My story on wikis

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.


Introduction

Hello! This is my first ever blog post on my website. I’ve wanted to write some for a long time now and I’ve only recently remade my website into this pretty thing. I’m not an experienced blogger and some paragraphs may seem out of place or like rambling but bear with me.
Either way, enough with the meta. I’ve wanted to talk about something close to my heart. Many of you know, I’m involved in wikis - usually encyclopedic, crowd-sourced sources of knowledge. Fun stuff. This year I’ve hit 7th year of being a polish Minecraft Wiki editor on Gamepedia, it’s kinda cool – one third of my entire life type of cool.
I’ve decided to write this specific blog, as there aren’t many public blogs describing and commenting on the history of „alternative wikis”, wikis that exist beyond most popular Wikipedia. And while today I’ll focus only on one part of them, it’s still a big chunk of history for wikis on the Internet overall.

A new hobby

I became a wiki editor when I realized that the resources for the game I adored (Minecraft) was very lacking and sometimes outdated back in 2013. Realizing the nature of the wikis, I decided to help. This was a mistake laughs. No, not really.

I’ve found editing my wiki a very good experience, bringing my knowledge, experience in the game to help others. Besides, to 14 year old me, it was a great source of pride to be an editor of such widely used resource, even more so when I was given the trust of „Redactor” role, which allowed me to approve edits of other users. I didn’t brag about it too much, however I did share the news with one of my best friends (who now helps me develop the very same wiki I’ve started on).

Back then Polish Minecraft Wiki, started at first as independent project, it was just fresh after joining Gamepedia which itself was a fairly young platform being a bit over a year old. It consisted of a few large wikis that often forked from somewhere else or jumped off independence like MC-pl did. Although back then, I wasn’t so interested in what Gamepedia was, my focus was on creating content. I didn’t really have many gripes with the wiki software itself, I quickly understood how to use source editor, much later understood the nature of templates. With time, mastery of English language also came, not thanks to school, but thanks to the Internet and limited resources in Polish language. While I wasn’t exactly comfortable with participating in English speaking communities, it helped me with translating articles from English Minecraft Wiki.

The wiki had however a few performance issues and with lack of active administration to contact Gamepedia about the issues I became sort of a bridge between my local language wiki community and the staffs.

I became more involved and decided to create a recent changes feed outside of wiki itself. I wanted to know what happens on the wiki when I’m not actively refreshing Recent Changes so I looked up how I could do it and learned I could use a RSS reader for this. This was my first introduction to programming. I’ve had a problem - lack of real-time edit feed that could ping me on every edit and I’ve found a solution - program a bot that would let me know of them. Programming such a bot is a very basic thing and required little to no knowledge, so I found some existing Python script and modified it to my needs. This being my introduction to programming later bore fruit in form of RcGcDw, a public Python package for MediaWiki wikis that fetches last wiki changes and sends them to a Discord channel.

At some point, I received an email, encouraging me to join Gamepedia’s Slack channel. So I did. This was how I joined Gamepedia community as a whole.

A new community

Gamepedia community at that time was fairly cool. One of the ways people in it interacted with each other were „Game nights” that were organized mostly by captain glasses. I didn’t really participate a lot back then since I wasn’t outgoing enough to join random Internet people I barely knew during their playing sessions, although I did sort of take the idea of Game nights and from time to time do them with my closest friends, it’s certainly a lot of fun.

Besides integrating with others, I’ve also felt like speaking on some matters around wikis, policies etc. One of the times I remember well was removal of RevDelete permission that the administrators on Minecraft Wikis had. At the end, we were able to at the very least still retain the permission for the bureaucrats globally on Gamepedia. In retrospect, I feel like it was a fight worth having. At least over on Minecraft Wiki this ability is used quite often to this day and in my opinion it isn’t abused, on more popular wikis sometimes people can do disgusting things and while doxxing others isn’t an every day issue (but when it is crats are usually faster than Wiki Managers to react), vile vandalism is.
This made me recognizable for making „walls of text” at some point.

