Monday, January 10, 2011

History: Crowners (Part II)

The second purpose of the crowners was unrelated to the first. It came about thanks to a suggestion about voting.

One of the aspects about page creation and maintenance that frustrated many in the early days and still frustrates many today is that when a course of action is identified, even a very obvious one with no disagreement, there will be a lot of hesitancy insofar as actually enacting the new page. I first saw this not in trope repair (which did not exist at these earliest junctures), but in YKTTW.

As has been mentioned, the idea of centralized trope repair came about initially because of poorly named tropes. Early efforts to deal with this problem were primarily concerned with engaging tropers on the YKTTW level. One such idea that I had was to determine names for tropes based on popular vote. Since I was unaware of the crowner system at this time, votes were tallied manually with semi-regular posts in the proposal about which names were leading. This did not end particularly well- the names that resulted from this process were good, but the process itself was exhausting and overbearing because it required constant monitoring of the proposal in question.

Sometimes even today people attempt this same solution to deal with YKTTW gridlock and personal uncertainty about whether a title's ready to launch- mainly because most tropers are unaware of crowners now just as I was then. They always end up coming to the same conclusion that I did. As far as YKTTW goes, it's just much easier to make a gut decision about which title to go with based on the statements that have been made so far. It's not perfect, but it's pretty functional, especially when the title is proposed by a different person than the one who came up with the idea.

But this is in the present. At the time, I thought the voting idea worked, and in an effort to get more varied responses, I tried posting alternate names for YKTTW proposals on the Trope Talk forum and tallying votes there. The results weren't really much different than what was written in YKTTW, but during one of these topics another troper (it may have been an admin- I really don't remember) made note of the existing crowner software, an automated system the wiki was already using that could count votes all by itself. I was very glad to learn of this technology, as it removed the manual aspect of having to tally votes, making it much easier to figure out which titles were popular.

Ultimately, the idea of deciding new trope names by vote still didn't catch on, because even with automated voting there was no way to guarantee that people would actually vote- a problem that persists to this day. I still use crowners in YKTTW if I'm genuinely uncertain which is the best title for a trope, but these are very rare events for very unique situations. Most of the time, it's not a matter of counting votes, but trying to get a feel for which trope name just feels right. Strictly speaking crowner votes in every YKTTW proposal could probably get better results, but it's just too much work. Voting can be fun, but only when used in conjunction with fun activities like trying to select the best episode of a series- which you may recall is what the crowners were originally intended for.

YKTTW didn't really need crowners- it turned out in the end that there were better fixes available. The crowners returned later in the early renaming disputes, and to a large extent have remained there for the simple reason that obvious fixes in the realm of Trope Repair are more difficult to come by. I was also responsible for their introduction into that dispute- but its results were far more lasting than these early forays.

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