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Ok Sloomer! The Rise and Fall of Second Life Generations


Scylla Rhiadra
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Although she's a couple of decades younger than me, and belongs to a different generation, I'll admit that I laughed aloud, and found myself muttering "You go, girl!" when I first watched New Zealand MP Chlöe Swarbrick respond to a gibe in Parliament about her age with "Ok Boomer." Like many Gen Xers, I have ambivalent feelings about the Boomers, my parent's generation. I'm entirely happy to acknowledge the many astonishing things they accomplished, and I admire the politically-engaged activism they brought to bear against the establishment in the 60s and 70s -- feminism, civil rights, and the anti-war movement in particular. My ambivalence derives from wondering how they managed to lose themselves so thoroughly on their way to middle age in the 80s and 90s.

The Swarbrick episode also got me thinking about the "generational divide" I have increasingly seen at play in Second Life, and here on the forums. It occurs to me that we have our own generations of residents that run at least somewhat parallel to that of the Boomer, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Zoomers.

SL has, of course, been around for less than the length of a single RL generation, but I think that time operates differently, and more quickly, in SL. It's a bit like dog years: one "SL year" is, I figure, roughly equivalent to 5 RL years. So, if you've been here for 14 years, you're probably about 70 years of age. So, for instance, I've been around for about 11 years, which would, in age, make the equivalent of about . . .

Ok, on second thoughts, let's say that each SL year is about 4 RL years, or, even, say, 3 1/2 RL years, each SL generation is equivalent to between 12 and 18 years.

Below, I've outlined what I think are the SL "generations," with a brief and admittedly very broadly-painted and reductive note about their predominant cultures. I'd be very interested to hear other ways of dividing up the 16 years of SL's history. And if you can come up with better names than I have, let's hear them!


1) SLoldbies -- Time Range: 23 June, 2003 (the public opening of Second Life) to 14 March, 2008, the day that Philip Rosedale stepped down as LL CEO.

Virtual life for SLoldbies must have been wild and exciting. Many of the most important features -- the Linden dollar, direct teleports, and Windlight were, for instance, introduced. The creators and coders of this generation lay the groundwork for literally everything that followed. My own sense of the SLoldbies is that they are, as a species, relatively open-minded. And they tend, I think, to subscribe to what now feels like an older version of digital libertarianism. They aren't 4Chan or Something Awful (most of them) -- but that's the culture from which they come. I really value and like SLoldbies: I find them sceptical, but always helpful.  

2) SLoomers -- 15 March, 2008 to 23 August, 2011, the date at which mesh was officially introduced to the grid.

SLoomers are, for obvious reasons, the closest equivalent we have to the Baby Boomers. The era from 2008 to 2011 saw the entire cycle of "boom and bust" -- it brought 10s of thousands of new people to the grid, but by the end of that era, it had already become clear that the dreams of SL as the new "3D web" were pipe dreams.

If there is an SL generation that embodies "entitlement," this is probably it. By the time this generation (which is also my cohort) arrived on the scene, most of the fundamental affordances of Second Life had been introduced, and the kinks worked out, so few of us had to struggle or innovate the way that SLoldbies had to. At the same time, the slow but steady introduction of new features and improvements to the platform in the years that followed (mesh, ALM, Bento, etc.) happened infrequently and slowly enough that most of us had the time to learn and adopt them in a leisurely way, a fact that (to my mind) makes the impatience one sometimes hears from some SLoomers when responding to pleas for help from n00bs a little rich.

Most of those who arrived in this era, myself included, came from different culture than the SLoldbies. Yes, they included many coders and techie "geeks," but these did not dominate the culture in the way that they had for the earlier generation. This was a far more diverse crowd, and also a more international one. The credit (or blame) for much of what we think of as "SL Culture" probably belongs to this generation.

3) Meshers -- 24 August, 2011 to 5 February, 2014, which marked the beginning of Ebbe Altberg's tenure as CEO of LL.

