Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Future of TV Tropes

When I first became aware of the TV Tropes website, I was enthralled. Fictional narrative is a significant influence on our collective culture and opinions. Tropes unconsciously shape many of our perceptions of the world, and are a topic worthy of study. The first edit I ever made was on the Incredibly Obvious Bomb page concerning the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare. To this day, I can come up with no explanation as to why the Boston police thought brightly colored LED displays were bombs except by using the "logic" of this trope.

Perhaps once the TV Tropes wiki really was about detailing this level of nuance- at this point, I honestly can't remember. I have heard about what has happened at the site since I was banned, and the direction administration has taken is not encouraging. Apparently, the true villain of the wiki is now negativity- which I suppose explains why the example I gave above, along with plenty of others, has been removed from the site. There's not really any way to describe the Boston Bomb Scare that doesn't make the Boston police look like idiots.

This de-emphasis on analysis is actually fairly fitting, all things considered. Those of you who have been reading this blog all the way through may note that multiple tropes come up in the story of TV Tropes quality control history- Selective Obliviousness, Fascist But Inefficient, Tautological Templar, Internal Retcon, You Know What You Did, and those are just off the top of my head. None of these tropes reflects particularly well on the character or institution that invokes them, and yet administrative staff continues to do so with no sense of irony.

Much of this stems from yet another trope- Protection From Editors. It's ironic, given the wiki context, but all too true. There are now enough TV Tropes purists who are adamant that the wiki is perfect as it is that any attempt to try to fix any of the wiki's multiple problems is doomed to endless gridlock, particularly now that criticism has been outlawed as a "subjective" statement. TV Tropes will now likely follow the path of countless legions of web sites that were clever at first, took a turn for the stupid, and now feel no obligation to improve quality because money equals success. It's a sobering future- and not one I would have previously thought inevitable.

Once an article was written about TV Tropes in the Los Angeles Times. Those were spirited days- the article made TV Tropes a "notable" website in the eyes of Wikipedia, and seemed to greatly bolster the web site's credibility as an academic institution. That day will be TV Tropes' high point. Back then, the site's flaws could be attributed to its relative youth. Today, administrative staff has deified these flaws because that's the way they've always been. No institution, academic or otherwise, is going to give serious scrutiny to a website that is incapable of improving its own content.

TV Tropes was a great idea- it still could be, provided that the objective was intelligent trope-related analysis. But the site's objective now, so far as I can tell, is to be an elaborate listing of a bunch of stuff that happened. Administrative staff are determined to keep it like this, and are prepared to ban anyone who gets in the way. It's a far cry from the days when we worried about a "let up the drop-bridge, all the cool kids are already in" mentality seeping into tropers with a few months' seniority.

I don't know what could be done about any of this, assuming anything can be done. Regardless, I was determined to see this blog through to the end when I started it, and that's exactly what I've done. This blog is to some extent my apology- I still feel crummy about the role I played in all of this, and trying to piece together what happened has been informative, although I've no idea how much good it will do. Hopefully this has provided some illumination as to how TV Tropes managed to get to its present point. I don't know who has much of an interest in all this, to be quite honest- I just hope that you're able to make better use of the knowledge than I was.

Monday, June 27, 2011

And So I Am Banned

I strongly object to the "off-topic" content being thumped. That part of the discussion was relevant and germane to the argument of whether or not Double Standard should be unlocked, and I'm going to explain how.

First, what --------- wrote that set this off was that he argued that the page should not be unlocked. Some of the evidence cited for this point was that my edit history is such that I have a history of "bad ideas". Other tropers promptly exclaimed that his post was inappropriate because it "attacked my character". That wasn't my response at all. I wanted to know why his argument was not being seriously considered on its own merits.
Throughout this discussion no one has argued that the page, as is written right now, is a good page. There has been no defense of the description, the examples, or the image. In fact, several tropers, even those opposed to unlocking, have cited specific examples of possible fixes that would substantially improve the article's tone.

The only argument presented this far for why the page should remain locked is the assumption that if released to the wiki proper, "nothing good" would come of this release, even though all admit that the page at present is at best imperfect. No evidence has been cited for why bad things would happen if the page was unlocked. In fact, the same arguments were presented against unlocking Barack Obama and Useful Notes / Atheism. None of the bad things prophesied have happened to either of those pages, and both have been substantially improved thanks to the Wiki Magic.

This brings us to ---------'s comments. Were they insulting to my person? Yes, but that's besides the point-
they were an actual argument. The OP clearly states that if this page were to be unlocked, I would re-write the Double Standard description in such a manner that I believe it would encourage editors to be more even-handed in tone. If my edit history is indeed controversial, then it stands to reason that whatever edits I make to the page would be to its detriment.

So far as I can tell, it's perfectly acceptable to tar the entire wiki proper with the broad brush of being troublemakers who will ruin a page like Double Standard given half a chance without so much as a whiff of evidence. I intuit this because comments along those lines were not deleted.
But, when --------- brings up an issue of competency as regards the only troper who's expressed an interest in rewriting the description, this is somehow crossing the line and warrants a massive thumping so that no even knows what was discussed?

I want a clarification on this point because you can't have it both ways. It makes absolutely no sense to punish someone for making relevant, substantiated claims about a single troper, but to declare broad, unfounded accusations against the hoi polloi fair game.

The above post is the one that I believe caused me to become "super-banned". I can't know this for sure, as per administration's policy of not explaining things, but given circumstance it's the most likely. This post is the final one of the thread Unlock: Double Standard. I backed this text up because I thought it would be thumped. I did not anticipate that reaction to this post would be as extreme as it was.

This proposal started the same as most of mine did. There were complaints on the discussion page about the way the page was written, but as the page was locked, there was nothing anyone could do to actually change the page. I offered an argument as to why the page should be unlocked- basically, I criticized many of the assumptions in the writing, and paid particular attention to the atrocious page image, which showed a bunch of Twilight fangirls with "we love Edward" signs or some such nonsense and the caption "if these were men they would be called pedophiles!"

At first the discussion was just bogged down in the regular silly paranoid minutae of Trope Repair Shop, and I didn't pay it much mind. That changed when a casual troper (whose actual handle is represented by --------- above) stated that because of a couple of negative comments on my discussion page, it stood to reason that I had bad ideas and that this was one of them. This person was swiftly chastised by the thread's forumites (though not the other casual tropers who didn't see what the big deal was). Then the original critical post and all others referencing it were promptly thumped.

This all happened a relatively short time after the forum-critical thread mentioned in my last post. This created a starkly absurd contrast. There were the moderators, who went to great lengths to avoid making coherent statements that could actually be translated into effective wiki stewardship. And here was a casual troper who, like most casual tropers, displayed frank, open opinions that could easily be understood. For this, the casual troper was thumped and any information that could explain why the thumping had occurred was also thumped.

Ever since my edit-ban I'd minced words when dealing with the moderators- I didn't have any choice, since they wouldn't explain what specific thing I'd done to warrant an edit ban. But seeing their ridiculous treatment of this casual troper, exactly the kind of person they claimed they wanted to have participate in Trope Repair Shop, put my patience at an end. I decided that if anything was worth risking a ban, it was this. If nothing else, I could force a conversation and a specific example on the troubling paranoia everyone on the wiki was starting to take for granted.

I did not anticipate, or was even aware, of the ban I ended up receiving. So far as I knew, there were edit bans (a user cannot edit), and IP bans (no access from a specific computer). The ban I was hit with only made it impossible to access TV Tropes using the specific "Some Guy" handle. This ban, coupled with the cutting of my contributor page, sent a very clear message- I was silenced. Which ironically enough wasn't that different from my edit-ban. It was just that this time, administration didn't have to put up the pretense that my opinions mattered.

All of the efforts I made in trying to improve the quality of the wiki's content were presaged on a simple assumption- that the moderators were reasonable people and would not ban people for disagreeing with them. I believed this was the case because as erratic as their behavior had been since I left the forums, I had still known them as Internet acquaintances for nearly as long as I had worked on TV Tropes. This, it was now clear, was foolish sentimentalism. I realized there wasn't any point in trying to fight the ban. No culture this hostile to divergent points of view could have any kind of meaningful scholarly future.

Friday, June 24, 2011

History: Wiki Headlines

Wiki Headlines are notifications that appear on the left side of any TV Tropes page. The headlines are an easy eye-catch that casual tropers could conceivably be willing to read, so once I became aware of this software, I headed to the Wiki Talk forum to see where they had come from and what was planned for them. I found that the software was not publicly discussed in the forums-most forumites were as surprised to see them as I was. But before I could think about the future of them, I spotted another thread of interest- a criticism of Trope Repair Shop.

A non-forumite was objecting to the dictatorial conduct of Trope Repair Shop in modifying major pages without any warning or discussion in the larger community. Within the first five posts, a moderator explained how the thread had been locked for being a "sour grapes" problem heard countless times in the past. The next post was the same moderator explaining how the thread had been unlocked because apparently a great many people were upset that this topic had been abruptly silenced.

Suffice to say, I was not optimistic about this thread's direction, and it wasn't long before things managed to get worse. The opening post suggested that by increasing crowner thresholds (say, a hundred overall votes, compared to the fifty then customary for major decisions) Trope Repair Shop could be less overbearing. This argument was dismissed, fairly reasonably, on the premise that getting anyone to vote in the crowners was difficult enough already, and that such an increase would only make Trope Repair Shop more inefficient.

