Friday, May 13, 2011

Faction: The Casual Troper

The title for this post is a bit of a misnomer- casual tropers aren't really so much a unified faction so much as they are tropers without factions. And I don't mean this as in "they reject the idea of factions". Rather, they lack the very comprehension that factions or issues similar to them exist in the wiki at all. They take the wiki's opening message of "buttload more informal" quite literally, and as a result interact in the wiki environment largely based on their own random whims.

Casual tropers were by far the ones I interacted with the most in the discussion pages. They posed specific questions about specific pages and then went back into their random browsing. Casual tropers don't monitor individual pages, at least not on any regular basis. They usually read timely responses made to the questions they pose, but seldom have follow-ups, though they do occasionally offer a word of thanks.

The term "casual troper" is one that I made up- oddly enough, though, when I was still in the forums they were still quite the topical troublemakers in spite of not having a name. They were the ones blamed for the proliferation of poor page images, Natter and unsavory Wiki Words such as I Am Not Making This Up, This Troper, or any of the multiple tropes which were often Wiki Worded in spite of the fact that no one had any idea what they meant. In all fairness, they really were responsible for all of these things, but whereas in the forums they were seen as a malicious element ruining the wiki's operating principles, when I actually discussed issues with them, I realized that they were simply ignorant.

Now, while ignorance is certainly a bad thing, it's not malicious. Some of the casual tropers were hostile when I tried to answer their questions, others conciliatory. But all of them pretty much accepted and understood the explanations I gave for why such-and-such page action was performed, or why edits they made were changed. Not all of them agreed with the explanation I gave, but if they undid my edits they always provided a reasonable counter-argument. Provided I saw the last part, I was willing to accept that I was wrong and that the other person's actions were justified. I was still wary of Trope Repair Shop at this point, and had no interest in getting into an Edit War.

As I explained the nuances of wiki quality control to individuals, the sheer difference between what I was doing in the discussion pages versus what I did in Trope Repair Shop became all the more obvious. I had become increasingly disenchanted with Trope Repair Shop when I initially suggested doing away with it entirely. I was sick of all the mental plotting. Even before I was directly insulted I'd felt a sense of unease as to whether my proposals were really being treated seriously. I had gotten used to assuming in many cases that a compromise solution would have to be necessary, regardless of the actual merits of the rename under discussion, even before it was discussed at all, because it seemed like most Trope Repair Shop conversations were verbal battles necessitating strategy and planning. One popular anti-rename strategy was to not respond to rename proposals, but rather ignore it and hope they fall off the first page of Trope Repair Shop posts, completely forgotten. Basically, demoralize the complainer into giving up.

Such thinking was unheard of in the discussion pages. There, provided a person gives an explanation of what they're doing, they can basically do whatever they want unless someone verbally disagrees with them. There's an understanding among casual tropers that since anyone can edit the wiki, it stands to reason that any bad edits can be fairly easily reversed. There's not really a point to discussion unless there is a disagreement caused by ignorance, or if there's an outright Edit War. In the latter case moderators were expected to intervene, though I only saw this happen once, and only because I asked a moderator to intervene myself.

There was also a much subtler difference. A casual troper is much more likely to interact brusquely, and far less likely to be offended. This change in interaction fascinated me, as the Trope Repair Shop environment was the exact opposite. So far as I could tell, casual tropers had difficulty holding grudges because they knew they were unlikely to meet the same people in the future. Insults basically indicated a failure to communicate- the recipient was either not adequately explaining what they were doing or not adequately paying attention to others' opinions. It wasn't really anything personal- when negative comments were directed toward me I took it in stride. If I truly was wrong, I could easily apologize. This was not an easy thing to do in Trope Repair Shop, where everyone was assumed to be acting in good faith.

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