Monday, May 16, 2011

History: Vetinari Paradox

While I no longer participated in the forums, I did on occasion rename a trope. The rationale for this in my mind was fairly obvious- consensus was the real decider as to whether page action needed to be undertaken. Trope Repair Shop was just an obvious place where consensus could be gathered. When I spotted consensus for action that no one else was willing to undertake, I felt no compunction about simply performing this action myself.

In the case of Vetinari Paradox, this consensus was established in an old Trope Repair Shop thread. Vetinari is a character from the Discworld series. He's evil, I think (I've never actually read any of it), but any attempts to remove him from his position of authority end up failing because he's apparently the only person in the entire city competent enough to run things. See, it's a paradox, sort of, in that Discworld can't live with him or can't live without him.

You may have noticed I had to struggle a bit there to try and work the word "paradox" in there. This was another one of those metaphor titles that was really obvious in YKTTW but which were extremely non-intuitive when the title came into usage on the common wiki. Given the relative obscurity of the Vetinari character, this trope probably should have been renamed completely. But like so many other discussions, the relevance of Vetinari as a "TV Tropes icon" was endlessly debated. Headway was only made when the compromise suggestion was offered of Vetinari Job Security. This was not a fantastic title, since it still elevated Vetinari as the trope's true exemplar, but at the very least, the trope actually describes job security. It doesn't really describe a paradox.

Even though I had participated in this forum thread, I did not enact the final rename. And so, like so many renames before and after, Vetinari Paradox languished in obscurity. My memory was refreshed when, during my time in the discussion pages, another troper called my attention to the title- the forum thread itself had long since been purged, but the crowner strongly showing a rename to Vetinari Job Security as the preferred outcome remained. I saw no reason for an inaccurate title to continue to be an inaccurate title given the established consensus, so I changed the main title and changed half of the redirects.

Some time after this happened, there was a ruckus in Trope Repair Shop over the name being changed without appropriate consensus being made. The name was reverted back to Vetinari Paradox not, as near as I can tell, because anyone actually liked the old title, but because action had been undertaken without undergoing a consensus process. After a new extended discussion and a new crowner which both yielded the exact same result, the same outcome occurred. Vetinari Job Security was the preferred new title, and no one was completely sure whether a rename really ought to be performed, in spite of the obvious crowner results. The decision for action was finally made when one troper noted that since half of the links were already Vetinari Job Security Wiki Words, that facilitated an easy change, and so the trope was renamed, again.

Something I must emphasize about all this is that I had no idea any of the above paragraph happened until some months later when I happened upon this discussion in a new context. A moderator shook an angry fist at whatever anonymous troper performed this action and stated that such moves were not appropriate. It's a chastisement that would have made sense except that in both the page history and in the discussion page, I'd left fairly clear notes detailing my rationale, and both were signed by my wiki handle. I'd had no idea this incident occurred at all, and would not have ever been aware it was an incident at all if I hadn't later randomly stumbled into the newer thread.

At the time all of this going on, I was oblivious, but particularly in retrospect, this affair established a fact that I could never have ascertained if I had stayed in Trope Repair Shop. For all the notifications lying around, it was incredibly easy for a user to make a major edit without ever having any idea that Trope Repair Shop exists. This, admittedly, is a fairly obvious point- at least for someone not used to posting in the forums. Now that I was no longer posting in the forums, many conventions that I had taken for granted I increasingly saw as just not being relevant.

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