I was relieved to read this, since an open admittance and acceptance of the premise "the crowners are flawed" could lead to some genuinely useful reforms. But in the truly bizarre debate that followed, multiple forumites and some moderators defended the crowner system anyway, blaming the passage of unpopular reforms on those who did not vote. I'd like to iterate that the keystone of the opening post's complaint was that no one outside of Trope Repair Shop had any idea what Trope Repair Shop was discussing.

From there the thread just seemed to amble in random directions, where any argument negatively brushing Trope Repair Shop was dismissed as opinion unless some sort of factual proof could be offered. The definition of "fact" in this context was fungible- neither the consistently low crowner votes nor the poor solved page action ratio seemed to count. This is before even getting into the question of how exactly one can "prove" bad writing exists- at best we can prove opinions exist, and apparently some (but not all) opinions can turn into facts if enough people believe in them.

This entire debate had taken a bad turn for the toxic and ridiculous- one poster even pointed out the unsettling pattern of these entrenched debate points, citing an ongoing Trope Repair Shop discussion where a person is at first ambivalent to a rename, but then reads the guidelines and quickly becomes defensive and argumentative to any criticism of the trope's name, demanding evidence to prove misuse. Later in the thread another poster admits to engaging in demoralization tactics- technical arguments, then ignoring the thread in the hopes it's forgotten. None of this makes any headway.

The biggest obstacle to convincing anyone that problems in Trope Repair Shop exist is that it all sounds superficially contradictory. How can Trope Repair Shop be both dictatorial and incapable of action? General incompetence, unfortunately, explains both of these fairly easily- a contentious thread with lots of posts has enough "consensus"to get through, even if the anti side has merit. But lesser-known, obscure pages, those most likely to have been written by an inexperienced writer fully expecting that someone would Wiki Magic away the flaws, can never get meaningful consensus, even when all they need is a clarificatory paragraph. I tried to posit evidence for this claim by posting pages I had originally written that I thought were far from perfect that had somehow gotten onto the stale discussion report since the last time I saw them. The only response to this point was why I hadn't fixed these pages myself.

A depressing thought occurred to me. If any of these ardent defenders had put a fraction as much effort into fixing pages as they did rationalizing the current flawed quality control protocols, casual tropers would probably have some actual confidence in the system. I had, by this point, forgotten about the Wiki Headlines altogether. New wiki software couldn't fix TV Tropes' increasingly sophist culture. And by the day, it was getting harder to see how actual people could fix it either.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Infrastructure: Locked Pages

Locked pages are not a concept exclusive to TV Tropes. Most large wikis possess this infrastructure to control pernicious editing. While the general wiki principle of "anyone can edit" usually works, it's a simple fact of life that most people are idiots and will eventually behave stupidly if given the chance. The locked page mechanism on TV Tropes works to protect pages from petty edit wars and untoward behavior by simply not allowing anyone in to edit the page.

Where TV Tropes differs from most wikis is the length of the page lock. Most wikis will unlock a page once enough time has passed for the involved parties to calm down. At TV Tropes, locks stay up indefinitely. This started out mainly because of indolence. Only administrators (to begin with, at least) have the ability to unlock pages, and given all the things an administrator has to do, it's easy to see how they could just forget to unlock pages, particularly since they could easily be at risk for petty sniping as soon as they're re-opened.

Over time, though, tropers from all over the wiki would run into random locked pages and were mystified as to why they were locked, since no explanations were ever given for these states of being by administration. Eventually this manifested into paranoia. As tropers increasingly saw problems of the wiki being a result of the nefarious actions of other tropers, it was a small leap for them to conclude that these same other tropers were such a danger to certain pages of the wiki, that the pages had to be locked up just to protect them from whatever damage such other tropers would perpetuate upon them.

I've been aware and accepted this attitude for almost as long as I've known about locked pages- it's an easy attitude to acknowledge. I started to question its validity when a discussion broke out on the page of Metroid: Other M shortly after its release when some tropers suggested locking the page to keep it from being wrecked by the Metroid: Other M hatedom, wherever they were- this page hadn't experienced significant damage yet. When other tropers objected to this, I found myself agreeing with them- locking a page should be a last, not first resort. Especially for a title like Other M, which was criticized mostly because of its perceived poor use of tropes.

The page was not locked, mostly because I don't think an admin ever saw the discussion- admins, after all, were the only ones who could change "locked" status. Consequently, when I returned in basic capacity to the forums, I realized I could try to alleviate some discussion page complaints of "why is this page locked" by taking the matter up in the forum. My first target was the Barack Obama page. Conventional wiki wisdom stated that political pages were just too dangerous to edit, but I had previously rewritten the Sarah Palin page in a way to make it more relevant to tropes, and indeed, the very fact that a non-vandalized Sarah Palin page existed to begin with seemed to prove that relevant pages about political figures could be created.

In Trope Repair Shop there was opposition to the page being unlocked for the same reasons already mentioned- a fear that political people would come to the page and somehow ruin the site. I attempted to dispute this on the grounds that there was no proof this would happen (see, again, the Sarah Palin page), but this went nowhere. Fast Eddie didn't seem especially convinced, either- until someone arguing against me actually made a statement, nearly explicitly, to the effect of "we can't give those nebulously defined other people a chance to ruin the site!" This statement was so extreme and counter to the wiki's "anyone can edit" principles that Fast Eddie unlocked the page right there.

Unlocking pages is surprisingly easy, all things considered. Even though only an admin can unlock pages, the nature of this authority can easily force some sort of decision to be made, because either the page is unlocked or it isn't, and the person who makes this decision can't be second-guessed because he kind of runs the wiki. Contrast this with consensus, which has an extremely vague authority and seems to be redefined to fit whatever discussion it happens to be brought up in.

Incidentally, Fast Eddie isn't the only person who can unlock pages- he's simply the only one likely to, because moderators with unlock abilities run the risk of offending him if they try to make a decision he disagrees with. Of course, I had to worry about that, too- I only made four or so unlock proposals, spread out over time and only made by direct request. I didn't want anyone to think that I was strongly challenging a core wiki idea, even if it was an idea as unsavory as paranoia against fellow tropers. Such challenges to operating procedure were indeed dangerous, as I was soon to find out firsthand.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

History: CROWBAR

I had realized that much of TV Tropes quality control protocols and policies were not working. Unfortunately, any attempt I made to seriously broach these topics in the forums met with failure- before any discussion could even start as to whether to fix the problems, most of the time forumites simply refused to acknowledge that any problems existed. At best they would acknowledge the problem, but simply assume it was a problem that would always exist and thus there was no way of stopping it. In an effort to try to force some sort of action on the wiki's issues I tried to develop an in-wiki organization called CROWBAR.

CROWBAR (Coalition for the Restoration of Original Wiki-Based Article Repair) was based on the same basic principles as SPOON (Society for the Prevention of Overly Original Names), an old wiki-based organization whose members made a proactive effort on YKTTW to discourage non-intuitive names from being used for titles. CROWBAR was envisioned, like SPOON, as having no real power, and would serve primarily to show that a broad variety of tropers did not like the often arbitrary enforcement of trope repair protocols.

The single greatest obstacle to making any headway in the forum is the dogged insistence by forumites in general and moderators specifically that no real opposition to the quality control protocols exist. Every time I or anyone else wrote something to the effect of "lots of people on the wiki are real cheesed off about the way Trope Repair Shop operates", proof would be demanded that such tropers existed, since they did not participate in these forum discussions. A membership list I could point to and say "here is a list of people who want change" was about the only response I could think of that would satisfy this demand.

Now, it must be noted that the moderators were not so dense as to claim that no opposition existed- criticism of the wiki exists outside it, and every so often a disgruntled casual troper creates an accusatory thread in Wiki Talk. These dissidents were dismissively labelled as "sour grapes". This term came up so often and with so little explanation I think it's likely another product of clandestine moderator conversations.

Unfortunately, my plan ultimately failed. The first, and main obvious reason for this was a failure on my part to accept basic troper psychology. Not everyone knows very much about what exactly goes on in Trope Repair Shop- indeed, many tropers primarily blame Fast Eddie for the wiki's problems, when in reality most of his decisions (or lack thereof) take their lead from discussions in the forums. Beyond that, I've already mentioned how many tropers have no idea any problems exist because they only visit one part of the wiki where (as far as they know) no problems exist.

There was another darker element to my failure as well. Many of the individuals I asked refused to sign up for CROWBAR because they were scared of being banned. These were primarily forumites- not in Trope Repair Shop, but in the more communal forums like Yack Fest, It Just Bugs Me, and Roleplaying. Try as I would to convince them that such a fear was unreasonable, that no one had been banned for openly discussing wiki direction, some valued the community too much to take that risk anyway.

Incidentally, these reasons are why this blog does not mention any wiki handles save for my own. If tropers are really scared of reprisals, I have to respect their wishes. Admittedly, I had already been banned once, and I knew I was taking a risk trying to recruit anyone. I wanted at least a couple dozen troper handles signed up before I made a page simply to insure that the whole enterprise wasn't dismised as "sour grapes". I never made that quota- finding dissident tropers to contact was difficult enough, but I also still dedicated most of my TV Tropes time to trying to edit pages into a more readable form. I was increasingly getting the feeling that if I didn't do this work, no one else would.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Culture: Example Organization

Examples are classified alphabetically by genre, mainly because when pages got large enough that example sorting became confusing, this was the main obvious way to classify them that anyone could think of. This was an effective solution for trope pages which are, after all, the main part of the wiki, though eventually example listings grew to be so long that folderization infrastructure, which allows for the opening and closing of individual example groups, had to be developed. But none of these innovations carried over to works pages, which were still as large and unwieldy to read as ever. Many casual tropers would complain about this state of affairs. I also considered it less than ideal, and so decided to do something about it.

