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What kind of society DDO resembles?

hereiam2005
Posts: 64
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6/5/2013 5:40:38 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
If DDO can be considered a society, what kind of society is DDO exactly?

Well, DDO has certain kind of government - we have certain laws, and we have certain people enforcing laws. We have citizens. We even have a president.
We have expulsion and even public lynching as punishment.

So what kind of society do you think DDO resembles? Is it just DDO or is it the same for all kind of forums?
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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6/5/2013 6:21:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Well, if we include Juggle, it's a monarchy. But they usually don't step in except to improve the site with updates. Which we do not pay for with taxes. So it seems like a pretty general constitutional democracy.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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6/5/2013 6:24:30 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
While we're on this topic...

I'd like to see the invention of a new internet. One where the websites themselves, by nature, are constructed and run decentrally through their users.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
muzebreak
Posts: 2,781
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6/5/2013 7:16:02 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/5/2013 6:24:30 PM, FREEDO wrote:
While we're on this topic...

I'd like to see the invention of a new internet. One where the websites themselves, by nature, are constructed and run decentrally through their users.

That's an interesting concept. But, I feel that it, like communism, is only good in theory. Most people don't know how the website they may frequent operates, and they don't really care to. Some websites are like that, in that they are largely user run, and I'm sure if you submitted some code to Juggle, they would look at it. But the majority will never be like that, because most people don't want to expend that kind of effort. But, take 4chan for instance. While the ownership is under the name Christopher Poole, their moderation is entirely made up of former, and current, users. They even recruit users for what is called a 'Janitor'. A janitor can directly contact moderators, to request a banning or removal of a thread/post. The site also has a large base of contributions from its users, in regards to site code. So their moderation, and a majority of their scripting, is from their user base. Like I said, some sites are like this, but it will probably never be the majority.
"Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and then we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact." - Carl Sagan

This is the response of the defenders of Sparta to the Commander of the Roman Army: "If you are a god, you will not hurt those who have never injured you. If you are a man, advance - you will find men equal to yourself. And women.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,484
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6/6/2013 12:08:38 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
There are several answers to be given to that question. I think an exhaustive treatment, even for something as limited as DDO, is beyond my abilities, but I would make the following observations:

First, I do not think the site is anything like a monarchy, particularly when thinking about Juggle. There's somewhere an element of oligarchy, insofar as the direct governance of the site (eschewing, of course, the larger corporate structure) is charged not to any single individual (and it would do us little good here to draw a monarchic analogy by pointing to Juggle as a unitary entity), but to a small administrative staff. What is crucial, however, is that a) quite unlike traditional oligarchies, Juggle's interventions are not crafted, strictly speaking, to serve a personal interest. Keeping their jobs depends on doing well, certainly, but this is not like an elite which crafts policy to serve its interests directly, as may be the case for exclusive trade agreements or legislation granting extralegal authority; b) Juggle seems to operate on a level somewhere between the technocratic--since the articulation of different stations in the oligarchy founds itself on an internal distribution of specialized labors, e.g., programming, public relations, accounting, etc.--and a rough contemporary analogue to Chile's Project Cybersyn [http://en.wikipedia.org...], an attempt in the early 1970s to streamline centralized administration by making governance a practice merely of receiving and responding to data streams, rather than engaging in ordinary political and legislative practice. Emphasizing both the general hiddenness of the governors and the need for efficient decision-making, the goal of Cybersyn--and, in much the same way, the goal of Juggle--is to displace the task of structural guidance to the level of an aloof, strictly fact-based style of administration. And, indeed, Juggle tends to be very reclusive, coming down from their tower almost exclusively to render judgment on extraordinary cases and to announce changes in the site's structure or interface.

Second, though direct communication with or access to Juggle personnel is not unheard of or prohibitively difficult to secure, it may nevertheless be said that our primary point of contact with the oligarchs is with the President-Moderator, a most peculiar office whose precise nature, given its paroxysmal evolution, is not so easy to define. We may satisfy ourselves with some cursory remarks about its present function and features.

To begin, this office, predominantly in the context of its relation to the site's population, does evince some measure of democratic procedure, particularly interesting because, despite Freedo's suggestion of constitutional features, there are actually no formal rules governing either the election of the President or the execution of his office, including appointment of subordinate officers or moderation (and, as we see, Airmax has been under considerable pressure to produce an explicit codification). I will return later to the law's customary character, but it suffices to emphasize this office's origin not merely as an informal institution, but as one that arose directly at the (mostly facetious) behest of the site membership, making it an undeniable--and so far permanent--democratic outgrowth (and the first feeble attempt at formal organization not terribly constrained, at a level deeper than superficial party identification, by the active, competitive factionalism whose paradigm is the early conflict between the Cleaners and the CWO).

