Thursday, December 23, 2010

History: Jonas Quinn

The idea of a central network through which major page action would be arbitrated began in YKTTW. YKTTW, for those not aware, stands for "You Know That Thing Where". It's the place on the TV Tropes wiki where most new tropes are developed with the help of other tropers. It's not, strictly speaking, a requirement that new tropes be developed there, but most tropes that aren't end up being deleted from the site because of insufficient data for the page to be worthwhile.

Anyway, this was the original purpose of YKTTW, and this is the explicit sole purpose of YKTTW today, but this was not the case a few years ago. There wasn't a clear centralized area for page action at the time, so many proposals ended up being put on there for the peer input simply because your best shot at getting a response to a proposal of any type was to put it on YKTTW.

At least, this was the reasoning I used- I'm sure others thought along the same lines. I don't remember who made the first rename proposal on YKTTW or what it was about. It may have been me- I really don't recall. However, I do remember the first contentious issue, and it sums up most of the wiki's initial attitudes toward centralized page maintenance- Jonas Quinn.

Jonas Quinn is the name of a character from Stargate SG-1 who was notorious among fans of the show for being mostly the same character type as Daniel Jackson, who he replaced. This was one of the earliest renames and the first especially argumentative one I recall. Posts counts YKTTW proposals concerning the rename of Jonas Quinn often numbered into the seventies at the very least, and after the old arguments were forgotten someone else would start up a new one.

Jonas Quinn represented the first spirited defense of "quirky names" on the wiki. The name holds no meaning to anyone who's not a fan of Stargate SG-1. That would seem to make it a bad name, but it must be understood- at this time in the site's history, some of the most well-known tropes were The Other Darrin and Brother Chuck. These trope names are several decades old, coined by TV writers to refer to casting phenomenons they'd seen most obviously on Bewitched and Happy Days. These are the same kinds of meta-tropes as Jonas Quinn, so it's not surprising that some tropers thought it made sense to name the trope after a character from "our generation" so to speak.

Personally, I avoided the early Jonas Quinn debates. Primarily this was because the very existence of a debate implied a great deal of ambiguity to me. Yes, it was a bad name, but it held clear meaning to a lot of people. Its popularity was in a sense a vindication of itself as it managed to catch on in spite of all logic. I preferred then, and I still prefer now, to deal with debates that aren't particularly argumentative. There were plenty of terrible trope names that no one was really sorry to see go, and these were the proposals I spearheaded. I developed a simple rule that later caught on with the wiki proper- if a significant and vocal minority is against a major page action on a reasonable principle, then avoid action. To do otherwise is just kind of rude.

It should be noted that Jonas Quinn was eventually renamed to Suspiciously Similar Substitute, but this was long after the YKTTW phase of renaming was over with. I did participate in this rename, mostly because the name was the first alternative suggested that was actually pretty clever (it has added alliterative appeal). By that point wiki policy had made a sharp swerve against the existence of any character named tropes, so the rename actually went through. How wiki attitude on character named tropes was shaped in this matter to begin with I'll address in my next post.

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