In my last effective attempt to try and reform wiki policies, I proposed a new rubric by which to organize examples. Rather than simply making the whole thing completely alphabetical, pages could be organized into lists of tropes that fit a certain category. "Setting" tropes to describe the universe of a series, "Narrative" tropes to describe events that happen during the course of a series, "Meta" tropes to describe critical reactions to a series, and so on.

This had been a long-standing problem, which had already been somewhat solved accidentally by the development of character sheets. Early on in forum history, a dispute had arisen over Neon Genesis Evangelion character pages- pages constructed a long time ago by a fan of the series who described the characters metaphorically and critically in the narrative. These pages did not match the general format of TV Tropes as it developed. After protracted discussion, it was decided that rather than delete the pages, they would be repurposed into character sheets which would describe various individual characters in a series. These new pages were ignored for some time, until casual tropers picked up on their existence to solve the page length problem, moving character-centric tropes to the sheets so they would take up less room on the main page. My proposal functioned on the same basic principles.

The classification system I proposed had another advantage. Effective spoiler use has been a chronic enigma for most tropers, and this new schema did a fairly good job of negating the need for spoiler tags. After all, if you're reading the "Narrative" section of a page, chances are, there are going to be spoilers there. So no need for unsightly spoiler tags.

The proposal languished in Wiki Talk. I think overall there were twelve posts in the relevant thread, including my own. As usual, tepid support was offered, but nothing definitive, not even any objections. Actual progress was only made when a moderator made an offhand comment that the Gunnerkrigg Court page had been using a similar schema for quite some time. I seized on this, stating that as my justification for enacting these changes, a moderator's favorite series page had used this schema for some time with no objections, therefore, it must be all right.

If this sounds like a completely ridiculous argument, well, it kind of was. Unfortunately, I had found that when I came back to the forums, issues like content, efficacy, and pragmatism had even less relevance to page action justification than they did before I left. The main guiding principles were precedent, consensus, and whether the proposed change followed the rules. This was problematic, considering the existence of purges, the ambiguous nature of consensus, and an insistence by administration that rules did not exist.

The situation was so dysfunctional I had no expectation that any forumites would help- I knew I would have to perform the changes to various pages myself, and hope that casual tropers would catch on to the effectiveness of the organization and repeat it on their favorite series pages. The best I could hope for was that no one would try to prevent me from making changes based on some unfathomable abstract reasoning. Suffice to say, even though I wasn't banned. I still found the current state of quality control protocol to be rather incorrigible. With this in mind, I came up with a plan to try and force forumites to acknowledge the sorry state of affairs the wiki was in so we could do something about it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Infrastructure: Reviews

The only major cultural effort to try and combat complaining in TV Tropes since the failure of Darth Wiki was the the creation of the wiki's review infrastructure. The theory behind it was pretty basic- if the wiki is not supposed to have subjective opinions, but people still want to air these opinions, then they can be placed on a new part of the wiki where any degree of subjectivity is allowed and appropriate.

I participated in the discussion leading to the implementation of this infrastructure, and was glad to see it appear. I wrote several reviews myself and planned to write more, but as is often the case, I found the reviews to just not be as important as the many other ways I could spend my time trying to deal with various quality control issues, and just ended up forgetting about it unless I really wanted to write a review for the odd work of fiction that didn't have any already. I don't know if I ever read any reviews myself, save for the occasional curiosity about others' opinions.

In spite of all this, I still believed in the basic principle of the reviews infrastructure and believed to some extent that it worked. This changed when on one occasion in the discussion pages, I found a dispute over some trope listings for a TV show. An unknown troper was arguing that the show is objectively So Bad Its Horrible, and very hostilely defended editing the offending line back in when others tropers tried to take it out. Rather than try to argue with this person, I simply wrote that the Edit War was going to be stopped, via moderation if necessary, and that if this person really hated the show so much it might be wise to write a review, since it didn't yet have one. The person kept being belligerent and hostile, so I reported the page to the moderators- the only time I ever had to do so.

This unknown troper didn't give a reason for not writing a review. Which, unfortunately, ended up being the real takeaway from all this- most tropers would never even consider reading or writing a TV Tropes review, preferring to work in the wiki proper instead. That troper, aside from this particular bout of offensive editing, made fairly decent factual, compressing edits. Abstractly, this was exactly the kind of person who ought to have been amenable to the idea of reviews, but ended up being banned instead.

The review portion of the wiki was doing fine last time I saw it, but particularly on reflection it's quite obvious that it has failed its intended purpose. Rather than affecting the way people edit in the regular part of the wiki, it's just another fun little feature / community of TV Tropes. Many find the idea of reviews to be interesting. This does not mean that they think of it as having anything to do with the main site except to the extent that Wiki Words can be put inside the reviews.

Comparing review infrastructure to the many changes that have taken place a TV Tropes over the past few years, it's hard to escape a pattern. People come up with lots of ideas on what to do, and some of them are implemented by the admins, but the actual results of all this are a complete crapshoot. The typical forumite discussion of what major changes to implement involves about as much mental focus as used by a bunch of buddies drinking booze trying to decide what to do over the weekend. Given that the wiki is maintained entirely by volunteer work, this is about as well as can be expected.

In fact, it's not even necessarily a bad thing- in terms of driving traffic to the wiki, the review section is likely a boon compared to the work involved in making it. However, the fact still remains that it did not achieve the goals it was intended for. I'm not sure any broad concept developed like this even could hope to do much for wiki development save for increasing traffic. Well, the TV Tropes Interactive Text Game might have, since its explicit purpose was to teach willing tropers about effective editing. That project ended up falling apart, though, because not enough scripts were written to create a final game- that, and awareness of it almost certainly plummeted once the forum thread died. The longer a project takes, the less likely it is to be finished on TV Tropes. This is a bit of a problem, since quick solutions seldom work for very long.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

History: The Situation

In late October of last year, the wiki was brought to a brief crisis point. Google had withdrawn their ads from the site. Various TV Tropes funding sources were such that, without the Google ads, there was only about enough money at any given time to cover one more month's worth of expenses. The voiceless, unexplained reason behind why Google removed the ads was because the content was not "safe"- that it was in some way explicit.

Naturally, the prospect of TV Tropes disappearing after a month panicked nearly everyone. I mainly expressed annoyance at the hotlinked Google search bar that was in place of the official Google search bar, which had been revoked with the ads. This was briefly replaced with a Bing search bar, which was hated so much that the hotlinked Google search bar was put back up, then the official one when Google restored its ads. I didn't like the Google search bar to begin with and didn't see why TV Tropes was relying on an extra-wiki source for any significant part of operations instead of just using our own internal search bar.

As far as the "explicit content" thing goes, I'm afraid I was quite completely ignorant. While I tried to make myself into a person who could understand as much of the wiki's various factions as possible, the reality is there was plenty of the wiki I ignored simply because I had no idea what to do with them. Troper Tales is the main such obvious place. I'd read the original forum discussion that resulted in the creation of Troper Tales, but that was about it. I couldn't rightly take seriously the idea of random, unverifiable anecdotes even existing on the wiki, so I just pretended they didn't exist.

Pretty much anyone who took the wiki as seriously as I did did the same. So, especially in retrospect, it's easy to see how these largely unmoderated parts of the wiki went downhill. Troper Tales pages seldom have discussion, and are only very, very rarely discussed in the forum. The only one I can ever remember showing up there was the Troper Tales Brother Sister Incest page. And even this one I ignored- I still feel a little disgusted inside even knowing that such a thing existed, and I didn't much want to acknowledge it further either by reading the thread or the page.

While the Google Ads controversy was deemed The Situation (mainly so it could have its own Wiki Word), the entire episode demonstrates in retrospect, a very unsettling facet of the wiki- complete obliviousness. All of the panicked tropers posting in the forum thread topic on The Situation were completely surprised by Google's decision to pull the ads. They worked diligently to remove all "unsafe" material from the wiki once it was clear this was what Google wanted. Which material in particular I have no idea- aside from my consternation over the search bar I didn't have much opinion on the matter. The parts of the wiki I was looking after were fine, so surely someone else somewhere else was causing the problem and needed to fix it.

If this attitude sounds egotistical and stupid, well, it kind of was. Unfortunately, I wasn't the only person to hold it. Everyone, from moderators to casual tropers to specialized editors will look at one part of the wiki, and assume that part is acceptable. If they find something they don't like, they either leave the wiki in disgust or just ignore pages with a similar theme and stick to the pages they're sure they'll like. This re-enforcing attitude is almost certainly what caused The Situation to begin with- people posted obscene anecdotal conversations in a place that is not supposed to have obscenity, anecdotes, or conversations, and the worst thing that ever happened is that these tangents received their own namespace.

The implications and potential for complicity in these situations are easy to pinpoint. At one point, because tropers kept asking "how do I make a new Troper Tales page?", I stopped answering them and simply added a paragraph on the Troper Tales page explaining the process. So for all my good intentions, I probably played a part in causing The Situation myself. There were some basic assumptions of wiki operation that even I was unwilling to question, even if I didn't particularly like them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Culture: Wiki Word

For about as long as I can remember the wiki has been filled with Wiki Words that don't fit into any sensible category of "trope" or "work". This Troper, for example, was often used in trope examples to mean "I". Most tropers realized that on a wiki, use of the pronoun "I" was gauche, and rather than make the inference "because articles are supposed to look like they were written by the same person", they thought "if I just use a TV Tropes-specific pronoun that should be fine." Similarly, I Am Not Making This Up was shorthand for "emphasis on improbability", and "X Just X"meant "so self-explanatory I don't need to explain it".

