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Eric: A Revised Modest Webcomics Proposal

So it's about time to discuss Wikipedia again.

Here's the thing. I like Wikipedia. A lot. It's my first stop these days when I'm looking something up. Really, it's my first stop when looking anything up. I think it's a tremendous resource, and if I don't trust it 100%, I trust it at least as much as I do the Encyclopedia Britannica at this point. It might not have editorial review, but it has immediacy and quick reaction, and its information is generally solid.

However, it also has some personality disorders.

Primary among those is a war between its populist inclinations and its elitist inclinations. On the one hand, the very structure of Wikis means it's trivial to add new topics and produce in depth material on it. So long as someone out there is a Russian history geek, Wikipedia can have good articles on the Czars. This also means that the population that most heavily uses Wikipedia is also the population best served by Wikipedia. As a result, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the major comic book companies are all heavily (one might even say obnoxiously) well represented here. The entry on Power Girl is exhaustively complete, with her various continuities and histories and varying retcons explained, alongside several pictures that highlight the... well, chestiness of the character. (And the text actually goes in depth on said chestiness, including an anecdote of how her initial artist, Wally Wood, intentionally made her chest bigger every issue to see how long it would take until an editor noticed. Only the editor didn't notice before Wood left.) It's interesting to me, because I have an interest in super heroes, in DC Comics, and in the old Earth-2 heroes from the pre-Crisis days.

And, for that matter, in the chestiness of girls in spandex. But I digress.

However, the idea that any encyclopedia editor under the old model would green light an 1,100 word entry alongside three graphics on Power Girl is absurd. A specialist encyclopedia (like the old Who's Who or Marvel Handbook works) would benefit from it. The Britannica wouldn't mention her in the first place (and indeed hasn't), and if they did for some reason it would be twenty or thirty words long.

This is the astounding strength of Wikipedia. Minor worlds that only appear in Star Wars novels can get in depth writeups. For a writer like me, having a general resource like that is amazingly useful, and I for one revel in it.

Unfortunately, there is the other hand: the elitist side.

Wikipedia very much wants to be seen as the Encyclopedia on the Web. Many Wikipedia proponents (I won't pretend anyone is of one mind about anything at Wikipedia, so don't take this as a specific dogma) want Wikipedia to be seen not only as complete but significant. Their intent is not only to supplement traditional sources like the Britannica but supplant them. They believe in the Wikipedia model, and they want to see it pushed through.

One of the key strategies in doing this involves a collaborative editorial process. Now, obviously given Wikipedia's open nature, you need a certain number of people on "damage control," repairing vandalism and correcting mistakes when they creep in. Other flags that go up are for "inappropriate tone" (there is a specific style and tone one uses when writing encyclopedia entries. Things that don't 'sound encyclopedic' detract from the quality of the piece) and calls for elaboration on the material (they have a specific flag for 'stubs,' denoting entries that are at best short summaries of the subject matter). All of these are cool -- even contentious entries where people argue -- sometimes vehemently -- about what is correct and what isn't tend to yield some exceptional writing. (I'm reminded of the entry on Lyndon LaRouche, which spawned a weeks long debate between sharply divided viewpoints and ultimately yielded one of the best pages on Wikipedia and one of the best distillations of LaRouche I've seen on the internet).

However, one other criteron is "significance." And this is where the problem comes in, because significance is not quantifiable and it is not simple, and no singular formula for what is 'significant' ends up yielding good results. The populist and the elitist sides of the Wikipedia mind collide hard here, and there is no good answer for it.

You see, part of the mission of Wikipedia is to include entries on everything that is significant. However, what is significant to one reader is insignificant to another. For a person obsessed with pogs, several articles detailing different brands of pog, different rarities of pog and the evolution of pogs from milk caps to a major industry to a fringe game would not only seem significant but necessary. To someone who barely remembers pogs from the nineties, pogs seem utterly insignificant -- about as useful to Wikipedia as putting up separate articles on the different brands of hula hoops.

Only now, the hula hoop fans are pissed off.

One advantage that traditional encyclopedias have over Wikipedia is editorial -- when you recruit experts in a given field, you have a specific person or small group of people who have the final word on what is significant enough to warrant inclusion. There might be heated debates that form out of it, but those are typically informed debates.

One advantage that Wikipedia has over traditional encyclopedias, on the other hand, is ease of publication. The only constraints Wikipedia has are storage space and bandwidth, and text-only entries don't use a tremendous amount of either. So, you can include far more things. In the end, however, there is still a question of "what is significant enough to include?"

Which brings us to webcomics.

