Monday, May 30, 2011

History: Notifications (Part II)

The first thing I did upon finding out that I was banned was try to locate the source. After some investigation I sent a private message to the moderator who had started the restricted access forum thread helpfully titled "Some Guy". I had plenty of questions- why was I banned, what was the content privately discussed in this thread, and more particularly why this individual, who had only been a moderator for a few weeks, accepted my congratulations at being promoted yet felt it necessary to complain about me behind my back. This moderator only gave vague answers to these questions, exhorting me to "talk about what you've been doing, since it involves the whole wiki."

In the discussion pages I'd had a hand in discussing and enacting modification in regards to a very wide variety of problems, any one of which could conceivably "involve the whole wiki". I decided that since this moderator wasn't going to give me a clear answer, I would respond by detailing nearly every problem and possible fix for wiki issues that I could possibly think of. Suffice to say, this was a long forum post- but since one of the few specific charges against me was that I eschewed discussion, I felt it necessary to make clear that anyone who thought I was unwilling to engage in serious discussion was sorely mistaken.

This forum thread ran for a fairly long while - over a hundred posts - but few of my ideas had any traction. This had little to do with the content of the ideas- mostly they were just proposals for administrative pages that would clearly answer questions I had seen posed repeatedly in the wiki proper. Rather, the objection was over the idea that TV Tropes write down any clear guidelines to begin with. TV Tropes is supposed to be an informal environment, and telling people to do anything goes against its style.

The argument mystified me. I'd always thought of TV Tropes as an open-source encyclopedia in need of constant correction and repair because most of its users are writing amateurs. Indeed, the very existence of Trope Repair Shop seemed to bolster this point- unless there are some sort of standards to enforce, it's hard to imagine under what grounds any trope could possibly be modified or changed in any way. I requested a clarification on the purpose and authority of Trope Repair Shop, not just in regards to this point but also to get an explanation for how I could possibly "stomp all over" the authority of Trope Repair Shop when neither I nor anyone else knows what the authority of Trope Repair Shop is. The first point met with a strict interpretation of the When To Rename A Trope page- which aside from only being about renames was also almost completely unchanged from when I first wrote it one and a half years earlier. To use this, of all pages, as evidence against me was the height of absurdity. The second point was forbidden from discussion as the thread was about TV Tropes writ large, not my specific situation.

This was exactly the kind of exhausting, purposeless argument about nothing that made me leave the forums in the first place. So when Fast Eddie offered a compromise, automated notification of all pages linked in either Trope Repair Shop or Image Pickin', I quickly accepted it even though it had almost nothing to do with any of the issues I had actually brought up in the opening post of the thread. I did mention at some points how the current notification system wasn't working, but mainly to illustrate how forumite thinking was flawed, not to suggest that it be salvaged.

The "upgraded" system caused notifications to automatically appear on a page provided a Wiki Word is provided in the "page being discussed" portion of thread creation in the two relevant forums. This wasn't necessarily a bad solution, in that it brought about consistency, but I realized the flaw in the new notification system almost immediately. The only way for a notification to be removed is for a moderator to lock the thread, and the moderators would only lock threads that had been clearly resolved. Trope Repair Shop does not clearly resolve problems. As a result, as I expected, the stale discussion report which kept track of threads created under the new system quickly ballooned out of control as far more new proposals were being created than old ones were being locked.

As a result of this, Trope Repair Shop became more transparent, but not in a good way- most notifications lead to ancient unresolved threads, so most who click on notifications discover a Trope Repair Shop that is incapable of solving problems. Of course, this was a long term problem- in the short term, I at least had my editing abilities back, and I had acknowledged some authority was invested in the forums. With this and what I had learned from working in the discussion pages in the last four months, I could try to work at changing the system. At least, that was what I thought at the time.

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