RACISM was by far the nastiest problem Dabas and Heloise had ever dealt with. The channel became open slather for every lunatic fringe element who had a gripe against Israel, Jews or friends of Jews:
1. Neo Nazis and Nazi sympathisers raided the channel daily, suggesting that they would take up where Hitler left off, rebuilding the gas chambers and reopening the concentration camps.
2. Christian fundamentalists raided the channel less often, mainly concerned with allocating blame for the death of Christ.
3. Islamic militants intent on destroying the Jewish State of Israel were regular features of channel life.
JUVENILITY Given that the average age of #Israel was 19.2 years, and that 80% of the channel was male, it is not surprising that the topics of concern were army life, selecting subjects at university and finding a date for Saturday night. It got to the stage that if one more person said "what is your major?" one more time, Heloise was going to leave IRC and never come back again.
As with any site riddled with testosterone, the order of the day was kicking, banning and op wars. Part of this frenetic activity was a survival strategy to do with the constant invasion of Neo Nazis and militant Islamists. But part of it was just macho game playing.
From time to time, suggestions would be made about opening up the topics of discussion to things ADULTS would like to talk about eg literature or music. But this ended in uproar every time. Israeli boys of 19 years were only interested in surviving the army and establishing a social life for themselves. The end of Helen's IRCing days was near.
Helen was going to Sydney one weekend in October 1993, and so Dabas (with beard) and his friend Skeve (with cap) arranged to meet her for lunch along the Sydney Harbour foreshore. A photo from that amazing meeting survives, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge hovering overhead.
It was a hot day, and by the end of the second icy beer, Heloise was telling them all the problems about #Israel. Dabas asked why Heloise didn't she start her own channel, but that seemed about as likely as flying to the moon. He very patiently explained that he could do the technical stuff if Heloise could establish and emphasise the ground rules for new members: no racism, no anti Semitism, no sexism and no adolescents. A channel that would maintain the Israeli connections and Australian values.
As they had hoped in #Israel, the discussions would be expanded to topics mature adults were interested in eg travel, music, literature, philosophy, world politics, family relationships and even sport. Op wars and kick bans would become a mere nightmare from the past.
They had never formally talked about starting a new channel before, but they were fairly confident that all the Anglo Saxon, academic, middle aged friends from #Israel would want to join them. Dabas, Winky, Academy, Muet and Heloise were all over 40, all Jewish and were all academics, so the channel might be called #40academic or #40marriedwithchildren or #40Jewish.
When Heloise logged on that night in the Sydney hotel room, Dabas frantically messaged her with the following: "Come into #30plus: I HAVE CAPTURED A REAL LIVE CHANNEL MEMBER". This poor person was a man called Runaway whose wife had left home and had taken their three children with her. He just wanted some supportive adult company during his time of crisis. And so #30plus was born, the name being suggested by Skeve as more inclusive and less exclusive than #40academic.
Neither of them knew what they were doing. They thought a] permission was needed to open a new channel - from Finland, the home of IRC probably; and b] they needed to keep complete records of all people using the new channel. They did not even know how to keep the channel open 24 hours a day, so took it in 8 hour shifts to be there, around the clock. It was a very steep learning curve.
During those first days, me3, pdq, joshtree, bigjoe, toots, gazza, sirlunar, dugip, zurbaran, amarin, sna, tinytim, ruach, edu, drKB, kimba, shor, beamer, fuzed, friskykid, capt-peril, oldbear, panache, nurse, redgum, sulu, kate, lone, bish, hotsailor, flaccus, thalia, mfp, melsy, cty, fauna, peppr and others came into the channel, and stayed. Bless their hearts. Joshtree in Finland set up the twin bots, Castor and Pollux, so that Dabas and Heloise could finally get some sleep again.
The channel name started to appear, in computer magazines and books, as an interesting and non violent place to be. Dabas and Heloise were interviewed by journalists in Australia and elsewhere, and people popped in to say "I saw you in Article X and thought I would see what was happening". Lisabee, nutnhoney, daisee, rossma, birdbrain, prism, belladona, annette and others joined by the end of 1993.
There was some debate about when the first organised meetings of #30plus members took place. Since the channel was Australian based, the Australians had hoped the first channel reunion was here. But can be discovered from the early reunion photos, the first was in Boston (Jan 1994) and the second was in Canberra (April 1994).
It was understood from the beginning that the channel was really only available to Anglophones or people who could type and read English in a very busy channel. As it turns out, two thirds of the channel regulars live in the USA, while the others are mainly Australasian, British, South African and Canadian. Channel members are full of admiration for the Israelis and Europeans who use English as their second, or even third language. They add a breadth to the channel that would have been otherwise missing.
So language skills are critical to IRC. One of the early collective tasks of this new, adult-friendly channel was to collect lists of peoples' favourite books. People took hours and hours, going along their library shelves, reminding themselves of books they hadn't read since the 1960s. Not surprisingly the lists were diverse, esoteric sometimes, but always fascinating. The level of conversation and of email letters was very high, and although those halcyon days could not, and did not last, they set a standard that the channel has hoped for, ever since.
Life was never going to be quite the same again. Pdq suggested nominating Dabas and Helen for the Nobel Peace Prize, given that they had revolutionised IRC and made it a pleasant place for adults to be. Australia had produced yet another really worthwhile contribution.