These phrases became popular through imitation. People saw the words in pretty blue links on the wiki, assumed they were regular turns of phrase, and so they reproduced these memes themselves. It's not a process that allows for much aforethought- I used them myself after I first saw them, but after about a month I was struck by how ridiculous they sounded and swore them off, mainly because they were rhetorically lazy. X Just X in particular- kind of the entire point of the wiki is to explain things, so either the example immediately makes a mockery of itself by explaining anyway, or it's a worthless example for those not already familiar with it.

As simple an explanation as that is for why these phrases existed, I never really thought about these terms psychologically. I did think in the general trope repair mode of "users are ruining the wiki by turning everything into a stupid in-joke" because, particularly in the forum environment, this kind of combative, blame-centered thinking is very popular, albeit only against people not actually in the forum as forumites could get their feelings hurt by reading mean words. It certainly is an easier way of looking at the problem, anyway. This Troper and I Am Not Making This Up were dealt with via extreme prejudice- after multiple extended discussions, the Wiki Words were permanently redlinked and forbidden to ever be mentioned again.

However, with X Just X, at some point the original content of the page was removed entirely and replaced with a detailed explanation as to why X Just X is unoriginal and stupid. When I saw this, I made my own contribution to the page, putting a disclaimer at the bottom with bolded words stating outright that this Wiki Word was to be deleted on sight, especially if whoever was reading this page had come from another page where it was used as a Wiki Word. Overall, it wasn't that long before the problem disappeared- all over the wiki usage of X Just X simply disappeared until it was negligible.

I don't know who made the decision to modify X Just X in this way- there was nothing in the discussion pages, the forums, or the page history explaining this. But it was difficult to argue with the fact of this action's success. With substantially less energy than it took to get rid of I Am Not Making This Up or This Troper, an extremely annoying wiki tic was nearly completely eliminated without even any real complaints. To me, this was a plank worthy of emulation- if a phrase is being misused, rewrite the page to counter this complaint. The (not Wiki Worded) phrase "not to be confused with" was often used on pages with broad titles to similar effect.

This reasoning appeared throughout my detailed proposal for TV Tropes action, as well as in other later proposals I suggested for dealing with problem pages (Nightmare Fuel in particular was a chronic one). In all cases the forum was adamantly opposed, again on the philosophical grounds of "major page change needs consensus" and "making up rules is bad". This opposition seemed to be concerned about a slippery slope toward controversial page actions- after all, if a page is in bad enough shape to warrant one major change, next thing it might be renamed, all of which would necessitate long, painful arguments.

There was a time when that argument would have held weight with me. But having spent time interacting with regular editors, I had found that most tropers were perfectly willing to entertain reasonable explanations for page action and didn't dwell on it overmuch if they were given it. Some, for certain, felt that the removal of This Troper "ruined the wiki", but they were simply a loud minority that probably would have fell silent if they were made aware of the "articles should look like they were written by the same person" rule. Regardless, the forums I had returned to were terrified of conflict, or more specifically, of having to respond to conflict. Keeping the peace was now a priority over creative solutions.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Factions: The Moderators

In my previous post, I made mention of "restricted access" forum threads. While that phrasing makes the matter sound immaterial, I had had no idea that these existed until I started searching for the source of the complaints that led to my edit-ban. Generally speaking I'm quite sure regular wiki-goers aren't supposed to know these threads exist- I was only able to verify their existence by running searches on individual user posting history and whenever I tried to ask a moderator what exactly these things were and when they appeared they simply refused to answer.

The existence of these restricted access threads was troublesome to me. Much of the forum's authority, indeed, even the foundation of the wiki's notification system, was based on transparency. And yet in my specific case, moderators found it necessary to engage in an extended discussion about my miscreant behavior without bothering to tell me what my miscreant behavior was. It still baffles me as to how they could possibly believe that they could resolve the "Some Guy" problem better by speaking to each other rather than engaging me directly. Whatever it was they discussed in that thread became lock-step from there on out- multiple moderators in completely different contexts used the phrase "stomping on Trope Repair Shop" to mean "whatever Some Guy is doing at this moment that I don't like". I rather doubt they came up with this phrase independently.

This wasn't something that only affected me. By cross-referencing threads in Wiki Talk that appear in user posting history versus the ones that appear on the public Wiki Talk forum trawl I found that many significant changes in the wiki were clearly discussed in restricted access threads but not the wiki proper. At one point out of nowhere an announcement was made that major TV Tropes changes would be announced at Twitter, of all things, in an account only the moderators would have access to. This idea may have been so ridiculous it was eventually abandoned, since I can only ever remember being told to check the Twitter once when I had an explicit question.

All in all, the time between when I left the forums and when I was edit-banned was only about four months, the ban being lifted in late August of 2010. I don't know how long these threads have existed, or more importantly, whether their scope has changed significantly over time. All I'm sure of is that before I left the forums, there was almost always an easy trail leading to actions taken by moderators. As time went by all changes, be they by user or wiki-wide, became more and more difficult to pinpoint to an original source.

With these restricted access forum threads, the moderators had become something I had never anticipated seeing in TV Tropes- their own faction. Unfortunately, a faction of moderators has far more potential to be dangerous than, say, a faction of Twilight fans. In the latter case, at worst, you get some poorly written wiki entries that can be easily fixed by any competent editor. In the former, you have a group of editors operating with the implicit and possibly explicit blessing of Fast Eddie, the sole remaining administrator. With these restricted access forum threads, the moderators have an exclusive audience with him- even ignoring moderator powers, this gives them disproportionate ability to influence wiki direction.

There were some caveats to this. I found that one moderator was not involved in discussing the "Some Guy" problem- this turned out to be the same cut master that caused me to leave the forums. Later on, Fast Eddie had removed this person's powers because of a rude response made to Fast Eddie in a forum thread. Once it was clear that this person was the reason why the cut list remained under control, the cut master powers were restored, but an unmistakable message was sent that day- Fast Eddie gave the moderators their powers, and he could take them away. While they have Fast Eddie's ear, Fast Eddie has their necks.

The other notable thing about this cut master was that, while this person did not particularly like me, at the same time, the cut master did address me on occasion in the discussion pages when our paths coincided. The rest of the moderators were not so bold, instead bringing grievances to Fast Eddie directly. At heart, they may have just been insecure tropers all along. Even though almost all of the moderators participated in the thread regarding the "Some Guy" problem, none of the ones with the ability to apply edit bans did so to me, eventually getting Fast Eddie to do it himself. Going straight to Fast Eddie for an opinion is the fast track to validation- his word, his fiat, is essentially wiki law. With that, they would not have to worry about the consequences of acting rashly and banning one of the founding developers of the wiki's quality control protocol.

Monday, May 30, 2011

History: Notifications (Part II)

The first thing I did upon finding out that I was banned was try to locate the source. After some investigation I sent a private message to the moderator who had started the restricted access forum thread helpfully titled "Some Guy". I had plenty of questions- why was I banned, what was the content privately discussed in this thread, and more particularly why this individual, who had only been a moderator for a few weeks, accepted my congratulations at being promoted yet felt it necessary to complain about me behind my back. This moderator only gave vague answers to these questions, exhorting me to "talk about what you've been doing, since it involves the whole wiki."

In the discussion pages I'd had a hand in discussing and enacting modification in regards to a very wide variety of problems, any one of which could conceivably "involve the whole wiki". I decided that since this moderator wasn't going to give me a clear answer, I would respond by detailing nearly every problem and possible fix for wiki issues that I could possibly think of. Suffice to say, this was a long forum post- but since one of the few specific charges against me was that I eschewed discussion, I felt it necessary to make clear that anyone who thought I was unwilling to engage in serious discussion was sorely mistaken.

This forum thread ran for a fairly long while - over a hundred posts - but few of my ideas had any traction. This had little to do with the content of the ideas- mostly they were just proposals for administrative pages that would clearly answer questions I had seen posed repeatedly in the wiki proper. Rather, the objection was over the idea that TV Tropes write down any clear guidelines to begin with. TV Tropes is supposed to be an informal environment, and telling people to do anything goes against its style.

The argument mystified me. I'd always thought of TV Tropes as an open-source encyclopedia in need of constant correction and repair because most of its users are writing amateurs. Indeed, the very existence of Trope Repair Shop seemed to bolster this point- unless there are some sort of standards to enforce, it's hard to imagine under what grounds any trope could possibly be modified or changed in any way. I requested a clarification on the purpose and authority of Trope Repair Shop, not just in regards to this point but also to get an explanation for how I could possibly "stomp all over" the authority of Trope Repair Shop when neither I nor anyone else knows what the authority of Trope Repair Shop is. The first point met with a strict interpretation of the When To Rename A Trope page- which aside from only being about renames was also almost completely unchanged from when I first wrote it one and a half years earlier. To use this, of all pages, as evidence against me was the height of absurdity. The second point was forbidden from discussion as the thread was about TV Tropes writ large, not my specific situation.

