Conwaylife Lounge

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The Conwaylife Lounge is a Discord server founded in September 2017 by user M. I. Wright of the conwaylife.com forums as a place for casual discussion and investigation into cellular automata such as Conway's Game of Life.[1] As of May 2021, it has fourteen discussion channels, including eight specifically for cellular automata (as well as several non-discussion channels and a voice channel). The server is very active, seeing a few dozen active users and hundreds or more messages per day, and is aided by several bot accounts serving useful functions (both cellular-automata-related and just for general moderation purposes). It retains a close relationship with the conwaylife.com forums, with most members who are active on the server having accounts on the forums (but not necessarily vice versa, due to the difference in formality between the two communities.)

History

Graph showing monthly messages in the server, which largely aligns with server activity

Before the ConwayLife Lounge was founded, the only active place for cellular automaton enthusiasts to interact and share discoveries was the Conwaylife.com forums, which felt too formal for some, especially the younger members of the community. The server was created in order to house discussions which were too informal for the forums, as well as a place where questions could be asked and answered more readily and where more discoveries could be shared without spamming the forums. The Lounge was founded in September 2017 by M. I. Wright, and over the next month a small but dedicated base of users joined, and the server could be considered mildly active. However, in October 2017, due to a security oversight related to a server bot, the server was deleted by a malicious user, resulting in the loss of all messages sent in the previous month.[2] Wright gained back control of the server and it began to thrive and grow again.

The server's activity reached a peak in mid-to-late 2018, after which activity began to decline, in part due to the server's simulation bot going down for three weeks in June and July 2019.[3] Activity reached its bottom point in February 2020, before it exploded in the next few months largely due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

In 2020 and 2021, persistent suggestions and subsequent discussions resulted in the creation of new channels. Since the end of 2020, three new permanent channels have been created, two of them for other cellular automata, expanding the number of specific cellular automaton discussion channels from four to six.[4][5]

Channels

The current discussion channels in the ConwayLife Lounge.

There are currently fourteen discussion channels in the server, with eight of them cellular automata related and the other six not:

  • #general-discussion: Discussion relating to the server or the ConwayLife community
  • #off-topic: Catch-all off-topic channel, except for serious math, programming, or music (which have been relocated to their own channels)
  • #tools: Discussion related to CA search utilities and programs
  • #cgol: All Conway's Game of Life (B3/S23) discussion.
  • #naturalistic: "brathic" rules (generally any type of rule that Golly can support without rule tables), finding rules ("rulegolfing"), syntheses, or program search results.
  • #circuitry: Anything related to circuits, unit cells, or flow loops in other cellular automata.
  • #exotic-ca: Cellular automata with unusual neighbourhoods or states (generally rules which Golly or CAViewer cannot support even with rule tables).
  • #misc-ca: Cellular automata which do not fit into #naturalistic, #circuitry, or #exotic-ca (mostly Golly rule tables or CAViewer rules).
  • #general-theory: Discussion related to cellular automata in general, e.g. rule families, algorithms, and search methods.
  • #other-math: Non-cellular-automaton related serious mathematical discussion.
  • #programming: Non-cellular-automaton related program discussion.
  • #music: All discussion related to music or music composition.
  • #bots-and-mute-this: channel for testing, repeated bot usage, or spam.
  • #boice-text: channel for discussing conversations in the Boice voice channel.

In addition, there are the channels #rules, #info, and #announcements, which are for server related use or reference and not for discussion, and #starboard, which is posted on by a bot which posts messages which have collected a certain number of "star" reactions.

Server bot

An example of a simulation using Caterer.

The ConwayLife Lounge is highly dependent on a simulation bot, named Caterer, which can produce GIFs of a certain pattern (in RLE form) which is run for a certain time using the !sim command. The dependency can be seen when the bot goes down, like in June 2019 and February 2021[6], which led to temporary sharp drops in activity which can be seen in the graph above. Caterer natively supports many rules, including all rules which Golly can support (rule table rules can also be simulated if the rule table is uploaded to Caterer's internal database), as well all rules CAViewer can run.

Besides running patterns, the bot has several other functions, including identifying a pattern (similar to Catagolue pages), pulling spaceships from the outer-totalistic glider database, showing pages from LifeWiki, and identifying record spaceships in the Smallest Spaceships Supporting Specific Speeds database.[7]

A few other bots also exist for general moderation or organization purposes or for various auxiliary services Caterer does not provide, such as more advanced outer-totalistic glider database queries and on-demand soup searching; these are not used as frequently.

Related communities

The Conwaylife Lounge Discord server is affiliated closely (though not officially) with the conwaylife.com forums and LifeWiki, with both of which it shares a large segment of its userbase. Patterns, rules, and other ideas developed on the Discord server are regularly posted on the forums by shared users and vice versa, although almost all of the non-cellular-automaton related discussion is usually contained to either the forums or the server without any overlap. Many discoveries posted or discussed mainly on the server have been cited on the LifeWiki.

While the server is not officially affiliated with Catagolue, the owner of Catagolue, Adam P. Goucher, regularly posts in the server, and many server members are regular Catagolue contributors. The head moderator of the subreddit r/cellular_automata, slackermanz, is also very active in the server, although there is again no official affiliation; however, in general there is fairly little crossover between the communities, as they tend to have different interests within the larger field. The Esolangs Discord server is linked in the #announcements channel as part of a 2018 attempt at linking the two communities, but as the Conwaylife Lounge has increased in size the degree of crossover has diminished greatly.[8]

The Conwaylife Lounge has also spawned many spinoff communities over the years for various niche subjects that saw enough activity in the #off-topic or #bots-and-mute-this channels to warrant a whole server, some slightly cellular-automaton related, others not.

Problems

Some users have been unable to access the server reliably since Discord has been blocked in China.

External links

Invite link to Conwaylife Lounge: https://discord.gg/BCuYCEn

References

  1. M. I. Wright (September 15, 2017). Re: Discord 'ConwayLife Lounge' (discussion thread) at the ConwayLife.com forums
  2. M. I. Wright (October 19, 2017). Re: Discord 'ConwayLife Lounge' (discussion thread) at the ConwayLife.com forums
  3. Deleted User (dani) (June 19, 2019). Message in #announcements on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server
  4. M. I. Wright (January 1, 2021). Message in #announcements on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server
  5. KittyTac (March 9, 2021). Message in #announcements on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server
  6. M. I. Wright (February 2, 2021). Message in #announcements on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server
  7. Caterer (May 9, 2021). Message in #bots-and-mute-this on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server
  8. M. I. Wright (May 28, 2018). Message in #announcements on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server