Surface and Orbit Authority

Drafting a new Charter

As I mentioned back in June:

When I drafted the original charter, I imported a lot of Agora’s social conventions without fully critiquing them or having the resulting document looked over by someone uninvolved. We’ve done okay with it anyways, but I believe that parts of the Charter are overcomplicated for what they do.

What follows is a draft of a simplified charter for the club. It’s approximately half the length (around 3k words, where the original was around 6k words). That simplification revolves around

  • Removing the Power and Adoption Index systems entirely.

    Power is elegant and I still like it as a way of controlling both precedence and mutability, but the complexity and the cost of educating new members were quite high, and we did not have the types of dispute those systems were originally designed to solve.

    Instead, sections of the charter that are protected can be changed by supermajority (more than three quarters of voters) vote, and other sections by simple majority (more than one-half of voters) votes. Only the sections controlling charter changes and voting are protected - so long as those sections function, any other section can be corrected for error with a simple majority, but changes to those sections run the risk of making the charter immutable.

  • Reworking the tone.

    I wrote the original charter in a deliberately plodding and legalistic tone, mimicing the rules of another game I’d played. At the time, I did not fully understand why the players in that game had developed that tone, and understood it as a way of ensuring clarity. I now believe it was originally developed for clarity, but specifically for clarity in preventing or avoiding disputes.

    We don’t have the kind of hair-splitting rules disputes that game has. The Surface and Orbit Authority charter isn’t about rules-lawyering. It’s about providing a common understanding for how decisions about the game, the forums, and the players will be made. That’s a much simpler problem, and most disputes can be resolved through conversation.

    I expect that if we continue this experiment, we will eventually develop our own tone in response to disputes that we actually have, and that some of those disputes will leak into the charter through clarifications and other amendments, but I want to give SOA time to develop that.

  • Eliminating definitions.

    The original Charter specified nearly every noun it introduced to at least one additional layer. It was not enough to say that membership is open to persons; the charter also tried to define what things are persons. As with the tone issue, this is something I carried over from another group, where that level of precision developed in response to disputes about interpretation, and as with the tone issues, we don’t have those disputes.

    We can add clarifying clauses to the charter based on disputes we actually encounter, but much of the pre-emptive defining I did effectively cluttered the charter and made it harder to read.

  • Combining sections.

    In several places, I originally broke clauses out into sections to

  • Streamlining processes.

    A number of administrative processes are simplified, including joining and leaving SOA, starting and supervising votes, and electing and impeaching officers. Many actions that previously required an officer (generally the Chair) to step in are now open to all members, with the backstop that any member can step in if the member who should be responsible doesn’t act.

    As a side effect, the draft charter confronts the fact that business is conducted on a web forum much more directly than the current charter does, by discussing specific threads, forum posts, and other actions, which should make it clearer what the parts that require actions to be done on the forums mean, and how to do them.

    This should simplify flow, and absolutely did cut a lot of verbiage.

I’m very interested in feedback and corrections - this was a large undertaking, and I’m sure I’ve goofed something. I’m also still looking for better language than “members” to describe the group of people who operate under the charter to vote on changes.

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Whereas space is big, and

Whereas space is dark, and

Whereas it is hard to find a place to park,

Now, therefore, the members do hereby enact the following Charter and create the Surface and Orbit Authority, herein also referred to as “SOA”.


The Surface and Orbit Authority exists:

  1. To organize like-minded people into a supportive and mutually-beneficial community;

  2. To oversee the management and use of common resources, including web sites, mailing lists, and game servers, for the benefit of that community; and

  3. To provide its members with a testbed for organizational principles and methods.

Organizational Goals

This Charter is designed to provide a structure that meets specific goals:

  1. It is membership-based, so that it is clear who can make decisions;

  2. It conducts its business open to the public, so that it is clear how decisions are made, and so that the membership can be accountable for those decisions;

  3. It is democratic, so that all members can participate equitably;

  4. It is participatory, so that its members can have direct input into all decisions affecting them;

  5. It is amendable, so that the members are free to redefine the organization to better suit their goals and needs;

  6. It is asynchronous, so that people widely separated by time and availability can participate equally in its decisions;

  7. It is an Internet-first organization, so that it is accessible from all over the world; and

  8. It deliberates continuously, so that its business can be resolved as quickly as is responsible, given that the organization provides its members with adequate time to weigh the options.