The original system of determining Webcomics significance was based entirely on popularity. Specifically, the Alexa ratings of a given webcomic were used -- anything below a certain cutoff got in, everything above it got cut. The flaws in this should be self-evident, but just in case, let me summarize: art significance has little to do with the numbers and everything to do with influence. A webcartoonist with only 500 daily readers who counts 300 other cartoonists among them has had a dramatic impact on webcartooning as a whole, even though his strip might not be popular.

I proposed, a while back, a dual requirement to replace it -- a strip, in my estimation, should be included only after it has A) consistently updated for at least one year, and B) only after its archive contains 100 strips. To my mind, it's hard to be "significant" to the field of webcomics without having both some time under your belt and a depth of archive. Obviously, there would need to be flexibility (certainly a webcomic that began updating weekly that spread through the internet at Memish speeds shouldn't have to wait before inclusion) but almost no comic with at least a hundred strips and a history of regular updating should be left out -- in part because those are the very strips that most need a reference and resource for new readers. There has been some debate on this, feeling it's far too lax. Another person felt that three years and 500 strips would be a good balance point for 'automatic inclusion.' Still others are highly afraid that "insignificant works" will find their way into Wikipedia as a result. The debate has sometimes been acrimonious. I still occasionally receive angry e-mails from Wikipedians who think I'm trying to... um... well, do something really bad. As well as more than one person accusing me of wanting to use Wikipedia for self promotion.

That last I find particularly funny. Someone -- not me -- put up a rather nice Wikipedia entry for Gossamer Commons. There was an immediate vote for deletion that came about because of it, and I was one of the ones who voted to delete -- we've been around significantly less than a year, and we had considerably less than 100 strips in our archive. And our Alexa ratings wouldn't warrant inclusion under the old system.

That being said, I know a good number of actual comics creators who read Gossamer Commons. We get a good number of crosslinks. And we have a steady readership in the thousands. So who am even I to say it's insignificant?

Both Websnark and I are in Wikipedia, full disclosure requires me to say. And it's a source of considerable, irrational pleasure that my entry is the straight "Eric Burns" entry, while the Fox News Apologist gets "Eric Burns (Journalist)." Though I did enjoy The Spirits of America.

Anyhow. I use Wikipedia constantly (including doing lookups of webcomics in it). But at this stage of the game, I don't contribute entries to it any more. I correct things I know to be wrong, particularly in individual webcomics entries, but I don't create new ones. It's not worth the hassle of arguing about significance to people who aren't interested in the evolution of the cartooning form or the significance of individual creators versus their popularity. As point of reference, I point to Casey and Andy, which I snarked in the last snark. This is one of several snarks I've done on Casey and Andy. Certainly, I feel it's significant enough to be extolled as an example, and that the evolution of its characters is worthy of discussion.

And, when I needed the spelling of Hunkinite, I went to Wikipedia to get it. And there wasn't an entry for Casey and Andy. "That can't be right," I thought to myself. "I should add them."

And then I decided against it.

There's plenty of evidence that Casey and Andy are "significant," at least to one population or anther. Beyond my multiple snarks and the intracomics references you see (I'm especially thinking of Irregular Webcomic here, but there are others), there's a GURPS Casey and Andy for sale at e23. Steve Jackson isn't in the habit of paying writers to build sourcebooks for things he doesn't feel he can sell. Further, I know a good number of cartoonists who read Casey and Andy. And their fanbase is vocal, to boot.

But, their Alexa ratings are way below the threshold of inclusion. So Alexa readers don't tend to read it, at the every least. So if I were to put a Casey and Andy page on Wikipedia, there would be an argument, and if I were to write one, I would put a lot of work into it, and I don't bother to put a lot of work into things that might get erased. So I just don't do it.

Here's the thing, though. I don't think Wikipedia is doing anything wrong.

Seriously. I think that given their mission and mandate, they're doing a lot of things right. Yeah, I think they should be far more lax as to what goes into it -- but then, I think restricting inclusion hamstrings one of the greatest advantages Wikipedia has. I'm glad Power Girl has an in-depth entry. I'm glad I can find a writeup on Onderon, even though it has no interest to me, because for a Star Wars or video game fan, Onderon might indeed be significant. I'm glad that Wikipedia can draw off the strengths of its readers.

And just because I happen to agree or disagree with given inclusion standards doesn't mean I'm right. I think Casey and Andy would be a slam-dunk for inclusion, but that doesn't make me right. I don't think Gossamer Commons is yet significant enough for inclusion, but the person who put the page up disagrees with me. Absent a strong, recruited jury process, the process of determining significance has to be spread out among the Wikipedia readership -- and a subsection of those readers actually pays attention to the votes for deletion, and a subsection of them actually votes. This is the way the system is going to work, and despite my quibbles the breadth of good information in Wikipedia implies it works pretty well.