This is the era that saw the introduction and gradual adoption of mesh. By the time I reappeared in SL in 2013 after a nearly 2 year absence, mesh clothing, hair, and objects had become the widely adopted standard for in-world creations and avatar customization. Mesh bodies had been introduced, but were not yet customizable. And the Advanced Lighting Model had much improved the appearance of, well, pretty much everything, albeit at a cost to performance.

4) Altberghers -- 6 February, 2014 to the introduction of Bento on 5 December, 2016.

The Ebbe Era saw the beginning of a kind of stability to the platform (or, if you prefer, stagnation). My sense of this period -- and I was really around for only the first 8 months or so of it -- was that in-world culture really reflected that: not a whole lot of earth-shattering importance happened. The bleeding of residents that had begun in 2011 or so continued, but at an ever slower rate. The tech innovations introduced to the platform -- mostly "Experiences" -- did not have a profound effect upon most residents. This generation seems to have been very much about regrouping and consolidation. And, although I may be wrong about this, my sense is that this particular generation of new SL residents did not much shake the boat, and perhaps had a difficult time establishing for themselves a unique identity.

5) Benters -- 6 December, 2016 to current day.

The introduction of Bento to SL was, I think, huge. Avatar customization had always, of course, been important, but the possibilities afforded by fully customizable and animated body parts shifted the economic and cultural focus decisively towards this element of in-world life. It is possible that this development has led to a slow decay of social life and exploration in SL: an astonishing amount of our money and effort -- more, I think, than had ever been the case before -- was now devoted to make ourself look good. And this in turn meant that shopping -- represented especially by the explosion in "events" -- became an even more dominant activity (although, of course, it had always been important). And I think one way in which we've seen this play out is the focus that we seem to see in so many newcomers to the platform upon immediately bringing their avatars "up to scratch." The recent introduction of Bakes on Mesh is part of this process, I think, rather than representing a decisive new chapter in the development of in-world culture.

 

None of these characterizations is intended to be taken as "absolute," of course, the increased focus I see today on avatar customization is, after all, really a matter of degree. And no individual is trapped in the prison of their generational persona: there are going to be more exceptions to the "rules" than those who comply in a simplistic manner.

So . . . what have I got wrong here? What is right? Do you have different ways of looking at this (and better names!?!?!?)

 

Edited by Scylla Rhiadra
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You have pretty much nailed it in terms of how I have seen the various "generations" within Second Life. :)

I started out as an SLoldbie and over the years, due to various reasons ending up actually deleting my accounts (alts) as I went along until I find myself using this current account generated during the Benter age. It has been quite a ride. :)

Nice read.

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2 minutes ago, DilliDallagio said:

You have pretty much nailed it in terms of how I have seen the various "generations" within Second Life. :)

I started out as an SLoldbie and over the years, due to various reasons ending up actually deleting my accounts (alts) as I went along until I find myself using this current account generated during the Benter age. It has been quite a ride. :)

Nice read.

Thanks!

I don't feel as thought I "know" the last two generations I've listed very well. I mean, I know individuals who belong to these eras, but I don't have an entirely clear sense of what the collection zeitgeist for each was. I also gave sort of short shrift to Meshers, because I was hard pressed to think of anything very distinctive about them (beyond the fact that they pioneered the adoption of mesh). I'm sure I'm wrong about that.

I'd love to hear from people who can help "fill in the gaps" on this a bit.

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I generally divide the players up between irl age groups and different eras of internet culture. With oldest to newest being:

Pre social media popularity, early to mid 2000’s.

Adult social media popularity, MySpace age, mid to late 2000’s. At the same time was the peak of social games for kids and teenagers (RuneScape, Roblox, Habbo Hotel, etc)

Facebook popularity, kids on social media. 2010-2014 or so. Kids from social games era try out SL since they can actually manage it from a technical standpoint.

Social media decentralization point, 2014-now. Facebook loses popularity as Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites take over.

Another defining aspect of the current SL scene is that it’s more technologically available to run this disaster of an unoptimized game on even dirt cheap entry level laptops. These days you can’t even buy a new laptop with specs weak enough to not play SL decently enough. Expect to see a lot more people slowly be introduced into it.

