Every now and then you pass a milestone that is worth celebrating. Last week we had one of those. It is now over 12 years since On Line Opinion started life as a five articles once a month publication. Now, in our 12th year, we have published article number 12,000. That article was The war on terror – endgame by Kevin McDonald. I mention the article not because there was anything more exceptional about it than any other but because it exemplifies a few of the essential things about On Line Opinion that have helped to make it the most successful standalone opinion and analysis site on the Australian Internet.
One is that it wasn’t chosen to be number 12,000. That’s just where it ended-up when I did the count. So it is a randomly chosen representative of the quality of work on On Line Opinion and it stands up well. We try not to play favourites at On Line Opinion. Every article and every author is treated equally, so it was just luck of the draw that Kevin’s article ended-up where it was.
The article is written by someone with expertise in their area who brings new insights. That was our primary mission – not to reproduce the opinions of blowhard journalists and would-be public intellectuals, but to find and discover ideas that were relevant to readers who wanted to know what was going on, but didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it.
The author published it to his own blog first, but submitted it to us second. This will give the article a bigger audience than it would have had, and also direct increased traffic to the blog, so that in future the blog will also have a bigger audience in its own right. On Line Opinion is a retailer of ideas. We want to form networks between authors and readers, institutions and audiences, citizens and citizens. We can’t pay authors in cash, but we can pay them in kind by bringing them an audience.
This is the second piece we have published by this author. The first was in November 2006. Over the years we have built not just an audience but a community. People come back to OLO, sometimes after long periods, not just because of the ability to publish, but the ability to publish to a community. So far this article has attracted 23 comments, and while some of them are bracing, no doubt the author has got a better idea of what people get from his piece, and perhaps some weaknesses in his argument or his explanation. Writing is a lonely and speculative business, but the community at On Line Opinion can help to make it less lonely and risky for the writer.
As everyone should know, we’ve been experiencing some financial difficulty since we offended a number of activists who then intimidated advertisers by daring to publish an article that objected to gay marriage. We’ve survived thus far partly through the generosity of sponsors who have stepped into the breach, and partly through the work of volunteers who have stepped in to help edit and upload articles.
It’s great to know that there are other like-minded souls who believe that information and ideas should be free, and that even wrong ideas can have their place in the galaxy of argument; and that a society that doesn’t continue to wrestle with the question “What is truth” is one that has lost its soul.
We intend to keep On Line Opinion rolling, providing some small part of the soul of Australian culture, and pressing on towards many more years and many more articles.