But it seems to me that webcomics should be looking to make their own definitive reference work. We should have a Wiki of our own, that meets our purposes.

A Webcomics Wiki Encyclopedia could become a clearinghouse for solid information on webcomics. It could be a standardized location for cast lists, creator information and synopses. It could incorporate all the potential strengths that Wikipedia offers, without having to fight either the populist or elitist sides of things.

Heck, we could duplicate the text on the entries already in Wikipedia, getting a huge head start on some of the most popular comics. (All Wikipedia's entries are open source, under the GNU Free Documentation License. So long as we also licensed ours under that same license, we can use their entries wholesale if we wish.) However, we can actually serve the greater Webcomic community by allowing for anyone who's got a comic on the web to put information about it in place. We can encourage sites to put their Webcomikipeda (okay, we need a better name) link on their comics. We can even configure things to make adding subpages simple. Imagine Howard Tayler putting up a subpage for Teraporting, making it easy to search for the term. Or Kristofer Straub doing the same for the starslip drive. Or David Willis having a subpage detailing the history and development of S.E.M.M.E. A Webcomics Wikipedia would be an ideal place for adding extra depth for readers.

Do I think webcomics should leave Wikipedia? Christ, no. I think Wikipedia should continue to be the generalist resource it is. However, rather than we the webcomics types try to argue with people who don't have any interest in us on standards of 'significance,' we ought to be making a resource we can develop at our leisure. Further, though I proposed that the specific webcartoonists shouldn't be the ones to write their Wikipedia pages (it's hard to be properly objective about one's self), a webcomics-specific one handled as an extension of cast pages and the like could be an effective resource and an effective tool for new readers of all strips.

The one question is pragmatic. Who could or would host such a thing?

The usual suspects leap to mind. If Comixpedia could afford it, they have the right domain name for it. Otherwise, you immediately think of Keenspot or Webcomicsnation. Failing them, it might be an ideal fit for BuzzComix or the Webcomics list. Or even value added for Sequential Tart. But some community who's into webcomics who also has sufficient bandwidth and storage would be necessary.

(Websnark? Only after we migrate. The bandwidth requirements means I wouldn't want to do this while I host at Pair.)

It could work. It could be an astoundingly cool tool and reference. And it would shut malcontents like me up over at Wikipedia. Everybody wins!

(The Fox News Guy is currently above me by one on a Google Search, by the by. He's first, I'm second, a reference site to him is third, and Websnark is fourth. Clearly, I have a purpose in life, and it is to exceed Eric Burns (Journalist) in all measures. Preferably including book sales, because he really is quite a good author.)

Posted by Eric Burns-White at September 2, 2005 1:10 PM

Comments

Comment from: Wednesday posted at September 2, 2005 3:06 PM

I'm surprised that we haven't actually seen more efforts like the fan-run Achewood Wiki, actually. (I'm also surprised that you didn't mention it.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 2, 2005 3:09 PM

It slipped my mind. Me am the such.

Comment from: Kneefers posted at September 2, 2005 3:25 PM

Sounds like a good idea to me.
By the way, (but not really by the way. Slightly off the way) did you know that Gossamer Commons is quoted on Quotationspage? Check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 2, 2005 3:30 PM

By the way, (but not really by the way. Slightly off the way) did you know that Gossamer Commons is quoted on Quotationspage? Check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

Duuuuuuuude.

Comment from: TRS-80 posted at September 2, 2005 3:52 PM

And there wasn't an entry for Casey and Andy.
So what's this, then?

Also, I'm reminded of a quote from LugRadio - "Sorry darling, can't have sex tonight, I'm setting up a wiki."

Comment from: NathanielK posted at September 2, 2005 3:59 PM

Comic Genesis has a Wiki, although there's not much content yet, and it's only for Comic Genesis comics.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 2, 2005 4:07 PM

Huuuurm.

TRS-80 -- I swear to you I did a search both for Casey and Andy and for Andy Weir, and neither turned up that page.

Regardless, my proposal stands. But I'm glad other agree with my contention that the comic is obviously 'significant enough.'

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 2, 2005 4:11 PM

And, now that I have seen said Wiki page, I've also noted an archive for the Votes for Deletion discussion. While it was ultimately thumbed up (and good on folks for that), it was the surety of knowledge there would be a debate that informed my decision to not write a page like that myself.

So, though I was in error regarding their inclusion, my suspicions were still correct. I'm calling that batting .450 at three at bats.

Comment from: Pseudowolf posted at September 2, 2005 4:16 PM

Better name?

Hm...

How about Wikicomics? Wikiwebcomics? Webcomicwiki?

