It's addictive. It's amazing. It's a cut above the rest. It's getting me in trouble at work.
Comments like these are heard all the time as more and more people discover the little corner of the Internet called America's Debate. As a mature site of nearly five years, many people are unaware of the origins of America's Debate and how it established its position as the best in news, government, and political debate.
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked, and the seeds of America's Debate were sown. That evening, AD cofounders Mike and Jaime stumbled into the chatrooms provided by the two largest Internet service providers in the country. They had hoped to obtain a reasonably accurate impression of the nation's opinion on the events of the day, but what they found was appalling to them.
Emotion ran high, and logic and decency seemingly took the day off. Some people advocated the death of all Muslim and Arabic people. Others promoted the destruction of the entire Middle East. The level of racial and ethnic slurs was unbelievable. The frequency of profanity was despicable. The most tragic day in recent American history also seemed to be one of the most shameful days in recent American history.
Over the course of the next several months, Mike and Jaime continued their search for political discussion that was both reasonable and productive. They directed their attention toward the discussion forums provided by media outlets and personalities. Even venues endorsed, funded, and operated by those who claim to report facts contained excessive racism and profanity.
They then started researching political discussion sites that were funded and operated by political organizations. Again, they found that the available options were poor. The vast majority of the outlets provided by political organizations either had an obvious and understandable agenda, or limited their focus to very specific issues. They were not suitable for discussing the issues of the day.
Their attention turned next to political discussion outlets operated by private citizens. Much like the resources provided by political organizations, bias was obvious. It seemed as though the views of the owner dictated the prevalent bias of the discourse. There were very few sites that did not demonstrate significant partisan leanings. Many of the privately operated outlets contained more than their fair share of racism and profanity as well.
Following their research, Mike and Jaime arrived at several conclusions regarding the available venues for discussing news, politics, and government:
- Profanity was rampant
- Racism, ageism, sexism, and all the other "isms" were generally acceptable
- The leanings of the owner of the site were most likely the leanings of the entire site
- Very little was being learned or achieved
They knew the could do a better job, but they didn't know if they could afford the costs involved in running a website. After several months of research and an extensive sales pitch, Mike was finally able to convince Jaime that a debate site was a debt-worthy cause. On July 23, 2002, the domain "americasdebate.com" was registered, hosting was secured, and the construction of the site began. The site opened to the public a short nine days later.
On August 1, 2002, the doors of America's Debate swung open with little fanfare. There was no line at the door-- the site was completely unknown. Jaime and Mike crossed their fingers, and started debating each other as they had done countless times before, only this time on an empty forum.
Growth was slow at first, with new members trickling in. The 1,000-post milestone was reached on September 12, 2002, when the site had 73 total members. The 5,000-post milestone was reached at the end of November 2002. The need for a concrete set of rules had materialized by that point.
The first set of rules went into effect at the end of November 2002. They signified a shift away from a casual discussion forum, and towards a serious debate forum. Over time, the rules have been rewritten and refined. The rules establish a common-sense foundation for fair, reasonable, and productive debate.
At the beginning of December 2002, the volunteer staff began to take shape. A committee of members was formed to provide feedback regarding the site. The committee started slowly with only two members-- Cyan and Wertz. These two have provided immeasurable assistance and have helped shape America's Debate into its current form.
At the six-month point, America's Debate continued to push forward. With over 13,000 posts in over 1,000 unique topics by about 300 members, America's Debate appeared to be taking off. Growth was steady, and a chatroom was opened to promote a stronger community.
Live chats were scheduled around major political events at first, but quickly became a regular occurrence. The first of the recurring chats occurred in June 2003, and bimonthly chats continued to be a regular event until the launch of America's Debate Radio
. Today, the chatroom gets fairly regular use, even outside the scheduled chats.
The first anniversary of America's Debate in August 2003 was an exciting occasion. Growth had remained steady. The quality of debate continued to rise, spurred on by the diversity of the members. In an amazing non-partisan display of good will, members honored each other by participating in nominations and voting for the "Best of" America's Debate. A tradition was born.
The second year brought many milestones for America's Debate. The 1,000-member mark was exceeded, as was the 2,000-member mark. The total topic count grew to well over 7,000 unique topics. The cumulative post count grew immensely to exceed 115,000 posts.
The volunteer staff grew both in numbers and in dedication to meet the expansion of the site. With the goal of constructive debate, the staff put forth a collective effort second to none, and everyone at America's Debate has reaped the benefit of their hard work.
The second year at America's Debate also saw a huge increase in guests who come to read, but never register or post. Visitors from educational facilities increased to nearly one half of all visits. Equally as remarkable is the indication that people in high levels of government, as well as the mainstream media, regularly visit Americaís Debate. It is entirely possible that a post at America's Debate could influence public policy.
The third year at America's Debate saw expansion from all sides, fueled by the 2004 elections. It started with a staff expansion, adding Cube Jockey, Hobbes, and Julian to the Committee. A major technological upgrade and a completely redesigned website followed shortly after. An exclusive Resources Directory was built to allow the community to submit and rate their favorite political resources.
America's Debate hosted a hugely successful series of live chats that coincided with the presidential debates. Members and guests crept out of the woodwork and into the chat room in record numbers for discussion and commentary that was spirited and fast-paced, and often lasted long into the night. The forum remained very busy, as was expected during the build up and aftermath of a presidential election. Guest readership continued to climb at a steady pace through the election, and continued growing throughout the year.
With its fourth year complete, America's Debate continues to grow. We celebrated our first million-pageview month in August 2005, and have celebrated several more since. This represents a very significant milestone in readership.
A major technological upgrade was implemented throughout the site. This upgrade, aimed at increasing usability and at creating a more polished and intuitive experience, was performed with no major problems, and no major downtime.
The fourth year also saw the progression of America's Debate from text on the screen to sound coming out of your speakers. America's Debate Radio
, a live streaming broadcast, was launched. The show is different than most call-in talk shows. Instead of being focused exclusively around the opinions of the hosts, the show is focused around phone calls from members of the community. This exciting new feature has proven to be a lot of fun!
The fifth year of America's Debate began with a midterm election. Membership and readership continued to grow. The 2006 Fantasy Election
, a light-hearted spin on fantasy sports teams, proved to be a huge success.
America's Debate Radio
celebrated its first anniversary in January 2007, and continues to expand in both listenership and caller participation. Further expansion is expected. As the number of callers continues to increase, Live Caller-on-Caller debate will become much more common, taking America's Debate further beyond the original goal of civil, constructive debate.
In May of 2007, a major upgrade was performed on the site, helping to make America's Debate easier for the community to use, and easier for the staff to manage.
There are plans for a community focus group to solicit honest thoughts, comments, and criticism by America's Debate members, and there are plans for yet another staff expansion to help ensure fair moderation and high quality debate well into the 2008 Election and beyond.
The future truly holds limitless possibilities.
Jaime and Mike would like to thank the staff. America's Debate would be a lesser place without their collective desire to be the best, and everyone who participates reaps the benefits of their hard work and dedication. Jaime and Mike would also like to thank the members who have so graciously made financial contributions to America's Debate. Their support pays the bills, and they deserve a big thank you from everyone who participates here. Last, but certainly not least, Jaime and Mike would like to thank all of the members at America's Debate. Young or old, liberal or conservative-- the members at America's Debate are the finest around, and everyone deserves a round of applause.
This page was last updated on May 11, 2007.