Thursday, 26 February 2009

CDS Chronicles Part 2

The first installment of these CDS Chronicles ended with the Locus Amoenus Opening Ceremony on Friday 28 August 2008.

At the last RA meeting prior to the Locus Amoenus Ceremony, held on 17 August, the discussion of the Commerce Commission was tabled. This discussion was picked up again at the following RA meeting – but only towards the end of the session.

The RA Meeting of 31 August 2008 and MT's Candidacy for the Scientific Council

At the beginning of the RA meeting of 31 August, Pip Torok was sworn in as additional RA member for the DPU faction.

Jamie Palisades then reported on the first meeting of the Commission on Corporate Structure which was held on 26 July. The general concern at this well-attended commission meeting was whether a formal legal structure for control of CDS was needed, or whether the underlying issues of stability and continuity of ownership could be better addressed in other ways.

Moon Adamant, reporting for the Guild, announced that the new Locus Amoenus sim was completed and ready for inspection. Jamie explained that as Chancellor he was responsible for inspecting and accepting the roads and other amenities on the sim. However, he planned to seek input from the Building Advisory Committee, which was being constituted following the adoption by the RA of a revised Guild Charter.

Gwyneth Llewelyn briefly reported on the three Electoral Commission meetings which had been held (out of an estimated seven), each on a single topic. The transcripts of these poorly-attended and generally consensual meetings were posted on the forum, so Gwyneth merely mentioned that the Electoral Commission planned to present a document by October.

Next came the major issue at this meeting, which was the nomination of MT Lundquist as member of the Scientific Council, the CDS equivalent of a Supreme Court. Several RA members wanted to ask MT questions about his vision of the role of the Scientific Council, as was the tradition, but MT had failed to show up. Second Life residents tend to have high tolerance for failure to come to meetings, since a resident's first life generally takes precedence over the second. LRA Justice Soothsayer thus suggested that questions for MT could be posted on the forum.

Jamie spoke up to endorse MT's nomination in the name of diversity of opinion, noting that MT had been a productive RA member and successful business owner in CDS. Claude Desmoulins, the head of the Scientific Council, showed up to answer questions about how and why MT had been nominated. Those present spoke either for or against MT's nomination, those opposed generally citing bias and temperament as reasons for their opposition. A vote was then hastily called on whether to confirm MT as member of the Scientific Council, and his candidacy was rejected with four nays (mostly CSDF members), two ayes and one abstention. However, this precipitous decision would be reviewed at the next RA meeting, this time with MT in attendance.

The meeting finally got back to the Commerce Bill. Justice moved Jamie's proposed substitute bill,which was a compromise in that it required the Chamber of Commerce to operate under an NGO charter approved by the RA, but appointed MT Lundquist to take citizen input and formulate the charter. Jamie's bill also required the Chancellor to provide a map of all CDS parcels to be zoned "commercial," and delayed any imposition of penalty rents until the map had been approved by the RA.

However, there was no second to Justice's motion, so the discussion reverted to Jon Seattle's Commerce Clarification Bill. Jon noted that he had posted a change to the forum, in response to comments by Flyingroc Chung. The change was that any action taken by the organization in violation of its charter would not be considered an official act. In other words, the Chamber of Commerce could act outside of its charter if it pleased, but only unofficially. Discussion then turned to Jamie's objections to Jon's bill, which seem to have been that the RA should allow the Chamber of Commerce to act as an NGO without a governmental charter (as do real-life Chambers of Commerce). Jamie had started a forum thread about how NGO's work in CDS, noting that the legislation seems to leave this question wide open.

Jon repeated his position, which was that this particular NGO was to be given the eminently governmental ability to recommend that a citizen's rent be quadrupled. (This suggests that the bill did in fact foresee repeat doublings of the rent of unvisited lots, month after month.)

Further discussion was once again tabled to the next meeting. Jon noted that since the previous version of the Commerce Bill was still in effect, the Chancellor would be obliged to go ahead with implementing it. But Jamie reminded everyone that he had amended the bill so that fines could only be levied after concerned property had been marked as commercial in its metadata. He ensured the RA that he would hold this in abeyance until the current bill was resolved. The meeting adjourned.

