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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

FATED INNER CHOMSKY

A devil's accountant comes to Second Life...

Everything you think you know about your world is a lie. You may believe you live in a free society, but it’s really controlled by an elite upper class that has shaped its development from behind the scenes since its inception. You assume you have a fair shot at making a decent living or having your legitimate grievances heard through democratic redress, but the system is rigged so the elite ever has its way. No real dissent is possible, either, because the elite controls the media—rather, the media is part and parcel of the elite— and through it, all protest is marginalized, all consent is manufactured.

This summarizes, more or less, Noam Chomsky’s sociopolitical analysis of America, as expressed over nearly four decades as one of the country’s most notorious iconoclasts, through copious essay, innumerable public talks, and worldwide media appearances.

It also happens to summarize, more or less, Prokofy Neva’s sociopolitical analysis of Second Life, as expressed through innumerable posts on Second Life’s official Forums. Until, that is, after several months of accusation and acrimony, Linden Lab permanently suspended Neva from the Forums.

Mr. Neva still retains his in-world account, however, where he is an established landholder and businessman. Citing a policy of subscriber confidentiality, Linden Lab declined my request to explain the reasons behind the suspension from the Forums, the motives and fallout for which have been already speculated and argued over on numerous Resident-run SL blogs. Rather than rehash those here, or tread into the quagmire of pitting Neva’s perspective against Linden Lab and the other Residents he clashed with, leading up to his exile, I’ve decided to devote my coverage to Prokofy’s theory of the Feted Inner Core, and its relation to Second Life.

For the record, Neva vehemently disdains being compared to Noam Chomsky.

"I don't reject the analogy of myself as a dissident," he tells me, "but I think Chomsky in real life is far more left wing, rigid, and extreme in his views than I am in the equivalent Second Life context.” As it turns out, Prokofy (who describes himself as someone who lived and worked in the Soviet Union for some years an émigré from the former Soviet Union) has actually met Noam Chomsky in person, he says, at a left-leaning scholars conference on the East Coast.

“In person, Chomsky seemed very quiet and geeky,” says Neva, “with kind of a geeky look of ‘uncool haircut’ and plain button down shirt and chinos. Not at all fiery in his in-person rhetorical style… he actually comes across as a bit mystical and religious with the stare off into the far distance, the pauses, etc.— it's a little creepy, he's definitely a persona.” But that didn’t prevent Prokofy from taking him on face to face, he tells me. “I expected him to put up more of a real feisty fight when I argued with him about the Soviet Union, but he was very mild and almost regressive. My memory of him was that he just sat there and didn't respond much as I talked about the horrors of the GULAG, listening to some inner angel choir.” He laughs at the recollection.

In any case, Prokofy Neva doesn’t buy the analogy. “In fact,” he insists, “I merely represent a liberal critique to the hard left like Ulrika or the hard right like Enabran and Chip and Cristiano, the burghers of Second Life.” (Enabran Templar is a successful robot manufacturer, Chip Midnight, a custom-skin designer, Cristiano Midnight, owner of Snapzilla; Ulrika Zugzwang is one of the founders of Neualtenburg, a kind of kibbutz-style worker-owned collective, modeled after a Bavarian mountain town.)

Further, he sees the Chomsky/Neva comparison as my clever strategy to de-legitimize his dissent.

“See Hamlet,” he informs me, “you'd like to position yourself as the ‘normal middle liberal voice of reason’ and have me on the wacky left or right, but frankly, I view myself as the normal middle liberal voice of reason and you all on the wacky left or right, and in that, I think most people in American society, looking at the tekki wikinistas, would agree.” (More about “wikinistas” below.)

But I do think the comparison illuminates. Foremost is the divisive impact both have had on their cultures. It is impossible to understand the American political scene, certainly on its liberal-left sphere, certainly in its most fractious moments, without being familiar with Chomsky’s influence. (Impossible as well to understand America as it is perceived by Europe, where he is generally revered.) In a similar way, Prokofy Neva has, for good and ill, had an enormous defining impact on Second Life culture. While he has his defenders, his theory also provokes strong social satire (examples here and here), and self-protective spoofing. (Many established Residents now cheerfully describe themselves as “FIC”; indeed, a planned visit by several dozen Residents to Linden Lab’s San Francisco office is dubbed “Planned RL Invasion of Linden Lab by the FIC”.) If it didn't exist before, the very resistance to the concept has almost dragged the thing into reality. (As Resident Elle Pollack recently noted and ironically self-styled FIC member Aimee Weber more or less assented to.)

In a recent New Yorker profile of Chomsky, a peer described him as “the devil’s accountant.” Meaning— depending on your point of view— a demon of conscience who keeps ruthless track of a nation’s sins, to damn it, or a deceitful, self-serving inquisitor who sees only sin and corruption, even in the most virtuous actions. With his derisive contempt of his opponents and his relentlessly inflammatory rhetoric, Chomsky represents the furthest extreme of intellectual dissent possible in a free society. As such, he also represents what is perhaps an inevitable challenge to the very concept of an open community and its ability to foster free speech, when that speech practically clamors for its dissolution.

Others may perceive other parallels, but for now, I’ll leave it at those.

If there’s any key difference between the two (and here I speak from some experience, having criticized Chomsky in past writing) it’s Prokofy Neva’s willingness to suggest tangible solutions to his pessimistic diagnosis. And to offer empirically verifiable predictions that might confirm or refute his analysis. (For example, whether Second Life's population begins to plateau at 40,000.) We’ll check back in a year to see if his prophecies are more Cassandra than crackpot.

