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My meeting with Sannse

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Keep checking the upper area (above the horizontal line) for updates as I remember stuff. -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 3:12 PM PST 17 Dec 2010


I met with Sannse today in person and she was fine with me relating a version of what we talked about. I'll probably end up being vague, partly because I don't want to give away too much about what Wikia is working on and partly because I don't remember everything in exact detail, because we talked about alot. We talked for over an hour, so I gained alot of insight. Not all I heard made me happy, but alot of it did.

This post will be a work in progress, because I'll probably remember things as people comment. First I'll start with why the meeting happened and then I'll followup later with some things we talked about.

The meeting was partly precipitated because I was being a jerk. Here on the forum and in talk pages. Please don't take this as a way to get a meeting in-person with Wikia staff, but I do honestly think it was one of the reasons. However, the main reason was because I've been involved with Wikia, albeit as mostly an outsider, for a long time and have met with Wikia staff a couple of times and visited them at their HQ in San Mateo and San Francisco. Sannse wanted to meet to work out the differences between us, in that I've expressed many concerns about Wikia's direction (much of it in a snarky, unpleasant way), but have been very helpful to Wikia in the past and they wanted to know if I was worth continuing to work with or we should part ways. My guess was that there would be more of an understanding and I could put the whole situation between Wikia and experienced users and admins in perspective. I don't pretend to speak for all experienced users and admins, but I can speak for some and more likely speaking for those who were less pleased with Wikia's recent changes than those who work more closely with Wikia (like VSTF and admins that have become helpers).

I apologize for what may start to appear like a wall of text, but I want to try to be clear and cover a good chunk of what we talked about.

Here is a summary of the points I tried to present (without knowing anything about Wikia's internal workings):

  • Wikia has changed from the past in both how it has changed shared functionality on Wikia wikis and how it interacts with its users.
  • The Monaco transition was not as comparable to the Oasis transition as Wikia thinks.
  • Wikia makes its money off volunteerism and the leaders of wikis are generally admins who are possessive of their wikis and how the content is presented. You can't attract new users and alienate experienced users at the same time. These efforts work at cross purposes.
  • Admins don't like surprises. Even a little foreknowledge of functionality change coming in the future will go a long way to reassuring admins and giving time to at least psychologically prepare to adapt. Even if you don't like the change, if you can think of how to work with it or around it before it happens, you'll be less mad. Admins need somewhere to go for change status, even if it is very minimal.
  • The Rich text editor (RTE) doesn't help new users add content as much as Wiki thinks. The Rich text editor creates significant barriers to adding content beyond mostly just "typing". The Rich text editor also hides lots of content from new users and makes it impossible for them to edit, but easy to screw things up.
  • Wikia is not taking enough advantage of help from admins. Admins helped alot with the Monaco transition because there was less change and they were more allowed to update help pages and were given more access to the inner workings of the skin.
  • It's not always better to release newer stuff fast, if it is poorly tested and poorly or not at all documented. Users will probably be willing to wait for new features, if they know they'll work better.
  • The help pages are awful (which Wikia knows), but redirecting most of them without updating them or even asking for help updating them was probably not a good idea.
  • A bug with a workaround is better than a bug with a fix that comes too late.

Here is a summary of what I remember Sannse relating as Wikia's perspective:

  • Wikia is small and has limited resources to serve all the needs of what it sees as a small, but vocal minority group of users (like admins and those who visit this forum). This also means that they can't devote a single person's time to even the biggest wikis.
  • Wikia underestimated the negative response to Oasis, but were too far into the process to make a dramatic change of direction and still believed it was necessary for their business.
  • Wikia has gone through alot of change in the past year and many problems are part of growing pains.
  • Wikia is very concerned about the experience of new users and is constantly working on ways to engage them, sometimes over the benefits to experienced users. She admits that they may not always make the right choices.
  • Wikia likes pushing out changes fast to get feedback, but they admit that they could have a much better process around pushing changes.
  • Wikia would like to give more status, but they're not exactly sure how and where to do it.
  • Wikia has plans to improve the Rich text editor. Most are longer term and very ambitious.
  • Wikia doesn't think updating the help pages is worth the effort, because studies show that not alot of users ever look at them. However, they know that the way the dealt with help pages during the Oasis transition was not done well.
  • Some decisions at Wikia are made based on knowing what is coming out in the future. They may decide not to respond to requests to change something based on the idea that something better is coming out that they'd rather make changes to instead of making changes to the current version.
  • Special:Contact did have a 24 hr turnaround before, but the turnaround time has gotten worse in the last few months. They won't be repeating the claim of 24-hr turnaround time going forward, but not because they don't want to improve it.
  • Wikia is working on many projects to give admins more input and better ways to test new features before they get rolled out to wider Wikia, but they will probably not come out until the beginning of next year due to holiday travel and finalizing of details.

