Catherine Fitzpatrick 0

Do Not Remove JIRA Voting

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Dear Mr. Humble,

We are the avatars of Second Life, who are real people who use the virtual world of Second Life at for a wide variety of purposes ranging from entertainment to social to business to academic to non-profit aims. We are also people of the Internet interested in the democratic participation of people online everywhere and concerned about the wider implications for everyone of a policy to remove voting in any online community.

Since 2003, the Second Life community has had available for its use first the Feature Voting System, and then later the JIRA Issues Tracker which tracks both bug triage and feature requests. Tens of thousands of residents have used these tools successfully to fix bugs and to promote and get implemented various features.

As you know, Linden Lab has announced this month that it plans to remove the voting feature of the JIRA, and replace it with merely a "watch" function.

We urgently call on you to cease this plan and to leave the voting function in the JIRA intact and unchanged.

We're aware that Linden Lab has announced this plan as part of a new communications system overhaul also involving the forums software, and we're aware that the reasoning cited for this deprecation is that voting does not sufficiently affect company decision-making so as to be meaningful. Lindens have also said that they do not feel bound by this vote and that it is misleading and not representative, and that the "watch" system will more effectively show community interest.

We must strenuously object to these notions on the following grounds:

o "watch" selections are made by those with both "pro" and "con" positions on a triage or feature, and therefore is a misleading indicator of community sentiment that masks problems

o voting, while it was not binding on Linden Lab and was never presented as such, is an important device for measuring public opinion and taking the pulse of the vox populi. As certain issues such as VWR-24746 illustrate (1,539 votes to date), a significant sample of the community's will, while not the last arbiter of software and policy decisions, is an important factor in assessing the relevance -- and the solutions -- for various problems in Second Life

o voting is an extremely important mirror for the community itself to understand itself; many people believe that a feature may be popular when it isn't or unpopular when in fact it has support; Lindens sometimes don't realize the extent of community sentiment until facing a numerous vote; when challenged to reproduce a bug and argue for its triage, sometimes people have been persuaded that it is not so urgent or is a feature request, not a bug; important minority viewpoints that seem easily crushed in fact have gained mainstream support through votes; votes are an extremely important and clear marker of this discussion not replaced by "watches" or long threads.

o votes have in fact been invoked by Lindens over the years at various times (for example, as justification for the decision to remove telehubs and insert p2p teleportation) and Lindens themselves voted on the Public JIRA, separate from their internal JIRA (later merged).

o for 7 years, the votes on features have never been crucial to changing or adding a policy; therefore it's unsupportable to suddenly claim that it needs to be closed for the "no effect" reason only now

o public opinion polls such as one at indicate that most people object to the removal of the voting mechanism, even if it is flawed, and most people do not accept the argument that insufficient democratic participation in an online community -- the "no effect" argument -- is grounds for further reducing that participation.

We also wish to point out the importance of this vast trove of hundreds of thousands of votes and explanations of votes and its meaning for the history of online communities in general and the Internet in general. Even if voting is disabled, we urge you not to delete the display of the votes or destroy the data permanently, so that it remains for review in the future by scholars and the interested public.



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