt refers to itself as the Confederation of Democratic Simulators. It includes five regions: Neufreistadt, Colonia Nova, Alpine Meadow, Locus Amoenus and Monastery.

It does, owing to its nature as a resident owned and governed simulation, succumb to periodic upheavals. Still it has remained through all its trials and challenges. We are today, democratic and independent of any single benefactor or group of benefactors.

We do have problems. But they are out in the open for all to see. Currently, our sims are having trouble covering all our tier. Still, we have over the years, prepared for these times and remain in excellent shape for the long term.

This September 21st, the CDS turns 9 and begins to plan for its 10th anniversary in Second Life. To be sure the CDS has evolved and changed, but the Neualtenburg Projeckt Lives!

Yours,

Tor Karlsvalt,
Chancellor of the CDS

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