Friday, February 11, 2011

History: The Move to the Forums

In spite of all the positive developments that made rename discussions on YKTTW more productive and easier to manage over time, there were always grumbling concerns about how it was an inappropriate venue for settling rename disputes. The main reason for this is fairly obvious- YKTTW was developed to facilitate the creation of new tropes. It had never been intended to be used for discussions about fixing old ones. There was undercurrent belief that were we to switch to a more appropriate venue, many of our communication problems could be solved.

There were two main camps who advocated for rename modification discussions being moved somewhere else; those who joined YKTTW for the express purpose of developing new tropes and were tired of having to deal with these discussions, and those who believed that YKTTW was an inherently inefficient process for rename modification. I fell into the latter group- I had always been deeply involved in the rename process and believed (for that matter, still believe) that the wiki could only maintain credibility provided its members engage in effective quality control of its pages. For me, YKTTW wasn't just a problem of it being a community not designed to handle page modification. There was also the issue of the kind of people we were trying to attract to give input on discussions. People came to YKTTW to make new tropes, not to rename existing ones. Individuals upset about a title being renamed would not think to ask about this on YKTTW.

Concrete suggestions about what exactly to do about this did not come up often- at least in YKTTW (this may have been discussed in the Wiki Talk forum), but when they did the usual call for action was to create a new forum subdivision designed explicitly to deal with the rename issue. The forum was one of the more visible parts of the wiki, since there was a blue bubble linking to it on every page. Additionally, most people on the Internet know what a forum is, whereas the idea behind YKTTW has to be explained to anyone who hasn't heard of it before.

Because of all this, there was no dispute when one day a line of text appeared on YKTTW stating explicitly that there was to be no more rename discussion in YKTTW, and that all such discussions were now to take place in the Trope Renames forum. This ruling was quickly accepted and adopted- within about a week anyone who wished to move to the forum to continue trope rename discussion had done so. I do not recall how long this announcement stayed up, since immediately afterward I spent most of my time working in the Trope Renames forum. If I had to guess, I'd say about a week.

A brief note- when I refer to Trope Renames, I am referring to the original iteration of Trope Repair Shop. The name was changed multiple times before finally arriving at Trope Repair Shop to deal with the ever-changing definition of what exactly the authority possessed by the Trope Renames forum was. Suffice to say, at the beginning its only consideration was in determining whether or not a trope needed to be renamed.

This all seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, but having the benefit of hindsight, I see now that changing the venue alone was not as radical a change as we originally thought it would be. While the volume of rename proposals increased with the forum move, it's difficult to tell whether this was because the discussions were in the forums or because the wiki was experiencing a rapid growth. The ratio of "fixed" pages stayed mostly the same. The general number of people discussing renames didn't really change, either. From YKTTW to the present, I'm not sure the active number of Trope Rename discussion participants has ever exceeded two dozen.

Of course, this was not the same two dozen participants at all times. Save for a few of the mods I would wager that nearly all of the current regular participants in Trope Repair Shop were not there six months ago, though they were probably involved with the wiki in some capacity before that time. The same was true of the original Trope Renames forum. Not all of the YKTTW regulars desired to continue trope rename discussions in the forums, and as such, they remained in YKTTW to work on developing new tropes. Those of us that did go found ourselves setting the tenor for the rename debate to come as we found ourselves collaborating with forumites who were only familiar with the work we had already done abstractly.

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