Responsibility

I've been thinking a lot about responsibility for the last few weeks.  Specifically, MY responsibilities as an Estate Owner to the residents in New Toulouse.  I have always had a list of things in my head, ever since I bought my first sim of Edison and then New Toulouse, that I feel are my responsibilities as an Estate Owner.  I realized recently that I have not documented those thoughts anywhere.  I think it's time that I do so!

To understand how I have formed my beliefs on Estate Ownership responsibility, I need to take you back in time, to another community...Caledon.  Ahhh the dreaded "C" word!  Those of you with "Caledon complexes" really need to get over them, because the reality is that the majority of the Steamlands/19th Century Grid owe some part, if not all, of their existence to Caledon.  Shaunathan Sprocket lived in Caledon before he built New Babbage, the current Mayor Mr. Tenk, and some of his staff, lived in or spent a decent amount of time in Caledon prior to taking over New Babbage.  Carricre Wind, a Caledonian, built New Toulouse.  I, a Caledonian, took it over from her.  Miss Serra, a founding Caledonian, created Winterfell.  The list goes on and on.

The reality is, a lot of us "grew up" so to speak in Caledon.  Just because it's where we started does not mean that our hearts are not with our communities now!  Quite the contrary.  It's our experiences in Caledon that taught us a lot of the things that we have needed to know about Estate Ownership and community.  Almost everything I believe and do as an Estate Owner comes from what I learned from Desmond Shang (the Estate Owner) and the community of people that lived there.

I have been in SL for just over 4 years.  For 2 of those years, I was a Global Estate Manager for Caledon.  Global means all of the sims, not just an Open Space.  For those of you that are not familiar with what an Estate Manager is, it is a technical position assigned by the Estate Owner to a person, or people, in the Estate.  By technical position, I mean System Administrator for the sims.  Estate Managers have extended technical abilities to be able to return garbage prims, reboot the sims if their performance is poor, and kick and ban griefers.

Des chose his Estate Managers carefully, and with specific criteria.  I took the Estate Manager position very, very seriously, like a RL job.  Until that point, all of my experience in SL had been purely personal.  I was honored that Des chose me, and my mindset in SL changed.  There was now a component that was at the level of "RL professional" for me.  Des made me an EM long before Radio Riel existed, before I was a "famous" Duchess and way before I would own sims of my own.  In some ways, it was the event that changed how I viewed SL, and it enabled me to see the possibility of doing something professional there.

I also took on the responsibility of a community calendar and setting out event posters at telehubs.  Des did not ask me to do those things, I offered to do them because I saw a need for those things, which is something I would have done in a RL job.  For two years, I was on call, whenever I was online.  I cleaned up thousands of prims, rebooted the sims hundreds of time and, my personal favorite, kicked and banned griefers.  :-)  One thing that I decided from the beginning was that I was going to treat all situations and residents that needed my help with complete fairness and objectivity.  I would investigate situations instead of just jumping and doing what someone was asking me to do.

This meant that I had situations in which my close friends needed or wanted me to do something, and I treated them *exactly* like I would have treated any resident.  Ask them.  I am serious!  There were times when my friends were annoyed with me because I would not just do something for them.  But when it came to being an Estate Manager, I felt ethically bound to remain professional and impartial, no matter the situation.  Why?  Because those sims did not belong to me.  They technically (the servers and infrastructure) belonged to Desmond Shang, and he had chosen me and some other people to execute HIS technical needs when he was not online.

As an Estate Manager, I did not become involved in resident disputes nor drama.  Oh I had boatloads of my OWN drama, but that was personal stuff.  Residents sometimes ask Estate Managers and Estate Owners to get involved in disputes.  If it did not involve something about the land or something technical?  I kept my nose out of it, because that is what Des did.

I estimate that I put in at least 8 hours a week on Estate Management duties for the whole two years I held the position.  That is 832 hours.  And I am thankful for every single one of those hours, because I learned something every day.  That's enough time, skills and experience to put on a RL resum√©.  And it was an invaluable foundation to have when I semi-stumbled into the purchase of New Toulouse.

Another part of my history that you need to understand me as an Estate Owner, is what I did for the community while I lived in Caledon.  Some of you know what I did, and some of you have no clue.  :-)  Which is ok.  That's why I am explaining it here.  I am not sure what to call myself.  I was technically a Duchess, but that title initially had no meaning nor definition.  I was a community leader, a community catalyst, a community contributor.  This role was completely separate from my role as an Estate Manager.  I always kept the two separate in my mind, because the EM role was a technical position.  CoyoteAngel Dimsum, Kamilah Hauptmann, Eva Bellambi and I turned the term "Duchess" into something more (unwittingly).  We all worked really hard on behalf of Caledon in our own ways.  We were all Estate Managers too.  And because of our hard work, and hours put in cleaning up prim garbage, people began to respect us.   They called us "Your Grace" out of RESPECT for our work, or because they enjoyed light role play, NOT because we demanded to be addressed in that manner.

I estimate that I put in AT LEAST 20 hours a week into working on community activities and events for Caledon, every week, for two years.  This includes my work on the Caledon Calendar and setting out, and cleaning up, event posters at telehubs. (Boy was *that* fun when Caledon got to be over 30 sims, she says sarcastically)  Ask any Caledon oldbie how hard I, and the other 3 Duchesses, worked.  Ask them how many events I did for the community.  How many times I donated Carntaigh for community use?  How much time, effort and money I put into Relay for Life?  How much time, effort and events did I donate to the Caledon Library?  I am not saying these things to toot my own horn, nor to be a martyr.  What I am telling you here are cold, hard facts so that you can understand where I am coming from.  I think this is the first time I have EVER listed these things anywhere, because I wasn't keeping score!  I did it because I loved it.  Period.  End of story.

