Sunday, February 20, 2011

History: Arrival at the Forums

When I first came to the forums I did not recognize most of the posters there. This did not seem particularly strange to me, nor I suspect to any of the other tropers who had come from YKTTW. Right up until the move was made, new people appeared in rename proposals all the time. Most of these were individuals who were in YKTTW for some other reason, generally ignored the debates, but had a particularly strong reaction when certain specific titles were challenged. These were actually the individuals whose opinion we valued the most; always self-effacing, those of us in YKTTW doubted whether we truly had the authority to enact broad changes, and so the opinions of random people were the lifeline establishing our credentials.

From this mindset, far from being upset to find that many of our YKTTW compatriots had not come along, we didn't even notice. The prospect of being able to explain and interact with completely new people and discover their opinions about wiki operation was far more important, and this was what we promptly set about doing.

So eager were we to get to work and start learning tangible opinions about specific pages that we pretty much started one thread explaining the "When to Rename a Trope" guidelines, another explaining what exactly the crowners were, and pretty much left it at that. We didn't even bother trying to start a thread where people would introduce themselves and explain where they came from. Yack Fest already had a thread like that, and so it seemed redundant.

The main significant change we had to make was adapting to forum software. The forums were based on TV Tropes script, but did make use of avatar technology, allowing users to put pictures next to their names in posts. In my occasional posts to the forum before the arrival I had no interest in such newfangled technology (I was terribly upset just to find that the forum automatically turned smileys into those annoying yellow things instead of the simple :) piece of text). I soon found in the context of the Trope Renames forum it got to be difficult telling people apart who had anonymous avatars, and so adopted my own- a picture of Rutherford B. Hayes with my user handle "Some Guy" printed at the bottom in fancy font. This facial portrait in black and white of a balding nineteenth-century man with a large beard was and is quite different from any other avatar in the forums, and made me particularly easy to identify.

This may sound rather minor (after all, pretty much everyone who joins any online forum does this), but it must be noted that of all the myriad wiki factions, only forumites use avatars. Those who frequent other parts of the wiki only use their names. I've known several individuals who refused to use avatars because they did not wish to be seen as a forumite. This all seemed rather irrelevant at the time and no one paid much mind to it, but this did manage to prove important as time went on.

The main interesting thing about our arrival at the forums was really how little anything changed at all, at least immediately. This was a fairly momentous event of far greater significance to the development of wiki quality control protocols than anything since then, but there no arguments, no complaints, no analysis of what this really meant. It was just a big, exciting change and we were all a part of it so hey, let's get cracking.

Now, a helpful note for the sake of a timeline- I first joined the wiki in early 2008. I became involved with renames about six months later, and the Trope Renames forum was established in early 2009. Any estimates of actual dates I can offer at this point are still guesses, as it did not then occur to me that there would be any value in establishing a timeline. Such are the wages of gradual changes.

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