Tuesday, April 12, 2011

History: Informed Attribute

The "informed" series of tropes refer to personality quirks that are frequently alluded to by other characters, but for which the viewer sees no actual evidence. In terms of the wiki's development, the epicenter for this series of trope is Informed Ability, the oldest and largest page of the series. One page in this series that caught my attention was Informed Attribute- this trope refers specifically to the tendency of some characters treating someone as being horrifically disfigured when to the audience the individual looks no different from anyone else in the story.

The problematic issue with this trope is that "attribute" is actually a fairly broad word, sounding as if it could encompass just about anything. Indeed, critics outside of TV Tropes often used the term Informed Attribute to refer to the term known on TV Tropes as Informed Ability. I realized this when I found myself one day making a Wiki Word for Informed Attribute when I had meant Informed Ability. After some brief research, I discovered that I was not the only one who thought these terms meant the same thing- this was most obviously true outside of the wiki but within it as well. At the time I proposed page action on this topic, the page quote for Informed Ability came from an Agony Booth article which very clearly demonstrated how one character's rogueish nature was an Informed Ability, but specifically described the phenomenon as being an Informed Attribute in-quote.

To me the course for action seemed pretty clear. Informed Attribute ought to be renamed to something else, and the Informed Attribute Wiki Word itself could redirect to Informed Ability, which was how it was being used most of the time anyway. In spite of the popularity of the informed tropes series, my proposal garnered little interest. No one was disputing the proposed page action. The crowner I posted had accrued negative votes, but these were meaningless without a written opposition, which did not materialize even after I declared I would enact these changes in three days barring further opposition. I renamed Informed Attribute to Informed Deformity and redirected Informed Attribute to Informed Ability.

To this action there was swift, generic outrage and my changes were reverted. I'm not being facetious. I described the situation then pretty much the exact same way I described it just now. I did not then, and I can not now, think of any legitimate reason to oppose these page actions. The outrage seemed to be over the fact that I had made any changes at all more than there being any actual substantive reason to oppose the actions.

These initial impressions were confirmed when I asked said individuals (it may have only actually been one), exactly what it was about these actions they opposed. It soon became clear that the only part of my proposal that had been paid any mind was the "rename something" aspect. The easily discerned facts about the way the term Informed Attribute is actually used had gone unnoticed. Once I iterated these points, it was sheepishly admitted that yes, actions along the lines I had proposed may be justified, but that regardless of this fact, I ought not to have acted without more input. A moderator even went so far as to back up this point.

Here was the earliest example I could recall of a very ugly precedent that began to proliferate Trope Repair Shop and was in wide use when I was banned. It matters not what you want to do when dealing with quality issues on the wiki, but how you do it. If a person wishes to enact a major page action, they must prove a wide degree of support. The practical problem with this was that Trope Repair Shop threads rarely go beyond more than twenty posts- the Informed Attribute thread itself barely had more than a dozen. Now, admittedly, crowners could gauge simple votes absent actual posts- I'd gotten in the habit of posting crowners in the first post of all my threads just to move things more quickly. The negative crowner votes for my proposal mystified me, but when I couldn't produce anyone to explain why they voted against the proposal, I didn't see the point in delaying action on an issue with immediate, measurable confusion issues.

The burden was shifted. Prior, those opposing renames had to offer explanations. Now, those proposing renames had to wait for those opposing renames to offer explanations whether this wait took days or months. Another regular who posted in Trope Repair Shop had once mentioned waiting until proposals with ambiguous consensus had been forgotten before enacting changes so as to minimize complaints. That seemed a dubious practice, but this affair had been fraught with such chicanery that I didn't see how it deserved a respectable resolution. In any event, this individual (who would later become a moderator) was right- these second changes passed without complaint, and the details of the proposal were soon forgotten.

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