Patrice Riemens on 16 Feb 2001 08:25:28 -0000

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<nettime> 'Refoundation' of the Amsterdam Digital City Update: 1st General Assembly of the DDS Users Association

The Digital City is not saved - yet. But the first General Assembly of the
Association to do so, hold yesterday evening in the auditorium of the Amsterdam 
Polytechnic (HvA), was a success. Much beyond what could have been expected in 
the light of the developments of the last one - two weeks, when prospects were 
looking increasingly dim. 

On the Association's side, the discussion mailing-list, which first had an 
almost exemplary noise-to-information ratio, was getting more and more clogged 
with frantic, frivolous, and sometime personal one-liners, and was failing in a 
quite some measure to focus on the real issues at stake. The interim board, 
itself not a totally coherent body, was less and less transparant in its 
operation, as IRL meetings in Café Pleinzicht were dropped, and more and more 
confering was done 'behind the scenes' - not one, but several of them - and on 
the IRC channel. All this probably contributed to a levelling-of of the number 
of new members registering (tab now at something like 450), with actual members 
complaining or even dropping of from the discussion-list (keeping up with which 
was becoming a very time-consuming affair - over 700 messgs in February alone).

But by way the worst came from 'the other side'. Having already taken a 'wait 
and see' attitude (after a few timid positive signals in the beginning), the two 
owners of the DDS Holding adopted an increasingly dismissive style in their 
(non-)dealings with the Association. The DDS Foundation (the purported watch-dog 
over the Holding's actions regarding the 'spirit' of the DDS), through its 
chairman, Internet 'guru' Eric Huizer, appeared to make a mockery of its 'public 
domain' brief by openly siding with the Holding's management and questionning 
the Association's relevance to the future of the Digital City. In a long and 
extremely perceptive article in the Amsterdam daily "Het Parool" on February 7, 
journalist Addie Schutte listed all parties that were, or could be, takers or 
even indirectly involved in an eventual salvage of the DDS community and 
declared the Association totally side-lined in the present configuration.

It was clearly time for the mouse to roar. And it did so with gusto. The 75-80 
members that showed up took an increasingly combative stance as the evening went 
by. They were helped along in this by a pragmatic, fair, yet involved and 
perceptive chair in the person of publicist Karin Spaink. And by an early 
intervention of HvA 'host' Caroline Nevejan, who impressed the assembly on the 
need to put the imprescriptible rights of the community and its inhabitants (as 
the Digital City's users call themselves) firmly on the center stage. From then 
on - and I may add, at last - the focus of the discussion moved away from all 
too mundane concerns about how to wheel and deal with the Holding's owners to a 
much more principled stance, leaving the owners, one of whom (Joost Flint) was 
present at the GA, with the less than enjoyable prospect of a full-fledged court 
case if they continue to be unforthcoming in their approach of the essential 
issues concerning the DDS community.

This led to a much called-for fleshing up of the association's statutes which 
were amended then and there to provide for the defense and upholding of users 
rights as paramount and irrevocable principal objective of the Association. 
Whereupon a board was duly elected, unfortunately with not more than one 
candidate per post (but fortunately with at least one candidate per post ;-). In 
these circumstances, the board wisely let it known that this first associative 
year would end on April 30 2001, and that a fresh GA would be convened to 
confirm this or elect a (partially) new board, as the case may be. Annual 
membership due was also voted at NLG 25.- (Euro 11,50), up to April 30, 2002. 
The evening ended with the endorsements, congratulation, and best wishes of 
several individuals, groups and institutions, most notable of which might have 
been that of the Internet Society Netherlands Branch, which is rumoured to 
unhook itself from its posture and steering back to a grass-root, 
users-centered, public domain approach where it properly belongs.

In a practical sense the ball is now in the DDS Holding's court. It has been 
there for quite some time now, and one can only hope (or pray) that its 
dodgings, ditherings and innefectual displays of guile and cunningness will now 
come to an end. However unpopular it is among those who abide by the 
time-honoured 'regent' mode of operation in the Netherlands, I myself am very 
happy that the Association to save the DDS (which in an ultimate, but possibly 
just as futile, bid to placate the DDS owners, now takes the name of 'Open 
Domain Association' for official purposes), has bound 
itself to act on principles, and is claiming, with success, the moral high 
ground. Even if it would fail to achieve its goal in the end, it will have acted 
as a true community, and done so with honour. 

Your support and endorsement is as called for as ever! Please fresh up your 
Dutch ;-) and channel your appreciation through the new-named site: 

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