rabble turns 10! Our story: babble -- The heart and soul of rabble.ca

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On April 18, 2011, rabble celebrated its 10th anniversary. Highlighting 10 important moments of rabble's history over the course of our 10th year, current and former people involved with rabble have been asked to share their personal highlights from their time with rabble. This monthly rabble history series elaborates on some of the most common highlights submitted.

We also know that many of you have your own ideas of what the highlights of rabble's 10 years have been, and we want to know what you think. If you have thoughts on how you'd like to see us grow, please share as well in the comments section below.

babble -- Canada's oldest progressive online community

From the beginning, babble has been an integral part of rabble. Currently, with over 15,000 registered users, this dynamic community of outspoken activists have helped revolutionize the way we share and interact with news and ideas.

Judy Rebick, rabble's founder, admits that in the beginning she was not a big fan of babble. "Our first idea for rabble was as an independent news site but when I met with people across the country about the idea of an online progressive 'newspaper,' I asked that half of the group be under 30," she explains. "All the young people said, 'If it's not interactive, we are not interested.' So we decided to have a discussion board and hired a young woman who had been facilitating her own feminist board, Audra Williams, to animate it."

And so, babble was born, and was immediately a popular part of the site where users shared and analyzed news and information. Rebick says that babble's early success made her aware of the real power of the Internet and that she has come to appreciate it, calling it "the heart and soul of rabble."

Now recognized as the oldest progressive online community in Canada, babble's trajectory could not have been predicted. Tonya Surman, rabble's first and only business manager, recalls the surprise and amazement related to babble's early popularity. "We only imagined the community take up when we got started, but we were shocked at its robust response." To this day, the babble community keeps growing.

babble moderator Frank Preyde considers himself to be an old-time babbler and recalls the early days of babble as being a "Paris spring of sorts," having made friends that he still has contact with today. "We were a small and very close community of largely like-minded folk -- more tolerant of the less like-minded among us in those days, I should add -- trying to figure out and define this new cyber home," he recalls. "I guess I can't describe us better than saying we were friends. The occasional opportunity to meet some of these people in person was very special, and many remain friends to this day."

Meg Borthwick, also a babble moderator, has been with babble since the early days and recalls that forum topics used to be far less specific and content was more sparse than it is now. "babble was a much smaller community, and everyone there had the feeling that we were starting something important in progressive political discussion," she remembers.  

The initial babble forum topics were divided into four categories. 'What' consisted of news, politics, media and publishing, pop culture, activism and an open advice forum for babblers. 'Who' included holistic health discussions, employment and consumerism and things to see and do. 'Where' consisted of a sectional analysis of Canada -- east, west, north and central, and 'here' consisted of an open forum about anything called 'rabble reactions,' a reading group and a writers' circle. So, an array of topics had a place in babble.

Now, there are seven forums and over 30 different discussion topics on babble. These range from news, aboriginal issues, LGBTQ issues, the environment, sex workers' rights and youth issues to science and technology. As the babble community continues to expand, so do the issues and ideas that are discussed. As revolutionary as babble was when it was conceived, it is also the place where true progressive change is happening right now.

Noreen Mae Ritsema is an intern with rabble.ca and is the editor of the University of Manitoba Gradzette. 

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Comments

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