I would also mark this as a resurgence in social games with things like VRchat and teamwork oriented games on PC such as Squad and Insurgency rising in popularity.

 

A problem though is that too much of SL is stuck in the past, like waaaaaaaay in the past.

Flickr? Flickr died for literally everyone else 10 years ago. 
And the serious RP and “not a game” culture has to die. As much as that hurts a lot of people that’s just not the game in 2019. Why is VRchat so popular? It provided a casual setting for “stand around and chat simulator”. SL is not casual enough to attract new users, it’s a pain to play and people take it too seriously. That’s going to be a downfall long term.

Edited by cheesecurd
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9 minutes ago, BelindaN said:

The day I was born into SL...May 2018, was the first day SL existed for me. What happened before is an historical curiosity, but of no relevance to my SL life.

So, just like RL.

Well, yeah. I get that. Still, it's important to know where you've come from, in order to understand where you are? And there's that whole "Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it" thing, too, I suppose.

It's quite possible to use SL without any real awareness of its history. In fact, I'm pretty sure that this is true of probably 90% of SL residents, and even those who are aware of that history are probably mostly concerned with what happened after they joined.

But I know that I do sometimes detect some culture differences based on the SL age of the person I'm talking to -- in terms of expectations, attitudes, and so forth. It's not really pronounced usually, but it's there.

And there are some amazing stories from the early days of SL. Who doesn't thrill to the chronicles of the Jessie War? Or the long sagas of Woodbury U and Redzone? What about Nipplegate? For god's sake, Belinda, think of the children!!!

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32 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

 2) SLoomers -- 15 March, 2008 to 23 August, 2011, the date at which mesh was officially introduced to the grid.

Yikes, I'm a SLoomer...🤨

Yep, I jumped on SL WELL after the initial hype - missed the Chungwillygate / SLLA debacles too. It's weird to think there was less of a time lapse between us and the originators than there is between us and the Benters now. God, it was 10 years ago! I remember name changes like they were yesterday 😮

Not sure about the entitlement diagnosis, TBH...even in 2010, you'd regularly come across hardcore SLoldbies who'd insist you'd 'missed' the 'real SL' and that everything had gone to pot. And hanging out with the weapons innovators/FS crew (before it all turned sour) felt like we were shaking up the old order a bit. Oh god, I do sound like a boomer...😖

That said, I had a LOT of help from oldbies as a noob, so I've always tried to pay it back to the young upstarts whenever I venture back in-world...

There is a certain amount of wacky silliness and plain oddness missing from SL these days, IMO. To many, that might be a good thing 😛

 

 

 

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13 minutes ago, cheesecurd said:

And the serious RP and “not a game” culture has to die. As much as that hurts a lot of people that’s just not the game in 2019.

Thus the "generation" gap. When I first started in 2006, long-term RP of all sorts, not just the Gorean-esque, were around. I tended to hang out in the sci-fi oriented RP places which always had someone around to continue the stories. It was also during this time I found one of the most magnificent achievements in prim building I have yet to see equalled in this era of everything mesh: Nexus Prime. I studied Nexus Prime to the point of derendering large portions of it just to see how it was built. Amazing work but as typical in human nature, disagreements in the direction that community was headed lead to its ultimate deconstruction and end.

Today I visit what few non-Gorean long-term RP lands exist and find no one (who is not either AFK nor an NPC) around. I visited one reorganizational meeting for someone trying to build a fantasy/sci-fi RP land and three people were there. Yes, it is a end of an era but I attribute that to the generational thing Scylla and cheesecurd refered to. New residents view Second Life as a social chat environment while many of us "oldbies" still see it as "your world, your imagination."

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33 minutes ago, cheesecurd said:

I generally divide the players up between irl age groups and different eras of internet culture. With oldest to newest being:

Pre social media popularity, early to mid 2000’s.

Adult social media popularity, MySpace age, mid to late 2000’s. At the same time was the peak of social games for kids and teenagers (RuneScape, Roblox, Habbo Hotel, etc)

Facebook popularity, kids on social media. 2010-2014 or so. Kids from social games era try out SL since they can actually manage it from a technical standpoint.