Comment from: Aerin posted at September 2, 2005 4:23 PM

Hell yes. Oh hell yes. The idea of this fills me with endless amounts of glee. Now that you've brought this up, Eric, I won't be happy until it's been made. I'll even help run it. We created our tech support FAQ using a wiki, and I run that, so I've got experience. And a webcomics trawl that's growing quickly. Aside from the difficulties of finding a host, there's no good reason not to do this.

Comment from: Joeno posted at September 2, 2005 4:31 PM

Wikicities could work as a good host - it's run by the same organization as Wikipedia, which means the technical side can mostly be taken care of and all that.

Comment from: quiller posted at September 2, 2005 5:00 PM

Interesting, I could see myself getting involved in something like this.

Comment from: Factitious posted at September 2, 2005 5:04 PM

Starslip Crisis has its own wiki as well, though it's more recent than Achewood's.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at September 2, 2005 5:44 PM

Eric, that is a FANTASTIC idea. Simply calling it the "Webcomics Encyclopedia" is excellent. I'd be more than willing to devote time and energy to helping out. This seems like it could really help people just starting to get into webcomics out a little bit. I like it.

Comment from: P A Venables posted at September 2, 2005 5:45 PM

This is a fabulous idea. Along with an enumeration of webcomics both obscure and well-known could be an explanation of the types and genres as well as comics that well-exemplify those types.

I find summaries of comics like these very helpful especially for long-running comics that require weeks of reading just to get through the archives. It's helpful to have summaries digested so you can easily hop into a comic and maybe catch up on the archives later.

Comment from: Snowspinner posted at September 2, 2005 5:48 PM

I disagree strenuously, actually. The inclusionism/deletionism wars on Wikipedia are stupid. Webcomics with substantial and non-trivial readerships are being deleted as though they were garage bands with one demo tape that they distributed to their friends. The old guidelines contained an exception that the top ten Keenspace comics would be allowed in, but Keenspot comics have been deleted as non-notable.

The deletion guidelines for webcomics are broken, and their existence contributes to a poisonous atmosphere regarding webcomics on Wikipedia that needs to change.

Also, it should be noted that Jimbo Wales is, for the most part, pretty sympathetic to inclusionism, and that we really are officially speaking OK with having an article on anything that is verifiable. The Votes for Deletion page may not be, but there's a reason that someone, in frustration, deleted the Votes for Deletion page recently. (It came back)

Comment from: Sean Duggan posted at September 2, 2005 5:56 PM

You might take a look at http://www.wikispaces.org/ also. I really know nothing about them, but they were suggesting that Joel, of Joel on Software, put his wiki (mainly for translations) on their site.

I do agree on the usefulness of such a resource. I'm fond of using Wikipedia as kind of a dictionary on steroids when it comes to only having a comic book character's name or series. Wonderful reference sometimes. If you were to extend it, though, my suggestion would be to have a more flexible spoiler tag. As it is, only a very brief description of a comic is found outside of the spoiler in most cases. It could be nice to be able to flag information as spoilers inside the article, maybe by default hidden until you clicked on that spoiler tag, or clicked on a button to release all spoilers. As an example (fictional) of what I'm talking about:

Jean Trego - 25-year old platinum blonde webmistress who serves as the comic's straight man. Pneumatic and possessed of a genius-level intellect, she still can't understand the daily insanity. {spoiler}Since the strip's inception, she's dated Mike, Bill, and George and is now married to LLewellyn. It has also been revealed that she has an insane obsession with kumquats.{/spoiler}

Comment from: Jeff Smith posted at September 2, 2005 6:54 PM

Hey, I can't promise nothing without checking, but one of my best friends owns a hosting company and gives me all kinds of free bandwidth. So it's a fair possibility that I could provide free hosting for such a wiki endeavor. I'm certainly very interested in the idea.

Email me if interested. jeff AT whatthemuffins DOT com.

Side note: As someone who's dealt with Wikipedia deletions in the past, I agree with pretty much everything you said wholeheartedly.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 2, 2005 7:07 PM

Snowspinner -- all the more reason to launch our own, neh?

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at September 2, 2005 7:55 PM

I used to contribute to Wikipedia somewhat off-and-on. I still do. I've become extremely wary of actually trying to add new articles for topics I feel are absent.

While I've never been officially involved in a Votes for Deletion style arguments, I have seen the effects of it bear its ugly head, such as very informative and in-depth articles about specific subjects hacked to ribbons due to the information presented being supposedly "superfluous" a few times. Of course, just the very attitude of most people who "Vote for Deletion" in and of itself makes me pretty angry as they're the exact sort of elitist snobbery that I dispise.

