User:Cook Me Plox/7 Things

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Here are seven things I wish I knew when I joined the wiki on December 1st, 2009 (December 2009 cohort represent! You know who you are). I hope you find at least one of them useful.

Find a project! They're the only way anything cool happens here.[edit | edit source]

Find something cool to do, and do it! All of the memorable things I've done here on the wiki have involved a big project in one way or another, whether that was release dates, bestiary stuff, missing items, money making guides, skill calculators...editing the wiki is so much more enjoyable when you have a singular thing you can devote your time to. This is particularly true when you work on something that's very user-facing, like money making guides for example. Then when it's all finished you can show everyone what you've done, and feel good that you've made a difference in a bunch of lives (no matter how small).

Projects are also great because they can help build community. Can you imagine getting 100 people to sign up to help make music track articles? It's pretty crazy.

Find clever ways to do things efficiently.[edit | edit source]

I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.
— Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

I cringe at how much time I wasted in 2010 and 2011 doing things manually or semi-automatically that could have been done in a fraction of the time if I had been smarter about how I made the edits.

As an example, Category:Item images used to be the largest category on the entire wiki, containing over 10,000 item images of various types. In summer 2010, I split this category up, moving the inventory images to a separate category. The way I did this was by having the category open in one tab and AutoWikiBrowser in another, changing the category on the relevant ones, and saving and moving on. As you might imagine, this took about 20 hours of editing.

Looking back on it now, there are so many things I could have done to make this faster; I could have started with images that were in the image parameter of {{Infobox Item}}, or sorted the images by size first instead of alphabetically...I could have generated a list of the inventory images beforehand and had a bot do the edits automatically, instead of pressing save each time. If I had to do the same task today, it would probably take 30 minutes of my time. I could have gotten so much more done then, if I had been smarter. There are so many other examples of this, from me and from others (underrated example: AbuseFilter cut down vandalism by 50%).

So my advice is, if you have a big task you need to do that will take a long time manually, think about work you might be able to do upfront that will make the whole thing go faster. It doesn't need to be something simple: I made all these pages using a Python bot, because I realized it would take less of my time if I did some work at the beginning to automate it.

If this sounds interesting, look up how to make a MediaWiki bot in Python, and DPL, which is a tool you can use to get just about any information out of the wiki in an effective, useful way.

There's a bunch of RuneScape data out there that can make things easier. Use it.[edit | edit source]

The RuneScape cache contains unbelievable amounts of information about items, NPCs, monsters, objects, and a ton of other things that we care about. This is tremendously handy -- I've used the item cache to check release dates (although I wish I knew about it in 2010!), find items and NPCs we were missing, win RfD arguments, and more recently to completely replace all of the item infoboxes. There's so much more cool, useful stuff that you can wring out of the cache if you try hard enough. Previously we've had a ...complicated time dealing with the cache, but nobody really gives a shit anymore now that it's proven itself legitimately useful.

The cache isn't the only bit of data that Jagex sort of inadvertently releases about the game. Stats from the RuneScape Bestiary, models from the character viewer...there's so much stuff out there that can spark a project and make the wiki better. This goes hand in hand with the previous point, because this data can be so helpful for automating certain tasks. We wouldn't be able to create item pages minutes after game updates without the cache!

Jagex might actually be our friends...[edit | edit source]

We all know that the wiki's had a contentious relationship with Jagex for a while, related to the failures of the fansite support program and obviously the official wiki. They didn't seem to want to acknowledge us, even as we came into our own as the dominant RuneScape fansite. Forum:What if Jagex makes their own wiki? is a fun read!

That said, things have changed dramatically since the official wiki was shuttered. Almost all of that is due to the interaction we've had with Mod Shauny, who has singlehandedly changed my (and many others') perception of Jagex. He's provided us with a bunch of data that only Jagex could provide, and we've had orders of magnitude more communication with him than we've had with Jagex in all of the previous years combined. I honestly would have left a bit earlier if he hadn't been so eager and helpful.