Compared to today, I think atmosphere in Gamepedia community was more laid back. Staff had the time to directly interact with users on daily basis via Slack. You could actually solve many issues directly, rather than using a ticket systems. Of course, such approach has some issues, mainly the fact information is less organized and documentation becomes more difficult, however from standpoint of a user it was much much more friendly. Perhaps I’m idealizing the past, I don’t know, but the contact with staff of a smaller company felt less corporate than it feels to me now.

It was also around that time when Amazon’s adopted gaming child Twitch acquired Curse - company owning Gamepedia, a few brands and game mod distribution platform. I think it’s quite apparent now that Twitch wasn’t so much interested in Gamepedia itself as it was in other tools and brands owned by Curse back then. The only visible and annoying additions brought by this acquisition was mandatory login to wiki accounts using Twitch account, and embedded Twitch streams on wiki pages.

In certain strange day, around 2018-03-15, two Fandom users joined polish Minecraft Wiki Discord server. It was certainly a strange encounter but it gave me insight into how Fandom operated (and how bad their opinions on it were). They weren’t „usual” Fandom users either, they were experienced users with history of volunteer positions at Fandom. Back then, the main complaints about Fandom were the outdated MediaWiki version and terrible policies (like forced videos in the articles). You can believe me that compared to forced Twitch integration that Gamepedia had, it sounded like one, big terrible place to have a wiki on. And it probably wasn’t a wrong judgement either.

A couple months later, due to encouragements coming from my friends and people I’ve got to know in the community, I’ve applied and was accepted to a volunteer team at Gamepedia called GRASP. It was pretty much a equivalent to Fandom’s VSTF team, a team tasked with removing vandalism and spam from the wikis. I learned about getting accepted by the fact that a new channel popped up on Slack, called #grasp-hq. To be frank, for me it was a highlight. Reaffirming my abilities. Perhaps even an event saving me from wiki retirement, considering back then I had already slowed down with writing content for the wikis having no motivation to do so. I began working on tools to help find and remove vandalism and spam on Gamepedia, which helped me to polish my programming skills as well.

The unthinkable

Fast forward to 2018-12-12, the unthinkable happened. Something that was only joked about from time to time, a message on Slack in the announcement channel that read…

Shock. Disbelief. Worry. Those were only a few of the emotions many of Gamepedia editors felt back then. A company, having a „wiki farm”, off which many of Gamepedia communities jumped off in the past, is in the possession of company hosting their wikis now. Now, people who may not know much about wikis may think that it’s just an overreaction, that’s just some Internet resource, why do you care? Well, considering I’m writing this blog I do care. It’s a hobby, one that many of us put a lot of effort and care into. It felt just like caring for the plants in your garden for years, just for the neighbor with bigger garden to run over them with their fancy and expensive lawnmower. Except they only bought your garden off without your knowledge and you are afraid they are going to turn your beautiful flowers into withering confetti.

This fear was enough for some communities to reconsider the options they have, either run away silently and fight SEO1 or stay. I don’t actually know any community that chose the former, for better or worse.

After the deed was done, questions flooded in, and with them putting out the fires with standardized PR statement that became a short-lived meme in my circle of friends.

We completely understand your past frustrations with Fandom. Over the last year, Fandom has undergone a change in company direction that ensures communities are the first priority in everything we do moving forward. We hope that with time, a strong commitment to community, and the trust those users have placed in Gamepedia, they will find a great home at Fandom. Part of the reason Fandom and Gamepedia are coming together is that we have a shared vision for what the sites can become.

