RationalWiki: Reminiscence.

Post by Doctor Trent Toulouse.

A few weeks will mark another milestone for the site, 6 years! I had just started my graduate school program up in Canada. I was drawn to Conservapedia like a lot of people by the crazy news stories at the time. That tale has been told many a time in other forms, but in the end a large group of funny and interesting people would meet and be driven off. RationalWiki emerged in an attempt to try and maintain connections between this group of people that would not have met otherwise. I assumed it would probably be marginally used as a contact point and probably dissipate in a year or so if that.

The old RationalWiki server

The RationalWiki server (singular) up to 2010. It’s the box next to the monitor.

But then we decided to try and do something more with it. Rather than a mere hang out place we wanted to try and build something cool. We wanted to be a resource for information about all the crazy topics growing like an infestation on the internet. While at the same time not losing track of our original purpose. It was about building a lighthouse that said “Over here! There are people like you over here, having fun, hanging out, you are not alone!” That was what served as the reason for starting this site, and our “public” expansion was to bring that to anyone else out there lost in a sea of absurdity of fundamentalism and pseudoscience. It was about building a community. It didn’t take long for me to change my mind about our shelf life. I realized we were creating something that had some legs, could actually do something and be something worthwhile.

In many ways the history of RW has been tightly linked to my history as a grad student. Budget limitation of my stipend pushing us into a box in my one bedroom hole in the wall where RW lived under my last attempt at keeping a plant alive. When I stuck a hot pocket in the oven RW would risk going down, or the time my winter vacation took RW off the net for 2 weeks. But we survived it all and grew and prospered. RW provided hours of much wanted (though probably unneeded!) procrastination and provided much needed and wanted support and community in times where cold, dark and snowy Canada was winning its battle for my sanity.

As many already know last Friday I finished my graduate program (yes you CAN call me Dr.), and the fact that this site, and many of the people I started with, or grew to know along the way, are still here to celebrate with makes me quite happy.

While one chapter of my life is (finally!) over with, I am looking forward to seeing what new things we as a community can do to continue growing and being both a resource and an online home for rationalists everywhere.

The short version: you guys rock, thanks for what you have given me, and let’s be here in the future to give it to anyone else that needs it.

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