Age and Treachery revisited

Katharine Berry’s love story with Second Life You-Know-Where ends today on a sad, personal note. Shamelessly, I will quote my own comment on her blog :

Dear Katharine,

we have never met, our worlds lying far apart as I have come to realize, but I would like you to believe that your achievement with AjaxLife (alas the only sample of your skill I had an opportunity to profit from) outshines what most of us will ever be able to achieve — whatever our age (how the eternal « for someone your age » must hurt ; why can’t they just shut the f*** up ?). At 32, I bow to you. And I sympathize. I’m not old enough to get away from the fact how unjust and arbitrary people can be, not jaded enough to not understand your anger and not feel sympathy for the rejection you feel.

It is easy to tell you not to give in to it, but that is just insinuating that we, your elders, know better. I will not do that, because we don’t, even if we don’t like to admit it. So all I will tell you is that you and your stupendous mind will be missed by many people you do not even know, because you made our world a bit richer and no one can afford to lose somebody like you.

So long, Katharine Berry. If the grids you know where ever merge, I hope to meet you there.

I will not comment the flame war accompanying her farewell. Talent should buy you a modicum of leeway when it comes to rashness and occasional lack of social graces, but then, that is just me speaking. To those saying it was her peers and her own age driving her out, all I can say is : had the Teen Grid you know where not been such a thinly disguised excuse for the real thing, people like Katharine (and her antagonists) might be less frustrated, choice and a more rewarding experience replacing the often stifling closeness of such a tiny peer group. We are all at fault.

Farewell, Katharine Berry.

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Age and Treachery

On the set of « A Fish Called Wanda » then 77-year old director John Crichton was given a t-shirt by his co-director John Cleese. It read

Age and Treachery Will Always Overcome Youth and Skill

Though this was meant as a joke about the significant age difference between the director and the rest of his crew, there is a moment of philosophical truth in this. Faced with a world ruled mainly by elder people with an entirely different background and set of interests, youthful talent is doomed to fail. Witness the departure from the Second Life Teen Grid You-Know-Where-for-Underagers of its whizz kid Katharine Berry, as announced in her blog.

For those of you who have never heard the name before, Katharine Berry is probably best known as the developer of AjaxLife, a web based Second Life You-Know-Where client which has allowed many people to maintain their social network on SL Y-K-W even when unable to install the SL Y-K-W client on a machine. I have been using AjaxLife on and off, myself, and have been full of admiration for the work of one single dedicated developer, a female one at that, always a sure way to win my sympathy. What I was not aware of before the announcement of Katharine’s withdrawal and the accompanying media coverage is that she is « only » 15 years old (an ageist reaction I will come back to later).

As befits to her being underage, Katharine has religiously stuck to using the Teen Grid you know where alone, gaining a track record there as a forum moderator, volunteer and provider of web services (all of these by now defunct). Exemplary one would say, were it not for the fact that it must have been a very disheartening experience. As she explains in more detail here, her main reason for leaving Second Life You-Know-Where is the complete state of neglect Linden Lab seems to leave the Teen Grid you know where in, and the low resident count which follows from this sorry state of affairs.

Now, like most Main Grid Second Lifers You-Know-Where denizens I presume, I have been entirely oblivious of what goes on on the Teen Grid you know where. Judging from Katharine’s comments on her departure, it hardly looks like an interesting offering for bright young minds. In fact, it looks suspiciously like an excuse everybody can agree on when it comes to excluding teens from Second Life You-Know-Where in general. By everybody, I do mean that Linden Lab aren’t the only ones at fault here, though they are obviously responsible for the sorry state of the thing, but that all of us Grid Second Lifers You-Know-Where denizens share a part of this. After all, we always point to the Teen Grid you know where as the place for underage Second Lifers You-Know-Where denizens to go whenever we squabble with the Lindens and each other over the value and founding of age verification. It is such a convenient fig leaf when we basically agree that everybody under legal age (and that means anybody below the age of 21, in some cases) should be excluded from participating in Second Life You-Know-Where. They have their own grid you know where, haven’t they ?

Katharine’s withdrawal alerts us to the fact Continue reading