Saturday, May 28, 2011

History: TV Tropes Newsletter

Back when I was still working in the forums, I once broached the idea of creating a TV Tropes Newsletter as a possible way of keeping various factions of the wiki informed. The concept was pretty simple- once a week, a newsletter would be published containing all the major page changes that had been enacted on the wiki in the past few weeks. Additionally, special interest stories would be written and submitted to entertain prospective readers beyond mere recitation of facts. The idea was popular, and several tropers were eager to help. It even had official approval from both wiki administrators.

However, the idea fell through. Mostly this was my fault. I was never fully satisfied that there was enough interest to make the newsletter work, and no one definitive agreement was reached on the exact format it should take. While I ended up writing a trial issue and a general template, this was all I did. As the forum thread slowly died off I simply forgot about the project and ended up redirecting my energies elsewhere.

Later on, when I had gotten to working in the discussion pages, I ran across a newsletter section that included my prototype newsletter as well as several other, obviously newer ones. After some research, I discovered that the newsletter project had been revived by another troper who had done something that I, back when I participated in the forums, would never have thought to do. Faced with a situation where there was an obviously good idea with no clear execution, he simply used the existing format to build a newsletter and assumed the right pieces would fall into place later.

The newsletter was not fantastic, but it achieved its stated purpose. It detailed various events around the wiki in an interesting enough way that people would want to read it. I sent a private message to this new troper thanking these efforts. To my surprise, this troper actually knew who I was- the original purveyor of the newsletter idea, as well as being a major contributor to wiki maintenance. However, like most forumites, this troper had no idea what had happened to me and was a little surprised to see that I was still active on the wiki. I briefly explained why I had left, then offered to help the newsletter by reporting on major events in the wiki proper- generally the results of investigations I performed in answering questions. It was in this manner that Janitor's departure from the wiki became public knowledge. I also suspect that the newsletter was why the demoted cut master I have previously mentioned was reinstated- with the reinstatement, it was easier to justify not releasing a news blurb explaining what the cause of the demotion had been.

In a sense, helping with the newsletter gave me some catharsis. I had had this vague feeling that working on the wiki without dealing with Trope Repair Shop was somehow improper. I wasn't trying to keep anything that I did a secret- I gave clearly defined edit reasons and discussion page posts any time I made an edit that seemed even remotely controversial. But the fact that no one I knew from Trope Repair Shop responded to these prompts or asked me any questions still seemed unsettling. With the newsletter I felt assured that I had done everything I could to promote transparency on the wiki. That the new editor of the newsletter saw nothing unusual in my actions also helped a bit in this regard.

Unfortunately, the newsletter didn't last. One week there was no newsletter because the troper had had no internet. A few weeks later, the troper appeared to disappear from the wiki altogether. I asked an admin if he had any what had happened, but he didn't seem to have any idea. He remarked that it was unusual for a forumite who had once posted several times a day to not have any posts at all, but so long as this troper was gone from the site, there simply wasn't any real way to tell.

In spite of all this, the newsletter was a good idea. Faced with the prospect of it simply being gone for good, I asked the admin if it would be all right for me to take up the newsletter's mantle and continue its publication. The admin responded by telling me that I was edit-banned and advised that I go about "mending bridges" with Trope Repair Shop which I had, in some unclear manner, disrespected. Suffice to say, this was the last mention anyone on the wiki made of the newsletter project. My immediate concern now was trying to figure out who, specifically, I had offended, and what, specifically, I had done to merit an edit-ban without so much as a warning.

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