This was exactly the kind of exhausting, purposeless argument about nothing that made me leave the forums in the first place. So when Fast Eddie offered a compromise, automated notification of all pages linked in either Trope Repair Shop or Image Pickin', I quickly accepted it even though it had almost nothing to do with any of the issues I had actually brought up in the opening post of the thread. I did mention at some points how the current notification system wasn't working, but mainly to illustrate how forumite thinking was flawed, not to suggest that it be salvaged.

The "upgraded" system caused notifications to automatically appear on a page provided a Wiki Word is provided in the "page being discussed" portion of thread creation in the two relevant forums. This wasn't necessarily a bad solution, in that it brought about consistency, but I realized the flaw in the new notification system almost immediately. The only way for a notification to be removed is for a moderator to lock the thread, and the moderators would only lock threads that had been clearly resolved. Trope Repair Shop does not clearly resolve problems. As a result, as I expected, the stale discussion report which kept track of threads created under the new system quickly ballooned out of control as far more new proposals were being created than old ones were being locked.

As a result of this, Trope Repair Shop became more transparent, but not in a good way- most notifications lead to ancient unresolved threads, so most who click on notifications discover a Trope Repair Shop that is incapable of solving problems. Of course, this was a long term problem- in the short term, I at least had my editing abilities back, and I had acknowledged some authority was invested in the forums. With this and what I had learned from working in the discussion pages in the last four months, I could try to work at changing the system. At least, that was what I thought at the time.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

History: TV Tropes Newsletter

Back when I was still working in the forums, I once broached the idea of creating a TV Tropes Newsletter as a possible way of keeping various factions of the wiki informed. The concept was pretty simple- once a week, a newsletter would be published containing all the major page changes that had been enacted on the wiki in the past few weeks. Additionally, special interest stories would be written and submitted to entertain prospective readers beyond mere recitation of facts. The idea was popular, and several tropers were eager to help. It even had official approval from both wiki administrators.

However, the idea fell through. Mostly this was my fault. I was never fully satisfied that there was enough interest to make the newsletter work, and no one definitive agreement was reached on the exact format it should take. While I ended up writing a trial issue and a general template, this was all I did. As the forum thread slowly died off I simply forgot about the project and ended up redirecting my energies elsewhere.

Later on, when I had gotten to working in the discussion pages, I ran across a newsletter section that included my prototype newsletter as well as several other, obviously newer ones. After some research, I discovered that the newsletter project had been revived by another troper who had done something that I, back when I participated in the forums, would never have thought to do. Faced with a situation where there was an obviously good idea with no clear execution, he simply used the existing format to build a newsletter and assumed the right pieces would fall into place later.

The newsletter was not fantastic, but it achieved its stated purpose. It detailed various events around the wiki in an interesting enough way that people would want to read it. I sent a private message to this new troper thanking these efforts. To my surprise, this troper actually knew who I was- the original purveyor of the newsletter idea, as well as being a major contributor to wiki maintenance. However, like most forumites, this troper had no idea what had happened to me and was a little surprised to see that I was still active on the wiki. I briefly explained why I had left, then offered to help the newsletter by reporting on major events in the wiki proper- generally the results of investigations I performed in answering questions. It was in this manner that Janitor's departure from the wiki became public knowledge. I also suspect that the newsletter was why the demoted cut master I have previously mentioned was reinstated- with the reinstatement, it was easier to justify not releasing a news blurb explaining what the cause of the demotion had been.

In a sense, helping with the newsletter gave me some catharsis. I had had this vague feeling that working on the wiki without dealing with Trope Repair Shop was somehow improper. I wasn't trying to keep anything that I did a secret- I gave clearly defined edit reasons and discussion page posts any time I made an edit that seemed even remotely controversial. But the fact that no one I knew from Trope Repair Shop responded to these prompts or asked me any questions still seemed unsettling. With the newsletter I felt assured that I had done everything I could to promote transparency on the wiki. That the new editor of the newsletter saw nothing unusual in my actions also helped a bit in this regard.

Unfortunately, the newsletter didn't last. One week there was no newsletter because the troper had had no internet. A few weeks later, the troper appeared to disappear from the wiki altogether. I asked an admin if he had any what had happened, but he didn't seem to have any idea. He remarked that it was unusual for a forumite who had once posted several times a day to not have any posts at all, but so long as this troper was gone from the site, there simply wasn't any real way to tell.

In spite of all this, the newsletter was a good idea. Faced with the prospect of it simply being gone for good, I asked the admin if it would be all right for me to take up the newsletter's mantle and continue its publication. The admin responded by telling me that I was edit-banned and advised that I go about "mending bridges" with Trope Repair Shop which I had, in some unclear manner, disrespected. Suffice to say, this was the last mention anyone on the wiki made of the newsletter project. My immediate concern now was trying to figure out who, specifically, I had offended, and what, specifically, I had done to merit an edit-ban without so much as a warning.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

History: You Fail Logic Forever

You Fail Logic Forever details various logical fallacies. Anyone who has ever studied logic knows that there exists a great many logical fallacies in rhetoric. So, as time went on, the You Fail Logic Forever page bloated to an immensely sized dictionary of logical fallacies. At one point while I was working in the discussion pages, a troper asked a question about one specific fallacy. I soon discovered to my consternation that the page contained many fallacies of similar names in an apparently random order (they had probably been added to the page as tropers thought of new logical fallacies they could write down). Never mind answering the troper's question- it was a giant pain-in-the-neck just to figure out where in the page I was supposed to be looking. I decided that splitting the various fallacies into their own pages and making You Fail Logic Forever an index was the most sensible course of action. After all, a"Alice uses an Appeal to Audacity to persuade Bob" is a sensible  intuitive example. "Alice Fails Logic Forever against Bob" sounds like a stupid in-joke.

Unlike many discussion pages, this one had semi-regular posts, including from a moderator, so rather than act unilaterally (unlike most of my ideas, this one was not directly prompted by a complaint), I simply posted the idea so as to germinate for awhile. After that I forgot about the page until about a month later another question was asked about it. I remembered why I couldn't answer the last question, and so went to see how my idea had fared over time.

To my irritation, no one had responded, good or ill, to my proposed idea even though various other discussion posts had had activity. Absent any complaints, my idea was frankly a good one, so I left a note stating as such, and then set about working to completely separate every individual fallacy on the page into its own trope listing. My plan was to first copy all of the text of the individual fallacies into their own page. Once these were clearly preserved, I could then remove the text from You Fail Logic Forever and create a fabulous index. It was tiring, redundant work, but I thought it well worth the reward.

This time, though, I received a surprise. When I was nearly finished with the work, another troper sent me a private message asking what I was doing creating all these random pages about fallacies and asked that I come to Trope Repair Shop to provide an explanation. The request surprised me, mainly since no one had ever PMed me about major page action while I was still undergoing it. Obliging, I went to Trope Repair Shop and explained what I was doing and why. The reaction was quite positive. All the tropers (most of whom I'd never seen before- again a result of regular Trope Repair Shop turnover) liked the idea, and some also asked if they could help me with it. Unfortunately, I was already nearly finished with the transformation, so all I could do was thank them for their concern.

My attitude toward Trope Repair Shop had become increasingly cynical upon my departure. I had originally planned to come back at some point, but working in the discussion pages was so much easier and more productive that I could not think of any reason why I would want to. Be that as it may, I didn't harbor any particular ill will to the forumites. I'd always found that those willing to post were fairly receptive to opposing arguments and could usually defend their positions if challenged. That these new members were willing to accept the page action I was enacting on merit, rather than opposing it on abstract principle, was encouraging. They really weren't that different from the casual tropers I was used to working with- they just worked under a different and (in my opinion) less efficient structure.

Unfortunately, some individuals, I am quite sure now, were not enthused by my initiative. The moderator who I knew had posted in the You Fail Logic Forever discussion page did not make an appearance, nor did any other. Given the fairly high profile of the You Fail Logic Forever page, they surely had to have been aware of what I had done. But nothing was said either to me or any other common troper on the wiki. Mind, I thought nothing of this at the time- most people do not assume that secret negative opinions proliferate about them when they're not paying attention.

Incidentally, there's one subject I've been avoiding- You Fail Logic Forever is a terrible name for a trope page, and an even worse one for a fairly mundane listing of logical fallacies. The title is likely a holdout from before my time at TV Tropes, when prior to Wiki Magic, a very different purpose for the page was envisioned. Be that as it was, I left the title alone. A page this established would be an absolute mess to rename- I figured, correctly, that as long as I left the title alone my actions would face no apparent opposition.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

History: Tips Worksheet

In terms of subjective trope definitions, technical page action, and general policy matters, I was largely able to answer most questions tropers posed. But for information on administrative changes I had no recourse but to go back to the forums to ask moderation staff for an explanation. I can only remember a few times I did this. Twice it was because of changes in the moderation staff pages. When Janitor's name was removed from the Know The Staff page, I ended up making an inquiry so as to confirm her official departure from wiki operations. I had to make a similar request when later I discovered that the name of a cut master (specifically, the one who had earlier insulted me) had been removed. In this case I was investigating complaints made by several tropers that the Cut List had been backed up. After the facts of the situation were eventually clarified I stated that regardless of why the cut master had been removed, tropers were concerned about the status of the Cut List and that something had to be done to fill the gap. The cut master's powers were eventually restored, and the Cut List returned to normal.

