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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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vCity 1.0
Chapter 11

"Style will frequently be fantastic, incorrect, overburdened, and loose -- almost always vehement and bold. Authors will aim at rapidity of execution,

more than at perfection of detail."

-- Alexis de Tocqueville --

It's been four days since the initial call for a referendum on Lee Ward's Exon Inspiration and my vCity mailbox overfloweth with an assortment of diatribes, flames, incoherencies, and ramblings in a dozen different languages. This is to be expected. With the vPopuli now approaching sixty million registered citizens, the average daily intake is something like six thousand messages. On hot issues, it doubles to twelve thousand. And that is just to First Citizen. I have no idea how many messages the same people are posting to each other.

In the world of infodemocracy, this is a phenomenon which the experts call "multilogual cacophony." It means that everyone is trying to talk at once, and nobody is paying any attention to any one else. Except for the guy whose job is to pay attention to everyone. Tough job, but somebody's got to do it.

The lads down in Network Services gave me a diablito program that allows me to screen, sort, and sift through my e-mail so that I can intelligently respond to people in order of priority and importance. This program works pretty well, but it does have its drawbacks. For one thing, first-contact messages are all automatically assigned 3A priority. After I assign a numerical value to the author, it's a different matter.

We have a saying in this business: "You never get a second chance to make a first contact." I kind of like that. It forces people to be polite and to write intelligently; otherwise, they get relegated by the diablitos down to a circle of Dante's hell where they can say anything they want, but no one will listen to them.

Anyway, about 10% of my e-mail on any given day is 3A, so I still have to saw through an average of 600 messages. You would think that after five years, the number of first-contacts would have diminished to almost zero. Unfortunately the vCity population growth rate canceled out all my efforts, and I still get about 600 of the 3As each day.

If I spent one minute reading each with no response at all, I would have to spend ten hours online with no bathroom break. Given that there is more e-mail than that, and that I need to respond to someone once in a while, I once calculated that I would have to spend roughly thirty-one hours each day reading & replying to e-mail. Clearly an unacceptable, not to mention mathematically impossible, situation.

The diablitos provide some partial relief by analyzing content and replying with pre-packaged "answergrams." This is what politicians used to do years ago to assure that every one of their constituents received a reply in the snailmail. It's a horrifying thought, isn't it? In infodemocracy, everyone is a politician. Actually things are not as bad as that. The solution is very simple -- not every message needs a reply.

By careful tweaking of my software, I have managed to pare down my 3As to the point that I only have to spend about five hours each day clearing my mailbox. The rest of my work day I can devote to inspection tours.

The name diablito, by the way, caught on in a funny way. When our corporation decided it wanted to market a software "filter" for e-mail, marketing wanted an original name for our product. The obvious ones, like GateKeeper or WatchMan, were already taken. Someone suggested Warden, but that was vetoed on the grounds that it would be tough to market a product that implied that the customer was in prison.

"What about Flapper?" I volunteered.

Everyone around the table stared at me blankly. Not one person in that group had read Swift.

At that point, the COO (Chief Operating Officer), our "Number Two" in the corporation, was playing around with the alpha version. "Ha!" he grunted. "This is a clever little devil."


Justin Thyme -- a 2F, the owner of the Sage Advice -- wrote me:



Many thanks for the Ban party.

Why don't you just paper cut my tongue

and pour lemon juice on it?

My server crashed three times this

weekend, I'm sending you the bill.


I replied:


Tough. You don't want casbar,

don't link to virtual whorehouses.

Tell you what. *You* pull the link,

and I'll pull the referendum.

First Citizen

Thyme refuted this gambit though; s/he left things the way they were, and did not reply. I can't say I blame him/her. The early results (about 1% of the vPopuli) are overwhelmingly against the ban, roughly 95% have voted no, meaning to keep it. With sentiment like that, why should Thyme do me a favor and pick the grapes of e-wrath?

Actually the early result tells me that this is going to be a close one. The citizens who vote immediately almost always vote no on principle. I am encouraged by the 5% who voted to remove the link. It means that even among the advocates of chaos, there is a seed of doubt.

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