Only members may propose changes to this Charter or vote on those changes, and only members may be officers of the Surface and Orbit Authority. Membership in the Surface and Orbit Authority is open to any person aged thirteen years or older.

To join, post a message in the Roster & Membership Changes thread announcing your membership, or cast a valid ballot on a decision.

To leave voluntarily, post a message in the Roster & Membership Changes thread announcing your resignation. You can do this at any time, for any reason, and you will be welcome back if you choose to join again.

Anyone who becomes a member must abide by this Charter.

Fora & Communications

To facilitate the business of the Surface and Orbit Authority, the Chair must maintain an internet forum. All official discussions, proposals, membership changes, and other business of the Surface and Orbit Authority must take place on the forum.

The current forum is hosted at

The Roster

The Chair must ensure that all membership changes and an up-to-date roster of members are posted to the forum.

Lapsed Membership

A member who has not posted a message on the forum in the last 30 days is a lapsed member.

The Chair can revoke the membership of lapsed members. The Chair must announce their intention to do so seven days in advance, and may not revoke the membership of a member who is no longer a lapsed member when the seven days are up. A member whose membership is revoked in this way can join again at any time, and will be welcome to return when they are able.

Code of Conduct

Every person participating in the Surface and Orbit Authority, or participating in other activites while representing the Surface and Orbit Authority, must abide by this code of conduct.


The Surface and Orbit Authority is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone. No person may harass any other person.

Harassment includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Offensive comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness, neuro(a)typicality, physical appearance, body size, age, race, or religion;

  2. Unwelcome comments regarding a person’s lifestyle choices and practices, including those related to food, health, parenting, drugs, and employment;

  3. Deliberate misgendering or use of “dead” or rejected names;

  4. Gratuitous or off-topic sexual images or behaviour in spaces where they’re not appropriate;

  5. Physical contact and simulated physical contact (eg, textual descriptions like *hug* or *backrub*) without consent or after a request to stop;

  6. Threats of violence;

  7. Incitement of violence towards any individual, including encouraging a person to commit suicide or to engage in self-harm;

  8. Deliberate intimidation;

  9. Stalking or following;

  10. Harassing photography or recording, including logging online activity for harassment purposes;

  11. Sustained disruption of discussion;

  12. Unwelcome sexual attention;

  13. Pattern of inappropriate social contact, such as requesting or assuming inappropriate levels of intimacy with others;

  14. Continued one-on-one communication after requests to cease;

  15. Deliberate “outing” of any aspect of a person’s identity without their consent except as necessary to protect vulnerable people from intentional abuse; and

  16. Publication of non-harassing private communication.


Anyone asked to stop any harassing behavior must comply immediately. Harassing behaviour can be reported by posting a charge to the forum.


This code of conduct is based on the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki, created by the Geek Feminism community, available at

Officers & Offices

Offices are created by this Charter to hold responsibility for certain actions that cannot be readily performed by the membership at large, or which require additional organization and coordination.

An officer is a member who holds an office. Officers are elected to their office by the members, and can resign from their office at any time by announcing their resignation. An officer also loses their offices as soon as they cease to be a member of the Surface and Orbit Authority.

Officers are responsible for official duties defined by this Charter, and for the execution of special instructions imposed by proposals that are adopted.

Election Procedure

Any member can call an election for an office if:

  1. They hold the office;

  2. The office is vacant;

  3. Any official duty or special instruction is more than seven days overdue;

  4. If the current officer has held the office for more than 30 days; or

  5. If there has never been an election for that office.

Calling an election immediately begins a decision to select an officer. For this decision, the valid options are the members of the Surface and Orbit Authority, and the voting method is Instant Runoff. When this decision is resolved, if the result is a member of the Surface and Orbit Authority, they are installed as the officeholder for that office.


Any member can initiate a decision to impeach an officer. For an impeachment decision, the voting method is Adoption. If the outcome of that decision is SUPERMAJORITY, the impeached officer is immediately removed from office.

The Chair

The office of the Chair is responsible for administering this Charter and overseeing business conducted by the members.

Decisions & Voting

When this Charter calls for a decision to be made, the decision shall be made by vote among the members. To initiate a decision, announce it on the forum. An announcement that initiates a decision must identify the matter to be decided, and should identify the voting method.

