basilmemories: (But then who willl do all the judging?)
basilmemories ([personal profile] basilmemories) wrote2010-10-11 08:31 am

Psa for people who use wikia.

I really didn’t think I’d need to make a notice about this, considering the level of backlash at wikia is around the level that you get from an unpopular LJ news post, I thought someone would have documented it by now. But! I haven’t seen it on any of the wank comms or even tech news feeds. So here it goes.

Wikia, for those that don’t know, is a wikifarm that’s based on the mediawiki software and among other things is home to wowwiki, uncyclopedia, wookiepedia, and a slew of other wikis, some large and some small. While it did have it’s problems you could work around them and in general it had the best features. I came to wikia about a few months ago for my project for the lj game, and also for a few other projects that I never really touched on again. During that point I herd murmurings about a new skin.

Development and issues

Now there’s a long history of what happened, but the short version of the story is that Wikia gutted the main layout and changed it significantly. Early screenshots revealed some problems, but ones that I didn’t think would be a major issue. I felt the sidebar, though large, would scale with the fluid-width page and it would provide a better place for the module system that I assumed would be getting an overhaul. However as more and more information came out it became apparent that something was up.

First of all the wikia staff repeatedly commented that they weren’t just taking in comments from the readers, but also from various focus groups, ones that they would not go into detail about. Secondly the private beta was rather short, under two months or so, I believe. Even more strange was the length of the public beta: a few weeks. Consistently the staff received and ignored negative feedback about many of the features they were removing, issues with navigation and javascript, and the fact that the new layout triggered people who get migraines.

The reason for this is multi-layered. Notably the new layout uses a fixed-width layout, floats the sidebar to the right, and has the sidebar set at 300 pixels. This means that on wide monitors the information looks cramped with large areas to the left and right that are blank and reduce readability. On small monitors the information still appears cramped and for even smaller monitors or phone browsers this means the layout horizontally scrolls. Or rather it would be, if the horizontal scrollbar wasn’t broken on the new layout. The new layout, called Oasis, is designed to maximize advertisement space over content, and they have admitted this fact regarding the sidebar. In addition they have a floating footer that obscures information as you scroll, but that’s trivial compared to their response to the backlash.

Response and user’s loss of intellectual property rights

The staff response to this criticism was simple: praise the positive, answer technical questions, and ignore or criticize negative feedback. Some small issues were changed, but the largest issues still remained. In addition the staff announced that the old skin, Monaco, would be removed and Oasis would become the mandated skin for all new and current wikis. They claimed “for the time being” that they’d still support Monobook, but there is no guarantee that it will remain, as the main reason they’re removing Monaco is because they claim they can’t afford to develop multiple layouts. This triggered a backlash where a good number of wikis left the site for other hosting, and even wikis like Wowwiki is still considering it. Wikia was losing all it’s spotlight wikis and the most experienced editors, and thus the real draw for users to see the ads and fiscally support the site. Others claimed that they wouldn’t mind staying, considering that they could modify the css to just create more space for the articles.

In response, Wikia locked Common.css, and made it against the Tos to modify the site layout in any way that would “remove core features” or in any way mess with the navigation and sidebar. In addition they kept what was allowed in the css vague, indicating that the userbase should now rely on the theme designer. A piece of software that only allowed the users to upload a basic background image and change some of their wiki’s site colors. This posed a problem since Wikia had made the decision to remove any optional widgets from the service, and many wikis were going to resort to css to revive the functionality they used to have.

This enraged the userbase, and as a result the Anti-Wikia-Alliance was founded, a group opposed to the new layout, and the actions of the staff towards the userbase. The people involved helped users relocate their wikis to new hosts, engaged the staff in further debate, and kept a list of which wikis were moving and why. This continued and was allowed until earlier this week when many of the more active members of the AWA were banned, their personal pages were edited by the staff, and the staff started banning other members of the group for “spam and personal attacks”. Other wikia users who were a part of wikis who left (but still edited on the site for other wikis), found themselves banned. Yes, the userbase of the Grand theft auto wiki (a former spotlight) found themselves banned without warning, and without explanation.

Others who left found themselves with a problem. In nearly all cases the wikia staff refused to delete the larger wiki’s who made the request. This sabotages the google search results so that the new location of the wiki will have less traffic, and in addition the staff can appoint new people to take over the old wiki, resulting in a userbase fork. The simple solution to this is to delete everything yourself before you go, which can be undone, but it provides a headache for the people taking over or the staff.

In response the Wikia staff have claimed that deleting your information, files, or anything else you have uploaded, regardless of the license you uploaded it under… is now considered an act of major vandalism and thus against the Tos. It will be reversed and if you edit on any other wikis your account can be banned.

That’s right, they’re now claiming the right to host and make money off of your work without your permission. In addition if you exercise your rights to remove your intellectual property from the site they will take action against you for it.

For people like me who possibly intend on using some of those designs I’ve uploaded for commercial use this means they also can use those designs to make money without my permission, and as a larger company they’ll have more exposure then me. If I want to use the material I’ve presented for a full-blown sourcebook or game, they also can do that. Please take note, I’m screwed on the information and designs I’ve already uploaded there, but new writers or game designers can and should be warned away from this site.

The Summary

If you’re considering a place to share your information or ideas in a wiki format, there are better places. Shoutwiki just started up, but many of the larger wikis are moving there. They’re based on an open-source platform and they intend on acquiring Monaco if you’re attached to that layout. Other wiki farms have other features, and depending on your needs one of them might do the trick.

Let me make this clear. As of now on Wikia you do not have control over your intellectual property, you do not have any recourse to have your material removed, and there are other options out there now. If anyone you know is considering using Wikia because of their new ad campaign or because the site looks easy and welcoming, let them know about what happened.

Wikia isn’t the community it used to be, make sure your friends know that before they sign their property rights away.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)

[personal profile] opusculus 2010-10-11 06:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow. You linked me to the earlier thing, but I don't think I knew it was that bad. Definitely not about the "lol you don't own your content we do" part.

Hey, is Wikia run by the Wikipedia founder? Because if so I'm so not surprised.