For now, for the historical record—and more key, stripped clean of the personal scorn which were consistently threaded through Neva's Forum version, and Residents’ replies to them— the theory that accompanied Prokofy Neva’s rancorous rise and fall from the Forums:

Prokofy Neva on the Feted Inner Core

The Feted Inner Core is the group of talented and innovative high-visibility content-creators, clothing designers, script-writers, architects, and other virtual-world creators encouraged, subsidized, and celebrated by the Lindens since the inception of Second Life. They are the established and recognized elites at the world’s center who provide most resident content and the informed engagement the Lindens require in their software design. Distinguished more by an attitude of sometimes arrogant superiority by virtue of their actual and perceived accomplishments in line with Linden Lab’s goals, the FIC are not all oldbies, and include some newbies.

“Feting” can occur in a variety of manners, from private talks [with Linden Lab staff], in-world to IRC chats to tier-free 4096 [square meter land] accounts and a free sim or free programming help and endorsement of products and projects, to graduating older players to becoming Lindens. The FIC views themselves as the rightfully privileged gatekeepers to the Metaverse and as such are the natural opponent of anyone seeking a more democratic, open, and pluralistic Metaverse.

Prokofy Neva on the "Tekkie-Wiki"

Crucial to FIC ideology is the primacy of the “tekkie-wiki” or collective expert technical brainstorm to collaborate on projects outside of uninitiated scrutiny and “ignorant interference” from the non-cognoscenti; a belief that the world is “all one” and that critics are “divisive”, and a propensity to see any problem as fixable with a technical rather than social or political solution. The FIC are the dissident geeks of real life, who, in an ironic twist, now maintain a conservative, smug, medieval guild climate in Second Life. The FIC tend toward the scientific utopianist worldview even as they romanticize historic medieval or pastoral idylls and pagan ideologies and promote the takeover of daily life by information-gathering technology

There are two schools of thought about how you promote genius. The elitist approach (ancient Sparta) says you select an elite group and groom the select for greatness and privilege through a rigid apprenticeship, weeding out "feebs and choads" as you go. The democratic approach (ancient Athens) says you create a class of forty, you use the Socratic method of education, and you hopefully create the conditions not only for one-two geniuses to appear, but for all to reach greater potential.

Like any company with sophisticated, customized products, Linden Lab will seek out long-term, trusted customers for commentary and that's natural, and involve them in plan and design as part of a marketing technique (this is the 'prosumer' of Future Shock). But given the hothouse orchid quality of this small, intense, and relatively under-populated world, it is vital for fresh insights, new views, other types of minds, other types of skills to be brought to the world-creation effort. You cannot make a society only of elitist tekkies or artisans, in the Ayn Randian or science-fiction vein, and have a pluralistic, robust, accessible and open world— tekkies alone are one-dimensional. SL will stagnate and corrupt if only a certain few beta-testers are continually heeded and not the needs of a wide variety of people in the world are taken into account.

Prokofy Neva on the danger in feting the Core

If Linden Lab continues to fete only these few, many non-technical players who are attracted to mass-culture, entertainment and "softer" game development (social networking, contests/games, non-profit work, support groups, variegated businesses and services outside software development) will become frustrated and leave. Already the lack of entry-level income-generating opportunities and the steep learning curve for tools mastery frustrate many. People do not want to be relegated to becoming the passive and docile consumers of the technocrats; they want democratically-accessible tools for both content creation of a variety of levels of competence and non-technical content, i.e. games, socializing, house-holding, etc.

Prokofy Neva’s alternative to feting the Core

To avoid this dead-end, I believe Linden Lab needs to enforce the Terms of Service equally on the forums and stop its reliance on the much-abused abuse-reporting system, currently owned and operated by the FIC, and permit as much free debate about the game as possible. LL should convene in-world focus groups, both randomly and across sectors, to expand beyond its "FIC sounding board" approach. Regular thematic meetings convened by Lindens and more attendance by Lindens at resident-organized discussions outside of FIC bastions like Thinkers would help them get in better touch with the range of different classes and groups of people in the world outside their original FIC partners.

Lindens need to broaden their scope beyond their recurring endorsement of FIC products and steering of real life media to FIC. Linden Lab especially needs to work hard to protect landowner rights, fix the group tools that make land ownership too risky, encourage rather than punish varieties of events and content and simply get out of the "lab" mode and the "white coats" mode more and realize it's time to stop fooling around with the "experiment" and work to stabilize the world so that it can grow and replicate.

Prokofy Neva’s predictions on the state of Second Life in June 2006, if his advice is not followed

In a year's time, in the worst case scenario, the Forums will be scrubbed clean of dissent, a tight-knit group of FIC types will hold all the key third-party cites for communications and game-related functions like sales and blogging, and will also control mainly gated- community private-island real estate and thus access even to LL servers; indeed this is already the case in key parts of SL. An unstable game/tool space with churning trials and brief memberships, with many players frustrated not only due to performance problems and high-tech hurdles too high to cross, will die because you will not have the basic civilizational substrate to make a civil society. The content-creators not only lose customers, they lose the kind of critical customers with the power of the purse to compel design changes that suit their needs rather than passively accepting the push-media of most free or even high-cost content.