The voting period for a decision lasts for four days.

This article is protected.

Voting Methods

Each decision has a voting method, which must be one of Adoption or Instant Runoff. The voting method for a decision is specified by the article that authorizes that decision.

Each decision has a set of valid options, listing the choices that the voters are being asked to select from, and a set of valid votes, listing the ways voters can express their opinion or lack thereof.

The vote “PRESENT” is a valid option, regardless of voting method.

How To Vote

Anyone who is a member when a decision is initiated is eligible to vote on that decision. Anyone who is eligible to vote on a decision and who has cast a valid ballot for it is a voter on that decision.

Any eligible voter can cast a ballot by posting their ballot to the thread where the decision was announced. A ballot must be clearly marked as a vote, and must identify a valid option for the decision.

The following ballots are invalid:

  1. Ballots cast by people who are not eligible voters;

  2. Ballots submitted outside of the voting period;

  3. Ballots withdrawn by their author during the voting period; and

  4. Ballots that are superceded by a later valid ballot on the same decision by
    the same voter.

Invalid ballots must not be counted.

Voters who wish to change their ballot can edit their post during the voting period. Voters who wish to withdraw their ballot can delete their post during the voting period. Voters must not modify or delete their ballot once the voting period has ended.

Resolving Decisions

When the voting period has ended, either the person who initated the decision or the Chair must resolve it by posting a tally of the valid votes, and the outcome of the decision, in the thread where the decision was announced.

If the person who initiated the decision does not resolve the decision promptly, then any member can resolve the decision in the same way.

Determining The Outcome

If there are no valid options when a decision is resolved, then the decision has no outcome.

Otherwise, if there is more than one valid option when a decision is resolved, and the number of voters on that decision is less than the quorum for that decision, the outcome of the decision is NO QUORUM. The quorum for a decision is half the number of eligible voters on that decision, rounded upwards.

Otherwise, the outcome of a decision is determined by the decision’s voting method.

The Adoption Voting Method

The valid votes on an Adoption decision are FOR and AGAINST.

The outcome of an Adoption decision is:

  1. SUPERMAJORITY if more than three-quarters of the votes cast are FOR;

  2. MAJORITY if more than half of the votes cast are FOR; or

  3. REJECTED otherwise.

The adopted outcomes are the outcomes SUPERMAJORITY and MAJORITY.

The person who initiated an Adoption decision can end the voting period for that decision early by announcing it in the thread where the decision was announced, if every eligible voter has a valid ballot for that decision, and if there are no AGAINST votes.

The Instant Runoff Voting Method

Any non-empty list of valid options for an Instant Runoff decision is a valid vote on that decision. On an instant runoff ballot, the first element of the list is that ballot’s preferred option.

When determining the outcome of an Instant Runoff decision, while no option is preferred by more than half of the remaining ballots, the vote collector must strike the option preferred by the fewest ballots (breaking ties by random choice), remove the struck option from all ballots, and remove any ballots that become empty from consideration. Once an option is preferred by more than half of the remaining ballots, that option is the outcome of the decision.

Modifications to this Charter

This Charter can be modified by proposals. A proposal is a document identified as such.

Any member can submit a proposal by posting it to a new thread on the forum. Proposals must be posted to the “Business” category. The author of a proposal can withdraw it at any time before the decision to adopt it has been resolved.

This article is protected.


When a member submits a proposal, they also initiate the decision to adopt the proposal. For this decision, the voting method is Adoption.

When a decision about whether to adopt a proposal is resolved, if the outcome is an adopted outcome, then the proposal in question is adopted. It takes effect immediately.

The terms of an adopted proposal are applied in the order written, as follows:

  1. If a term would amend the Charter, and if the outcome is SUPERMAJORITY, then it is applied;

  2. If a term would amend the Charter, then it is applied only to the parts of this Charter that are not protected;

  3. If a term appoints or removes an officer, and if the outcome is SUPERMAJORITY, then it is applied to the office; and

  4. If a term includes a special instruction to an officer, the officer must follow the instruction.


The office of Space Master is repsonsible for operating game services.

The Space Master must operate a Space Engineers dedicated server, and must publish and update connection information for that server on the forums. This server is the official server.

