Thursday, April 21, 2011

History: Cut Master Elections

The first Cut Master election took place before I joined the wiki. This event was so obscure that by the time of the second Cut Master election, only those who had actually participated in the original election had any idea it had taken place at all. The technical results from that election were lost in the Great Crash, but this wasn't a particularly big deal since the winners of that election had already been made into Cut Masters.

This event only became relevant because of a new problem the wiki was having. The pace of the Cut List had slowed to a crawl, and its backlog was in the hundreds. Why this happened was unclear at the time, though in retrospect it seems likely that Janitor dealt with the brunt of the Cut List work, and with her gradual departure there was more material than the three remaining individuals with Cut Master powers could deal with. An extended thread in Wiki Talk decried this state of affairs, and as time went on and the problem still lay unresolved a new round of elections was proposed. After all involved were finished expressing surprise over the fact that Cut Master elections existed in the first place, a new election table was set up and a two week timetable declared during which votes would be tallied.

I had no idea what was going on at the time. The thread explaining Cut Master elections was in the Pinned sub-forum. As I had first joined the forums before the Pinned sub-forum even existed, I hadn't even noticed it was there, let alone clicked on it. Additionally, the original Wiki Talk discussion had a very misleading title that didn't actually mention the Cut List. I didn't start searching for information on any of this until a few days before the election, when some random troper sent me a random message asking for my support in Cut Master elections. Neither I nor anyone else had any idea who this person was, but if not for this individual I likely would not have realized elections took place even after they happened.

In spite of this ignorance, I managed to place third in the election tally. I should note that this isn't anywhere near as impressive as it sounds. Of the three individuals with more than two votes, I had eight, compared to eleven from a popular regular forumite (who actually stated outright that I would probably be better suited for the position), and twenty-three from an individual who was active in Trope Repair Shop, and also involved in the thread where elections were originally declared. This person actively campaigned for votes with which to be awarded the position. While wiki culture generally frowns on such naked ambition, this was actually a good performance indicator. After elections the Cut List was quickly brought under control. Later events indicated to me that the health of the Cut List depends in large part on continued maintenance by this troper.

One relevant issue regarding these elections is the scale. Certainly, the low number of votes at the time seemed strange to me. Everyone was allowed to cast two votes (as the top two ranked individuals would gain Cut Master status), indicating that little more than thirty people had actually voted. The position of Cut Master is an important one that affected nearly everyone on the wiki- the broader community contains far, far more than thirty people. Even the forum alone, where most of the voters probably came from, has about ten times that many individuals post in any given day.

Another issue was the matter of widespread ignorance. It bears repeating- I, the troper who was three votes away from gaining a position myself, had no idea this election existed until it was nearly over. And I operated in the forums to begin with. Tropers in the wiki proper, YKTTW, in the sub-pages, likely many of the ones who actually made submissions to the Cut List to begin with, were all being impacted by an election which they weren't even aware of. I placed a link to the election thread in my forum signature when I became aware of it, but even then there wasn't much increase in the way of votes.

These all seemed troubling portents to me, particularly given the multiple failed efforts to try and get more individuals involved in Trope Repair Shop- administrative apathy seemed to rule the day. Unsettling though all this was, ultimately I ended up putting it out of my mind. The main issue that prompted elections in the first place (the backlogged Cut List) was solved, and it didn't much matter to me how this happened since regardless of the election's flaws, the right person did get the job and promptly used the Cut Master powers to do good. It wasn't until later that I realized how terribly flawed this simplistic interpretation of events was.

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