Friday, September 25, 2015

What the Hell Happened to the AltHistory Wiki?


From 2009 to 2011, I considered myself an active member of the AltHistory Wiki community. I was a regular contributor to "1983: Doomsday" and other timelines. I also pitched in with combating vandals and I must have made myself a big enough annoyance that someone decided it would be easier just to make me an administrator to the Wiki instead of reading the ton of messages I left on people's talk pages warning them of the damage. I took my role as administrator seriously and used my limited free time to do my best to clean up the Wiki. I helped institute new policies to govern the wiki more effectively and promoted ideas I thought would help encourage a stronger sense of community, like the Stirling Awards and revamping the way Featured Timelines were selected. I was proud of what I accomplished and of the people who followed in my footsteps.

In 2011, I retired from my post as a member of the "Brass" (the administrator rank which, besides having the power to ban members, can also grant administrative powers to other members) and eventually created Alternate History Weekly Update. At the time I said that I wanted to focus more on my own writing because I felt that managing the Wiki was distracting me from it. That, however, was only part of the reason why I left. To be frank, I was burnt out from dealing with the Wiki. As time went by, many of the people I befriended there had left and the newcomers, although many were talented writers and all-around pleasant people, had some major ego cases in their ranks. I became tired of all the arguments and the snark. I also had creative differences with the direction "1983: Doomsday" was going. It had quickly turned from a grim world of nuclear war where the United States had fallen apart while a rump-Soviet Union lived on, to an atompunk fantasy. It became clear that I needed a break.

So I left the Wiki and started blogging and the rest, as they say, is history. I eventually did return to the Wiki, but only as a lurker and I maintained that my retirement from the Time Stream Protection Task Force (or the TSPTF, which is the collective name the administrators refer to themselves as) was still in effect. I even dropped into their Chat a couple of times and was surprised not only to see that many people still remembered me, but that a lot of the new faces who I had never met knew of me. It felt good and made me happy that I had decided to return in my limited capacity.

Then things started to go downhill. I noticed that on other alternate history sites, most notably AlternateHistory.com, the AltHistory Wiki had a reputation for bad alternate history and immature users who only produced Map Games. Now I am not a fan of the Wiki's Map Games. I don't have any particular dislike for them, they just aren't for me. To be fair the Map Games didn't seem all that different from AlternateHistory.com's Shared Worlds forum, so I didn't think they had that much right to complain. That being said, yeah I read my fair share of bad alternate histories on the Wiki, but you can find those on any community. The Wiki does have good timelines (last month I featured "Winged Hands of the Reich" by SpanishSpy), but an argument can be made that the format of the Wiki means its hard to find them and bad timelines often get pushed to the front.

What I am saying is that at first I wasn't concerned about the criticisms I was hearing. The longer I lurked on the AltHistory Wiki, however, the more weight I gave to those criticisms. The aforementioned Chat had no content restrictions enforced and often would degenerate into flame wars that would spill into other parts of the Wiki. I stumbled upon a subreddit for the Wiki that actually had threads to organize attacks on specific members. While scanning some of these arguments and attacks, I even began to notice cliques forming that often spent more time harassing outsiders than discussing alternate history. Meanwhile, TSPTF members were either increasingly absent or just didn't care, sometimes even participating in these disputes by egging on the combatants. The final straw for me was seeing another spill over from a Chat fight on the TSPTF talk page referencing "penile yeast infection", gay jokes and seeming unconcern that people were using sockpuppets.

You know what this all reminds me of? The Fall of Alternia. Just like with the AltHistory Wiki, you had a divided community that was more interested in arguing about everything besides what the community was supposed to be talking about: alternate history. The AltHistory Wiki in my mind has devolved into a haven for Internet trolls that deserves its poor reputation. What is even worse is that the Wiki is suffering a brain drain. You know where I found all those people I first met when I started editing back in 2009? AlternateHistory.com. You know where I talked to SpanishSpy after he noticed I had featured his work on Timeline Thursday? AlternateHistory.com. The good writers have left and will continue to leave before everything collapses, just like with Alternia. The difference is that I don't think there is a way to delete the Wiki once it all falls apart, since the ultimate owner of the place is Wikia.