Don't get me wrong, I do love Wikipedia as it's exceptionally informative in most of the areas I'd like it to be. I just can definitely see how having a seperate webcomics Wiki would be very helpful, though I don't know what I'd ever contribute to such a venture.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at September 2, 2005 8:40 PM

Simply calling it the "Webcomics Encyclopedia" is excellent.

Too much room for name collision with Comixpedia.

Speaking not as someone on the editorial board, but just as me, though, I'd have thought this would be a project perfectly suited to live within its namespace (even if those of us presently involved with 'pedia-the-magazine don't drive it).

Comment from: Horus posted at September 2, 2005 8:48 PM

A webcomics encyclopedia sounds brilliant.

But do you think you'd place the same (or similar) restrictions on a webcomic being 'significant' enough to warrant inclusion?

If there are still restrictions as to what webcomics can be posted and posting is open to the general public do you think you'll find you're having the same arguements about what is significant? Especially if the guidelines are more flexible.

And if there is no issue with significance and all webcomics are fair game then I think you'll find you have people posting about their mates (or their own) webcomic that has just started to try and generate traffic. And you'll get an overabundance of small webcomics.

Not that I think small comics shouldnt get a chance to generate traffic I just think that if everyone who starts a comic gets a plug on the Encyclopedia it becomes less an Encyclopedia and more an advertisement board.

Comment from: Aerin posted at September 2, 2005 8:58 PM

Speaking not as someone on the editorial board, but just as me, though, I'd have thought this would be a project perfectly suited to live within its namespace (even if those of us presently involved with 'pedia-the-magazine don't drive it).

I would think that both Comixpedia and Webcomics Nation would be perfectly suited for such an endeavor. And it's true that they wouldn't have to run it, because there are others (like me, cough cough) that would me more than willing to take on the workload involved in overseeing and managing it. If anyone else is interested in running it as well, drop me an e-mail at lady_aerin_firehair (at) hotmail (dot) com and maybe we can get the ball rolling.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at September 2, 2005 8:59 PM

I look at it this way - if They Might Be Giants can have a dedicated Wiki, then any topic of some scope and fandom deserves its own Wiki.

Personally, I like the name Wikicomics, although Comics By Wiki might work too.

Also, as someone who helps run a website, I can say to never trust Alexa rankings. Alexa rankings are based off of Alexa's spyware, which some people purge as a matter of course and some people let lie fallow. I've seen Netjak's Alexa ranking spike and valley uncontrollably, despite fairly constant hit reports, based solely on whether or not today's crop of readers have Alexa spyware in their system or not.

Comment from: Alkari posted at September 2, 2005 9:54 PM

The all-time greatest example of Wikipedia argument is the article on the GNAA. Seriously. These guys have survived Votes for Deletion six times through means both fair and foul and are, incredibly, now exempt from further VfDs.

Comment from: ANT Link posted at September 2, 2005 10:52 PM

So, would this be what was being discussed during the New York Times article? A huge database for introductions and background on webcomics and a place for newcomers, both to webcomics in general and to particular strips? Or would it be just for existing webcomics readers and those already a part of the community?

It seems to me that this project could serve as just that kind of starting point for anyone who's heard of webcomics and may be interested but doesn't really know where to begin. Maybe someone could even make a whole explanation page of what they are, what makes them unique, possibly provide a beginner's glossary (if one is needed; how many words do we associate most often with webcomics as opposed to other kinds of content?) and recommendations of which comics to begin with divided into categories (ideally as a way to show the stories that comics can cover when not limited to publishing demands or editorial control). Basically, a resource both for webcomics faithful and for new readers just getting started.

I think if this can be pulled off it will be great, and I'm looking forward to seeing what becomes of it.

Comment from: William_G posted at September 3, 2005 12:11 AM

Comixpedia is the ONLY site I think would be able to get away with hosting such a beast because the rest of the suggestions all have an interest in promoting comics of their own. Not that i'm saying they'd use the thing unfairly, but I bet you at least ten bucks they'd get accused of it.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at September 3, 2005 12:20 AM

This would be a great idea. As to the previous idea of spoiler tags, I would say that it'd be better to have a 'summary' section for new readers and a 'analysis' section for more in-depth discussion. And then perhaps a 'creator commentary' section.

As to inclusion requirements, I would say that the 1-year-100-comics rule would be a good hard-and-fast rule, but perhaps new comic entries should be submitted to a committee or somesuch body for acceptance. Once accepted, it'd take bringing it back to said body (which could consist of all users or something like that) for deletion. You'd need more fleshed-out rules than just that, but that's more a discussion for after this gets up and running.

The Websnark community would make an excellent 'core' or 'seed' group for this, methinks.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 12:25 AM

See, I don't think there's any good reason to keep anyone out.