Social media decentralization point, 2014-now. Facebook loses popularity as Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites take over.

This is a really worthwhile insight, and it provides an interesting overlay on the schema I've proposed.

My sense is that most SLoldbies are, culturally speaking, pre-social media, and their attitudes (generally) reflect that. There may be a lot of SLoomers who fall into this category as well: one of the defining features of the SLoomer era was the attempt by Mark Kingdon to integrate SL with social media. Remember Avatars United? Well, that fell flat on its face, along with a number of other moves from that era. What's interesting, in some ways, is that integration with a variety of social media platforms -- notably FB, Flickr, and Discord -- actually came later. And the sense that one's level of comfort with social media has produced a sort of generational divide is evident from the fact that a great many merchants, including some of the dominant ones, now use FB (and other platforms) for advertising, a fact that causes a great deal of complaining from some (I think mostly older) residents.

39 minutes ago, cheesecurd said:

Another defining aspect of the current SL scene is that it’s more technologically available to run this disaster of an unoptimized game on even dirt cheap entry level laptops. These days you can’t even buy a new laptop with specs weak enough to not play SL decently enough. Expect to see a lot more people slowly be introduced into it.

Interesting theory. I still tend to think, though, that VWs are an idea whose time has come . . . and gone. At least in the "pure" form represented by SL.

40 minutes ago, cheesecurd said:

A problem though is that too much of SL is stuck in the past, like waaaaaaaay in the past.

Agreed. I think that the SLoldbies and SLoomers are probably a drag on innovation and new directions, in some ways. And I'd include myself in that.

44 minutes ago, cheesecurd said:

And the serious RP and “not a game” culture has to die. As much as that hurts a lot of people that’s just not the game in 2019. Why is VRchat so popular? It provided a casual setting for “stand around and chat simulator”. SL is not casual enough to attract new users, it’s a pain to play and people take it too seriously. That’s going to be a downfall long term.

I'm not sure that we need to call for an end to "serious RP" and "not a game" cultures: I think they are already slowly dying, without need much of a nudge.

I agree absolutely that "SL is not casual enough to attract new users." Actually, I think that was true in 2010 too.

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   Flashbacks to the tidal way of "How young you are, I would never have guessed" that washed over me when I at some point mentioned my age on these forums.

   ... Age is just a number, in'nit.

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30 minutes ago, DonnaDK said:

Yikes, I'm a SLoomer...🤨

Welcome to the club! Mostly, we're pretty nice people, I think.

30 minutes ago, DonnaDK said:

It's weird to think there was less of a time lapse between us and the originators than there is between us and the Benters now. God, it was 10 years ago! I remember name changes like they were yesterday

Wow. I hadn't thought of it that way. You're right. I've been around for over 2/3rds of SL's existence. Yikes.

32 minutes ago, DonnaDK said:

Not sure about the entitlement diagnosis, TBH...even in 2010, you'd regularly come across hardcore SLoldbies who'd insist you'd 'missed' the 'real SL' and that everything had gone to pot.

This is true: one does run across that kind of attitude from time to time. I think the "entitlement" thing is different, as it is articulated by SLoldbies and SLoomers. SLoomers possess this kind of unspoken assurance that their attitudes are the "right ones." That's just self-evident, right? Whereas the SLoldbies whom I know who do the whole "The Good Old Days" thing are more like the proverbial old man on the porch, shaking their prim (of course!) walking sticks at the young whippersnappers! 😉

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I made a 2004 account to attend an in-world conference. I didn't realize what SL was, and considered it a throw away just for the conference. So my oldest "real" account is a 2005 account, which I still use sometimes.  I traded real estate on the old original 16 SIMs for a while, about five years, and at various times owned half or more of Jessie, Freelon, and Da Boom, but not all at the same time. Now I have a little plot over on Welsh by @Steller Sunshine  's beanstalk, unless someone has paid my rediculous price for it in the last few hours.