Is there a solution? Well I got a few ideas off the top of my head. First, get rid of Chat, just close it down entirely. Its a source of a lot of the fighting and the current user base has already shown they can't regulate themselves. The AltHistory Wiki needs to take a stand that they will focus solely on alternate history and not be distracted by off-topic conversations. Second, spin off the Map Games into their own separate, but affiliated, wiki. I am perhaps being unfair to the Map Gamers, but it seems to me that a lot of the major troublemakers are from that group of users. Third, find a way to highlight the good alternate histories besides the Featured Timelines and the Stirling Awards. To be honest, I have no specific ideas on how to do that, but the Wiki needs to work on repairing its reputation and doing nothing to better showcase the good is not helping. Perhaps one thing they can do immediately is purge themselves of poorly constructed timelines and their affiliated articles that haven't been edited in years. It will certainly be a start in removing the bad so people can find the good.

I would also recommend that the AltHistory Wiki start purging some of the worst trolls. I'm not going to start naming names, simply because I am not active enough in the community currently to do a fair job of it, but I am sure that if the Wiki's users thought about it they could pick some people who have been the worst of the worst. Those whose damage they cause is greater than whatever benefit they bring to the Wiki. This, and spinning off the Map Games into its separate wiki, would likely see the active user base drop significantly, but it would give the community time to return to what they do best: collaborative alternate histories. Perhaps it will also see new blood joining, who may have been scared away by the people they ran into while editing.

Finally, and this is my most important point, the community has to do this. Let me reiterate: the COMMUNITY has to do this. The TSPTF will have their role (and besides they should only be volunteers who help with the technical aspects of the wiki and NOT the sole decision makers) and leaders from outside the administrators will emerge, but the community has to do it together. The AltHistory Wiki has always been more communal in its governance than other alternate history communities, like AlternateHistory.com. That has made it unique and perhaps explain why shared universes like "1983: Doomsday" were able to thrive. If the AltHistory Wiki is going to be saved, every single active member must step up and play their role. It shouldn't just be assumed the TSPTF or someone else will take care of it.

Well now that I said all of the above I probably just alienated a good portion of my reader base. I easily could be exaggerating some of the problems the AltHistory Wiki faces and I could have been one of the reasons why it is in its current state. That being said, the Wiki still has some major problems, but there is still time to pull it back from the brink. It will take a lot of work, but I still think the AltHistory Wiki can be fixed, if the community cares enough to do it.

* * *

Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a blogger on Amazing Stories and a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History judgeWhen not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the day when travel between parallel universes becomes a reality. You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and YouTube. Learn how you can support his alternate history projects on Patreon.

13 comments:

  1. There's been a new wiki established by UR, Josh, and Fires because of this

    http://the-alternate-history.wikia.com/wiki/The_Alternate_History_Wikia

    It's still WIP but you should check it out

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  2. Join the 5 year old http://implausablealternatehistory.wikia.com/wiki/The_Implausible_Alternate_History_Wiki. It was founded by Wipsenade, Dean Simms, Godfrey Raphael, Wingman 1 and Southern Dude due to the moral deacay and as a home for ASB, bias, eccentric, misfit and NCNC breaching timelines.

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    Replies
    1. It is a troll free zone.

      Delete
    2. It is growing fast. Godfrey Raphael still post there. Whipsenade (now Trish Pt7).

      Delete
    3. I still keep an eye on that Wikia but am not that active. But i plan on changing this soon! ~~~~Wingman1

      Delete
  3. This is, in my opinion, a very poor analysis. Want to know what happened to the wiki? Perfect example of what happens when authoritarianism meets slacktivism.

    There is major problems with the way the site is being run. At its core it should be a community for alternate history right? But then why is half the administration so focused on their own personal vendettas that they actual put alternate history second to their own goals? You want to promote good timelines yet this week featured timeline authors are permabanned. We got admins who do nothing, admins who fundamentally do not understand the community. Five users permabanned and not a single person steps up and asks why, they all just want to look good for the next round of promotions so they say good work, and they say we're doing what Mitro wanted, and they say I never liked them etc etc. No one has the guts to stand up and do real moderation.