I think it will continue to add members but it will churn and not grow that much bigger than what it is now, maybe 40,000 tops, certainly not going toward a million.

Try to understand the validity of my impressions. You are constantly pecking and clawing at them but listen to what my basis is. I have about five sims worth of land and hundreds of tenants. I listen to them and study them.

On whether Prokofy Neva has any regrets, looking over his history in Second Life thus far

I honestly don't have regrets Hamlet, I spoke my mind sincerely in the light of my own conscience. Why, do you think I should have regrets? I believe that the Feted Inner Core are a bastion of power that brooks no dissent, and that Linden Lab is overprotective of them, and that they unequally apply the Terms of Service and that I am a victim of selective prosecution and far from being a "forum troll" I am a legitimate polemicist. And you know in your heart this is the case, too, Hamlet.

Yes, it is my firm belief that my actions are entirely properly and blameless. And yes, it is my firm belief that the blame for the controversy rests entirely with the Feted Inner Core and Linden Lab. Why, do you expect to hear something else from me, Linden?

I'm sorry not to be repentant, Hamlet, but there it is, it's my sincere belief. I know that I have not done anything wrong. Am I supposed to work this like a Pravda column, where if I express "sincere regret" and "promise to make good to the Motherland and the Party" I get to come back on the Forums? [laughs] I have no illusions that you're going to do some kind of flattering portrait.

As mentioned above, other SL blogs are already hashing out the reasons for Prokofy Neva’s Forum suspension, his behavior, and that of his interlocutors. For that reason—and in order to keep the dialog productive— please keep any Comments confined to discussing the entry. - HL

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Comments

Funny thing is I agree with Profsky, even tho' his posts always annoyed me and he seemed very combative. But I just don't feel comfortable in the forums anymore because it *is* totally cliquey. And even though my playing pays for itself through my business, I totally know what he means about the culture...

=^.^=

Posted by: Aestival Cohen at Jun 29, 2005 6:21:27 PM

Thats truly a remarkable entry Hamlet. I for one am on record as strongly disagreeing with Prok's ideology. I Disagree with the fact that chatting to the Lindens on IRC or otherwise makes us Elite.

Why? because it is not like the IRC Channel is locked for FIC Only. Anyone can join and chat.

I Tend to feel after this post that Whilst Prokofy may have a point, the delivery of this on the forum by creation of divisive memes and attacking the creators in works that are the same length as many high school essays may not have been ideal, and a more constructive manner of making his point would have been better recieved.

Its all about how you make the point, not what the point is :)

Posted by: Chage McCoy at Jun 29, 2005 6:58:04 PM

on the "tekkie-wiki"

Success often breeds respect... imagine that. What prokofy characterizes as a sense of entitlement I'd characterize as an impassioned sense of being fully vested in the Second Life world. It stands to reason that those who devote most of their time to building the world and filling it with content will come to feel a sense of stewardship and pride of place for their accomplishments. It has never been my sense that those Prokofy characterizes (quite condescendingly) as the tekkie-wikki" lord it over anyone. Second Life was designed from the ground up to celebrate creative expression and technical innovation. To hold that in contempt makes about as much sense as complaining about carnivores at a steakhouse.

on feting the core...

The tools that content creators use are equally available to everyone. How much more democratic can you get? Many of SL's most technically savvy players devote a good deal of their time to distributing tools and knowledge to make it easier for new people to get their feet wet with creation. If you compare the knowledge base that new users have at their disposal now compared to two years ago it's like night and day. People who think the gift horse has stinky breath should perhaps refrain from looking it in the mouth. Some people will always want reward without effort, but the world doesn't work that way. Perhaps someone can make a sim called "Luddite land" and fill it with skinner boxes that dispense cheese to those who push a button. On second thought, there's already TSO for that.

on Prok's alternative to feting the core...

Prokofy always made the mistake of assuming that the most successful and well know people in SL got that way due to special favors and insider connections. Quite the contrary. Linden Lab knows who these people are precisely because they became so successful. I'm not well known because Linden Lab made me that way. I'm well known to the community, and as a result to LL itself, because I became successful. No matter how many times the proverbial cart runs over the horse of Prokofy's logic he can never seem to grasp the blindingly obvious.

On Prok's predictions...

As a daily reader of the forums since the day I arrived in SL while it was still in beta, I can't think of anyone who's acted as uncivil or spewed as much envy driven vitriol as Mr. Neva. He's the last person whose advice I'd seek about "civil society." You don't breed civility by making a career out of denigrating others. Prokofy invented a class system all by himself, cast himself as the voice of the downtrodden, and tried to acquire fame by convincing others that they're all victims of this supposed elite. In a forum discussion he started about the griefing that can be caused by nefarious uses of the push function in LSL (Linden Scripting Language) someone suggested adding a slider to the user interface where people could set how susceptible their avatar is to being pushed. Prokofy claimed that would be too complicated for the average user. When someone else suggested a simple on/off button he claimed that would also be beyond the comprehension of the average "non-tekkie-wiki" resident. A word of advice to other would be demagogues... people aren't likely to sign on to your world view if it involves trying to convince them that they're too stupid to use an on/off switch.

Posted by: Chip Midnight at Jun 29, 2005 7:02:35 PM

I can't imagine that anyone would possibly be pleased by being compared to a radid anti-Semite nutcase like Chomsky. While Prokofy has a lot of disputed opinions, he is basically mainstream and not hateful in his politics. Chomsky is the posterboy of everything that is wrong, evil and misguided with the Ivory Tower Wing of our most liberal academia.

