The Sandbox is Dead. Long Live the Sandbox!

A June 26, 2012 screenshot of the venerable Usenet discussion group, alt.toys.gi-joe, aka “The Sandbox,” shows a dramatic decline in use over the last few years, as fans have switched to more versatile forums such as the Trenches and Facebook.

Back on March 5th, I had written a short article about the 17-year old “Sandbox” discussion group and how it seemed to be on its last legs as a forum for GIjOE fans. Today, I browsed over to alt.toys.gi-joe to pay another visit. I was startled to discover that the once beloved group has essentially screeched to a halt in terms of usage. A quick peek at the “About this Group” statistics link reveals that during the entire month of June, only two posts had been made (see screenshot above). I could almost hear the tumbleweeds blowing by my browser’s window.

Graphic designer Daryl Williams created a font based on old GIjOE lettering and named it in honor of the discussion group. (Art: Daryl Williams)

Longtime computer users will remember the venerable newsgroup as the first, BEST, “virtual” gathering place for GIjOE collectors. For over a decade, it was THE place to be (for fans who were online).

The once-popular group provided ‘boxers with a fast, reliable (and moderator-free) environment in which they could quickly and easily exchange news, tips and information about the 1:6 scale hobby. In addition to being a vital information hub, the Sandbox also brought fans together in a more personal way; creating a unique online “community” which became a daily fixture in many people’s lives. Friendships were formed and bolstered by countless trades and transactions conducted on an almost daily basis.

The one, the only, Sandbox logo.
(Art: Daryl Williams)

Often, announcements trumpeting the release of a new figure would sweep through the board like a storm, creating a flurry of back and forth posting, as members happily debated the tiniest details of a new product. “I love this new figure, but the uniform camo pattern is all wrong!” And so on and so on…

The Sandbox exclusive U-Boat Commander in its unique wooden display box.

The Sandbox even inspired a little marketing of its own. It began when collector and graphic designer Daryl Williams created a logo for the group (see above). The logo stirred up interest within the online community and Williams went on to produce some GIjOE-inspired fonts as well (still available for sale HERE).

Soon after, enthusiastic ‘boxers began to consider the creation of a “Sandbox Exclusive” figure, and after much work, the idea became a reality with the production of an exclusive “U-Boat Commander,” a custom figure spearheaded by such talented individuals as Greg Brown, Alan Dawson and Aaron Luck.

The figure was a stunning success. Today, that figure remains a fitting testimonial to the comradery, talent and dedication of the group’s members, all made possible by communiques posted in the Sandbox. (Editor’s note: If you own one of these exclusive figures, you own a piece of history!) To learn more about the Sandbox exclusive U-Boat Commander figure, read the actual posts saved over on the “Sandbox Chronicles” website found HERE.

As of this moment, the Sandbox still exists, but as I was reminded today, nothing stays the same forever; not even the loyalties of GijOE fans. Day by day, thousands of us have “voted” with each click of our mouse. With our online choices, we’ve shown an undeniable preference for newer, more capable websites such as the Trenches Forum, the Fuzzheadquarters Forum and Tanker’s all-new Sandbox page over on Facebook. All great destinations in their own ways.

Some fans likened the original Sandbox to the “Wild West;” a wide open, unregulated community with limited capabilities and no oversight. Today’s more carefully moderated forums have more features and capabilities it’s true, but they can also feel like  a “gated community” at times, requiring passwords, moderator approval and other restrictions. Indeed, the raw honesty of the old, uncensored Sandbox posts may soon become a thing of the past. Gone with the winds of change, and all those tumblin’ tumbleweeds blowin’ past our browsers.

The Sandbox is Dead. Long Live the Sandbox!

(Editor’s note: The most recent post made to the ‘box read: “I’m just starting out with 12 inch joes…” What ironic timing. Well, better late than never!)

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One thought on “The Sandbox is Dead. Long Live the Sandbox!

  1. Tanker says:

    Until Google kills the newsgroups The Sandbox will not die.

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