Tuesday, January 18, 2011

History: Crowners (Part III)

YKTTW works fairly well as a system for the creation of new tropes- this is why the crowner innovations in YKTTW ultimately failed. What it did not work well for was the process of changing existing tropes. Rename proposals in these early times were contentious affairs with battle lines drawn between those wishing to fix improper names and those objecting to attempts the wiki's overly "fun" nature. This is where I had the idea to put in crowners.

It may seem hard to imagine this, what with my being unpersonned and all, but at least in the YKTTW period I was very self-conscious about affecting major page changes. The idea that someone would be mad at me for changing a page was very off-putting. I was not the only one on the wiki to feel this way- high-profile rename proposals were seldom followed through on because it was one thing to vigorously argue for a rename. It was quite another to say "your opinion doesn't matter. My argument is better and we're changing the trope title".

I made a move to fight against this gridlock by introducing crowners in any rename proposal which I wanted to affect but where it was ambiguous how many people supported the change and how many did not. The crowners had a much easier time gaining activity with rename proposals than they did with new trope proposals because rename proposals were quickly becoming a popular bone of contention on the wiki. Plenty of users simply ran a ctrl+f search for "rename" to see what the latest effort was on any given trip to YKTTW. These individuals required little convincing to vote on the articles under review- the attraction of the rename proposals was watching people debate over the merits of individual titles. Voting over who had the better argument was really the next logical step.

If this sounds a little like bullying, in truth, it was- no matter how we dressed it up, we were using votes to tell people their opinion didn't matter. It wasn't pretty, but it was clear to everyone that crowners were last-ditch emergency stop-gap measures only to be used in topics where no one from either side of the debate had the guts to either launch or disregard the YKTTW proposal. Incidentally, part of the reason why YKTTW was the original go-to source for renames (and not much other page action) was because new titles could be launched through the YKTTW software.

One important thing I need to note about all this is that while crowners were pervasive at this time, this was mostly thanks to me. Literally, in the sense that I was the troper who posted most of the crowners as there really were not as many rename proposals floating as people tend to assume. Many people did not post crowners because they did not know how. I'm no computer whiz myself, but I was able to figure out that, provided you have a link to an old crowner, you can modify the web address to have the system create a new crowner- in much the same way you can use direct web addresses to make new pages. This was not common knowledge to wiki-goers, and this has not changed as trope repair processes evolved.

The idea behind crowners, though, the basic principle that enough votes mean action can be pushed through, this did stick around because a crowner's very existence implied that if enough votes were collected, the crowner was proof that the collective wiki supported action. This was a bit of an absurd idea in reality, as most of the crowners used to prove this "consensus" had a dozen, maybe a couple of dozen votes on them at most. Of course, most successful crowners concerned relatively obscure pages with titles few genuinely wanted to defend, so the relatively low bar was acceptable. Because rename proposals were made in YKTTW, there was an unspoken assumption that changing the title on a page that is not well-known really only needed as much effort as was required to launch the original page in the first place.

Note that at this point there was nothing formal about crowner use- they only held legitimacy if the active posters chose to believe it (which was most, but not all, of the time). These ideas were formalized with the creation of the centralized Trope Renaming forum. It was at this point that the crowners, and major page action itself, began to undergo a significant transition.

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