Jagex employees can be a huge resource of information for the wiki if we play our cards right. Prioritize finding ways to communicate with them, and see if we can do anything to make it a mutually beneficial relationship.

...but Wikia aren't.[edit | edit source]

The recent (as of this writing) shenanigans by Wikia to try to fool Google by placing irrelevant links in content has expedited my plans for leaving. I think it's one of the worst, completely unprecedented things Wikia has ever done.

Wikia's not evil, nor are they incompetent. They are a company that has priorities, which often don't align with what's good for us. If I were running their company, I'd probably be doing roughly the same things they are, because it makes money and makes the people who actually matter (not us!) happy.

Basically, they can do whatever they want at our expense, and there's nothing we can do about it other than kick and scream. People often talk about forking, but Wikia abuses a Creative Commons license to keep up stale versions of forked wikis, blocking the admins and handing the wiki over to whoever's left, sometimes even hiring new editors if nobody's left. (I've actually had multiple Wikia community support people tell me they hated doing this, but that's the direction they're given). Forking simply isn't an option unless we want to kill the resulting wiki's traffic, or we have some trick up our sleeve related to Jagex. I know we'd all leave Wikia in a second if there was a viable exit strategy, but it just doesn't work.

Dealing with Wikia is so incredibly frustrating, because they have no reason whatsoever to listen to us or do anything that would be helpful to us. They have us by the balls, and there's nothing we can do about it. I've wasted so many hours over the past six years discussing our issues with Wikia's community support people, and not once can I remember my conversations having any meaningful impact on their treatment of our wiki. Despite consistently being their top-performing wiki (thank you TyBot!), we're just another one of the 400,000 wikis. To them, there's nothing special about us.

I urge you all to have a healthy skepticism about anything Wikia proposes for us -- they very rarely have your best interests at heart. Also, if anyone reading this is considering starting a wiki on Wikia, go literally anywhere else. The only way to avoid them screwing you down the line is by never signing up.

Getting new editors is the single most important thing you can do to help the wiki.[edit | edit source]

It's no secret that we have fewer editors than we've had in the past. I've spent a lot of time thinking about why this might be, but there are no easy answers -- I think more than anything, it boils down to changing priorities of the game's players, the wiki becoming more professional (and there being fewer obvious things to help with), and Wikia making it harder to edit.

Having more active editors fixes just about every problem: it gives us more people for new updates, more people to put on big projects, and it honestly just makes it more fun to contribute when there's a buzzing community around. But it's damn hard to get new people, and it's damn harder to keep them.

Still, on a per-hour basis, I don't know if there's anything you can to do that will help the wiki more than trying to get new people excited about editing. I made a Reddit post about a year ago that took about an hour of my time, and we got (at least for a little while) about 10 or 20 useful contributors that did way more to help the wiki than I could have in that hour if I just spent it editing. It's not a sexy thing to spend your time doing, but someone ought to do it if they care about the long-term health of the site.

Additionally, it's very important to interact with new-ish contributors after they do good stuff! Make them know that what they're doing is being noticed and appreciated, and try to draw them a little bit closer to the community.

Everyone is here because they want to help. Be nice![edit | edit source]

It's easy to forget this when things get contentious (or particularly when someone makes a mistake), but we're all trying to build something cool together. Be friendly, and never make anyone feel bad for trying to help.

As a specific example, in late 2009 and early 2010 there was a problem with Wikia's visual editor on Firefox that removed a bunch of entities from pages and sometimes inserted total gibberish. This was happening to me right when I started editing. Someone could have easily thought I was a vandal, and slapped a warning on my talk page (or even blocked me!). Instead, the wonderful Quarenon notified me of the problem and I tried to fix it. Later on in my first month of editing while I was doing release dates, I got a ton of encouragement from established editors that really made my day and made me want to keep going. These interactions matter! If either of those things had happened differently, it's totally possible I wouldn't be here nearly seven years later.

Which of these was the most useful?
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There were 15 votes since the poll was created on 19:15, 24 September 2018.
poll-id 9B3C318D1DEFB894BBB7DAD5CF5884D7