RuneScape Wiki Post – Issue #14: Oasis Wars

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Issue #14

Note that the opinions expressed in this article regarding the new skin, Wikia, and other such matters only represent that of the author and not the wiki, the community therein, or the RSWP.

Article the First: The Oasis Menace[edit source]

A shimmering oasis.

On November 3, 2010, a date which will live in infamy, Oasis was made mandatory for all users. Oasis is the new skin that Wikia introduced. At the same time, the old skin, Monaco, was removed. This new skin brought with it a new Terms of Use and wholly redesigned layout. The new skin was meant to improve usability and provide more opportunities for up and coming editors to participate in the community.

However, the result was something else. It lacked the elegance of the theory and packed in more undesirable traits. By aiming to improve usability, Wikia came to the conclusion that the page must look the same for every user. Hence, instead of the flexibility of Monaco, the new skin featured a fixed width. While in theory, a fixed width is good because it makes all the page views consistent, in practice this is a negative change because it leaves large amounts of space unused. The fixed width was set so narrow (for the lowest resolution smaller screens) that those with the higher resolution widescreen monitors may be wasting almost half of their total space.

The changes don't stop there. Because of a shift towards "new user friendliness," many aspects were shifted. Whereas the page properties/actions (Edit, move, protect, delete, history, etc) were listed at the top in Monaco, Wikia felt a need to decouple them and scatter them all over the page. Now, History is at the bottom under "My Tools," edit, delete, protect, and move are shuffled under a new dropdown menu by the title, and follow is in the bottom toolbar. These changes make it a much bigger hassle to perform page actions, especially many in succession.

To add insult to injury, the terms of use were amended so that wikians were no longer allowed to alter or modify what Wikia calls "functionality of the user interface," which blankets most of the skin. This essentially forces new editors without personal css/js files to use Wikia's new creation. What could possibly be a motivation for this?

Article the Second: The Attack of the Profits[edit source]

Dazzled? So was Wikia. That's the power of the purse.

The most conceivable answer may, in fact, be profits. This is more apparent when examining a few more of Wikia's changes.

One of the most objectionable is Wikia's forced insertion of the image attribution feature, which states the user that uploaded the image to the wiki. (For example, the phrase "Added by Leevclarke" will appear under the image of the coins to the left.) This directly breaks a policy proposed in the Yew Grove and approved with community consensus. RuneScape:Ownership states that "users have no exclusive rights over the images that they upload to the wiki" and that there is "no need for credit to be given." Obviously, the unceremonious slapping of usernames throughout the mainspace serves to the contrary effect.

Image attribution violates not only a RuneScape Wiki policy, but also counters the fundamental aspect of wikis as places where editors with a common interest come together and edit out of a sense of charity, not for any personal gain. By attaching credit to improving the images, a perverse incentive is introduced, possibly sparking conflicts of interest.

Why would Wikia ever do something like this? The reality of the situation is that Wikia is a for-profit company that seeks to increase its bottom line. The more new users it attracts, the more advertisement revenue it earns. Since advertisements are almost all of Wikia's revenue, new users have been prioritized.

Unfortunately, the price is paid by the older and more established users who also happen to contribute more regularly. Functionality is decreased to almost zero, since the new skin was designed with social encounters in mind, and not for editing.

Perhaps the underlying principle of this ordeal is that wiki farms should not be managed by for-profit companies, since they will have conflicts of interest when dealing with issues like this: community or money? Far too often, money wins.

Article the Third: The Revenge of the Staff[edit source]

The infamous "Banhammer".

Wikia staff have not been kind to those who detract from its messages. Staff can be found darting from wiki to wiki, trying to head off rebellions by their respective communities.

When things get hairy, though, the staff have resorted to more unpleasant measures. Many sysops and bureaucrats of rebellious wikis found their rights removed. Many WoWWiki sysops and bureaucrats lost their rights, despite claims by staff that they don't desysop those who don't vandalize. It is clear that the desysoppings were due to disagreements between the staff and those who were desysopped. Staff wish to protect Wikia wikis at all costs, even if it violates the wiki's policy and community wishes. On the Grand Theft Auto Wiki, all bureaucrats lost their rights due to mass deletions on the wiki, though this is at least partly justified.

The problematic trend here is that staff are arbitrarily abusing their powers in order to either intimidate the community into submission or to protect Wikia's profits. This is quite unbelievable and a huge shift from previous wiki policy of putting the community first.

Article the Fourth: A New Hope (Albeit Small)[edit source]

Amidst a cacophony of doom, a new hope emerges. But will it be enough?

Wikia widened the skin for WoWWiki, citing a smaller userbase with the low-end resolution to force a scroll bar with the widened page. While this certainly is an olive branch from Wikia and offers hope for a future compromise, one burning question remains. Just how sincere were they?

On the forum itself, the change was mostly derided as unfair benefits for WoWWiki in a halfhearted attempt to attract some members of the community back by satisfying one of their demands. While the change is beneficial for WoWWiki, the distrust remains. How willing is Wikia to compromise? How willing is it to put the needs of the community first?

Only time will tell...

Article the Fifth: The Community Strikes Back[edit source]

Not willing to be outdone, several wikis flatly refused the skin being shoved down their throats. Prominent wikis, including WoWWiki, Halopedia, WikiSimpsons, and GTAWiki. By pulling a large portion of the community towards the new sites, the editors hope to cripple the Wikia wikis and establish the breakaway portion as the "legitimate" wiki on that subject. Their approach seems to be working so far. Wowpedia (the fork from WoWWiki) has more edits and much higher quality edits than WoWWiki does.

Article the Sixth: The Return of the Rights (Hopefully)[edit source]

The scales of justice.

Three score and seven months ago, Merovingian brought forth a new wiki, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition of a free and open RuneScape resource. Now we are engaged in our darkest hour, testing whether this wiki, or any wiki, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We have come together in previous times of hardship. Now that we face a new type of opponent, one not found within the wiki, but rather from an external source, the need to unite is more urgent than ever.

In a larger sense, we stand on the very place that was once a bastion of freedom. The RuneScape Wiki was "a shining example of Wikia's dream," a wiki that was given unprecedented free reign. The RuneScape Wiki proved that a group of editors can be self-sufficient. Now, as those rights are curtailed, we can never forget what had once transpired here.

It is for us to to increase devotion to that cause for which our predecessors have fought, and to ensure that they have not acted in vain. We must press Wikia to grant this wiki its rightful autonomy. This wiki shall have a new birth of freedom, and the RuneScape Wiki of the community, for the community, and by the community will not perish.

By: Liquidhelium
On a scale of one to five, what do you think about the new skin?
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There were 0 votes since the poll was created on 17:34, 24 September 2018.
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