Monday, May 9, 2011

History: Crowners (Part V)

Inexplicable crowner results were a constant part of Trope Repair Shop- as has been noted, votes would often be completely at odds with the tone of the actual discussion. In Wiki Talk discussion, many culprits were suggested for this state of affairs- the one we settled on were individuals who frequented the crowner activity tab. Crowner activity tabs have no links the forum threads that usually precede discussion, so it made sense. When I left the forums I assumed, because of this conclusion, that crowners posted in the discussion pages would also receive decent volume. In actuality, crowners on the discussion pages seldom yielded more than three votes, including my own. Data gathered from these crowners was so inconsequential as to be practically useless, particularly compared to the yields I could expect from crowners in Trope Repair Shop.

Puzzled by this turn of events, later on I tried using crowners in the YKTTW context. I never did this of my own volition- only when I saw a proposal where some tropers were saying that the proposal was really pretty similar to an existing page, but this existing page had some obvious, major flaw that likely led to the creation of a duplicate proposal. Crowners posted in this context easily gained over a dozen votes- nothing outstanding, but since nearly all of them were positive it was enough for major page action.

The typical YKTTW proposal has more traffic than the typical discussion page, mainly because YKTTW proposals are ephemeral with short, high bursts of activity while discussion pages exist pretty much forever- YKTTW is regularly checked by some regular users. I'm not sure anyone has ever bothered to check the recent discussion list for places to post except for me. Going by this numbers game, I realized that the true culprit of bizarre crowner votes was laid straight at the feet of Trope Repair Shop.

Trope Repair Shop only has about two dozen regular contributors at a time- the reason why many suspected that crowner results were off was because particularly contentious debates would yield several times that amount of total votes. On one occasion a crowner managed to amass six votes in about ninety seconds- far faster than usual. This so surprised me that I demanded the voters identify themselves. When all did so, I wrote the event off, but I realize now that I failed to perceive something very significant- these individuals probably would not have identified themselves had I not asked them to. They had no interest in participating in the discussion. They were only there to watch. Trope Repair Shop had lurkers.

For a forum this isn't much of a revelation- most forums have lurkers of some type. The problem was that Trope Repair Shop wasn't supposed to be a forum. It existed for the explicit purpose of discussing opinions and putting the results of these discussions into action. However, because all known tropers have an equal ability to vote in the crowners, lurkers possess the benefit of being able to help decide wiki policy without ever actually having to test or justify their opinions. This is why crowners can have such erratic results- if lurkers, particularly lurkers belonging to a specific faction get involved in voting, they can affect wiki policy by simply dismissing any opinion they see they don't like without having to actually justify their argument.

Objectively, of course, there's nothing so terrible about this. Mainly it underscores a colossal misperception forumites have about Trope Repair Shop- that anyone who participates must, by necessity, be informed. Whenever we discussed the poor crowner results it was always assumed that some force outside of Trope Repair Shop was messing with them. We had to- to think otherwise would mean accepting that Trope Repair Shop could be inherently flawed in some very unsettling ways.

Interestingly, there was one class of crowner that featured impressive, recurring and consistent vote tallies completely outside of the forums. These were the original crowners- the ones meant to vote on "what was the best episode of Batman", or some other series. This behavior persisted even after the old crowner system had apparently been supplanted entirely by the "Crowning" icons that appeared on the top of every page. How or why these original crowners were able to continue acquiring votes in spite of their obsolescence is something I never figured out- mainly because I never really looked into it. How people have fun on the wiki in their own way was not an issue that particularly interested me unless it somehow affected the quality of the content. It only even seems relevant now because of the way it illustrates the opinions of those individuals on the wiki who I came to know as the casual tropers.

No comments:

Post a Comment