Seriously. So we get twenty thousand entries. If we don't include a means for uploading graphics, the bandwidth shouldn't be unmanageable. So long as we develop a community to enforce encyclopedic tone in the articles, let people put their strip up. Hell, I'll do a page for Unfettered by Talent.

So. Next would be talking to Xerxes, I'd bet. And after that, perhaps Signore Manley.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at September 3, 2005 1:04 AM

It's funny that you wrote this right after I noticed that there was a vote for deletion for MY webcomic, though it seems as if it gets to stay, seeing how it fits the requirements and everything.

I like the idea of one just for webcomics though.

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at September 3, 2005 1:27 AM

I'm not sure what is the value of a centralized webcomics encyclopaedia, versus wikis for each webcomic (an excellent idea that's worked for Homestar Runner pretty nicely). Since webcomics, unlike political leaders and books, are pretty easy (and free) to dive into, a central encyclopaedia does not make immediate sense to me. Perhaps someone can enumerate the benefits?



But perhaps this comic-pedia will not have the opinion that Ryan Estrada is 'just under the bar of notability' (sparking the idea for a I would gladly buy)

Comment from: John Troutman posted at September 3, 2005 1:39 AM

A Webcomic Wiki would be child's play to set up, so long as you can find the server space. 'Cause seriously - they're a friggin' cakewalk to install. I've been Working on one for my own comics for the past couple weeks now (albeit slowly).

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 1:42 AM

Wait a moment.

Wait a fucking moment.

We live in a world where I'm considered notable enough for Wikipedia, and Ryan fucking Estrada isn't?

Forget the positives I said above. Wikipedia's fucked. Useful, but fucked.

As for the advantage of a central encyclopedia -- the core advantage is just that. It's central. It's a single point of presence people can go to for information on webcomics. It becomes a reference point that allows for newcomers and old hands alike to find information on the webcomics they find.

In short... as someone said above, it becomes a primer that lowers the barrier of entry to people on the outside... and it becomes something that enriches the experiences of the people like us on the inside.

There are two kinds of knowledge in this world. The things you know, and the things you know how to look up.

Comment from: lucastds posted at September 3, 2005 1:59 AM

Wow. I can't believe Ryan Estrada does not have an entry.

Wikipedia is pretty lame at times. I start lots of webcomic articles and have half of them deleted. My article for "Sam and Fuzzy" survived a vote for deletion, as did a few others. I just wrote one for "Her! Girl vs. Pig" that seems to have stayed up.

I dunno. I just find it funny when people use "Have I heard of the comic" as their basis for voting that it's non-notable.

Like: Maybe not to you.

Comment from: thelemurgod posted at September 3, 2005 2:02 AM

THANK YOU!

A short article was started on Wikipedia a while back for my webcomic but was quickly deleted. The reasoning? Alexa rating. I was more than qualified given a number of other alternative guidelines.

A reader of mine pointed out in the Votes for Deletion that a handful of webcomics on Wikipedia didn't satisfy the "Alexa test" either, but were allowed to stay.

So why not mine?

Seemed like it was purely arbitrary that my comic was railed against. Though, I must add, one of the "elitists" was kind enough to come into my forums and tell my readers and I just how "insignificant" my comic was and didn't deserve to be on Wikipedia. Keep in mind, he determined this without even looking a single strip (which I got him to admit).

What the hell!

Anyway, THANK YOU! Since that experience I have been saying that Webcomics need their own damn Wiki. A comprehensive listing and detailed info for ALL webcomics, no matter how "insignificant." As you said, not to take the place of Wikipedia, but as a dedicated supplement.

Unfortunately I can't help in the hosting department (I'm already leeching of a friend of mine to host my comic), but would be more than happy to help in any other way I am capable.

THANK YOU!

Comment from: Ellery Crane posted at September 3, 2005 2:46 AM

I'm surprised, Eric, that given your obvious readership of Casey and Andy, you don't remember Andy's own thoughts on the status of the C&A wikipedia article.

As for the idea for a Webcomics wiki? Excellent! If anyone could see such a concept take flight, I'm confident that you're the man to do so.

I feel it's also worth mentioning, given the topic of this snark, how webcomic drama can also spill over onto Wikipedia. One only need look at the discussion page for the entry on Sean Howard. Though, I admit, that may just be Squidi.

Reading Squidi's webcomic and blogs since nearly the beginning, I always got the impression that he was eccentric but, ultimately, rational. Reading the discussion on his wikipedia entry has convinced me that he is batshit crazy.