The second case had more of a lasting impact. At some point, Fast Eddie had apparently become so upset with the Natter that infested TV Tropes that he implemented a radical solution and removed all indentation markup. Most Natter is the result of bullet points that appear underneath examples, which more often than not are conversations or clarifications about whatever content was in the discussed examples. Fast Eddie removed the indentation related to this markup. This was not a popular action. Not so much because people liked Natter, but because without indentations most example listings were very difficult to read. It was hard to tell where one example ended and another began. This was made even more difficult by all the already existing Natter, where the abrupt shift in tone quickly proved to be very disorienting.

The complaints against this change were so fervent and strong that even in the forums, the outcry against the change was very strong. Fast Eddie actually ended up caving on the matter and returned the wiki to its previous, indented form. This happened relatively quickly- no more than a day or two after the changes had been originally implemented. It happened so quickly, in fact, that by the time I joined the forum discussion the changes had already been rescinded. I had only known about them secondhand from various panicked discussion page postings.

While the indentation-less TV Tropes was horribly ugly to look at, I thought Fast Eddie's basic idea wasn't really a bad one. Natter is a very noxious, irritating thing. Even when a person tries to clear a page of Natter, there's a very good chance that someone will get upset about "good" content being removed, even though Natter is by definition not content. Pages on TV Tropes are not forums where topics are discussed, but recitations of general examples. This is a difficult and tiring topic to explain, so some form of preemptive measure working against Natter could hardly hurt.

I thought that maybe we could just use a different kind of indentation that's more aesthetically pleasing. This went nowhere, but at some point over the course of discussion Fast Eddie offhandedly mentioned that "pages are supposed to look like they were written by the same person". This wasn't an axiom I had ever heard before, though it certainly made sense given what I knew about wiki policy. I stated right away that this fiat was not well-known in the discussion pages and that no one knew that this was how pages were supposed to be written. Everyone in the thread was very surprised at this apparent revelation. As a result, a new notification system was proposed and acted upon- the Tips Worksheet.

Unlike the previous notification system which had largely been ignored, the Tips Worksheet actually functioned quite well. A tip from the worksheet appears above the edit box every time someone tries to edit a page. Out of habit people tend to read from the top-down, so these tips were difficult to ignore, and were almost always followed by those who were aware of them. Initially the only "tip" was "pages need to look like the same person wrote the whole thing", but several more general policy statements were added and cycled in as time went by.

From the time the Tips Worksheet was implemented, I noticed a sharp decrease in the editing activity being proscribed against. It confirmed a fact I had already realized from my time in the discussion pages- casual tropers are ignorant, but not arrogant. They'll accept some basic guidelines if they have reason to believe it will make their writing more effective, and the simply explained, very authoritative tips did exactly that. The Tips Worksheet took advantage of the fact that most tropers see themselves as contributing to a group project. For this reason, it was the last effective administrative change I can recall being implemented- the punitive measures that became popular after this point used a rather different psychological dynamic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Terminology: Series Pages

Series pages are easiest to define in comparison to works pages. A works page details a work of fiction or non-fiction, giving a description as to what the work is all about, and a listing of tropes that the work use. A series page, by contrast, broadly deals with every single work of fiction under a specific moniker. So, as an example, the Star Wars page is about all the various Star Wars works of fiction and what those have in common with each other. Someone looking for information on the original Star Wars movie has to go the page A New Hope.

In terms of quality control, series pages became relevant mainly in that, as time went on, it was never entirely clear what was supposed to be a series page and what wasn't. There is no Series namespace- generally speaking the Main namespace is always supposed to be the Series namespace, but this rule is not particularly well-known. This was especially true with pages created before namespaces broadly appeared. Take the Star Wars page, which originally referred to all six of the movies writ-large, which sounds ridiculous today but made a great deal more sense when the wiki was a much smaller place. When this problem was brought to Trope Repair Shop's attention, the issue was acknowledged, even supported- but no one did anything. Eventually one annoyed troper just split the page into pieces personally with less-than-fantastic descriptions, but it was better than doing nothing at all.

This entire issue with series pages is a decidedly non-sexy one. While Trope Repair Shop could get into conniptions over the "true" meaning and popularity of a trope title, series and works page were just statements of facts. There was no meaningful philosophical wrangling over what a person expected when they clicked on the Star Wars Wiki Word, mainly because Star Wars is an actually discrete, definable thing. Subjective opinions, the lifeblood of Trope Repair Shop, simply don't factor into this fact.

Now, while series pages weren't an especially popular subject, longer pages that were not clearly works or series pages still represented a major problem- the descriptions were often confusing, and the example listings excessively long. When I left the forums, they were an obvious problem to fix. One of the first tasks I went about was reorganizing the indexes for Marvel and DC comics to better differentiate between pages referring to a specific superhero versus pages referring to a comic book story that shares its name with a superhero. The Joker, for example, refers to the character, and not the obscure 1970's comic series featuring the character. Technically characters aren't supposed to have their own pages, but as forum discussion over this topic had mainly centered around the unusual nature of story structure in American comics and what this meant in terms of wiki policy, I decided this was a weird enough case that an exception ought to be made or else the specifics would just be rambled over definitely.

More straightforward issues of these clarifications arose in simpler pages. The Pokemon page was the main monstrosity badly needing to be dealt with. The page had grown to be unbearably long and peppered with random plot snippets from four generations of games in the series. When casual tropers expressed concern over what to do about these problems, I suggested expanding the floatbox so that there were pages for individual games in the series as well as the spin-offs. This was agreed to after brief discussion. While this problem had seemed insurmountable in the discussion page, once links to individual game pages were there, Wiki Magic slowly but surely worked to move traffic, and I along with some others managed to move all the individual game examples to their individual games instead of being on the series page.

I'd like to apologize at this point if this explanation is a little tedious and complicated- series pages are a difficult problem to describe abstractly. I often found that trying to explain what I was doing to people was a great deal more difficult than just performing technical page rewrities and splits myself whilst leaving a note stating "here's a page for this specific game in this series that tragically has no useful information on it. If only there was a fan of this game here to help us write it!". The series pages accumulated too much text mainly because there wasn't any other place to put it. In giving fans more pages to write on, I found that they were often more than happy to start branching out their efforts even though they would never get the idea to do this themselves. I once averted a massive crisis with the Starcraft page simply by turning Starcraft II into a stub instead of a redirect. Almost immediately Starcraft fans started started separating their (often spoilery) material into the appropriate page instead of lumping details of both games in the same alphabetical listing.

There was one problem I ran into- by not always explaining what I was doing some individuals started seeing malicious motives in my actions. One user got mad at me for arbitrarily deleting information from the Fallout page when I was actually moving it to the Fallout 3 page (Fallout now being a page for the series in general, not the individual games). Experiences like this taught me to better mind the edit reason box- even if something was difficult to explain, I felt I owed it to people to at least make an effort. If worse came to worse, I could always let the Wiki Magic vindicate me- tropers seldom edit pages that they find to be poorly written.

Monday, May 16, 2011

History: Vetinari Paradox

While I no longer participated in the forums, I did on occasion rename a trope. The rationale for this in my mind was fairly obvious- consensus was the real decider as to whether page action needed to be undertaken. Trope Repair Shop was just an obvious place where consensus could be gathered. When I spotted consensus for action that no one else was willing to undertake, I felt no compunction about simply performing this action myself.

In the case of Vetinari Paradox, this consensus was established in an old Trope Repair Shop thread. Vetinari is a character from the Discworld series. He's evil, I think (I've never actually read any of it), but any attempts to remove him from his position of authority end up failing because he's apparently the only person in the entire city competent enough to run things. See, it's a paradox, sort of, in that Discworld can't live with him or can't live without him.

You may have noticed I had to struggle a bit there to try and work the word "paradox" in there. This was another one of those metaphor titles that was really obvious in YKTTW but which were extremely non-intuitive when the title came into usage on the common wiki. Given the relative obscurity of the Vetinari character, this trope probably should have been renamed completely. But like so many other discussions, the relevance of Vetinari as a "TV Tropes icon" was endlessly debated. Headway was only made when the compromise suggestion was offered of Vetinari Job Security. This was not a fantastic title, since it still elevated Vetinari as the trope's true exemplar, but at the very least, the trope actually describes job security. It doesn't really describe a paradox.

Even though I had participated in this forum thread, I did not enact the final rename. And so, like so many renames before and after, Vetinari Paradox languished in obscurity. My memory was refreshed when, during my time in the discussion pages, another troper called my attention to the title- the forum thread itself had long since been purged, but the crowner strongly showing a rename to Vetinari Job Security as the preferred outcome remained. I saw no reason for an inaccurate title to continue to be an inaccurate title given the established consensus, so I changed the main title and changed half of the redirects.

Some time after this happened, there was a ruckus in Trope Repair Shop over the name being changed without appropriate consensus being made. The name was reverted back to Vetinari Paradox not, as near as I can tell, because anyone actually liked the old title, but because action had been undertaken without undergoing a consensus process. After a new extended discussion and a new crowner which both yielded the exact same result, the same outcome occurred. Vetinari Job Security was the preferred new title, and no one was completely sure whether a rename really ought to be performed, in spite of the obvious crowner results. The decision for action was finally made when one troper noted that since half of the links were already Vetinari Job Security Wiki Words, that facilitated an easy change, and so the trope was renamed, again.

Something I must emphasize about all this is that I had no idea any of the above paragraph happened until some months later when I happened upon this discussion in a new context. A moderator shook an angry fist at whatever anonymous troper performed this action and stated that such moves were not appropriate. It's a chastisement that would have made sense except that in both the page history and in the discussion page, I'd left fairly clear notes detailing my rationale, and both were signed by my wiki handle. I'd had no idea this incident occurred at all, and would not have ever been aware it was an incident at all if I hadn't later randomly stumbled into the newer thread.

