Founded on 4 January 2003, the Politics Forum has now been running for thirteen years! Over a decade is a pretty long time for any forum to have been going, so I thought I'd take a moment to write about the community here.
Back at the start of 2003 I was searching for a place to discuss politics online myself, but I just couldn't find anything that looked even remotely decent. There certainly didn't seem to be any forums around at that time that had active communities dedicated to discussing international politics. Disappointed by my search I decided to just go ahead and start such a place myself. Starting a discussion forum is easy, but building it up into a large community and maintaining it is an exceedingly difficult task. I was helped out starting by three things: Firstly, we had a first-to-run advantage, and so we picked up a lot of members who were searching like me, but couldn't find anything else. Secondly, a forum I was involved with about the history of the USSR closed down temporarily shortly after I started, and a lot of the members jumped onto the Politics Forum. Thirdly there was a massive amount of interest in international affairs during our first year, when in March the USA and UK invaded Iraq.
The initial influx of members interested in Soviet history at first gave the community a very pronounced slant towards communism and socialism, but it wasn't too long before it became much more diverse. What I find interesting however, is that in all these years the community has never lost its ability to look at things from an "alternative" angle, rather than descend into constant party-politics. There have always been members ready to share knowledge of the broader picture on any given issue rather than dismissing things as typical of party X, while Party X's supporters blindly defend whatever it is.
The unique style of the community here has been greatly enhanced by its international nature. Although Americans make up by far the largest single contingent, there is no one nationality with an overall majority of members here - everyone is in a minority. The same goes for political opinions, with such a broad spectrum of views represented, the forum is not dominated by any one faction. I never find I have to read long before coming across an interesting insight or opinion that challenges assumptions I may have taken for granted. I feel that it is the ability of the members to continuously challenge the assumptions made in daily politics, to take nothing for granted, and always be demanding of evidence to support arguments that both keeps the community fresh, and drives up the standard. Consequently, the overall standard of debate has tended to remain very high and interesting to read for a decade.
It is the members of our community that have kept the Politics Forum alive and vibrant for 10 years, and the hard work of many generous volunteers who have kept the community largely free of the nefarious activities of flamers and spammers. You all deserve a huge thank you for making this such a great community. It truly is a unique place on the Internet.
Just for fun, I thought I'd finish with a little political career comparison. So far, the Politics Forum community has seen out:
One US President (George W. Bush).
One Chinese President (Jiang Zemin).
One German Chancellor (Gerhard Schröder).
One Indian Prime Minister (Atal Bihari Vajpayee).
One Russian President (Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev).
Two British Prime Ministers (Tony Blair and Gordon Brown).
Two French Presidents (Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy).
Six Japanese Prime Ministers (Junichiro Koizumi, Shinzō Abe, Yasuo Fukuda, Tarō Asō, Yukio Hatoyama, Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda).
May our community flourish as well in the next ten years as it has in the ten just gone. I look forward to seeing you all around!