Alexander Wallace: What made you want to found a new alternate history forum?
James Fitzmaurice: I wanted an alternative to AlternateHistory.com, specifically one that addressed the issues that had made me leave AH.com in the first place – the lack of accountability of the moderating staff, the lack of clarity in its rules, and the lack of consistency in their implementation. Considering AH.com's size and age its moderation is quite haphazard, so we're taking inspiration from SufficientVelocity instead. They're similar in scale to AH.com, but their moderation system is clear, exhaustively explained, and includes methods for reviewing moderator actions to hold them accountable.
AW: What do you plan to do differently from AH.com?
JF: Since AltHistoria started as an alternative to AH.com there's a lot that we're actually doing the same! I myself have been put off by other AH forums by their attempts to specialise in one area of AH or in one element of fiction that AH shares with other genres – so AltHistoria's just going to be a general AH and related fiction forum. The main difference at present is the plans for moderation, which I hope to hold the site's staff more accountable and make the whole thing more transparent. I'm dedicated to listening to the community of the forum however, so no doubt over time their influence will result in changes to the site making it significantly different from AH.com.
AW: You have interesting plans for how your own forum will be run; care to elaborate?
JF: We intend to take moderation a bit more seriously than most forums and include a formal system of appeals which can overturn moderator actions and tribunals which can remove moderators from office. Ideally this system will be robust enough that it can expand with the forum, and maintain the community's trust in the staff. Whilst we don't intend to make the forum fully democratic there are plans to involve the community in the moderation of the site, including public consultations on any rules changes before they take effect, and having elections for lower-tier moderators.
AW: How will you encourage those who might otherwise be primarily on AH.com to stay on your site?
JF: I must sound like a broken record, but mod accountability and community involvement in the moderation system are our main advantages at present. AltHistoria's forum software is also more modern and versatile than AH.com's, meaning that the site has and will have functionality that AH.com lacks. The ability to “like” posts is a basic example of this, but ProBoards has a variety of plugins and options to let us personalise this forum and make it more useful and unique.
AW: How will you encourage a sense of community on your site distinct from that of AH.com?
JF: Since the community on AltHistoria will be involved in the site's moderation and management decisions quite a lot, I'm hoping that AltHistoria will become a site made for the community, by the community. On AltHistoria members will find their needs and concerns are addressed readily and enthusiastically, hopefully making for a more active and happy community.
AW: How will you encourage writers and promote creativity on your site?
JF: This is a difficult one – as an artist myself I know it's difficult to force art and creativity, and I certainly don't want to try and coerce people into making art on AltHistoria! All we can do is provide them the space, tools, and inspiration to be creative and let them do as they will. We already have a fortnightly map contest on the site, and I hope that other contests and awards will emerge to inspire creativity and let AltHistoria's community express their appreciation for the artists among them!
AW: What do you think the future of online AH will be? Will AH.com continue its dominance, or will the community fracture?
JF: If there's one thing my interest in AH has taught me it's that you can't predict the future. AH.com certainly has a lot of momentum due to its age and size, but people are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the site as it becomes clear that its moderation and software are insufficient, so who knows? Empires can crumble for centuries before they finally fall.
AW: Do you think that the AH community will leave forums for other types of sites?
JF: I doubt it – forums seem like the logical place for AH hobbyists to interact with one another, discuss AH topics and media, and present their AH works to people who might be interested. The community does exist on other sites like deviantArt and tumblr, but forums seem the natural focus for community interaction.