Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Culture: Example Organization

Examples are classified alphabetically by genre, mainly because when pages got large enough that example sorting became confusing, this was the main obvious way to classify them that anyone could think of. This was an effective solution for trope pages which are, after all, the main part of the wiki, though eventually example listings grew to be so long that folderization infrastructure, which allows for the opening and closing of individual example groups, had to be developed. But none of these innovations carried over to works pages, which were still as large and unwieldy to read as ever. Many casual tropers would complain about this state of affairs. I also considered it less than ideal, and so decided to do something about it.

In my last effective attempt to try and reform wiki policies, I proposed a new rubric by which to organize examples. Rather than simply making the whole thing completely alphabetical, pages could be organized into lists of tropes that fit a certain category. "Setting" tropes to describe the universe of a series, "Narrative" tropes to describe events that happen during the course of a series, "Meta" tropes to describe critical reactions to a series, and so on.

This had been a long-standing problem, which had already been somewhat solved accidentally by the development of character sheets. Early on in forum history, a dispute had arisen over Neon Genesis Evangelion character pages- pages constructed a long time ago by a fan of the series who described the characters metaphorically and critically in the narrative. These pages did not match the general format of TV Tropes as it developed. After protracted discussion, it was decided that rather than delete the pages, they would be repurposed into character sheets which would describe various individual characters in a series. These new pages were ignored for some time, until casual tropers picked up on their existence to solve the page length problem, moving character-centric tropes to the sheets so they would take up less room on the main page. My proposal functioned on the same basic principles.

The classification system I proposed had another advantage. Effective spoiler use has been a chronic enigma for most tropers, and this new schema did a fairly good job of negating the need for spoiler tags. After all, if you're reading the "Narrative" section of a page, chances are, there are going to be spoilers there. So no need for unsightly spoiler tags.

The proposal languished in Wiki Talk. I think overall there were twelve posts in the relevant thread, including my own. As usual, tepid support was offered, but nothing definitive, not even any objections. Actual progress was only made when a moderator made an offhand comment that the Gunnerkrigg Court page had been using a similar schema for quite some time. I seized on this, stating that as my justification for enacting these changes, a moderator's favorite series page had used this schema for some time with no objections, therefore, it must be all right.

If this sounds like a completely ridiculous argument, well, it kind of was. Unfortunately, I had found that when I came back to the forums, issues like content, efficacy, and pragmatism had even less relevance to page action justification than they did before I left. The main guiding principles were precedent, consensus, and whether the proposed change followed the rules. This was problematic, considering the existence of purges, the ambiguous nature of consensus, and an insistence by administration that rules did not exist.

The situation was so dysfunctional I had no expectation that any forumites would help- I knew I would have to perform the changes to various pages myself, and hope that casual tropers would catch on to the effectiveness of the organization and repeat it on their favorite series pages. The best I could hope for was that no one would try to prevent me from making changes based on some unfathomable abstract reasoning. Suffice to say, even though I wasn't banned. I still found the current state of quality control protocol to be rather incorrigible. With this in mind, I came up with a plan to try and force forumites to acknowledge the sorry state of affairs the wiki was in so we could do something about it.

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