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Originally founded by Jinny Fonzarelli, the group has grown to about 238 members (Jan 2006) by inviting attendees to their regular events, meets for about an hour several times a week, traditionally in Euro-friendly hours (around 2-4 PM PST).
They started to meet at each other's homes in the beginning and later had a "permanent" headquarters located in Tawhaki (200,200) for several months; after that, they met at each other's homes again. When Jinny actively returned to SL early in 2006, she created a new headquarters at Baker (134, 34, 32).
Since 2007, the major Thinkers' moderator has been, almost to exclusivity, Extropia DaSilva. For three ears, the group has met every Tuesday at 3:30 PM SLT at the supportforhealing region, at Catherine's House, who gently offered the place for the discussion to take place. Since 2010, mostly due to the inability to control annoying griefers, as well as some "confusion" related to the purpose of the group (supportforhealing hosts mostly support groups, not generic discussions), the meetings moved to Scarp Godenot's place at Pennyroyal. Extropia tends to push the discussion towards transhumanist and extropian themes, often discussing Second Life itself, virtual reality, the Self (and the virtual self), conscience and intelligence (as well as artificial intelligence), relationships in virtual worlds, free will, and so on. There is a new topic every week.
Entrance is free and meetings are almost always "discussions" (but sometimes they also host contests) using text chat. There is a regular "core group" meeting every week, including residents like Eloise Pasteur, Traxx Hathor, Gwyneth Llewelyn, Roxie Marten, Shorahmin Femto, Damien Rutherford, Extropia DaSilva, Pavig Lok, LittleToe Bartlett, Lem Skall, Scope Cleaver, Scarp Godenot, Peer Infinity, among many, many others. Lindens sometimes attend as well.
They have earned the (wholly unworthy) "fame" of being "the intellectuals in SL". But they're not a lobby, a pressure group, an economic organization, or anything like that. A freely-given package includes themed T-shirts, some notecards with the few rules for the discussion and for Bible studies. The group is very heterogeneous and it's unusual to finish all discussions without ever reaching an agreement--postponing the discussion to further events!
Thinker's Rules for discussion
These are usually read in advance of each session:
- Generally we all speak over each other, unless someone is on the soapbox.
- If someone is on the soapbox please be quiet and listen to them, you will have a chance to respond to them later. IF they invite comment that is fine, but otherwise please be quiet.
- If you want to use the soapbox please IM the organiser of that meeting and ask them, they will work you in and introduce you.
- No ad hominem attacks. Feel free to tear apart ideas, but not the person sharing them. Err on the side of caution with tearing apart their ideas too, we should be able to cope, but not everyone can!
- If you want to join please ask a prefect, there are nearly always 2 or 3, sometimes more at a meeting.
- We have a group list on the SL forums website (http://forums.secondlife.com/forumdisplay.php?f=77). We use it for discussing some admin matters, like when is a good time to host etc. but it is primarily there for people to discuss topics that they want to post to the forum.
- If you want to run a meeting of your own, please chat to a prefect. Essentially you can either replace a regular meeting with the regular hosts agreement, or find a time of your own. Sundays at 2pm is becoming a fairly regular 'drop in' session like this, although that is not obligatory. Nor is sticking to the 2pm slot, it is just convenient for the people that are currently running the sessions.
Although not a rule Thinkers is currently roaming to different venues, so please check where the event calendar says we will be for each event...
The Thinker's Soapbox
In good SL fashion, this is a multiple-authorship, collaborative tool, that has seen its ways in other venues (like the Community Team Roundtables). It started as being an unscripted object (done by Jinny Fonzarelli), and people would simply sit on it to signal to others their willingness to talk without being interrupted. Unfortunately, in some locations, it was hard to see where the speaker was (camera issues!), so Gwyneth Llewelyn added the infamous "hush" — whenever someone spoke "out of order", the soapbox would emit a "hush" sound, and send an IM to the person warning them that someone was sitting on the soapbox and that they should now hush. Silly anims, gotten from Renderosity, also animated the person on the sandbox in a hilarious fashion. The current version, rewritten by Eloise Pasteur, adds a queuing system. One can now touch the soapbox to get a place in the queue, and the moderator can see the list and ask people to respect it, as well as kicking them out of the soapbox if they're taking too much time :)
As of 2010, using the Soapbox has been pretty much discontinued.