Months went by, and we were none the wiser what changes will occur. One of the first launched initiatives was Project Crossover which basically redirected traffic from one wiki to another and effectively merged two communities on different platforms. At some point Brandon Rhea, back then Product Marketing Manager at FANDOM joined Gamepedia Slack. He was our first point of contact with the parent company and he was responsible for „integrating Gamepedia into Fandom” so to speak. I used this opportunity back then to write another wall of text, directed at them, a result of many of my thoughts and worries resulting from the acquisition.

It was a relief to write this, I got to relieve my stress and focus on something important to me and many others. Afterwards, there were many staff changes at Fandom. A lot of people from Gamepedia staff took positions at Fandom. It was good to see from perspective of a Gamepedia user since it meant they had some part in decision making in the future.

The shift in Fandom’s decisions was visible soon after – Wiki Managers have been brought to Fandom, supporting bigger wiki communities even better than before, filling the gap between users and staffs, later on Editor rewards were introduced, much in spirit of Gamepedia’s Editor of the Month, however most importantly UCP, or at least at that time a wiki update was announced. This was the biggest project Fandom has ever undertook, but more on that, how it went in upcoming blogpost where I’ll try to summarize and give an opinion on it. It’s already quite a big one and I don’t want to stretch it.

New life under Fandom/Gamepedia

Other than above mentioned changes, that mostly impacted Fandom there wasn’t a lot for Gamepedia users in the 2019 and first half of the infamous 2020. The first fairly positive change that happened was the merging of the authentication system that got rid of draconian need of a Twitch account to use your wiki account. There was one thing however, that I’ll always remember and be grateful for…

Community Connect

Community Connect is an irregularly organized event where Fandom users and in 2020 also Gamepedia users are invited to one place for IRL meeting. I’ve had the pleasure to be one of the participants of 2020 Community Connect. The invitation came off to me as surprise, to be recognized as core user and invited was a major highlight for me. After considering for a while if I should accept the invite I chose to participate and visit USA for the first time in my life. It was easily one of the best times in my life, having the opportunity to meet many friends, talk with native English speakers live, visit Disney World and generally have a lot of fun. This amount of great experiences doesn’t happen too often and I’m insanely grateful to organizers and attendees for being superb people (shoutout to MarkusRost for supplying everyone with cookies!). I’ve had the opportunity to not only voice my opinions but listen about future plans for the platform and therefore future of wikis at Fandom/Gamepedia. Again, words cannot express how thankful I’m for this experience and I hope I never forget it.

The present

Fandom, just like any other company in the industry of selling ad space has been hit by COVID-19 epidemic and made a few decisions, that personally I find very disturbing. They’ve let some of their employees and contractors go two times. To their credit many of the people they’ve let go are now back working at Fandom, however I’m of opinion that lay offs are still a failure of management. It greatly decreases morale at the workplace, and doesn’t give a huge long-term money saving, and it’s just an ass thing to do during global crisis. In times where corporate management have the salary many many times higher than the „average worker” the savings are made on those who are already on the bottom of the corporate ladder.
It’s not the only sin Fandom has committed in this case, there were other disturbing details related to these lay offs/furloughs, however I’m not a reporter and I don’t have the money to battle in lawsuits accusing me of slander so I’ll cease at saying that.

To my greater dissatisfaction, we - Gamepedia users still don’t know what will happen to Gamepedia brand. We don’t know if there will be more wikis created in Gamepedia domain or not. While 4 years ago I wouldn’t give a flying goat about branding, today I feel like it’s something important to me. Once Gamepedia dies it will be the end of certain era. No Fandom can replace it. And piecing all of the puzzles it seems like Gamepedia is truthfully dying. Key people behind it – founders, directors are leaving the company2. With each day the line between what is Gamepedia and what is Fandom becomes more and more blurry.
But that’s what we knew would happen ever since the last acquisition, because the Game was rigged from the start.


  1. Search Engine Optimization ↩︎

  2. On their own accord or not we obviously don’t know, but fact is, Benjamin Tarsa and Ben Robinson are gone now and after UCP is complete another key person is leaving the company as well ↩︎

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