Posted by: David Cartier at Jun 29, 2005 7:21:10 PM

Those are certainly worthwhile points worth debating, David, though I'm gonna ask that any discussion of Chomsky *only* focus on the portion of his thought I mentioned in this entry.

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Jun 29, 2005 7:39:31 PM

Actually, I believe I am the obvious SL counterpart to Noam Chomsky. However, I understand that your modus operandi requires that you use an unpopular SL character famous for quackery to discredit an outspoken left-wing thinker.

Beyond the bias I'm also quite disappointed that you devoted the entire first half of your article on a weak analogy. Your writing actually gets in the way of Prokofy, a character who doesn't need clumsy narrative assistance to dress up his comments.

Finally, you describe Neualtenburg as "a kind of kibbutz-style worker-owned collective" which is about as accurate as the Noam Chomsky analogy. I assume you understand what the project is but just wanted to work the word "kibbutz" into a sentence.

Tell you what. I'll take Prokofy back if they ban you and your "journalism" from SL.

~Ulrika~

Posted by: Ulrika Zugzwang at Jun 29, 2005 8:56:08 PM

I thought the Chomsky comparison was very apt. The first paragraph is pretty much exactly the line of reasoning Prok puts forward. The big difference is that Chomsky talks about problems that actually exist.

Posted by: Chip Midnight at Jun 29, 2005 9:20:45 PM

I am absolutely shocked that you would give Prok a virtual carte blanche to spew the very same hate that you pointed out was banned in the forums. Well, at least we know that Linden Lab doesn't control what Hamlet writes.

Posted by: HiroPendragon at Jun 30, 2005 12:39:27 AM

Hello,

Though Prok may have a point regarding the dangers of stagnation in SL, its a bit of a reach to imply that the stagnation is being caused by a particular few.

My access to IRC is purely a utilitarian one; I work late at night and though the forums are OK, in some respects a real-time banter is nice to while away the quieter afternoons or nights.

I promote and respect other builders of projects which move me, and are unique to my feelings of needing safe and quiet areas within SL. Its most likely shaped by my personal history and how its been shaped in recent past by Uru (Hamlet, did you even read the entry before the VC one? ;) ).

How does that possibly make me an FIC, though not directly labeled as one by Prok? I honestly am not certain. I am not popular in the broad sense of the word, not like those such as Torley or some of the other commentors above. I am here to relax, nothing more, nothing less.

Posted by: Alan Kiesler at Jun 30, 2005 1:13:23 AM

All that time on a Kibbutz drove Chomsky to be anti-semitic? FWIW, I think he's jewish too, hehe.

Posted by: Pirate Cotton at Jun 30, 2005 5:06:31 AM

Hamlet wrote: "Citing a policy of subscriber confidentiality, Linden Lab declined my request..."

While I applaud your attempt to address some real Second Life controversy, I think it's disingenuous to suggest that you have an arm's-length relationship with Linden Lab. It might have been more realistic to write "Citing a policy of subscriber confidentiality, Linden Lab (my employer) declined my request..." Without this disclosure, readers might get the impression you're an independent reporter.

You mention that the Prokofy controversy has been covered in other SL blogs, but haven't provided links to these sources. You've linked to examples of Prokofy-satirists, but not to examples of his defenders (granted, there are far fewer of those). Certainly you've given Prokofy some play by featuring him and his viewpoints in your article. Perhaps this counter-balances the lack of supporting linkage.

Posted by: Tony Walsh at Jun 30, 2005 7:51:40 AM

"see if his prophecies are more Cassandra than crackpot" -- I am impressed that you are using the Cassandra reference correctly there, Hamlet, though other's might miss the meaning. Cassandra was given the gift of TRUE prophecy by Apollo, but turned down his later romantic advances. In retaliation, since he could not take away the gift/training he had given her to see the future, he cursed her so that no one would believe her prophecies, correct though they were. So while she could have warned her father, the king of Troy, about the impending doom ("Don't take any wooden horses, daddy!") neither he nor anyone else would believe her... Right though she was. Cassandra was the victim of godlike meddling in true Greek fashion. (But I don't think Apolo has been hitting on Prokofy...)

Posted by: Tiger Crossing at Jun 30, 2005 8:07:07 AM

I just had to delete a comment which went over the line into personal attack, and beyond the boundaries I stated above-- to keep opinions on issues brought up in the entry itself, on the theory of FIC, and *only* on the entry and the theory of FIC.

People are free to attack *me* here, however, in my decision to write this. I want the entry to speak for itself, but I will add that I felt it'd be derelict in my contractual assignment to cover SL as an emerging society, if I didn't devote at least one topic to PN's attempt to define it, especially after the controversy that followed after the Forum fracas.

Tony, I'm a contractor for LL, not an employee, and my contract in relation to NWN is to cover SL as a reporter. That relationship has been mentioned many times here-- including my talk at the SXSW panel we were on just a few months ago.

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Jun 30, 2005 12:10:11 PM

Right, Tony, newbies might think that Hamlet does other than work for Linden Labs. Because we're all so fucking stupid that we don't notice that his last name is LINDEN, right? Or that, up there to the left, one can access "OTHER Linden Blogs." Because we all have the intelligence and clarity and social acumen of, say, Hadogenes Troglodytes, is that your implication? Or is it that I'm simply too dumb (or dumbly too simple) to figure out what your true implication IS?