At the time all of this going on, I was oblivious, but particularly in retrospect, this affair established a fact that I could never have ascertained if I had stayed in Trope Repair Shop. For all the notifications lying around, it was incredibly easy for a user to make a major edit without ever having any idea that Trope Repair Shop exists. This, admittedly, is a fairly obvious point- at least for someone not used to posting in the forums. Now that I was no longer posting in the forums, many conventions that I had taken for granted I increasingly saw as just not being relevant.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Faction: The Casual Troper

The title for this post is a bit of a misnomer- casual tropers aren't really so much a unified faction so much as they are tropers without factions. And I don't mean this as in "they reject the idea of factions". Rather, they lack the very comprehension that factions or issues similar to them exist in the wiki at all. They take the wiki's opening message of "buttload more informal" quite literally, and as a result interact in the wiki environment largely based on their own random whims.

Casual tropers were by far the ones I interacted with the most in the discussion pages. They posed specific questions about specific pages and then went back into their random browsing. Casual tropers don't monitor individual pages, at least not on any regular basis. They usually read timely responses made to the questions they pose, but seldom have follow-ups, though they do occasionally offer a word of thanks.

The term "casual troper" is one that I made up- oddly enough, though, when I was still in the forums they were still quite the topical troublemakers in spite of not having a name. They were the ones blamed for the proliferation of poor page images, Natter and unsavory Wiki Words such as I Am Not Making This Up, This Troper, or any of the multiple tropes which were often Wiki Worded in spite of the fact that no one had any idea what they meant. In all fairness, they really were responsible for all of these things, but whereas in the forums they were seen as a malicious element ruining the wiki's operating principles, when I actually discussed issues with them, I realized that they were simply ignorant.

Now, while ignorance is certainly a bad thing, it's not malicious. Some of the casual tropers were hostile when I tried to answer their questions, others conciliatory. But all of them pretty much accepted and understood the explanations I gave for why such-and-such page action was performed, or why edits they made were changed. Not all of them agreed with the explanation I gave, but if they undid my edits they always provided a reasonable counter-argument. Provided I saw the last part, I was willing to accept that I was wrong and that the other person's actions were justified. I was still wary of Trope Repair Shop at this point, and had no interest in getting into an Edit War.

As I explained the nuances of wiki quality control to individuals, the sheer difference between what I was doing in the discussion pages versus what I did in Trope Repair Shop became all the more obvious. I had become increasingly disenchanted with Trope Repair Shop when I initially suggested doing away with it entirely. I was sick of all the mental plotting. Even before I was directly insulted I'd felt a sense of unease as to whether my proposals were really being treated seriously. I had gotten used to assuming in many cases that a compromise solution would have to be necessary, regardless of the actual merits of the rename under discussion, even before it was discussed at all, because it seemed like most Trope Repair Shop conversations were verbal battles necessitating strategy and planning. One popular anti-rename strategy was to not respond to rename proposals, but rather ignore it and hope they fall off the first page of Trope Repair Shop posts, completely forgotten. Basically, demoralize the complainer into giving up.

Such thinking was unheard of in the discussion pages. There, provided a person gives an explanation of what they're doing, they can basically do whatever they want unless someone verbally disagrees with them. There's an understanding among casual tropers that since anyone can edit the wiki, it stands to reason that any bad edits can be fairly easily reversed. There's not really a point to discussion unless there is a disagreement caused by ignorance, or if there's an outright Edit War. In the latter case moderators were expected to intervene, though I only saw this happen once, and only because I asked a moderator to intervene myself.

There was also a much subtler difference. A casual troper is much more likely to interact brusquely, and far less likely to be offended. This change in interaction fascinated me, as the Trope Repair Shop environment was the exact opposite. So far as I could tell, casual tropers had difficulty holding grudges because they knew they were unlikely to meet the same people in the future. Insults basically indicated a failure to communicate- the recipient was either not adequately explaining what they were doing or not adequately paying attention to others' opinions. It wasn't really anything personal- when negative comments were directed toward me I took it in stride. If I truly was wrong, I could easily apologize. This was not an easy thing to do in Trope Repair Shop, where everyone was assumed to be acting in good faith.

Monday, May 9, 2011

History: Crowners (Part V)

Inexplicable crowner results were a constant part of Trope Repair Shop- as has been noted, votes would often be completely at odds with the tone of the actual discussion. In Wiki Talk discussion, many culprits were suggested for this state of affairs- the one we settled on were individuals who frequented the crowner activity tab. Crowner activity tabs have no links the forum threads that usually precede discussion, so it made sense. When I left the forums I assumed, because of this conclusion, that crowners posted in the discussion pages would also receive decent volume. In actuality, crowners on the discussion pages seldom yielded more than three votes, including my own. Data gathered from these crowners was so inconsequential as to be practically useless, particularly compared to the yields I could expect from crowners in Trope Repair Shop.

Puzzled by this turn of events, later on I tried using crowners in the YKTTW context. I never did this of my own volition- only when I saw a proposal where some tropers were saying that the proposal was really pretty similar to an existing page, but this existing page had some obvious, major flaw that likely led to the creation of a duplicate proposal. Crowners posted in this context easily gained over a dozen votes- nothing outstanding, but since nearly all of them were positive it was enough for major page action.

The typical YKTTW proposal has more traffic than the typical discussion page, mainly because YKTTW proposals are ephemeral with short, high bursts of activity while discussion pages exist pretty much forever- YKTTW is regularly checked by some regular users. I'm not sure anyone has ever bothered to check the recent discussion list for places to post except for me. Going by this numbers game, I realized that the true culprit of bizarre crowner votes was laid straight at the feet of Trope Repair Shop.

Trope Repair Shop only has about two dozen regular contributors at a time- the reason why many suspected that crowner results were off was because particularly contentious debates would yield several times that amount of total votes. On one occasion a crowner managed to amass six votes in about ninety seconds- far faster than usual. This so surprised me that I demanded the voters identify themselves. When all did so, I wrote the event off, but I realize now that I failed to perceive something very significant- these individuals probably would not have identified themselves had I not asked them to. They had no interest in participating in the discussion. They were only there to watch. Trope Repair Shop had lurkers.

For a forum this isn't much of a revelation- most forums have lurkers of some type. The problem was that Trope Repair Shop wasn't supposed to be a forum. It existed for the explicit purpose of discussing opinions and putting the results of these discussions into action. However, because all known tropers have an equal ability to vote in the crowners, lurkers possess the benefit of being able to help decide wiki policy without ever actually having to test or justify their opinions. This is why crowners can have such erratic results- if lurkers, particularly lurkers belonging to a specific faction get involved in voting, they can affect wiki policy by simply dismissing any opinion they see they don't like without having to actually justify their argument.

Objectively, of course, there's nothing so terrible about this. Mainly it underscores a colossal misperception forumites have about Trope Repair Shop- that anyone who participates must, by necessity, be informed. Whenever we discussed the poor crowner results it was always assumed that some force outside of Trope Repair Shop was messing with them. We had to- to think otherwise would mean accepting that Trope Repair Shop could be inherently flawed in some very unsettling ways.

Interestingly, there was one class of crowner that featured impressive, recurring and consistent vote tallies completely outside of the forums. These were the original crowners- the ones meant to vote on "what was the best episode of Batman", or some other series. This behavior persisted even after the old crowner system had apparently been supplanted entirely by the "Crowning" icons that appeared on the top of every page. How or why these original crowners were able to continue acquiring votes in spite of their obsolescence is something I never figured out- mainly because I never really looked into it. How people have fun on the wiki in their own way was not an issue that particularly interested me unless it somehow affected the quality of the content. It only even seems relevant now because of the way it illustrates the opinions of those individuals on the wiki who I came to know as the casual tropers.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Culture: The Discussion Pages

The discussion pages are a very conservative place. Even though the forums had changed radically in between the creation of the Trope Rename forum and my departure, I could detect no significant difference in the culture between when I shifted toward YKTTW in mid-2008 and when I left the forums altogether in April of 2010. This was not a good thing. When I first left the discussion pages it was mainly because there wasn't all that much to do there. Discussion page posts are often random comments made in the dark with only the vague hope that someone might come along and clarify an unclear point.

Oddly, even though the appearance of a "someone" was a rare occurrence, we actually had a word for such people- mentors. An admin at one point explicitly outlined mentoring as an extremely valuable role to take on the wiki in that it instructs inexperienced users as to the nuances of wiki protocol. This position was made all the more valuable by the wiki's determination to not write down anything that could be considered a "rule". Given everything that I had done in crafting wiki policy and enforcing rename action, I figured that I qualified as a mentor by this point.

This was a bit of an odd state of affairs considering that I also doubted my judgment entirely because of the difficulties being experienced by Trope Repair Shop. For this reason I decided not to take initiative in any page actions. Now that I knew a tool existed that would track recent discussion page activity, I simply looked at the tool and reacted to whatever issues other people raised. My reasoning was that even if my rationales were dubious, discussion page tropers did not go to the forums so whatever issues they raised were probably born out of concern for content, not procedure. With this my main task became resolving and acting upon these comments in the dark.