On this note, a second peculiar feature of DDO's Presidency is its need of twin constituent powers. On the one hand, the fundamental legitimation of the President's authority is a direct popular vote initiated, also in a manner governed by habit, by the membership; yet, this really confers on the office only the glory afforded by popular consent. Indeed, like the Comitia Curiata of early Rome, our role in vesting the chief officer with his power--his imperium, one might go so far as to say--is really only a formality, rather than a matter of transferring any authority we have. The reason for this, of course, is not so much philosophical as mechanical: the second constituent power is that of the oligarchs, Juggle, who, while having their pick of who to ordain with the power and responsibility of moderation, nevertheless take as a signal those periodic votes of confidence initiated by the membership. Drawing some analogy between the execution in the Church of divine offices, one might say that the function of the Presidency and his staff is roughly akin to the administration by Church officials of the Earth according to divine law. Like God, Juggle reigns here, but it is often the President, like the clergy, which doesn't merely govern, but which is imbued by a higher authority with the power to execute its obligations. By this analogy, our elections may confer perceived legitimacy, but it is on Juggle's authority that the President truly moderates.

In a way, then, there may be some room for revision concerning the monarchical practice of the Presidency; what we may say, however, is not so much or not only that the monarch is elected, but that this is not really a statutory monarchy: there are no explicit documents--again, nothing like a constitution--to give structure to the office or its execution, much less to delimit its powers. Though we have something like a primitive written law in the Terms of Service, it has several limits, such as its purely negative regimentation of conduct (do not do this) and its focus on Juggle's (non-)liability and ownership rights. The ToS are hardly adequate to the site's present culture, as evidenced by the bounty of informal discussion about the scope of a moderator's power, debate on the nature of the link between the Presidency and moderating power, and even Airmax's sparse comments on his personal approach to administration. What is of interest, however, is not so much the lack of specificity concerning the President's limits, but the absence of any formal separation of powers. In the President-Moderator, the legislative, executive, and judicial functions are combined almost without exception. I am reminded of another Roman legal custom, the interpretatio juris--interpretation of the law--which finds its contemporary analogues in long-standing traditions like judicial review and, pertinently, the President's broad discretionary power over many legal features of the site: when/how to enforce parts of the ToS (if someone says "shit", for instance, what sort of reprimand might be due? Should cursing even be counted among punishable offenses?), whether something may be construed as a transgression, which actions count as transgressions, and what penalties to impose pursuant to enforcement of the rules (informal as much as, perhaps more than, formal). The interpretatio permitted officials of sufficient rank and power--usually the Praetors, to whom tended to be granted considerable authority over the administration of justice--not to negate or abolish the law, but, in addition to legislation, to interpret both the wording and the implications of written rules to render decisions. Given the inadequacy of our own ToS, this broad interpretive license has come to be regarded by many of the sites membership, particularly given Airmax's outward trustworthiness, as a most useful tool.
Cody_Franklin
Posts: 9,484
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6/6/2013 12:08:42 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
It is here that I return, third, to the customary nature of the site's rules. As has been seen, the ToS tends only to proscribe certain kinds of objectionable behavior. Consider some examples:

"You agree to use the Debate.org's service in accordance with the following content posted and code of conduct guidelines:

A. Will not create more than one account.
...
E. Will not upload, copy, distribute, share, or otherwise use Content that contains or embodies software viruses, worms, Trojan horses, bugs, or any other malicious computer code that is designed to interrupt, undermine, destroy, or limit the functionality of any computer software, hardware, or telecommunications equipment, or that is designed to perform functions on any software, hardware, or equipment without the owner's express consent.
...
G. Will not impersonate any person or entity, including without limitation Debate.org officials, staff, and/or Members.
...
O. Will not use the Service to harass or "stalk" anyone.
...
T. Will follow the following rules while participating on the site. Any disregard for these rules or any of the other terms or guidelines may result in termination of a member's account.

1. No use of profanities or swear words.
2. No personal attacks against other members or a member's opinions.
3. No use of racial, sexual or religious slurs.
4. No threats or implications thereof."

Even in many cases in which certain behaviors--harassment and stalking, for instance--are expressly prohibited, it is often up to the discretion of moderation to determine whether certain behaviors may be so-classified. Other times, whether cursing or personal attacks really warrant outside intervention, among members and between members and the President (and, sometimes, even the oligarchs) is a matter of some contention.

This, however, extends only to the prohibition of certain classes of behavior. The culture of the site--the very form of life we cultivate and recreate daily--is an entirely informal matter of custom and circumstance. Very rarely, for instance, do personal attacks draw the serious attention of moderation or the oligarchs. Likewise, these authorities have never intervened to establish a rigorous protocol for running the elections, or to enumerate a binding set of parameters to be accepted by voters and debaters (and indeed, those parameters often copied and pasted, with certain idiosyncratic tweaks, evolved directly from years of experience and repetition--consider the now-common use of Round 1 for acceptance, or forfeiture resulting in automatic 7-point loss, or even the "no trolling/lawyering/semantics" rule). It is on this basis, in fact, that the question of a member's productivity or contributions may be opened to discussion. We are not told what kind of community to build, and the President is not told how to moderate or what sort of culture to encourage, much less how to settle disputes over contentious questions of policy. Even the structural decisions of the oligarchs are mediated by the numerous feedback loops distributed throughout the site--in the forums, through networks of influential users, through reported experiences with new modules--and much of the site's present aesthetic and interface, if only in the form of our relieved approval, may be attributed to the creative influence we possess. If any feature of this site could be regarded as paradigmatic of this condition, it is doubtlessly the ELO ranking system, originally a loose collaboration among members like Ore_Ele, Roy, askbob, J.Kenyon, and others, now integrated by Juggle into the site's very fabric.