Now, let me pull in an additional component on this story...Desmond Shang.  Desmond technically owns Caledon.  He has had, oh about a bizillion actual USD wrapped up in Caledon for years.  That man works like a maniac, handling parcel sales and transfers.  For a few years there when Caledon was growing, he was working like a maniac on sim design, parcel layout and landscaping.  I have always had incredible respect for how much and how hard that man works on the "technical" things behind the scenes.  I think Des would agree with me when I say that he sees himself as the uber System Administrator and Accountant that slogs away behind the scenes.  Des provides the technical foundation and the Caledon Covenant, in which he details the rights he believes belong to all of his residents.

Des gave me the stage.  And I jumped right into the center and ran like mad with it.  I did not ask his permission.  I did not ask for, nor expect, ANYTHING from him in return.  Because I knew, without asking, that he appreciated it!  I think Des thanked me once or twice for work I did in Caledon during the two years I was doing it, once being the one event he actually asked me to do, and that was the Caledon Two Year Anniversary Celebration.  Was I keeping score?  Was I sulking around, whining about how Des never thanked me and did not appreciate me.  Hell no!  I never, ever needed him to be my personal cheerleader for what I did.

I had residents that thanked me for what I did.  I had residents tell me that they really enjoyed what I was doing for the community.  That was what was most important to me...the citizens of Caledon.  Des makes Caledon's existence possible, but he is NOT the community.  He's the Tech Guy and the Accountant and "The Boss".  And thank goodness for that!  Des is a part of the community, but Desmond Shang does not equal Caledon!  He will tell you that himself!  Des lets the community flow on its own.  He does not tell residents what to do in terms of activities and events.  He does not "officially" sanction any events.  Caledon equals what its residents do.  And it's that freedom and flexibility that has enabled some of the most wonderful activities, projects and events that I have ever seen in SL.

So...

That is the environment from which I came in SL when I bought New Toulouse.  And it very much affects my philosophies as an Estate Owner.  In light of this history lesson, what do I feel are my responsibilities to the residents of New Toulouse?
  • I need to interact with my residents in a cordial, pleasant and professional manner
  • I need to address land sales, transfers, etc as quickly as I am able
  • I need to address technical issues, if I am online, as quickly as possible.  Estate Managers perform this function when I am offline or in the middle of a gig
  • I need to listen to ideas, comments and concerns from residents (I do listen!  I just don't always agree  :-)  )
  • I need to keep New Toulouse and New Toulouse Algiers as close to Mama Cree's original creative vision as possible
  • I need to enforce theme if a resident clearly and egregiously does not follow it
  • I need to ensure the financial stability of New Toulouse so the community survives
  • I need to plan, execute and manage new sims as I add them
  • I need to keep any and all personal SL or RL information that residents reveal to me completely confidential
 That's about it.  In my opinion, those are my responsibilities to my residents.

Now, you might not agree with what I have listed here.  You might feel I left some things out, or mentioned things that were unnecessary.  You have the right to disagree with my philosophy!

But.... it's a serious waste of your energy to get all worked up and all pissed off about it!  Seriously!  The bottom line is that I own the sims and the buck stops with me.  *I* am the person who determines my responsibilities to residents, not the other way around.  Like it, hate it...that's just the reality of the situation!  Most of the Estates in the Steamlands are run as benevolent Dictatorships!  If you want to live somewhere where you have a "vote" and the majority rules, go get a parcel in the Confederation for Democratic Sims!  That's how they do it over there.  And it works.

I don't expect everyone to agree with me and how I run New Toulouse.  That's just....life!  People do not always agree.  And if you don't like me or what I do?  That is totally cool with me.  I can't please everyone all of the time.  Just don't waste your energy projecting *your* desires, expectations and beliefs on to me!  If you have a specific vision of how things should be done in a sim....go buy your own!  I am not saying that in a mean nor snotty manner.  I am 100% serious.  Don't expect the world to do everything for you the way you want it to be done!  Go create your *own* Benevolent Dictatorship!  Make it happen the way you want it to happen.  I greatly respect the people that strike out on their own and do their own thing!

It's also important that you all know that I have been through the drama wringer and back in my four years in SL.  Finding out that someone has decided to hate me and trash me and obsess on me?  Not a new phenomenon.  I have nerves of steel, and can wade through a Public Relations firestorm and come out just fine on the other end.  Drama does not bother me.  I find it annoying, because it distracts me from my ability to focus on work.  I don't have *time* to be the Evil, Manipulative Mastermind that some people like to make me out to be.  I hear things that are said about me...and I laugh.  I *wish* I had the time and energy to execute all of the nefarious plans of which I am accused.  ;-)

I don't, and have never made any money on New Toulouse. Nada.  Zip.  I am still working on the financial health of the community over one year past the date on which I bought it.  Most people would have sold it by now.  There is no profit in it.  It sustains itself and I am building tier reserves.  Maybe some day, I can pull out a few bucks a month into my RL accounts for my personal use.  But I am not counting on it.

So why do I do it?  Any businessperson would have sold it and moved on by now.  I have worked untold hours every week...for nothing...

But it's not for nothing.  I believe in the power and magic of virtual community.  I first saw it in Caledon, and it swept me off my feet.  I am so grateful to Des for doing the unending hours of administrative work behind the scenes, because I got to experience *magic*.

Now it is my turn to give others that same gift.  I give it, simply because I can.  Please, take it...and make your own magic.  It's waiting for you to make it happen.

All my love,
Gabi

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