Also, all of y'all, this particular newbie is less concerned about any abuses, economic or cultural or otherwise, potentially visited upon myself by the so-called FIC (Hel-LO, Feted Inner Core! Me, me! Choose ME! *I* want to rule, too!) than I am about the whining (no matter how well-worded) of folks who are sad and angry because they haven't been invited to be part of some putative all-star team. Blah de fucking BLAH. As one of my RL friends says, summing up the true motivation behind much "revolutionary" rhetoric: "The reason I hate the bourgeoisie is because they ain't the bourgeois-ME."

Perhaps the best innovators and economic movers & shakers among the Residents --- and also every single employee of Linden Labs, including whoever comes in to empty the trash and vacuum the carpets late at night while the nascent prims are still forming in their insulated vats of rez-fluid --- perhaps all that cream of the creative crop should be handicapped down to the lowest common denominator, as in Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," so that nobody will ever feel inferior or left out again, eh?

Yeah --- that would make SL *ever* so attractive.

Perhaps if the disgruntled elements spent less time posting their gripes-for-griping's-sake and more time writing better scripts and working for the greater good IN Second Life, OUTSIDE the forums ... well, you can conjecture along with me, right?

Ultimately: whatEVER. I --- who have never played ANY online games before, who have no experience beyond the relatively Neanderthalish Yahoo Chatrooms of the mid-90s --- have been enjoying the hell out of SL during my first two weeks inworld, and I look forward to doing that for many years to come.

So nyaah.

Posted by: Memory Harker at Jun 30, 2005 12:30:24 PM

One of the FIC/LL locutions most interesting to me is the phrase "the creators," usually spoken in awed and hushed tones. You often hear it when a Linden sees something clever a resident has made and says "Oh, I'm so amazed by the creators." Half the time, the Lindens make far superior content with their higher skills, but they always gush when it comes to player-created content even of the modest variety -- it's as if they've been indoctrinated always to go around encouraging and patting on the back to keep the whole show on the road -- it's what I call "feting". But so they created something? So it's kewl? It's not all there is to life -- and PS, the FIC aren't the only creators or even necessarily the most talented. We as residents do get to challenge it, even if we aren't kewl creators ourselves. Perhaps some of us create something different of a different order in the game, perhaps we provide services or do differnt kind of activities -- it's only in an oppressive medieval-guild type craftsmen society that we'd have to be forced into peasant-like dependency on you all -- but surely not in the modern world on the Internet.

We're your *customers*. Couldn't you be just a tad bit more respectful? We might be bored by your kewl content today, or have customer service issues with somethign buggy or hard to understand or broken by the Linden's latest patch. Get over yourselves, please! It's *just* creation, not a Blessed Sacrament.

Yes, I'm in awe, Chage. I went around for months in the beginning too, oohing and ahhing and blogging in amazement at all the kewl stuff. I did a good bit of feting myself, holding architectural displays and contests where I tried to find ways of gaining recognition for the best architects in SL whom I saw were ignored and undervalued at times. But after awhile, I began to question the steady-state genuflection pose I was supposed to be in, especially as I begin to deal with some really smug, insular, insensitive, and condescending types of people, who behaved atrociously on the forums. What have you done *lately*, I began to ask myself?

Yes, there is group of fantastically talented and creative people who, together with LL, has made what has rightly been described as a Paradise. Yet it's also an Inferno and a Purgatory for some. It's not all about wonderful content creation and kicking out the jams in the sandbox. That's all good. But there is a lot more to the world. An older player and stellar content-creator summed it up better than I ever could: "I wish LL would create a metaverse for adults, and not just allow it to be turned into the personal sandbox of the early adapters."

There are quite a few people who just want to live in this world and create their own realities very different from the realities the FIC want -- or imagine they want (sometimes it turns out they are no different than anybody else holed up in their skybox in a suburban tract).

I didn't create the divisions that surely exist -- numerous other posters ("What About the People With No Talent??") have lamented the culture clashes, the FIC animosity to land traders, the animosity to business (dislike of "any business but me and my friends' business"), the loathing of Tringo and other ingos, the despising of dance clubs, etc.

All I did was provide critical commentary about phenomena that does truly exist, and which is observed and reported on by others.

A typical, barely-restrained condescending and annoyed comment can be seen now on the forums in response to a complaint that there are just *too many* FIC profiles on the LL website: "And furthermore, LL wants to attract people with profiles of people who have CREATED stuff [note the irritated use of caps--PN] using the capabilities of SL. The whole appeal of SL is supposed to be a place where YOU can build your world. Yeah, there are a lot of people who use it as a glorified chat client, but that aspect is not what LL is trying to sell. Want to be on the website? It's quite simple. Make stuff that's interesting to look at, that LL might want to use as advertising. Joe Newbie's Randomly Picked Plywood Cabin isn't going to get people to sign up."

Well, LL may not be *trying* to sell a glorified chat room with 3-D capacity, but they DID sell it and that is what a good number of people paying for subscriptions and buying land and building houses are wanting, and what they are doing. It's as if LL has their heads in the sand about this, still dreaming the utopian notions of your Lusks and your Tabers, the Shangri-las of High-End Content with beautifully-appointed and architecturally-superior buildings and gloriously innovative and whimsical content.

What's wrong with plywood? Can't Joe Newbie be free to hack around on his private property with his little newbie stuff without a scornful crack from Mr. Uber Architect?

