Government in Virtual Worlds

Is it ironic that the Internet is a free, open environment, close to anarchy when it comes to the governance of web sites, and yet the more successful ones tend to be those that have very rigid regulations? Take Wikipedia for example. It gives the pretense of being a very open platform, and yet without the very detailed rules that are used to create and manage content, it would be a mess.

It is the same in Second Life. I briefly mentioned this in a past post, but in Second Life, the most successful communities are those that have very strict rules. If a piece of land is lawless, people will litter up the parcel with random “items,” advertisers will set up tall advertising towers, and lack of zoning may result in having a huge escort service placed next to your quiet summer home. How sad is it that without rules, people cannot be trusted to be respectable and respectful?

The issue of governance naturally becomes a greater one as the site grows in capacity, and as the site operators realize that they need to make more regulations to cover things they had not noticed before. In that sense, it is admirable that Facebook is being versatile, and since its scuffle with users over the changing of privacy terms, it is trying to engage its users to be part of shaping its regulations.

But it’s really a lame pretense- it’s not as if you have a true choice. (Do you want the old microwave, or our new improved microwave based on consumer feedback?) And while I see how the seemingly democratic manner in which Facebook is shaping its empire can be helpful, I really don’t support the trial-and-error-like approach that it takes with a lot of its policies and applications. Let’s say that Facebook’s growth has been too organic for me to appreciate and I feel that its management is unable to see two steps ahead. The tiptoe style may work for a rudimentary site like LolCats, but Facebook is no longer a frat website– it is a database of global profiles– a pool of information that in some respects is more powerful than that held by Interpol or the CIA. Given that it owns such sensitive information, it should have a more fundamental strategy instead of taking a lets-do-things-as-they-come-along stance. I am wary of putting up any substantial information/content on Facebook because I am dubious about its sustainability. I wonder- if Facebook really considers itself a small country, would it be open to having its users citizens vote for members of the management even if they are not shareholders?

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