Comment from: SoulTorn posted at September 3, 2005 3:02 AM

You might want to check out the Webcomics Wikiproject, if you haven't yet. :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Webcomics

-Chris

Comment from: nifboy posted at September 3, 2005 3:09 AM

A few random notes from my experience with Wikipedia:

Every time the "100 comics" guideline was brought up in VfD, it was either ignored or dismissed as excessively lax; speaking as one of many idiots who put up a stick-figure webcomic on Keenspace and managed to get it to 125 comics with a total readership of nine (last I checked, I get more hits now than when I updated), I'm inclined to agree.

In my experience, most webcomics that survive Votes for Deletion do so when the "webcomics fans" swoop in and rescue it, either with evidence of notability or by squeaking by with a few "keep" votes (which have to be from registered, productive members, as thelemurgod found out).

Oh, and when writing about Schlock, use this version if you want all the gritty details on Teraporting. And Cee-Sabots. And power armor. And the many versions of the plasma cannon. And about two dozen one-off jokes wholeheartedly accepted as canon.

Comment from: gwalla posted at September 3, 2005 3:11 AM

Time to make myself unpopular.

I kinda feel like I'm being attacked here. I'm one of the people who pretty consistently argued for more stringent guidelines. Frankly, one year and 100 strips isn't much of an accomplishment: a strip that doesn't meet that criterion is in vast majority of cases not going to be significant, but a strip that does meet it isn't going to be significant for that reason either. It's average (which is sort of a sad, but I don't think anyone here is under the impression that webcomics as a whole are known for longevity). The older guidelines made some sense here: a webcomic among the top 200,000 sites on the web is probably a pretty major one (incidentally, this is already a lower bar than other sites: the general Alexa test has a cutoff at about rank 100,000).

The problem with Eric's proposal is that it wasn't treated as one. While it was introduced as an "alternate proposal", it wasn't the starting point of a debate; it was immediately adopted as the law of the land. And eventually there was a backlash from other voters. Subject-specific inclusion guidelines are there so that people who are very familiar with a subject can give those who aren't a sense of what qualifies as "significant" in that field. But if those guidelines are perceived as too lax or self-serving, those same voters you're trying to educate will just reject the advice and you're back at square one (or worse).

One of the problems with Votes For Deletion is that there is very little sense of precedent. There is a heavy turnover of voters from day to day, so the folks voting on, say, Ryan Estrada may not have even seen the vote on Eric Burns. There's a core group of regulars, but they (for the most part) don't vote on everything (those that do tend to burn out). Only if a particular argument is repeated ad nauseum (see: the high school inclusion wars) does precedent become something voters can point to. Otherwise, the only way of regularizing votes over time is by taking the debate out of individual votes and building inclusion guidelines.

Frankly, I don't like arbitrary cutoffs that much. Webcomics that should have articles: the most popular, trailblazers/important firsts, influential works, and those covered in mass media (such as Get Your War On).

BTW, Eric, the idea of webcomic authors not writing articles on their own comics isn't a big departure. The policy on "vanity pages" already warns against things like that.

Comment from: thelemurgod posted at September 3, 2005 3:29 AM

(which have to be from registered, productive members, as thelemurgod found out).

What I found particularly amusing is that Disassemblance's entry was deleted, even though it was, and still remains, on the Wikiproject Webcomics list of "Articles we need" list. Obviously somebody thought it deserves an addition if someone added it to the Wikiproject, as well as someone trying to fill that need by creating an article for it, albeit a small article.

Unfortunately, it seems those individuals happened to not be strolling through the Votes for Deletion that week.

How unfortunate.
And seemingly a matter of pure chance.

In the end, I do very much appreciate Wikipedia and am an avid user. And perhaps the odd anarchistic nature is part of its wonderful charm. And perhaps one day Disassemblance will somehow cross over the ambiguous border into the "notable" realm and be included. Until then, I look forward to an all webcomic wiki.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at September 3, 2005 3:40 AM

Gwalla, that's why I'd prefer a purely webcomics wiki anyway. Why bother keeping strips out? With a webcomics wiki, someone can hear the name of a comic, log on, and find out everything they need to know to let them know if they want to actually read it. People no longer have to slog through months of archives to find out if they even care. :)

Sorry, but I find exclusiveness to be against the IDEA of a user-maintained encyclopedia. The idea is that you can look ANYTHING up. If things get deleted, what's the damned point?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 3:59 AM

Gwalla -- I was pushing for a discussion, laying out what I felt was a better system. (Frankly, using Alexa is patently ridiculous.)

However, as is evidenced from above, you can see I no longer particularly feel Wikipedia is the right avenue for the Webcomics community to develop as a resource. And, no doubt strong Wikipedians would agree.