Lurking under these comments is a horridly social Darwinist/Ayn Randian kind of ethic that says "only those who create, only those who make content *count*". You can only be on the website if you (hushed tone) Create. There is no other kind of excellency in any other field, there is no other equal and legitimate way of being in the world that merits respect -- there's just the highest eschelon of content-creation, and everybody else, on their knees -- and PS buy my product which I will feel free to advertise in the WA.

As I've noted elsewhere, the IRC chat isnt some secret cabal, it's a public channel. But it is *used as* a back-room type of back-channel where Lindens go and let their hair down, and residents can go even anonymously not using their SL avatar names if they don't want, and can just shoot the breeze much more informally than they can on the SL forums. Read the Herald if you want to understand how this process works. The claim isn't that it is a closed, secret society -- any body can join -- the point is that it is a staging ground for group bonding, group chat, group rituals, and ganging up on others.

It's mainly a chat room for tekkies to talk shop to LL programmers so it consciously strives for that in-group kind of tekkie flavour.

Once again, Chip, I'd really have to challenge you to find any "spewed hate" in my forum magnum opus. This is a widely perceived received wisdom of the FIC that I "spewed hate" -- although I engaged in legitimate dissent, reasoned discourse, which did not violate the TOS. It was only through barrages of ARs and incessant pulling of the little red panic button that the FIC was able to prevail over Linden moderators. That's my firm conviction, I saw it in action. If I was sharply critical, it was of a group think, a group attitude, a way of being in the world. It wasn't to slam some individual. If I was driven to snap and make some snarky personal comment some time, is it any wonder, given the DELUGE of hate that I experienced on those forums for my innocent challenges beginning in my response to the thread "They Don't Get it and I Sure Don't"? My comments, while sharp or ironic or satirical, are not incitement of hatred, except in the most hysterical and thin-skinned. I don't *hate* the FIC. I find it a fascinating and even amusing phenomenon. I do *fight* when I am attacked *first*.

Don't forget what I did that was different than so many people you bullied and ganged up on: I fought back, and I kept fighting back, and I fought back hard. I had a good run. Most people don't survive being ridiculed, bullied, harassed, shown with asshat hats made out of the forum icon, having their RL outed, and being libeled with the *wrong* RL -- and being harassed, and attacked, and griefed in the game as well. I am not fazed because my conscience is clear. You need to develop the capacity for some self-analysis and ask yourself whether in fact you are throttling this world. In fact, you may only be too glad to throttle it because you think you know best. I beg to differ.

Posted by: Prokofy Neva at Jun 30, 2005 12:46:34 PM

Memory Harker, this kind of comment is SO typical of FIC-dom: "Perhaps if the disgruntled elements spent less time posting their gripes-for-griping's-sake and more time writing better scripts and working for the greater good IN Second Life, OUTSIDE the forums." There it is folks, condescending, judgemental, even angry -- classic forums texts.

You judge people in this world ONLY by whether they can create, script, build -- using the SL tools. You mount a concept that is basically the Soviet or communist or fascist one of the "socially useful" the one who is "benefit to society" -- or else a wasted use of server space. A very slippery slope, and one which I heartily expose and oppose. You don't get to define, or tell me, what is "useful" or "not-useful" or "beneficial" in a world where, I, too, am a paying subscriber with equal rights.

And in fact, if we're going to play the "socially-useful" game, I, too, perform a great service for LL residents and have numerous projects, and I commission loads of architecture and various objects for my business, which is a rentals agency providing land and homes in SL.

Honestly, you have NO IDEA what I do in the game, such as to judge me as just some yammerer on the forums who "has no SL and probably no RL" as people so often do. Get off your high horse and see what I do in the game. I don't claim that it has some high-end content, though some of the architects I support are actually FIC -- others not (I'm so glad there are a wide variety to pick from!).

Posting on the forums is legitimate activity, and dissent is necessary in a democratic society, you don't have to slam it as "unproductive" and "not creative" and not "contributing". Honestly, this really fascistic notion of "contributing" as a value of social worth is really troubling -- for one, it privileges only one kind of "contribution" -- "making stuff" -- and it implies that everyone else not making the kind of FIC-approved stuff there is to make with these fiddly little tools in SL is somehow "crap". Well, move aside, We're in this world too, and we're having none of that.
Somebody gives me one of these withering "Why don't you MAKE stuff and CONTRIBUTE" kind of FIC rants, and I respond: !#@!@#$!@#$.

And you surely don't know me at all, if you'd attribute to me some kind of "uravnilovka" [leveling] kind of Soviet ideology, where everything is supposed to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator under the Party diktat. Not on your life! Let there be a hierarchy of competency and merit, let there be good and bad art, let there be some who excel brilliantly and get more credit, more praise, more money -- who could care? More power to them! My point is merely to have equal opportunity and equal access, and enough of this biased feting and touting and endorsing, already.

My motivation is not jealousy or envy, because I do not chose to build, script, design -- I'm doing something DIFFERENT in this world because I can and because it's supposed to be a world! A metaverse! Much bigger! "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

This kind of snarky sniping is SO typical of the forums -- "shut up and create something, you dumbass". Um, I do create something that is perhaps so intangible and so undervalued and so unimpressive to you FIC that you can't accept it in your tekkie value system: I make it possible for complete strangers to live together more cheaply and with better views and less lag on sims. Nothing that special, but those who value it, value it, I can assure you.

