Saturday, April 30, 2011

History: Departure from the Forums

In the last discussion I participated in on improving issues regarding participation and validity in Trope Repair Shop discussions, I suggested that we might consider doing away with Trope Repair Shop altogether. I considered that since we knew people were unwilling to pay mind to the Trope Repair Shop notifications, it was possible that they would be more amenable to "this page has active discussion" tags and a list of the most recent discussion page posts. That sentiment seems prescient in retrospect, but at the time I was merely suggesting a radical solution in the hopes that someone would counter with a compromise. I had realized by this time that this was the easiest way to gather consensus, mainly because tropers felt less attacked by compromise. Someone who is compromising cannot, by simple logic, be attempting to unilaterally ruin the wiki. It's fitting, then, that a complete failure of this strategy on my part was what ultimately induced me to leave.

A trope exists by the name of Orcus On His Throne. I'd tell you what this trope is about, but I'm not sure myself. The metaphor is pretty simple. Orcus is a Dungeons and Dragons characters who's always sitting on his throne. What I saw as the implied meaning of this metaphor was "evil guy is super-powerful but never actually does anything". The description, however, was very confusing, as the last part of it detailed all sorts of important plot-related things that Orcus could be doing while not sitting on his throne, making the definition seem to be "evil guy is super-powerful but never gets around to just stomping on the much weaker heroes".

Anti-rename sentiment was much crystallized at this time, so I was doubtful that I could actually get a rename on this issue. My long-term plan was to let the discussion stew long enough that users would admit that they weren't sure what the trope was referring to. Then as a "compromise", I would offer to rewrite the trope's description so that it at least made sense with the implied metaphor. Orcus On His Throne is an esoteric name that really ought to be renamed, but I figured a coherent description was better than nothing at all.

The plan backfired, more because of the tone of my post than the actual strategy. I had gotten used to discussing page changes with a cut master in a semi-antagonistic manner. But it turned out that this individual saw my posts in a much more menacing light than I had intended. When I offered the compromise, something (I can't recall what, exactly) caused the cut master to fly off the handle, and basically start listing every single part of me that was despicable and abhorrent. I'm making it sound more noble than it really was- the cut master was acting like a petty child, and was quickly rebuked and thumped by another moderator.

When I think about this in the context of a forum, the moderator's reaction makes sense. The cut master was violating the basic forum rule of "don't be a jack ass". But that was the problem. Trope Repair Shop was not really a forum. It was supposed to serve as the impetus to useful action in helping the wiki. There weren't that many of us, and this cut master was one of the few users who I interacted with regularly. I could no longer tell for sure whether our disagreements were because the cut master legitimately disagreed with my interpretation or was only opposing my viewpoint out of some irrationally powerful hatred. But the moderator, in thumping all of the offending material completely and forbidding future discussion of the matter, had essentially stated that this incident had never happened and expected everyone to act accordingly.

This wasn't something I could accept. It wasn't that I was mad at the cut master- I was really more upset at the moderator. If negative opinions like this existed, regardless of who or what they were directed against, I felt we had to be able to air them openly instead of simply bottling them up indefinitely. The thumping did little to address the underlying problems that prompted the outburst- which may have been the point, since such a discussion could open up uncomfortable facts about the way various factions within Trope Repair Shop saw each other.

When I suggested replacing Trope Repair Shop with a tool that would allow users to view recent discussion page posts, an admin pointed me to the new edits section of the wiki where such capabilities already existed, admitting concern that a long-standing contributor such as myself was unaware of this tool. My experience with Orcus On His Throne made me realize that I could no longer be sure that any action arising from Trope Repair Shop was valid, even those derived from my own proposals. I announced in the Orcus On His Throne thread that for the time being I would leave the forums, to see if a less hostile work environment existed elsewhere on the wiki. This announcement, unsurprisingly, was also thumped.


  1. It sounds like you got served for trying to manipulate people with compromise. If you make yourself out to be the extremist so that people will be more willing for a compromise, eventually you're going to be known as the extremist.

  2. I just found this while searching for this trope, because I am the one who originated the trope. I will be the first to say it has gone waaaay past my original intent and needs a serious rewrite. The original idea was a powerful villain who doesn't really do anything but brood and plot. Now it seems to be a villain who doesn't live up to his potential, but that is way subjective. I can't comment on why you were booted because i never go to the forums, but I thought you might want to hear my original intent in making the trope.