Disclaimer: I’m not a Fandom/Gamepedia staff member nor am I receiving any money from the company. Everything in here is my personal opinion from the point of view of a volunteer who administrates a wiki on Gamepedia.
This post is not sponsored by anyone, and the only reason I wrote it is because I became disgruntled with decisions made by Fandom.
When I play Minecraft I always play on a multiplayer server, always with friends. I make sure that the server is hosted either by me or one of my friends. Why, you may ask? There are hundreds of different public Minecraft servers, it’s awesome to play with other people!
The reason for this is one but a very simple one – control.
When I join a public server hosted by someone I don’t know – I commit my time and effort into playing on a server that may disappear at any time. In case of Minecraft, I think having the original save data is a must. Numerous Minecraft worlds were compiled by me and my friends allowing us to have one of the best nostalgia trips that we could have. There is also another aspect of it, with control over the server we could make sure that the server isn’t shut down due to circumstances outside of our reach, it would truthfully suck to lose our progress because server owner became disinterested with the server/ran out of money/you name it. Additionally, by having full control over server the rules and server features are fully dictated by our needs. It’s truthfully best of all.
Well, except we don’t have company from other players, yet I don’t see it as a big issue, after all, we are pretty open about inviting other players, if a friend of a friend wants to play some Minecraft, they are welcome, as long as they stick to our established rules.
In terms of being a responsible community leader I see a lot of similarities between Minecraft server example and having an actual fully fledged wiki. Let me explain.
Whether you are a game developer, movie company or a person interested in documenting your project, what you would most likely want is a place where a community of people can contribute to the documentation. Wikis are perfect for this, they allow for collaboration on this information collection process. There are many existing wikis with that purpose. You may already know some of them, Bulbapedia, Minecraft Wiki, Stardew Valley wiki or even the behemoth that is Wikipedia. They all are wikis. All of the examples are also based on the same wiki software that is MediaWiki. One of the examples is a wiki that exists on a „wiki farm”1 – a term describing a platform created to accommodate a large quantities of these „wikis”. And this is exactly the topic I want to rant about today.
I’ve been contributing to a few wikis on such wiki farm, called Gamepedia. You can find my history on there in my other blog post. I’ve seen a lot, talked with people behind the wikis, made acquaintances and shaped countless articles. While I’m not an expert in field of wikilogy (I just made it up), I believe I know enough to give you this advice.
I know, it might be tempting. Creating a wiki in one of the farms like Fandom is a matter of few clicks and it’s hosted for you for free. It’s a great price, I don’t deny it.
However the real price is paid by your visitors and editors in their struggles to find the content you want them to see in between all of the ads and tracking (that is, after the ads finally load, after all, this video before start of every article provides significant increase in visitor’s awareness for brands and products).
You may also not want your editors to deal with arbitrary loss of features due to reasons, that are untrue or grossly absurd. You probably also don’t want some set of rules dictating what kind of content is allowed on the platform and what isn’t. The rules are dictated of course based on what advertisers want to put their ads on, and as we know (see YouTube) this is far from ideal, especially but not exclusively for makers who have adult content in their media. It’s also very likely you won’t be fond of the fact that a company plasters all of its branding all over community creation and does not allow to use existing features in the software to customize a lot of elements that make up the experience of the reader. From my experience dealing with a wiki farm managed by a corporation from editor’s and reader’s perspective is a constant struggle. It’s a constant struggle of jumping when the company throws another log under your legs. Endless cycle, that will end up only harming your community in the process. It’s unfortunate, but also ultimately unavoidable, when a corporation is in charge of community projects, don’t believe that the communities are their first priority. I’ve lived in this lie for way too long and learned my lesson too late. When a company allegedly has a bigger team working on ads than on actual software it’s pretty telling.
What are the alternatives however?
The single best option for your editors and readers alike is self-hosting your own wiki. It’s also the option that puts the most of the burden that wiki farms take care of, on you. This includes hosting, configuration, maintenance (of software part). It’s a price to pay but the effects are really worth it. One of the best wiki experiences I have are from self-hosted wikis. Have you ever checked out Stardew Valley wiki? Or pcgamingwiki? They have minimal advertising because very often, it’s not their only income to stay afloat. You can also notice differences in styling between them and Fandom wiki. Freedom in styling your wiki can be crucial and I highly recommend customization with your own needs in mind. You shouldn’t worry about some 3rd party person telling you that your style doesn’t fit some shitty guidelines.
If you cannot self-host for one reason or another, there is at least one more alternative I can recommend – Miraheze. It’s still a wiki-farm, however it’s one that is fairly idealistic and is not managed by a company but a non-profit organization. It allows for much more freedom for its communities and has more relaxed rules. It’s transparent to the point of having a public record of funds. You can even use your own custom domain for it, which is truthfully an awesome feature to have. But there is a good reason I mention it after self-hosting – Miraheze doesn’t have good SEO (positioning in web search engines), it’s very likely that building your own wiki and making it the first result will be a tough job. Yet I know of some who succeed at that and against all of the odds are able to have a wiki that takes the top spot in search results when searching for the name of the media2. Miraheze also doesn’t seem to have the best internal management from what I’ve learned based on chats with an insider.
That’s about it for today’s rant. Frisk’s out.