User:Sk/Thoughts on Fanlore Editing

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(Early-in-the-Process) Thoughts on Fanlore Editing

written May 2011

My (not-so-)deep thoughts when it comes to my own editing on fanlore

Background

I first discovered fanlore -- literally by googling something fannish, as a feral fan -- in 2009.

I looked at a few pages, but backed away very quickly because I found this wiki intimidating. Both to use as a reader -- the content in the fandom I was interested in seemed to assume a lot of pre-existing insider knowledge about both fandom [1] and its culture and meta thoughts in general, as well as of the particular fandom's canon and the foundation of its fanworks -- and to even contemplate contributing to.

By 2010 I was occasionally looking up concepts (especially glossary/trope/genre ones) on fanlore, but again, I did not stay long during any single visit.

Not until 2011, and a discussion around an alternative newbie-friendly guide to SGA sparked opinions around "Wouldn't it be just as good or better to add to fanlore pages as to create a new journal-based community?"[2] did I start spending real time on fanlore and editing.

Why did I start actively using and contributing to fanlore then? Because by that time, some of my ideas on the value of centralized resources and the trickiness of finding less outdated information for both newbies and not-so-newbies in my fandom and fandom in general had gelled and evolved.

And I had learned more about the OTW and its various projects, and I think the philosophy behind them is a very good thing, even if there may still be[3] room for improvement in the implementation (as with all projects, always) of various aspects. So besides regularly touting the AO3 (and its works-orphaning option) elsewhere, it seemed reasonable to actually try to contribute[4] to one of the OTW projects.

Practice

So, some of the edits I make on fanlore are based on my own (imperfect) thoughts and memories of "What would I have loved to discover on fanlore about this fandom when I knew very little about it?" and/or "What would have helped me understand things about fandom in general and its conventions quicker than I eventually (I hope) did by following really quite random breadcrumbs around archives and livejournal?" as well as more random things like "This seems like a well-thought-out or controversial opinion or useful bit of fannish information that would be good for others interested in the topic to be able to find at some later point."

That means I edit on the theory that:

Things that make pages more (specific fandom or fandom-in-general) newbie-friendly or newbie-accessible are good

To me, that includes:

  • Including not only introductory or conceptual text, but also easy to parse lists when/where possible.
  • That also means including (a hierarchy of) subheads more often than not, so a casual user can use any page's ToC feature to quickly skip to the section that seems most useful to them. (Related: Using some kind of infobox -- whichever seems most appropriate -- to make sure any page with more than a handful of paragraphs has the ToC feature is a good thing.)
  • Including links to other fanlore pages whenever they seem relevant. (E.g., concepts, tropes, genres, fanwork creator names in refs or lists, communities -- anything I know or suspect may have its own fanlore page already, or I'm inclined to make one for.)
  • eta: Increasing findability/discoverability of other fanlore pages -- related to the above, this includes sometimes linking to them in multiple ways/multiple places on one pages, so those links are more obvious to casual/newer users who might find the page interesting. In the same vein, though the "See related pages" and "category" features/clickable links are very useful, they may not be as clear or useful to newer or casual fanlore users as obvious visible links to certain other pages on a page that is thematically related to them. For example, I'm in favor of trying to make sure that all major character pages (or if there are too many of those, perhaps a page listing fl pages for significant characters?) for a fandom are linked to on at least the fandom page, and on as many other-character pages for that fandom, and then possibly also on relevant that-fandom-specific pages as seems reasonable. That is, instead of hoping that more casual users will use the search function to find pages of other characters in that fandom they might want to learn more about. (E.g., existing Astrid Farnsworth page was not linked to from the main Fringe page until recently, which would make that page less likely to be discovered by a casual visitor who might have been interested in it even if they weren't specifically searching for it.)
  • Including links to outside resources where fans can learn more about a topic as well. (Particular posts or essays not on fanlore, canon resources, maybe even relevant howtos, wikipedia page, etc.)

Things that lower the threshold for further editing, especially by newer visitors, are good

To me, that includes:

  • Trying to make it clear that if a fanlore user thinks something is relevant, it can (still, always) be added to any page. E.g., opinions or meta on a subject can be added to if a user finds them. (Sometimes if I know there's meta on a topic but I can't (re)find the link, I'll add a subhead for Meta and leave the space under it blank, hoping to re-find and add the link to it myself later, or hoping it will inspire another fanlore editor who sees it to add links to the same or other meta they know of. And I suspect I should do that for more categories/subheads.) Lists of fanworks illustrating a genre or creator's page or pairing are not final or definitive; adding some modifying phrasing in the subhead -- such as "Example" that indicates that it's not a complete listing may help convey that.
  • Adding wikilinks or relevant-seeming information or outside links or correcting typos I stumble across even for pages in fandoms I know very little about may help encourage other (current or later) editors to correct and and add more, so better to edit than not. (?)
  • Adding glossary pages for concepts or phrases I myself have wondered about, have seen other fans asking about elsewhere, or that others have redlinked seemed like a good idea. For a fannish -- whether general fandom or fandom-specific -- concept or term, I've thus far been editing on the principle that I'd rather have fans find an existing fanlore PPOV glossary page they can edit or amend than depend on harder-to-find and perhaps less-plural POV glossary definitions elsewhere, even if I may not be able to link to much particularly fannish content myself (yet). (?)
  • To encourage further editing, creating a new page is likely to be more intimidating than adding to a page that already has some information. Adding to a page that has a few paragraphs of information is likely to feel less intimidating than adding to a page that only has an infobox and a sentence or two. (That means that I'm adding pages on characters and fanworks etc. for fandoms I only know canon information about and can dig up some really obvious meta for, with the idea that once the page is there with a paragraph or two, even if it's mainly canon info, maybe someone with actual knowledge of the fandom will find it easier to add one or more fannish things. I do need to make sure I add the "NeedsMoreFandom" or "Stub" templates more consistently than I have; ditto adding subheads inviting fannish content.)[5]
  • Templates are handy; not just infoboxes but template-pages for more kinds of pages. Even if the templates get outdated or controversial and need to be updated or overhauled on occasion, having them available as a(n optional) tool for newer editors seems like a very useful thing. User:Aethel was working on two recently but I'm having a hard time finding those again (eta: found again here and here by going through past contributions). If there are more it'd be great to find out where they are and to get them linked to within a click or two from the Category:Fanlore_Templates or Help:Templates page?
  • eta: More on templates (copypasted from/related to question at User_talk:Frogspace page): What I'm thinking of as page-templates are, for example, Help:Character pages/Template and Help:Pairing pages/Template -- to me, the infoboxes, while invaluable, feel like a small sub-element of an overall page-template. Of course, many people absolutely thrive on freeform creation, but for others it's easier to start creating something if they can pick and choose from/add to existing modular elements. So I'm thinking that having more page-template concepts available might be a useful tool for new(er) or less confident fanlore editors, as something that might encourage some of them less inclined towards freeform creation to still make new pages or add to stubby stubs.[6]
  • Making information that's useful for newer fanlore editors more centralized and easy to find would be a really lovely thing. (E.g., snippets and bits of howto information living on various pages, links to current and past discussions on why something (now) often gets done a particular way, ways to quickly identify and track (and give opinions on so consensus is reached more quickly) outstanding questions editors have about general or page-specific topics, etc.)

Last/overall

  • I aim to keep in mind that not everything has to be done at once. Adding one or two example fanworks or example reviews to a page at a time and eventually unstubbing it is as valid as (fueled by enthusiasm and caffeine?) creating a giant page about a concept and a dozen related pages (which after some sleep may turn out to look a bit monolithic). And in either case, other fanlore editors who see the page(s) may help out by adding or restructuring or otherwise amending.
  • Love of Linkiness: Wikis thrive (or not) based not just on their level of activity but on their inter-linkedness.[7]
To me, for fanlore, that means that pages that look like articles with few links to other wiki-pages are less likely to invite visitors to discover and contribute to other content on the wiki. So -- on the basis of "is this something or someone a reader could learn more about at another fanlore page?" -- if a fanwork creator with their own fanlore page is mentioned on a page, or a glossary or trope concept, or a fanwork with its own page, I'll wikilink to it (sometimes several times on a page on the lazy theory that "several times is better than not linking to it at all").
I certainly don't link to every word or phrase that (I remember or suspect) has a fanlore page, especially for glossary or trope concepts, but the main ones, to make sure the page doesn't feel underlinked. Though I admit that's very subjective.


Notes

Of course this entire ramble is completely subjective. Feel free to point out what I should be doing instead of what I am, what would be really useful background reading for me on related fanlore topics, or to tell me how just-a-wee-bit-misguided or wrong wrong so wrong I am about all or part of what I go on about above at my user talk page. (--Sk 08:20, 17 May 2011 (UTC))

  1. To clarify: Whenever I say "fandom" on this page, I pretty much mean "Western Media fandom" as that's what I've ventured into (learning a little about) thus far.
  2. Incidentally, the result of that discussion was that adding to fanlore pages could be an optional addition to the journal-based newbie guide, which would be the core part of the project. In part because the contributing fans (and expected users) were more familiar with journal-based communities and creating journal-based pages, and as a side aspect, the unfamiliarity and (apparently I was not unique, who knew! *g*) threshold-factor for editing on fanlore might reduce participation even for fans very knowledgeable about particular topics such as certain fanworks, characters, or pairings in SGA.
  3. According to posts linked to at Metafandom ;)
  4. That is, if "contribute" can be defined under the annoying-but-useful 80/20 rule; I sincerely hope that 80% of the edits I make on fanlore are more useful than not, and that the sidesteps and mistakes I have made and will continue to make -- though I hope exciting new ones! rather than repeating the same ones after they're pointed out to me -- are no more (ideally even a little less) than 20%.
  5. What I'm saying is that personally, I'm privileging adding fannishly (very) incomplete but non-bad -- i.e., accurate (I hope/try) even if not strongly fannish -- information over adding no information for topics (characters, fanworks, fandoms) that I strongly suspect/hope other fanlore visitors may have properly fannish information on, in hopes one or two of them may see the stub and the (inviting but (near-)empty?) subheads and be inspired to add to actual fannish content of the page. eta: For example, starting the Aeryn Sun page just because it seemed sad that there wasn't one at all. (Yeah, yeah, Crichton, I'll get to you someday.)
  6. I strongly suspect that some of the most interesting pages will be ones that don't adhere to (m)any of a modular page-template's options; but having more "look, it's easy!" optional newcomers tools like templates available (among other things) might make editing the wiki feel more welcoming to some more (varied) fans. ?
  7. Theory borrowed from others more knowledgeable about wikis than I am.