I see John Quiggin is touting Thursday (give or take a few days) as the tenth anniversary of the birth of his blog. I can’t be even that precise, because this blog has been through several iterations, and the early days coincided with my marriage breakup so events tend to be a bit blurry. But Troppo certainly had its inception around about this time ten years ago.
I started it as a hand-coded solo blog called The Parish Pump in or about April or May 2002 (the archives no longer exist even in The Wayback Machine). My impetus to blog came from Tim Dunlop, who had been an active participant with me in a Yahoo! discussion forum run by Online Opinion‘s Graham Young. Tim started a blog and told me he thought I was an interesting writer who should also venture into the then (fairly) new blogosphere. I took his advice. From memory Tim Blair was already blogging too, but I’m not sure that any other currently prominent bloggers were posting as long ago as that.
After 2-3 months of solo hand-coded blogging I concluded that I needed to shift to one of the automated blogging platforms, and that I didn’t have the time to maintain a sufficiently frequent flow of posts by myself to retain a reasonable audience. Accordingly I moved The Parish Pump across to Blogspot on 18 August 2002,changed its name to Troppo Armadillo and turned it into a group blog.[1. Incidentally the reason for the armadillo theme (still evident on our header) is that I have always styled this blog as politically non-aligned (in a party sense) and “centrist” (whatever that might mean). The armadillo motif springs from a quote by American op-ed writer and humourist Jim Hightower: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow line and dead armadillos”.]
Early Troppo group authors included Darwin mate Wayne Wood and Geoff Honnor from Sydney. Both still comment at Troppo from time to time, Geoff more frequently than Wayne. I haven’t given up hope that both might one day make a comeback to active blogging rather than just commenting.
In early 2003 Troppo Armadillo shifted to a Movable Type platform hosted by Mark Gallagher, then on 4 June 2003 to another Movable Type platform hosted by Scott Wickstein, and a little later again to a WordPress platform hosted by the redoubtable Jacques Chester (who still hosts us, along with Catallaxy, Skepticlawyer and several other prominent Australian political blogs). Belated deepest gratitude to all three hosts (especially Jacques), all of whom have accommodated us free of charge and put in huge amounts of volunteer expert labour to keep Troppo running for ten years.
Only days after our rescue by Scott Wickstein, prominent academic historian Christopher Sheil joined the growing list of Troppo authors on 13 June 2003. Chris later moved on to start his own highly successful solo blog Back Pages, which he closed down after the 2004 election. Chris then moved briefly to Larvatus Prodeo group blog (see below) before moving back to Troppo in 2007- 9 and then ceasing blogging apparently permanently (although you never know).
Troppo took an even stronger leftward turn when Mark Bahnisch joined us in 2004 and posted prolifically before moving on to start the highly successful left-leaning group blog Larvatus Prodeo in 2005. As most readers will be aware, LP closed down only recently.
Of course, Troppo’s most prominent and prolific contributor has been Nicholas Gruen since he joined Troppo in March 2005 (2044 posts covering 292 pages and still growing), closely followed by the incomparable Don Arthur. Nicholas too has attracted a range of highly regarded economists to post at Troppo, including Paul Frijters and legendary veteran Fred Argy.
I’ve only been able to mention the most prolific and prominent Troppo authors here. There are many others who have made Troppo the vibrant home of civil and civic discourse that it mostly is. We’ve just re-established a drop-down archiving facility by author in the sidebar. Feel free to go and browse.
John Quiggin reflects on his blogging trajectory:
Inevitably, I’m not as excited as I was in the bright dawn of blogging, and the most optimistic hopes for the medium have not been fulfilled but after ten years I’m still not jaded or badly disillusioned.
I guess that also sums up my own feelings. But I’m still pretty enthusiastic about the potential and reality of the blog medium as a valuable part of the civic/democratic process, and I’m certainly proud of the part Troppo has played and continues to play in that process. I hope we last another decade at least.