And what if I just fooled around playing Tringo and chatted with friends and bought the odd kewl Cubey or Fairchang vehicle and the groovay Aimee or Chip outfits and skins? *Why wouldn't I count then too?*

You know, Hamlet, if you truly are "just" a contractor, you might seriously consider taking a different last name than "Linden". I'm going to bite my tongue now and not suggest some of the names in the list that might be appropriate for such a role but I do think that if you've taken the Medici-like last name, you are viewed as firmly within the Court. The role you play is a legitimate one but not an unambiguous one.

Posted by: Prokofy Neva at Jun 30, 2005 1:06:18 PM

Since I'm traveling for the July 4th weekend, I will close off the Comments section tomorrow at 1PM PDT. Which means about 24 more hours to post your personal attack-free thoughts on this entry.

After which, this will in all likelihood be NWN's final take on the Feted Inner Core and everything related to that concept. (Until next June, that is, when we'll check back to see if Mr. Neva's predictions of SL stagnation and a 40K user base prove accurate.)

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Jun 30, 2005 1:13:36 PM

I had a big long post typed out here to comment on Prokofy, then I felt some gas coming on and decided that was more worth while, so I shut the window down without posting it.

Posted by: Beau Perkins at Jun 30, 2005 2:20:08 PM

Chip, could it occur to you that I am as impassioned and fully invested in SL as you? But I just don't build, design, script -- I pay others to do that. And I'm far from the only one. You simply must develop a more granulated and diverse notion of valued, merited activity in this world. It's not all about content creation, and privileging this God-like act of creation over every other kind of activity. It's not about holding anything in "contempt," that's just plain silly, it's about allowing "different intelligences" to have validity in this world, and to accept mass culture as well as the viable and reasonable substrate of this world -- it produces your customers! The idea that anyone who criticizes the FIC or LL is somehow "ungrateful" or doesn't "get it" about how wonderful the world is seems to me limited and unfair. It's ok to criticize even greatness. How can you have a normal society with excellence if nobody ever gets to criticize?

The tools are not at all democratic, by contrast with TSO, which instantly gives you a free, unscripted, automatic animation for "hug" and "kiss" on a pie chart easily reached even without skills. I know you loathe comparisons with TSO and surely someone will tell me to "go back where you came from TSO," but I have to hand it to Will Wright: he knew how to make a social and socializing world with a real flair and brilliance and life and colour, and by contrast, SL can be a lonely, empty place. (When I was a newbie, like many newbies my biggest first impressions were: where are the people? I roamed around empty malls buying things from vendors paying off no-show no-log content-creators, and tried to figure out where the green dots were...) I don't know why you would have to castigate a *consumer* who is after all *your customer* as someone looking a gift-horse in the mouth. Maybe he wants more diversity of skins? Maybe he wants to be able to criticize, and stimulate new content? Are you all supposed to rest on your laurels? Why make such damning and condescending comments about "Luddites" pushing a box for "cheese" just because reasonable, educated, intelligent adults with disposable income and a high-speed Internet connection pointedly ask: "where are the jobs? What can I do here? How can I earn money? Why is it only the escort trade?" We simply must all be building a more variegated and diverse and granulated world with many complex structures, like RL, and not expect this to be the FIC's endless sandbox.

I don't know where you get this notion that success only occurs to those who have access or even "sleep with" Lindens. That's baloney. There are people who never talk to Lindens who have enormous success, I've talked to them. There are those who literally camp the Linden spawn at Ambleside and never get to square one. That's not the point. But the point is the Lindens do fete, they do endorse, they do celebrate, they do cover their websites with just Certain People *cough*.

Chip, I can only assume that your center of gravity must be "envy" or "jealousy" or you experience it often from others such as to ascribe that to me. I assure you I am not envious of you, a skin trader, or of some one else who is an animations maker or a builder or a scripter. I do my own thing and it's immensely compelling. Try to distinguish critical commentary from any limited notion of "envy". It's as if you simply can't understand any other motivation for criticism *other than* envy and I assure you, criticism and analysis is legitimate and necessary in a democratic society.

I don't play some popular rebel leader of the masses of crashing and laggy sim dwellers, I just represent my tenants' interests. It's pretty straightforward. It's not an agenda to take power or enhance my reputation, God knows. I see what bothers people, what their issues are, and I speak out on it. I don't denigrate others, I challenge them.

Indeed, adding one more button, as simple as it might seem, is confusing to the newcomer, especially one not steeped in the modern tekkie culture. I've worked with tenants who spend weeks -- months -- figuring out the obvious on their game consoles and I, too, would sometimes find out things about the UI I never knew until ages later. There really isn't a good briefing process, and it is not all as intuitive as you think. My main critique against Aimee's button wasn't that it was too complicated, but that it was devising a programming and add-on making the Lindens do stuff, when I had a simpler proposal, that they just make a POLICY to ban those who used scripts that did not warn and that bounced avs -- full stop. What I oppose is applying these inane, Rube-Goldberg type of tekkie-wiki processes -- designing, programming, producing, educating about a button -- to what is essentially a POLICY problem of LL getting the spine to step up to the plate and control scripters more than they do, and not be battered about by them in their quest for creative freedom.

