Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Future of TV Tropes

When I first became aware of the TV Tropes website, I was enthralled. Fictional narrative is a significant influence on our collective culture and opinions. Tropes unconsciously shape many of our perceptions of the world, and are a topic worthy of study. The first edit I ever made was on the Incredibly Obvious Bomb page concerning the 2007 Boston Bomb Scare. To this day, I can come up with no explanation as to why the Boston police thought brightly colored LED displays were bombs except by using the "logic" of this trope.

Perhaps once the TV Tropes wiki really was about detailing this level of nuance- at this point, I honestly can't remember. I have heard about what has happened at the site since I was banned, and the direction administration has taken is not encouraging. Apparently, the true villain of the wiki is now negativity- which I suppose explains why the example I gave above, along with plenty of others, has been removed from the site. There's not really any way to describe the Boston Bomb Scare that doesn't make the Boston police look like idiots.

This de-emphasis on analysis is actually fairly fitting, all things considered. Those of you who have been reading this blog all the way through may note that multiple tropes come up in the story of TV Tropes quality control history- Selective Obliviousness, Fascist But Inefficient, Tautological Templar, Internal Retcon, You Know What You Did, and those are just off the top of my head. None of these tropes reflects particularly well on the character or institution that invokes them, and yet administrative staff continues to do so with no sense of irony.

Much of this stems from yet another trope- Protection From Editors. It's ironic, given the wiki context, but all too true. There are now enough TV Tropes purists who are adamant that the wiki is perfect as it is that any attempt to try to fix any of the wiki's multiple problems is doomed to endless gridlock, particularly now that criticism has been outlawed as a "subjective" statement. TV Tropes will now likely follow the path of countless legions of web sites that were clever at first, took a turn for the stupid, and now feel no obligation to improve quality because money equals success. It's a sobering future- and not one I would have previously thought inevitable.

Once an article was written about TV Tropes in the Los Angeles Times. Those were spirited days- the article made TV Tropes a "notable" website in the eyes of Wikipedia, and seemed to greatly bolster the web site's credibility as an academic institution. That day will be TV Tropes' high point. Back then, the site's flaws could be attributed to its relative youth. Today, administrative staff has deified these flaws because that's the way they've always been. No institution, academic or otherwise, is going to give serious scrutiny to a website that is incapable of improving its own content.

TV Tropes was a great idea- it still could be, provided that the objective was intelligent trope-related analysis. But the site's objective now, so far as I can tell, is to be an elaborate listing of a bunch of stuff that happened. Administrative staff are determined to keep it like this, and are prepared to ban anyone who gets in the way. It's a far cry from the days when we worried about a "let up the drop-bridge, all the cool kids are already in" mentality seeping into tropers with a few months' seniority.

I don't know what could be done about any of this, assuming anything can be done. Regardless, I was determined to see this blog through to the end when I started it, and that's exactly what I've done. This blog is to some extent my apology- I still feel crummy about the role I played in all of this, and trying to piece together what happened has been informative, although I've no idea how much good it will do. Hopefully this has provided some illumination as to how TV Tropes managed to get to its present point. I don't know who has much of an interest in all this, to be quite honest- I just hope that you're able to make better use of the knowledge than I was.


  1. Sad but true.

    Two years, I'll give the site two years before it burns itself out

  2. I notice you haven't been getting many comments, but I want to thank you for writing this blog! I love TV tropes, and I have spent countless hours wasted on it instead of doing calculus homework, but many of the other members, and now the administration, has frustrated me. This has been a great read, and I hope that you might write something again in the future. Thanks!

  3. Two years have passed since Sabirah's comment and, unfortunately, not only TvTropes hasn't burnt out, but it's getting progressively worse.

    Anyway, thanks for your precious work and let's hope that horrible site gets nuked out of the web for good.

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  4. As an addendum, the reason things have gotten worse is because the new community wishes nothing more than to promote their own opinions. I came across a very well-written article that discussed what had happened in greater detail.

    I know that you haven't been around for a while, ever since you were unfairly given a Google-ban, but nonetheless, I hope you've found a more constructive use of your time now that two years have passed.

  5. This was a very interesting read. Thank you for writing all of this out. It was clear to me that the wiki had gone through a crisis a few years back (and had not emerged the better for it), and this was the first site to turn up when I searched for further information about what the hell happened to what was formerly such a promising site. I'm glad to be able to get at least one perspective on the story.

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