The Space Master must only deliberately view, modify, or delete the official server’s data through ordinary gameplay, to implement adopted proposals, or to address non-gameplay-related technical issues. If the Space Master makes a deliberate modification to address a non-gameplay-related technical issue, they must post a description of their changes and their rationale for making them within a day.

The Space Master must not disclose information they obtain in the course of operating the server, other than that obtained through normal gameplay, any further than is necessary to operate game services.

The Game Author

The office of Game Author is responsible for creating new scenarios for the official server.

When a Game Author is elected, they must offer a scenario, within two weeks, by announcing it on the forum. This announcement begins a decision to play the scenario. For this decision, the voting method is Adoption.

If the outcome is an adopted outcome, the Game Author must provide the necessary files and configuration for the scenario to the Space Master, and the Space Master must install that scenario on the official server. Once this is done, the Game Author is removed from office.

If scenario is adopted within two weeks, the Game Author is removed from office.

Official Configuration

The Space Master must ensure that the official server has the following settings:

Setting Value
AssemblerEfficiencyMultiplier 1
AssemblerSpeedMultiplier 1
AutoHealing true
AutoSaveInMinutes 10
BlocksInventorySizeMultiplier 1
CargoShipsEnabled true
Enable3rdPersonView false
EnableAutorespawn true
EnableDrones true
EnableEncounters true
EnableJetpack true
EnableOxygen true
EnableOxygenPressurization true
EnableResearch false
EnableSpiders true
EnableVoxelDestruction true
EnableWolfs true
EnvironmentHostility SAFE
ExperimentalMode true
GameMode Survival
GrinderSpeedMultiplier 1
HackSpeedMultiplier 0.33
InventorySizeMultiplier 3
MaxBackupSaves 12
Password (not set)
ProceduralDensity 0.1
RealisticSound true
RefinerySpeedMultiplier 1
SunRotationIntervalMinutes 540
SyncDistance 10000
ThrusterDamage true
ViewDistance 15000
WelderSpeedMultiplier 1

Official Mods

The Space Master must ensure that the official server has the following mods installed:

The Space Master must configure the mod Midspace’s Configurable Max Ship Speed Mod with the following settings:

Setting Value
LargeShipSpeed 1000
SmallShipSpeed 1000
AutoPilotLimit 800


The Space Master must manage the official server using Torch.

The Space Master must ensure the Torch Concealment plugin is installed, and must configure it with the following settings:

Setting Value
ConcealInterval 3600
RevealInterval 60
ConcealDistance 75000
RevealDistance 50000
ConcealProduction true
ConcealPirates false

Disciplinary Actions

An infraction is an act or omission that violates an article in this Charter.

Anyone can charge a member with an infraction by posting the charge to the forums. A charge must describe the act or omission that violates the Charter, and should propose one of the remedies listed in this section to address the charge.

Charging a member with an infraction immediately begins a decision to enforce the remedy. For this decision, the voting method is Adoption, and the member being charged is not an eligible voter. If the outcome of this decision is an adopted outcome, the remedy is imposed immediately.

The author of a charge can withdraw it at any time before the decision to enforce the remedy has been resolved.

The Forgiveness Remedy

Forgiveness is a remedy. When a charge is forgiven, no penalty is imposed.

This remedy is appropriate when an infraction is accidental or minor in nature, or where the accused has already taken full and appropriate steps to resolve it.

The Black Mark Remedy

A black mark is a remedy. A member who has had a black mark imposed on them within the last 30 days is in poor standing. The Chair must publish and maintain a list of members who are in poor standing on the forum.

This remedy is appropriate when a minor infraction is intentional or has been repeated in spite of past forgiveness, but is not severe enough to warrant stronger action.

The Suspension Remedy

Suspension is a remedy. A member who is suspended ceases to be a member, and cannot become a member for 30 days.

Suspension is appropriate for more serious infractions, which do not permanently endanger the members or the operation of the Surface and Orbit Authority.

The Permanent Ban Remedy

A permanent ban is a remedy. A member who is permanently banned ceases to be a member, and cannot become a member again unless the ban is lifted by proposal.

A permanent ban is appropriate for serious infractions which include the risk of injury, illegal acts, sustained harassment, actions which would bring the organization into disrepute, or for wilful and chronic infractions.

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I love it!