One useful way to capture the site's functional informality is by thinking of it as an "adhocracy" [http://en.wikipedia.org...], described roughly as a mobile, flexible, modular method of administration which, in contrast to the rigid, hierarchical operation attributed to bureaucratic rule, emphasizes techniques including (citing Travica and Mintzberg):

"highly organic structure
little formalization of behavior
...
low standardization of procedures
roles not clearly defined
...
work organization rests on specialized teams
power-shifts to specialized teams
...
culture based on non-bureaucratic work"

This is appropriate, I think, not merely to the President, whose office, staff, practices, and techniques stray far from formalization, standardization, and rigid hierarchy, but also to the attitude toward the site of the membership, out of which have emerged a number of changes and innovations (though Airmax himself has emphasized that his approach to site concerns is strictly case-by-case, which guarantees the particularization of his responses to a specific set of circumstances (even if some insight may be gained from how a situation is managed). Undeniably, DDO's political and structural practices tend toward the ad hoc). A quick glance at the suggestion and debugging threads, particularly as cross-referenced with a history of changes since DDO's change of ownership, is sufficient here. Still more may be gained from a look at the insane amount of literature and practical wisdom in the Games forum, the function of which could arguably be decoupled, without injury to itself, from DDO. The evolution of custom in Games has been completely user-driven, and its longstanding autonomy is significant of the incapacity of written formality either to predict or to encompass the members' creative force.

Still, this is purely structural, even if the structure is itself amorphous and mobile. I think there is also much to be said for the unscripted daily experience of participation. There are almost certainly, for example, certain divisions between castes of members. Though these divisions are often ideological, philosophical, religious, scientific, or cultural--what would this site be, after all, if it was not constantly animated by the buzz of passionate conversation?--I refer also to the somewhat higher-level division--a hybrid between the structural and the experiental--between different classes of member (not disanalogous to classes of citizenship). Although the population as a unit may be responsible for a great many things, it is difficult to deny that there is among the membership a certain distinction made between the site at large and those members of considerable influence or status whom we might regard as a kind of (informal, mind you) aristocracy. There was, and is, a fair amount of joking about a DDO Elite. It would be a shame (not to mention rather confusing) to find that there was no truth to the idea. Each among the aristocrats has something special to their credit for which they are esteemed by the rest of the community. Time served here, contributions to discourse, constructive contributions to the site--these and other conditions mediate belonging to the aristocracy, the boundaries of which are not fixed and the membership in which is not guaranteed (and the acknowledgement of which membership is largely a matter of intuition and agreement). I will not say much more about it, as I wish only to indicate that there are many things, thinking this way, to say about the community. It is a public gathering place, beyond the public square or the marketplace; it is a space of privacy and familiarity, as we talk with people we know, retreat into PMs, and converse behind screens. It is an environment conducive to growth--of intellect, character, experience. It is in some ways unusually welcoming, and less so in others (both often involving the aristocracy, interestingly). It is sometimes like a monastery, embracing the style of those cenobites who sought in community to flee from the rest of the world and commit themselves to a cherished form of life; other times, it is merely a social club (as the DDO Tinychat demonstrates).

As I run out of my second 8,000, I suppose it's sufficient just to say that DDO is a multitude, and that's good enough.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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6/6/2013 1:30:49 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 6/5/2013 7:16:02 PM, muzebreak wrote:
At 6/5/2013 6:24:30 PM, FREEDO wrote:
While we're on this topic...

I'd like to see the invention of a new internet. One where the websites themselves, by nature, are constructed and run decentrally through their users.

That's an interesting concept. But, I feel that it, like communism, is only good in theory. Most people don't know how the website they may frequent operates, and they don't really care to. Some websites are like that, in that they are largely user run, and I'm sure if you submitted some code to Juggle, they would look at it. But the majority will never be like that, because most people don't want to expend that kind of effort. But, take 4chan for instance. While the ownership is under the name Christopher Poole, their moderation is entirely made up of former, and current, users. They even recruit users for what is called a 'Janitor'. A janitor can directly contact moderators, to request a banning or removal of a thread/post. The site also has a large base of contributions from its users, in regards to site code. So their moderation, and a majority of their scripting, is from their user base. Like I said, some sites are like this, but it will probably never be the majority.

Much like content is to 4chan or wikipedia, I think we could create a system which lays out a basic foundation for people to create decentralized websites without needing to worry about code. There would be an inherent skeleton. This could be done through downloading a certain software.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
airmax1227
Posts: 13,244
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6/6/2013 1:46:13 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
The moment I read the title of this thread I was hoping to see at least one post by Cody offering his thoughts... Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

I think he sums it up pretty well, goes into fascinating depth as usual, and I couldn't come close to putting it better.
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