The RA Meeting of 7 September 2008 and MT's Final Bid for the Scientific Committee

The 7 September RA meeting began with the monthly report from the Chancellor, Jamie Palisades. He first mentioned that executive branch appointments were systematically announced on the forum, in the section entitled "Executive Branch Announcements". In addition to the 6 authorized funded positions, he was planning to ask for approval of a seventh, which would be a second Public Information Officer (PIO). Arria Perault mentioned that she was hoping that webmaster for the new portal would be a funded position. (It could be noted in passing that these positions are remunerated with a stipend of typical Linden Dollar dimensions, pitifully low compared to the time input, and that what counts is the title rather than the payment.) Arria observed that content and system are separate aspects of website management, and that Brian Livingston as one of the PIOs was responsible for the content of the website, while the webmaster would be responsible for the system.

Jamie then reported on preparations for the upcoming CDS anniversary and Oktoberfest, which would begin on September 20.

The third item of the Chancellor's report was land expansion. He referred to his forum post on how sim expansion decisions work in CDS. Jamie proposed to run CDS operating expenses from current income, leaving the reserve kitty for investments in expansion. (The kitty was at that time reported to be about 4500 USD.) Jamie also suggested that there were other investments that could make CDS grow. In passing, Jamie expressed the opinion that CDS had missed out on market expansion that had been captured by other communities, in response to which Gwyneth Llewelyn said she was interested in any data Jamie had to support this claim. Jamie also noted that a proposal for expansion had already been received from Arria. (This was the first mention of Arria's Monastery sim project, which would be a subject of discussion during the rest of 2008.)

The last item in Jamie's report was the CDS budget. He referred to his forum post on the subject. Justice and Gwyneth expressed the opinion that the budget should be a voting item. Jamie replied that CDS had often functioned without a budget, and that approving the budget could be a bill if CDS Law so required, which at that time it did not. Gwyneth explained that when the Old Guild was phased out, they forgot to update the Constitution to say that the RA must approve the budget proposed by the Executive. Jamie said he would be happy to discuss whether the RA wants to take back day-to-day management decisions such as the budget, but that since these were currently left to the Chancellor, he would exercise this authority until vetoed.

That said, Jamie referred to the presentation on CDS finances that Sudane had made during the previous semester. (Can anyone provide the link? All I can find is Sudane's Financial Reports, such as the Financial Report for August 2008.) Sudane had suggested that CDS should routinely save 25% of the rent income each month, and spend the rest. Jamie calculated that these 25% savings would put an additional 58 USD per month into the kitty for future investments. After deduction of 10 USD to the ISP for the portal, this would leave about 175 USD per month for operating expenses, which is much more than is actually spent. Jamie noted that some citizens felt the surplus should be taken up by lowering some or all of the rental fees.

As a concrete measure, Jamie suggested spending 44 USD per month on events. A decision was rapidly taken to approve the creation of a second PIO stipend position, but further discussion of the budget was tabled until the next meeting.

The next agenda item was reconsideration of MT's nomination to the Scientific Council. Reconsideration was necessary because MT had stated on record that he would be unavailable until 7 September, so the RA should have waited until that date before making a decision. Justice noted that MT had replied to the various questions posted on the forum. Both MT and ThePrincess had showed up for the discussion – although as it turned out MT did all the talking, while ThePrincess merely watched.

In addition to relatively routine responses to questions about the role of the Scientific Committee, MT's arguments centered on two questions: whether he had a level head, and whether he had acted reasonably in contesting the CDS election methods. On the first point, he noted that in real life he is a senior manager in government service, managing over 100 staff running complex IT infrastructure for an organization of 18,000 staff. On the second point, he reviewed the reasons for his request for a new election following the announcement of the July 2008 Election Results.

MT claimed that there was a question over the type of count used, and confusion from people involved as to how the count should be made, and that a new election should thus be held only after clarification of the counting method. Even if the election results turned out the same, the method of getting to them would thus be beyond reproach. (This point seems in fact to have first been raised by Bromo Ivory.)