One common posting was the declarative statement to the effect that an example be added to the page, removed from the page, or that the description or some other such object be modified to be brought in line with certain facts. These I decided to leave alone, not because they were bad suggestions, but because the entire point of having a wiki is that you can edit it without permission. I ended up creating a new Wiki Word, You Could Always Edit It Yourself, with a description amounting to "the whole point of the wiki is that you can edit the page yourself. Stop asking for permission and just do it". This wasn't a wholly original idea- YKTTW for some time had the Wiki Word Just Launch It Already which was attached to YKTTW proposals where an individual was equivocating on launching a new trope instead of, well, just launching it already. The idea was mainly to save time, since it was easier to Wiki Word a general message than it was to come up with different explanations for each situation.

The strangest thing about all of this was that renames, the controversial lifeblood of the wiki I had known for the last couple of years, were seldom if ever mentioned or lobbied for in the discussion pages. When tropers wanted significant page changes, they were usually complaining about a vagary in the description. They often didn't really care what the resolution was or who enacted it. They just saw a page that was in some manner poorly written or difficult to read and wanted to read a well-written, easy to read one instead. This was especially obvious when I started out in the discussion pages. Even though no one had any idea who I was, I was commonly thanked for helping to deal with various issues and explaining my reasoning in a discussion reply, encouraging anyone who wanted to to modify my changes if they were somehow deficient.

Even though my discussion page work wasn't as spectacular and obvious as what I did when I was primarily pushing renames and major page action, I felt like I got a lot more done. Even minor issues could sometimes be time-consuming- oftentimes when someone asked a question about "what does such-and-such trope mean in this context?" I had to think it over and review the page before I could come to a satisfactory answer and make a rewrite. But even extreme cases were greatly dwarfed by the mental energy required in Trope Repair Shop, where discussions were abstract, theoretical, and seldom went anywhere. For this reason my work in the discussion pages is also more difficult to remember, even though I would often make several significant page edits of various degree in a single discussion ticker trawl whereas Trope Repair Shop visits had a much lower rate of tangible action.

It was also fairly early on that I started getting my first taste of how different the discussion pages were from the forums. You Could Always Edit It Yourself was merged with a very old administrative page, Repair Dont Respond a week or so after I first created it. This action annoyed me, since Repair Dont Respond concerned Natter in the main page whereas You Could Always Edit It Yourself was a direct statement I made to specific tropers. It didn't really bother me that much, though, since I came to learn that casual tropers commonly linked certain Wiki Words without ever actually reading the page they were linking to.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Terminology: Notability

When I left Trope Repair Shop, I had to put out of my mind any preconceptions I had about the way TV Tropes worked based on the opinions of that forum community. This meant having to mentally reconstruct the wiki's foundations from the ground up. The first and most important abstract concept I thought of in these terms was notability. One of TV Tropes' central defining axims is There Is No Such Thing As Notability. This means that any example can be added to any page so long as it is an example of the trope described. It sounds simple enough abstractly, but such broad terminology often resulted in conflict. After all, what grounds were there to remove any example since every example has an inherent right of notability?

I received the answer to this question in my first attempted major page action- that of Notable Webcomics. Notable Webcomics at this time was simply a large page consisting of every possible webcomic that anyone who happened by thought was notable. As I'd had no experience with major page action, I thought this whole page was suspect. It seemed to me the height of silliness to have a whole page dedicated to webcomics that some people somewhere happened to like. I wished to get rid of a fair amount of them, as this page was so preposterously long that no sensible person could finish it in one sitting, let alone retain knowledge of its multitude of information.

A moderator explained to me the basics of notability. Unless someone was so unabashed as to promote their own webcomic on the Notable Webcomics page, there wasn't really any problem with any of the individual examples. However, simply because an example has a place on a page does not mean that the page must stay in its current form. Because most of the examples were written by random individuals from across the Internet, the writing overall was not very good. Additionally, as the page was very long to read, it would make sense to split it into multiple sections thus making the whole thing more readable.

The above was just my takeaway. I doubt the moderator worded it exactly like that, but this was my interpretation. So, determined and with a clear sense of direction, I got to work on the page. I defined multiple sub-categories of webcomics (Slice of Life, Fantasy, Gaming, etc.), and got to work separating each individual example into one of those many groups. Since I was reading every example out of habit anyway, I also edited them. Overly long examples I made shorter. Unclear examples which I could improve I improved. Examples which were overly generic and not particularly informative I simply deleted. I was unsure as to whether I was doing the whole editing thing correctly, but decided if I messed up someone else could fix my mistakes.

A day or so after I finished up all the work I received some evaluation. The moderator congratulated me on doing a very good job fixing the page. For my efforts I was awarded with a Made Of Win nomination. Anyone can be nominated for a Made Of Win for almost any reason by anyone, provided it's for something well-done. The fact that I had been nominated by a moderator wasn't so important to me as the fact that I had been nominated by someone- indeed, it was only later that I discovered that the individual in question was a moderator at all. I just figured this was a more experienced troper trying to be helpful. It made me feel good about the work I did and made me feel closer to the community, nebulously as I understood it at the time.

The appeal I saw in this experience was how it defined notability for me. It is important, but not unbending. The true priority of the wiki lay not in the recitation of rules, but in the creation and maintenance of pages in such a way that people want to read them, and can read them in such a way so as to learn something. The principle of notability was used, not because any example had a "right" to be there, but because understanding tropes requires a broad detailing of their use in media from all possible genres. Examples are to be judged by the value of their content- not the source of it.

There was also another element of appeal. If not for that moderator being helpful to me, I would not have been motivated to get more involved with wiki maintenance. With this understanding, I adopted a simple credo to work through the discussion pages. If anyone has a question about anything relating to a page, I ought to answer it as nicely and as helpfully as I can. It made me want to get involved, so it stood to reason that it might encourage others as well. Besides, the notification efforts had already failed- it wasn't like I could do much worse.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

History: Departure from the Forums

In the last discussion I participated in on improving issues regarding participation and validity in Trope Repair Shop discussions, I suggested that we might consider doing away with Trope Repair Shop altogether. I considered that since we knew people were unwilling to pay mind to the Trope Repair Shop notifications, it was possible that they would be more amenable to "this page has active discussion" tags and a list of the most recent discussion page posts. That sentiment seems prescient in retrospect, but at the time I was merely suggesting a radical solution in the hopes that someone would counter with a compromise. I had realized by this time that this was the easiest way to gather consensus, mainly because tropers felt less attacked by compromise. Someone who is compromising cannot, by simple logic, be attempting to unilaterally ruin the wiki. It's fitting, then, that a complete failure of this strategy on my part was what ultimately induced me to leave.

A trope exists by the name of Orcus On His Throne. I'd tell you what this trope is about, but I'm not sure myself. The metaphor is pretty simple. Orcus is a Dungeons and Dragons characters who's always sitting on his throne. What I saw as the implied meaning of this metaphor was "evil guy is super-powerful but never actually does anything". The description, however, was very confusing, as the last part of it detailed all sorts of important plot-related things that Orcus could be doing while not sitting on his throne, making the definition seem to be "evil guy is super-powerful but never gets around to just stomping on the much weaker heroes".

Anti-rename sentiment was much crystallized at this time, so I was doubtful that I could actually get a rename on this issue. My long-term plan was to let the discussion stew long enough that users would admit that they weren't sure what the trope was referring to. Then as a "compromise", I would offer to rewrite the trope's description so that it at least made sense with the implied metaphor. Orcus On His Throne is an esoteric name that really ought to be renamed, but I figured a coherent description was better than nothing at all.

The plan backfired, more because of the tone of my post than the actual strategy. I had gotten used to discussing page changes with a cut master in a semi-antagonistic manner. But it turned out that this individual saw my posts in a much more menacing light than I had intended. When I offered the compromise, something (I can't recall what, exactly) caused the cut master to fly off the handle, and basically start listing every single part of me that was despicable and abhorrent. I'm making it sound more noble than it really was- the cut master was acting like a petty child, and was quickly rebuked and thumped by another moderator.

When I think about this in the context of a forum, the moderator's reaction makes sense. The cut master was violating the basic forum rule of "don't be a jack ass". But that was the problem. Trope Repair Shop was not really a forum. It was supposed to serve as the impetus to useful action in helping the wiki. There weren't that many of us, and this cut master was one of the few users who I interacted with regularly. I could no longer tell for sure whether our disagreements were because the cut master legitimately disagreed with my interpretation or was only opposing my viewpoint out of some irrationally powerful hatred. But the moderator, in thumping all of the offending material completely and forbidding future discussion of the matter, had essentially stated that this incident had never happened and expected everyone to act accordingly.

This wasn't something I could accept. It wasn't that I was mad at the cut master- I was really more upset at the moderator. If negative opinions like this existed, regardless of who or what they were directed against, I felt we had to be able to air them openly instead of simply bottling them up indefinitely. The thumping did little to address the underlying problems that prompted the outburst- which may have been the point, since such a discussion could open up uncomfortable facts about the way various factions within Trope Repair Shop saw each other.

When I suggested replacing Trope Repair Shop with a tool that would allow users to view recent discussion page posts, an admin pointed me to the new edits section of the wiki where such capabilities already existed, admitting concern that a long-standing contributor such as myself was unaware of this tool. My experience with Orcus On His Throne made me realize that I could no longer be sure that any action arising from Trope Repair Shop was valid, even those derived from my own proposals. I announced in the Orcus On His Throne thread that for the time being I would leave the forums, to see if a less hostile work environment existed elsewhere on the wiki. This announcement, unsurprisingly, was also thumped.