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A sensible system of government for AWTeen
Written by Awportals.com
The resignation of JerMe from the AWTeen Caretaker position earlier this month caused a number debates among those active within the world's community. Some of the discussions over JerMe's resignation involved the world's community and how to improve it, but others were more focused on determining who was at fault in the series of events that led up to the change in leadership. I believe we should ignore the immediate issues of fault, take a step back, and seriously review the issue of AWTeen's government.

Introduction

For those who don't know me, my name is Stephen Sokolowski. In Activeworlds, I go by the name of Brant. I first discovered AW on July 28, 1998 and have been following it ever since. Between July 1999 and February 2005, I held a citizenship, visiting Activeworlds for thousands of hours. More recently, I have stopped in to AWTeen from time to time to catch up on what is going on and to socialize with both new friends and those from years ago.

Half a decade ago today, I resigned from the above-mentioned position of AWTeen Caretaker, having held the role from July 13, 2000 to July 30, 2002. During that time, I watched many changes in the world unfold, and learned some important lessons, both about virtual worlds and also about real-life leadership principles. I participated in or oversaw hundreds of events, and watched the world's population wax and wane over time. Of greater relevance to this article, I also worked within several differing philosophies of management: first, through the AWTeen Core, second, through the Committee Charter, and finally through the Council system, some of which survives to this day.

One would think that it would be easy to take a position as to which of these forms of government was most effective. After all, the Core probably included too many people, or the Committee system had too much bureaucracy, and the Council had too little power, and so on. In reality, it wasn't that easy. Why? Because each time, the initial system morphed into the one that best suited the needs of the world at the time. Sometimes, there was a lot going on, and so the world needed a lot of event coordinators - and people would step up to work on events, even though they were part of other committees. Other times, strict control was needed to keep a location secret, and thus only one of two people were told - and the secret usually didn't get out. Each time the complex charters were created to make running the world more uniform and efficient, and each time all they did was create inefficiency and bureaucracy by hindering the flexibility of AWTeen staff.


How the Caretaker position compares to a corporate manager

To provide an idea of the responsibilities of AWTeen's Caretaker, consider the job of a mid-level manager at a large corporation. That person might have as many as sixty people reporting to him indirectly, through three or four first-level supervisors. He also is probably responsible for interacting with thousands of people outside the organization on a daily basis - and potentially is responsible for millions of dollars in contracts. The actions of the supervisor reflect greatly upon the organization. Such people work long hours and are compensated well for their time.

The analogues to AWTeen's Caretaker position are many. The Caretaker might have several committee leaders working directly underneath, who manage many people underneath them. In reality, the Caretaker is responsible for thousands of dollars, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, in AW, Inc.'s revenue. As one of the only worlds offering tourist access, many tourists visit AWTeen, are impressed with what they see, and pay AW for citizenships.

While still an unpaid position, the Caretaker position is, and will always be, a <b>job</b>, and one that requires hard work and dedication. It is an extremely demanding position, requiring at least 20 hours a week to perform well. Armchair critics on the newsgroups have little idea how difficult managing such a large world is. At the same time, that hard work should always be voluntary, since the job is non-paying.


The realities of the world

When talking about AWTeen's Caretaker, we need to be realistic in his or her job description. <i>AWTeen is not a true democracy, nor can it ever be.</i> Activeworlds is a business and needs someone from AWTeen to directly report to Activeworlds management when dealing with issues. Consider the response if "the people" voted by majority vote to transform AWTeen into an X-rated world. The uproar from Activeworlds, Inc. would be immediate. As a result, implementing any system of government where there isn't someone at the top is infeasible.

Equally untenable is the practice of having several "Caretakers." If a single person needs to report to Activeworlds, then what actual power do the other "Caretakers" have? Having co-Presidents has been tried in many countries around the world, and the practice almost always fails. Furthermore, just because someone has the caretaker privilege password does not make that person a "Caretaker" of the world. Privileges should always be granted based on necessity. Just because you're higher up in the organization doesn't mean that you're entitled to greater privileges. If your job won't ever require you to eject anyone, then there is no reason why you should be entitled to eject privileges.

The Caretaker is ultimately accountable for what occurs in the world. Stating "it wasn't me, that was a JAM member who just placed porn at GZ" isn't acceptable. If the greater AW community and AW, Inc are both going to hold the Caretaker ultimately responsible, then the Caretaker needs to have to power to uphold that responsibility.

There needs to be one and only one person who makes the final call for all matters.


Other organizations

Now 24 years old and employed as a software engineer that develops software for radio and television stations, I am the last person who should pass judgment on recent happenings in AWTeen and thus will withhold judgement on who was right and who was wrong in recent events. However, I can say that I have held leadership roles in many organizations since I left AWTeen, and there are striking similarities between AWTeen and these other organizations. Most interesting is that the same social principles seem to hold whether people are seeing each other face-to-face, or whether they are meeting only in the virtual world.

Immediately after I left in July 2002, then a sophomore, I joined the student government at my college. At first, I enjoyed the experience immensely, was elected as public relations officer, organized many events and worked on resolving many issues with the campus. Later, I became a producer for a campus television station and produced episodes of a gameshow. Another time, I became a member of a swing dancing club.

Later, however, I quit student government and the television station, and continued my participation in swing dancing. My reason for quitting wasn't that I hated what student government stood for, or despised the quality of the television station's programming; it was that I had become tired of the politics of the organizations. In both unsuccessful organizations, everyone had to have their part of the "power." Instead of working together to achieve a common goal, they argued over obscure points in Robert's Rules of Order, such as who can speak when and what the proper way of addressing people was. The problem became so bad that, in one instance, someone was told to stand at the door to prevent people from entering who were going to be 30 seconds late to the meeting.

With swing dancing, however, people showed up, danced, socialized, and went home afterwards. There were no politics involved. Nobody refused to dance with anyone else because they might appear inferior to the rest of the group, and nobody took a stand against anyone else. We simply learned new styles of dancing, traveled to different places, and had a good time.

Given the choice between being a member of the student government or the swing dancing club, I believe most people would select swing dancing. Who wants to sit in a room all day Saturday and debate procedural matters? Similarly, given the chance between participating in an Activeworlds world where people argue over charters or one where a lot of building an bot programming and graphic design occurs, who wants to participate in a world where everyone argues over who is more important? AWTeen is becoming the student government I described above.


Time limits

Nobody, especially teenagers, wants to do anything for the rest of their lives. Variety is what makes life interesting. In today's job market, it is common for people to stay in one job for two or three years, five at most, and then move on to the next opportunity. The average person has had 7.5 jobs before the age of 30. CEOs and venture capital look for an "exit plan" when funding any new startup, and if the entrepreneur plans to take longer than three years to get the business profitable and sell it, (s)he will be denied funding.

<a href="http://www.gamesareforchildren.com">[Continue reading at www.gamesareforchildren.com]</a>

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