Rubaiyat asked whether this issue of the election had been resolved, and how. MT replied that it had been resolved because the SC had finally ruled on it and that he accepted their arbitration, even though they ruled against him.

Patroklus then reminded MT that Cindy Ecksol had posted several well-reasoned explanations of why MT's call for new elections was unnecessary, and asked why he had persisted. MT replied that he felt there had remained sufficient confusion to justify bringing the issue to the SC; since the rules had never been fully specified. Bells Semyorka observed that in response to MT's challenge the RA had voted to use the Borda count in the future, which implies that the issue did need clarifying. Jon Seattle noted that if the SC had agreed with MT that would have reversed the basis for every election that CDS had held up until that point. MT replied that historical elections could not be changed even if the method was flawed, but that on principle the rules should be known ahead of the election. Gwyneth replied to Bells that the RA had only voted on this issue in order to reinforce the decision of the SC. Gwyneth reproved MT for persisting in his opposition even after the SC had reviewed the matter, and said that this showed his failure to respect the constitutional authority of the SC. (Can someone give a link showing that MT persisted after the SC ruling on 22 July? His call for an Election Reform Bill following SC refusal to examine the case seems to have been posted before the SC ruling.)

The vote was called. MT's nomination to the Scientific Council was again defeated, by 4 votes to 2, with one absence. The final curtain thus fell on the effective role of MT and ThePrincess in CDS politics.

The meeting had gone over time, and remaining business was tabled until the next session. And this blog post is also dragging on, so let us table the review of the subsequent RA meeting, held on 28 September, and finish with a glance at the Oktoberfest.

The CDS Fourth Birthday Celebration and the Oktoberfest

I missed the 2008 edition of the CDS Oktoberfest because I was offline for an extended period. The CDS Oktoberfest began on Saturday, September 20, coinciding with the official opening of Oktoberfest in Germany, and ran two weeks, to October 5.

As told in the SL History Wiki article about Ulrika Zugzwang, the first Oktoberfest in 2004 roughly coincided with the beginning of what ultimately became CDS. Ulrika's Neualtenburg project was approved by the Lindens on 12 September 2004, and construction of Neualtenburg city (later transformed into Neufreistadt) began in the sim of Anzere. In line with the city's medieval Bavarian theme, Ulrika and Kendra Bancroft organized an Oktoberfest, for which they created several of the city's signature items, including the Neualtenburg Bier Stein and the Neualtenburg Chicken Hat. At that first Oktoberfest members of the city and guests including Torley Torgeson danced under a tent on the Marktplatz, the only existing city structure at that time.

The fourth Oktoberfest and CDS anniversary celebration was announced on the CDS portal, with last minute modifications to the schedule posted on the forum.

The CDS Anniversary Celebration began on September 20 with a triathalon, followed by a flag ceremony. The street market and carnival, which continued throughout the two-week festival, opened with streamed Polka music. The opening day finished with a music event in the evening.

The next day started with a parade through all four sims to the Marketplatz, followed by the first soccer game, out of a total of three during the festival. Numerous music events were scheduled throughout the two-week period, including several open mics organised by Naftali Torok. The second soccer game was held on Sunday September 28, and the final on Saturday Oct 4.

Pictures of the Oktoberfest can be seen at Lilith Ivory's flickr stream and at Sudane Erato's Picasa page.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful recap, Danton. I've been finishing up bringing over all of the meeting transcripts into an archive on the portal, but haven't gotten to summarizing each. At the very least, I hope to cross-reference legislation to the relevant RA session.

Re: The meeting that Jamie was referring to seems to be that of June 14, 2008.

Recent Monthly Financial Reports are available on the portal as well.

Hope that helps!


Danton Sideways said...

Thanks for the links, Brian, and for the appreciation.

I was at that meeting on June 14, 2008, which is why I remembered that Sudane showed us slides. But I wondered where they were, thinking maybe they were at a Googledocs link or something. But now I see that someone (maybe you?) has appended them to the end of the minutes of that meeting, which is nifty. There is a little problem with slide 3a, which shows as blank in my browser, but the text appears when I click to enlarge the slide.