    There is no actual laws. There is a rules page, but it is antiquated and purely for show. The new law of the land is pay up or get banned.

    The admins govern by fear now. They treat the banned like domestic terrorists, saying we need to stop being afraid of them. Last I checked the only person I'm afraid of is the admins who seem to harbor a permaban over my head every edit. Why should I be scared of the working man editor? The guy just trying to write a timeline who spoke out one time and is now a terrorist. Fear turns to a breakdown in order. We got admins using their powers as they please, and the only time the TSPTF as a whole gets a hold of it is when one idiot questions him and next thing you know he is permabanned too.

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  4. I would have to agree to get rid of chat. I've considered joining chat many times, but to me it just seems to be filled with inappropriate ****.

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  5. I agree, Chat must go. It is just a way of harassing and bullying new comers. Whipsenade (now Trish Pt7).

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  6. Doomsday 1983 was very dodgy in places due to a mixture of political bias and military ignorance. I found these heavy implausibilities.

    The Celtic Alliance- The 5 surviving SNP members would set up a pro-Irish regime in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, not join with Ireland. This is because the SNP is, well, Scottish nationalist.

    A Welsh nationalist regime would have probably occurred in North Wales (Conway district, Powys, Denbighshire and Merionedshire.)

    A local regime would probably have occurred in the Shrewsbury\Ostwestry\Ludlow region.

    Mongolia would become a Siberian client state, not a Siberian colony.

    Soviet Siberia is growing to fast.

    It is way too optimistic in Africa and Poland, Cuba, DPRK and S. Korea . They should be toast!

    It is too pessimistic in the PRC and the former Yugoslavia.

    RAF Bircham Newton was not hit.

    Western Europe was hit too hard, by the nukes. Outside of central Europe the Soviets' plans for Europe were to destroy military and industrial stuff, since they wanted to conquer, enslave and plunder (see the GDR).

    The USA was the only nation who went mostly after eastern European civvies in cities. Us Brits, the French, China, S. Africa and the Israelis only wanted to do what was necessary to stay alive. Russia, India, Pakistan and N. Korea have no set plan, just a general policy that is probably mostly anti-military.

    Slovakia would be devastated, but not wiped out and a pile of radioactive slag.

    San Julián Air Base and San Antonio de los Baños Airfield were not hit, but Havana and San Diego were.

    The American base at Aarbourg would be be targeted, not Copenhagen.

    A sea strike at Inishtrahull would happen off the Donegal coast, since UK subs reguly loytered their.

    The Soviets oddly did not hit RAAF Bace Woomera, Laverton radar station or Jervis Bay's navy base. Somehow 3 major Australian cities were hit. Perth-Fremantle 300 to 400 kT, Melbourne 500kT and Sydney 500kT.

    Whipsenade (now Trish Pt7).

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    Replies
    1. Democratic reforms althistory.wikia.com needs?


      Spin map games off to the Mapgame Wikia.com.

      Shut the chat device down. It is getting rather trollish at times.

      A less intimidating atmosphere for new comers.

      All bans must be explained on the victim's talk page and not just sapped down randomly from on high by mods.

      Remove 'fluff' like government-sims to the Mapgame Wikia.com.

      Ensure the TSPTF do fight trolls not each other's over-inflated egos.

      Cherish the idea of both a a 2-monthly Turtledove awards as well as a yearly Sterling Prize.

      Support NuclearVacuum in his battle with trolls.

      If map games stay, move the powers of the MGOC to the TSPTF.

      Delete
  7. With out Western aid Sub-Saharan Africa would collapse in to anarchy. Poland, Cuba, DPRK and S. Korea would be wiped out and a pile of radioactive slag.

    Whipsenade (now Trish Pt7).

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  8. Read here- http://1991-new-world-order.wikia.com/wiki/Wikia_gulag-_Kolyma! :-)

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