As a class of 2005 and a (former) land trader, I always used to consider only 2002 and 2003 accounts to be oldbies, and am pleased to have met several and still enjoy seeing them log in from time to time. 

I am something of an SL Historian and have a number of old artifacts in my inventory including the 2002 First Prim and 2002 @OldJohn Linden statue--both from the pre-SL alpha period. I also have most of the 2003 collectables including the First Dog, the @Alberto Linden Arch (a copy sits at the entrance to the Ivory Tower on Natoma SIM) and several versions of the original Hippo, and all the old Linden Bears. I wish I could get a copy of @Ryan Linden 's old statue. I had a tour system set up to visit it from my Day Boom land, before I sold it. 

I bought my first freestanding region in January 2006. I have had innumerable dance clubs and role-play SIMs since then. These days, I mostly just build stuff on my one region.  I am finally getting good at making flying vehicles after all these years. 

I bought the first version of Avastar back in 2012 and am looking forward to its forthcoming upgrade to Blender 2.81. I plan to include animesh in my vehicles at that point. I used to sell things a long time ago, but realized I am happier and have more freedom if I just give them away, which is what I do now (well L$1 dollarbies so they can be gifted). 

So, am I really an Oldbie?  I guess words change over time; perhaps so.

Edited by Erwin Solo
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52 minutes ago, Marut72 said:

I'm a 'Benter' and I love the name because it reminds me of BENDER :)

This is a very lovely and thought provoking post. It was a great read as are the responses that are coming in.

bender-for-website.jpg

And this is how I will always imagine you now, Marut!

(Is there a Bender avatar available in the MP? Hmmm . . .)

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4 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

And this is how I will always imagine you now, Marut!

(Is there a Bender avatar available in the MP? Hmmm . . .)

I leave you with a little taste of the finest literature every written to complete the mental image...

Fry: Where's the bathroom?
Bender: The bath what?
Fry: Bathroom.
Bender: The what room?
Fry: Bathroom!
Bender: The what what?

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53 minutes ago, DilliDallagio said:

Yes, it is a end of an era but I attribute that to the generational thing Scylla and cheesecurd refered to. New residents view Second Life as a social chat environment while many of us "oldbies" still see it as "your world, your imagination."

In this sense, my attitudes are certainly those of the SLoldbie: what I've always most valued about SL culture (if not necessarily about the platform itself, which has much to offer besides) is this idea of the freedom to explore and experiment with experience and identity.

I wonder: in addition to the slow demise of long-term RP (and I think Gor's heyday in SL is also long past), do we not see a great deal less whimsy and experimentation in the new sims that appear? Many, most of these, are gorgeous and lovingly-built places, but what we aren't seeing is (and here I date myself) things like Greenies any more. Instead, most seem to be modeled on a handful of "types": dystopia, rural sims, the occasional urban sim. Few really venture far beyond a pretty close representation of RL.

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7 minutes ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:
13 minutes ago, Orwar said:

Age is just a number, in'nit.

Sometimes it is. Some times it really really isn't.

It all depends on the day. There are a few days -- like my birthday -- when I am particularly conscious of my age. Others, not so much. When I am in SL, though, I am quite a bit younger and more spry than I feel in RL, regardless of what day it is. 

I'm a Boomer/SLoomer in both worlds, which makes me one of the crowd and an old fogey at the same time.  Old enough to know better, in both senses of the phrase. 

Like RL, SL presents us with an implicit tug of war between our need to do new exciting things with new toys and our desire to make the world stand still so that we can enjoy things that are familiar.  The older we get, the more familiar things are in our toolboxes and the less time we have to take in new ones, so the harder it gets to resolve the tug of war gracefully. Some of us learn to reinvent ourselves and keep pace with the mesh bodies and Bento attachments of the day, and some retire into timeless enclaves or leave SL.  Very much like RL but on a shorter time scale. 

There are days when I am invigorated by new discoveries in SL.  I explore the unfolding wonders of Bellisseria and spend hours fiddling with BOM, acting like a teenager. And there are the "Get off my lawn!" days when I resent people messing with "my" SL.  Just like RL.