And Chip, did you ever think how this on/off button simply would not work? Once the bounce script could be so easily foiled (let's just posit that there is no learning curve or usage curve to get full compliance) then the bounce script would no longer work on griefers. Griefers, too, would flick the anti-push button, duh. You all were the ones so fired up about battling griefers with this muscular, aggressive method. Now what? All you'll get is scripters then bound and determined to make something that can overcome the push button or workaround it. Honestly, can you think three chess moves ahead on this? That's why I couldn't understand why you all kept pushing on the button issue -- it wasn't rational, even by YOUR logic.

Chip, you've never, ever EVER convinced me by any of your statements. You're forbidden from using some of your forum methods here, but when you accuse me of saying I have a world view telling them "they're too stupid to use an on/off switch," you're dangerously close. I've never characterized anybody that way, and you know it. What I've said is that adding *more more thing* into the UI can be confusing, and getting user compliance will be too hard -- and it also will be used by griefers.

Posted by: Prokofy Neva at Jun 30, 2005 2:28:57 PM

Hamlet, your vow to never cover the FIC and related commentary and my banning seems dangerously um...corporate, and I think you may be forced to eat your words before then. re: "Until next June, that is, when we'll check back to see if Mr. Neva's predictions of SL stagnation and a 40K user base prove accurate." I do want to point out that I am not in the business of making predictions. I personally, did not make them. You, Hamlet, urged me repeatedly to make them, so I complied for you so you could have a coda to your piece.Most people wouldn't take that risk. I gave it my best shot, based on the 1600 people I ever see logged on most times, and the absence of a lot of green-dot concentration activities and so on. I think LL is growing by leaps and bounds, but I also think it is churning, with people not "sticking" for all the reasons I said. I'd only be too happy to eat my words next June and find out that there are already a million people, or that SL is wildly popular, the word on everyone's lips, and as natural as breathing on the Internet and even going open-source. I wish SL success. I'm happy to be a part of that success. My critique is indeed a vital part of any world construction and someday you will cherish me.

Posted by: Prokofy Neva at Jun 30, 2005 2:34:26 PM

Tony... Actually, what I *am*? Is hopped up on caffeine and too easily ignited this afternoon. Otherwise I wouldn't have (I'm telling myself & hoping it's true) responded in such an extreme manner, especially to a comment that, really, had very little to do with me specifically.

*sigh*

Regards,

Posted by: MemoryHarker at Jun 30, 2005 2:50:58 PM

Prokofy, if you hadn't been willing to make a numerical prediction in relation to your claims, there's a very good chance I would not have posted this entry at all. Rule of thumb, if a theory is so nebulous that there's no way to empirically test it, it's not worth much attention. (Unless it's string theory or something, I guess.) Fortunately, we now have a means of checking your theory against reality. It may very well be that you're vindicated in the process.

Posted by: Hamlet Linden at Jun 30, 2005 2:53:34 PM

"I would rather go mad than experience pleasure."
--Antisthenes


Posted by: Nerf Herder at Jun 30, 2005 4:06:49 PM

As a long-time forum lurker and occasional poster, I am familiar with Prokofy Neva's views as well as the supposed FIC he agitates against. Though the Chomsky comparison may seem apt to some, I think it would be more instructive to look at the role Prokofy believes he is fulfilling. He may (probably) disagree with me on this, but after witnessing so many forum wars I think Socrates role (as portrayed in Plato's "Apology") of "gadfly" may be more accurate. I have a strong impression that this is how Prokofy sees himself in relation to the Linden "Rebublic" and the FIC at large:
"...Socrates likens himself to a GADFLY (a horsefly). Just as a gadfly constantly agitates a horse, preventiung it from becoming sluggish and going to sleep so too Socates, by (moving through the City) stirring up conversations in the marketplace, prevents the City from becoming sulggish and careless and intolerant (thinking it knows something when it doesn't)."
(snipped from; http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/Cavalier/80130/part1/Preface/ApologyAnalysis.html)

The difference here is that Socrates actually gained a great following and very much influenced politics and the philosophy of rule for years to come with his gadfly antics.
Prokofy, on the other hand, has produced results almost entirely counter to his ostensible goals. Why? He's not approaching "the people" in a way that will make them receptive to his message. He may say that he has only tried to present reasonable arguments and not attack without provocation, but that is not entirely true in my avid forum-reading experience. I believe I can say this with little bias as I am not a content creator or big mover-and-shaker. I am but a casual visitor in-world. If anything I should be siding with him as I am certainly not a member of the "tekkie-wikki", or whatever you want to call it. However, his constant underestimation of the broader userbase and their abilities is actually a bit annoying and offensive to me. All I'm trying to say is, you'll catch more flies with honey. Many people, including myself, would be more inclined to accept his views if they were stated more diplomatically. I mean, I actually see the potential dangers he's trying to combat and can even agree with some of his views philosophically, but I just can't see fit join in with his particular brand of revolution because the approach is all wrong.

I should also state that I have not always agreed with Hamlet Linden in his approach and his views on certain topics, but I do have a fair respect for the fact that he has posted this article and included so many of Prok's statements about Linden Lab management that are, really, quite damning. There's something to be said for that. It's almost like, with this kind of exposure, Prok has become a part of the very thing he's fighting. This is the kind of coverage/influence usually reserved for FIC members, am I right? Welcome to the fold, Prok.

Posted by: Persig Phaeton at Jun 30, 2005 4:10:42 PM

Why is there an article giving this forum troll so much worth?

Ignore the trolls and move on.

Posted by: Cienna Rand at Jun 30, 2005 4:16:34 PM