Sannse also made an appeal to try to be nice, even if you disagree with Wikia's direction, you're frustrated and mad about how it affects you. She pointed out that some people can tune out the facts of your position based on the tone alone. My counter was that there are another group of people who ignore the tone and respond more to the accuracy of the points. We are both right, so trying to strike a happy medium is best, if you can do it. The short answer being, try to be correct and the less you piss off the reader the more likely they'll read it.

Sannse also told me about some current resources for admins that I didn't know about like w:c:communitytest and w:c:themedesigner. She'll try to get out more information like this via blogs, forums, or talk page messages.

We did talk a little about WoWWiki specifically, but I won't say anything here about it because their are lots of other things to talk about. There are also a few guesses I made about how Wikia works, some that turned out to be correct and a few that were wrong, but aren't really useful make our wikis better.

If you want to know the specific advice I gave in response to a particular topic, just ask.

Any questions? -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 5:49 PM PST 16 Dec 2010

Here's some followup that I remembered after the original post.
  • Wikia shouldn't try so hard to shield new users from Wikitext, because it gets in the way of changing things the users want to change and should be able to change. My main example is how templates are collapsed into a little green puzzle piece in the Rich text editor and can't be edited at all. I guessed this would be frustrating to new users.
  • Although Wikia may know great things are coming in the future, I used the analogy "Don't prevent users from climbing the hill, because you want to give them the tools to climb the mountain." What I meant was, Wikia may decide not to make small changes to accommodate complaints because they have big plans for change. Some of those big plans change dramatically by release or even get killed. Also the time until the big thing gets release is almost always longer than planned. Continue to focus on the smaller tools and workarounds, in case the big tools take too long or get killed.
-- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 9:23 AM PST 17 Dec 2010
I was reading over Forum:My letter to wikia about the new layouts and it reminded me of some other things Sannse mentioned.
  • Wikia is considering a test wiki with new features to test and evaluate by admins before rolling out to a wider audience. Maybe something like a rolling beta test wiki.
  • There was supposed to be a sticky section for this forum, but it fell through the cracks. If it doesn't happen in a week or so, I will create a sticky section of the Community Central Forum. An admin-only help forum may also get created, but the details were not worked out when we talked.
  • Something called a Community Council to advise Wikia on matters that will affect admins the most. Not sure how membership will be decided. Again, Sannse didn't go into much detail, because we were going through topics pretty fast.
-- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 3:12 PM PST 17 Dec 2010


See User blog:Fandyllic/My meeting with Sannse if you want to leave comments there. -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 2:08 PM PST 17 Dec 2010