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2 minutes ago, Rolig Loon said:

Like RL, SL presents us with an implicit tug of war between our need to do new exciting things with new toys and our desire to make the world stand still so that we can enjoy things that are familiar.  The older we get, the more familiar things are in our toolboxes and the less time we have to take in new ones, so the harder it gets to resolve the tug of war gracefully. Some of us learn to reinvent ourselves and keep pace with the mesh bodies and Bento attachments of the day, and some retire into timeless enclaves or leave SL.  Very much like RL but on a shorter time scale.

This is an excellent insight into how we age, I think. We should probably imagine most people as lying somewhere on a spectrum between these two impulses: most of us probably lean in one direction or another, but both are going to be in evidence, regardless of how that balance actually manifests itself.

Certainly, I see a lot of nostalgia in SL, especially from my friends who are SLoomers: there are groups dedicated to memorializing old sims and old communities. I see less enthusiasm for new directions, or even much awareness that innovation and change is even possible. But that may just be my circle.

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1 minute ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

Certainly, I see a lot of nostalgia in SL, especially from my friends who are SLoomers: there are groups dedicated to memorializing old sims and old communities. I see less enthusiasm for new directions, or even much awareness that innovation and change is even possible. But that may just be my circle.

This is one of the things that fascinates me about Bellisseria.  The new continent, with its quantum leap in landscape design and architectural style, is inspiring, but what intrigues me is the renewed interest in community.  A good deal of that is here in the forums, of course.  Still, there's a massive in-world revival in group activity, spontaneous events, public decoration ... all things that were new and exciting when they happened in Bay City an SL generation or two in the past but have been dormant until this year.  I sense a nostalgia for the wave of growth during the SLoomer years.  The old Linden Homes were "starter homes" for the first big wave of new SL residents.  The new Linden Homes are being bought largely by SLoomers who seem to be discovering new roots.

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10 minutes ago, Rolig Loon said:

This is one of the things that fascinates me about Bellisseria.  The new continent, with its quantum leap in landscape design and architectural style, is inspiring, but what intrigues me is the renewed interest in community.  A good deal of that is here in the forums, of course.  Still, there's a massive in-world revival in group activity, spontaneous events, public decoration ... all things that were new and exciting when they happened in Bay City an SL generation or two in the past but have been dormant until this year.  I sense a nostalgia for the wave of growth during the SLoomer years.  The old Linden Homes were "starter homes" for the first big wave of new SL residents.  The new Linden Homes are being bought largely by SLoomers who seem to be discovering new roots.

Yes, I agree: despite the glitches in implementation (and who could have foreseen how popular the new homes would be?), Bellisseria, or the basic idea behind it, represents the most exciting thing going on in SL right now, I think. If SL can extend this principle, the focus upon communities, in some additional directions, it actually could spark at least a mini-boom in SL. I think it's ultimately going to be more important than name changes to the platform.

I wonder, though, how many newer residents are attracted to Bellisseria? Or do they simply use SL in a very different way?

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2 hours ago, Scylla Rhiadra said:

1) SLoldbies -- Time Range: 23 June, 2003 (the public opening of Second Life) to 14 March, 2008, the day that Philip Rosedale stepped down as LL CEO.

Virtual life for SLoldbies must have been wild and exciting. Many of the most important features -- the Linden dollar, direct teleports, and Windlight were, for instance, introduced. The creators and coders of this generation lay the groundwork for literally everything that followed. My own sense of the SLoldbies is that they are, as a species, relatively open-minded. And they tend, I think, to subscribe to what now feels like an older version of digital libertarianism. They aren't 4Chan or Something Awful (most of them) -- but that's the culture from which they come. I really value and like SLoldbies: I find them sceptical, but always helpful.  

 

 

I don't agree with what you mean about my RL generation having drifted or lost their way or something as I suspect my politics are different from yours. Leaving that aside I did enjoy recalling the visits I had to 4Chan's hangout though I wasn't supposed to say I did.  I found them generally intelligent and funny.

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