Well, I'm sure glad there's some understanding about the crappiness of the Rich text editor, but that on a side note. So, has this talk changed your attitude towards Oasis in general? I mean, the way I see it you're always trying to help the community here and I respect that, and I guess you would do an even better job if you were more positive about Wikia and what they have to offer. I know the new look is not perfect and some features are useless at best, but IMO Monaco wasn't perfect as well, down to downright ugly. I think the only thing some wikis need, is a little bit more freedom. Not all wikis are the same, and certainly not all the readers are the same. So, any insights on the 'modifications' policy? ~ BramTalk/IW 11:35, December 17, 2010 (UTC)
  • I haven't necessarily changed my attitude about Oasis. There are lots of things I still hate. However, if Wikia can be more flexible about what parts of Oasis admins are allowed to use and what parts they can change or turn off, it will make admins alot happier. My point to Sannse about Oasis was that it was a much bigger change than Monaco and didn't come with the much bigger support and documentation that was needed to make admins more comfortable with the change. Waiting for a Wikia staffer to answer a question about customizing the skin when there should have been documentation or help pages about on release is not an efficient way to get info out. -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 9:15 AM PST 17 Dec 2010
In the same vein as Bram, I'd like to know a bit more about what Wikia is planning in relation to admin control of new features. For example, instead of having to crawl through the ToS to make sure it's ok to use CSS to kill a new feature, are they planning to release something that gives us quick control of new features?  Monchoman45  Talk  Contribs  Skystone  12:45,12/17/2010 
Interesting post Fandyllic. Good to see Sannse and you discusing a lot of the points that you and other users have raised in the past and Wikia has at times appeared to have been ignoring with a bit of a head in the sand/we know best attitude. Working with the existing admins and userbase is generaly far more productive than alienating them which only leads to them stopping helping or leaving which then increases pressure n wikia support staff, which Sannse how appears to admit ate stretched to even support the large wikis. So it would seem that disseminating information better about changes and getting the help system fixed with the help of admins should be a priorty.
Ultimately most users and wiki creator would like Wikia to prosper as then they can offer use a better service and we can offer them more content which should resulr in more traffic = more advertising revenue for them which them means they can invest in more staff to develope a better service and add more bells and whistles. But the core site needs to work First and the more they diversify from a 'std' mediawiki set up the more editors will need supporting & existing editors who in the majority started with experience gained on wikipedia's version will be less able to help without 'retraining' as few of us are programmers. having to learn / mess about with css and js to get suff to work/look right is not our main goal of being on wikia, but a consequence of Good intintioned idaes that fail in there implementation.
Perhaps an admin only control panel to contain optional advanced functions/customisation for each wiki and to allow the wiki to try out/participate in Beta function testing of add ons etc would be a more structured way and a less staff intensive option to administer (i.e no flooding special:contact to switch an option back off).
I'll not go through each item in the list above with my comments for now, or thsi post could be as long as the original by fandyllic, so as others bring them up i'll add my thought on them individually. Thanks again for posting this small insight into Wikias past (mistakes) and future strategy for improvements you gained from your discussions with Sannse to clear up some issues that you raised and effect/concern a lot of other wikia users & contributors -   BulldozerD11   talk    contribs    email   16:04, December 17, 2010 (UTC)
Fandyllic said above - "Should i move this to a blog ?"
No - Post a blog summary linking to here, as managing replies is easier in talk than in Blog comments in my opinion. Also it will soon diapear off the page in Blog space were as in the Forum it will jump back to the top when edited and thus easier to follow updates -   BulldozerD11   talk    contribs    email   20:51, December 17, 2010 (UTC)
No, it is fine to post this in the forum. Anyways, not sure what to ask at this point, but you (Fandyllic) have been supportive in the forums in the past/present and I thank you for it. As for the current issues with wikia, yes we've been on different sides of the fence on issues, but I do relate to the issues with the new skin, and other addons and fixes. In many ways, Wikia during this mess has caused injuries to their image by deleting comments and such. But put yourself in they shoes and it becomes clear that there was no easy answers to the PR problem caused by the new skin. Hopefully Wikia will work out any other issues with the skin and addon featues during the new year. From my point of view, Wikia provides free space to make articles about content and to share perspectives. The fact it is Free makes me hold down my gripes a little. Yes there are other places to go to do this, but Wikia to me still offers the best of the wiki world.  Devilmanozzy (Talk Page)  21:04, December 17, 2010 (UTC)

Is a meeting with a Wikia Staff member not rarely? It sounds like you have to listen to your boss. (I don't mean that to hurt you Sansse), but it's sounds really interesting. The only time I would meet them is via Skype ;) If I would met them in person - it's to far.--Station7 22:19, December 17, 2010 (UTC)

It's only rare in comparison to the thousands of online interactions. I have the fortune of living close enough to Wikia HQ. -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 3:02 PM PST 17 Dec 2010
Its nice to know they're at least responding, even if it did take getting themselves knocked down a notch with the quick jumping of ship by Wowpedia. Wikia provides a great service, and I understand it costs money. I know that for our small bit of space we take up, we'd be willing to go pay-for-service (if it wasn't for Oasis).   Hooper   talk    contribs    email   23:47, December 17, 2010 (UTC)

I'd like to add how much I enjoyed this meeting... a very useful talk. We're all too spread out to make this sort of meeting practical for everyone, but it was great to sit down and really talk through some of the tensions we've had recently. I've met a few people from here in the past, but meeting more of you in person is definitely on my list of things I want to do next year. For me, the main message of the meeting was that we both care deeply about Wikia and making it great. We may not always agree on how to do that, but we certainly don't disagree on the need for Wikia to keep trying to improve on what we do and how we do it. (And if we meet again, Fandyllic, let's not forget to actually eat lunch this time ;) -- Sannse@Wikia (help forum | blog) 23:56, December 17, 2010 (UTC)

At least the coffee was good. ;-) -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 4:47 PM PST 17 Dec 2010
RTE = Rich text editor. for the love of god, please do not use acronyms. I modified the above acronyms so that people reading this will know what it is. I had to look it up on google.Obscuregermangame 06:24, December 18, 2010 (UTC)
Sorry about that. VSTF = Volunteer Spam Task Force, also. -- Fandyllic (talk · contr) 10:27 PM PST 17 Dec 2010

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