Frankly, unless there is significant bandwidth or storage issues, I'm of the opinion that almost anything not false should be included. That's the strength of Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia is going to be what it is, not what I want it to be. Therefore, since I see infinite potential in Wiki technology, it seems to me the best solution is to build what suits us, rather than trying to change something else to suit us.

(And seriously -- if Ryan Estrada can be put out as "non-notable," it's not going to suit the needs of serious webcomics study. It's just not.)

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at September 3, 2005 4:15 AM

I guess Ryan Estrada spends too much of his time kicking ass and not enough time pimping out his site, as it is required of notable creators of this day. The thing is, an entry for Ryan Estrada would be extremely useful; a complete account of his creations, travels, whereabouts and feats is nowhere else to be found, and his website reminds of 'Now playing' rather than 'Collected works of'.

On the matter of significance: If he's not the inventor of the 'road comic', he is its patron saint. And what about Welton Colbert, appearing regularly on Comixpedia? And, of course, the 175 hour comic and previous record-breaking attempts?

Still, I understand that this is my personal opinion, and for the time being I can think of more important issues facing Wikipedia. It's still my favourite site!

Regarding the central encyclopaedia, my point is that webcomics are already on websites, and I believe that clicking on a 'Wiki' link in the comic's menu is just as intuitive and simple, with no need to leave the comic site and search for it elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong, the only reason I'm arguing this is because making cartoonists add a wiki to their sites (or embrace the ones that already exist which are extra useful if you don't have a fucking cast page, ) is easier than maintaining a central one, and with no need for funding.

But if someone pulls it off, I'm totally in.

Comment from: Aerin posted at September 3, 2005 5:03 AM

Plenty of comics already have their own wikis, true. And there's no need to reinvent the wheel if the material has already been well-established; pages on Homestar Runner and such can be very basic overviews with links to the existing wikis. But this would thoroughly address the need for a gateway into this little world of ours, so that when someone Googles "webcomics," they'll find everything they'd ever need to know.

Plaid Phantom's totally right: the Snarkoleptics would absolutely be the group to run this. The fact that we hang out here demonstrates our love and knowledge of webcomics.

I think 1 year or a 100 comic archive is a pretty good starting point, though I do think that other comics could be considered for inclusion if there's something special about it. (For instance, On the Playground would probably merit an entry despite meeting neither of these requirements because it's done by a 12-year-old who has a newspaper deal, and that's just awesome.) Like Eric said, the point here would be to include everyone.

I'm now dying of anticipation. This will be one seriously cool project.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 5:24 AM

I think 1 year or a 100 comic archive is a pretty good starting point, though I do think that other comics could be considered for inclusion if there's something special about it. (For instance, On the Playground would probably merit an entry despite meeting neither of these requirements because it's done by a 12-year-old who has a newspaper deal, and that's just awesome.) Like Eric said, the point here would be to include everyone.

I say, if it's a comic and it's on the web, then mazel tov. After all, no one will do a search for it if they've never heard of it, so it's not going to consume significant bandwidth. Rather than put us in a situation where we try to figure out what deserves inclusion, just include everyone.

That way, we can focus our time on correcting usage and tone, instead.

Comment from: Aerin posted at September 3, 2005 5:48 AM

I say, if it's a comic and it's on the web, then mazel tov. After all, no one will do a search for it if they've never heard of it, so it's not going to consume significant bandwidth. Rather than put us in a situation where we try to figure out what deserves inclusion, just include everyone.

That way, we can focus our time on correcting usage and tone, instead.

Touche. A policy of total inclusion does make maintanance a simpler prospect. And if the comic's not very established, its page won't be very long either, since there's not as much to write about. Would this also include primarily newspaper comics with a web presence? (i.e. Doonesbury, FBoFW, etc.)

We'd have to make sure the searching script is decent, though. My experiences with wikis and searches have... not been very good.

Comment from: SeanH posted at September 3, 2005 6:23 AM

Frankly, unless there is significant bandwidth or storage issues, I'm of the opinion that almost anything not false should be included.

As a Discordian, I find this qualification unnecessarily exclusive! I see no reason to exclude a perfectly good encyclopaedia article just because it happens to be utterly false.

I wonder if there's a Discordian wiki...

Comment from: Merus posted at September 3, 2005 6:55 AM

You're probably looking for the Uncyclopedia. While not strictly Discordant, as such, you can't be strictly Discordant by definition, so yes it is.

http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Comment from: William_G posted at September 3, 2005 7:58 AM

What would a webcomics list wiki be able to provide that having your site on Onlinecomics.net couldn't?

Just wondering.

Comment from: Merus posted at September 3, 2005 8:30 AM

Because it wouldn't be a list. You could be as indepth or as brief as you liked with your entry and go into details and summarise, or advertise. It'd be a resource more than an advertising medium.

Comment from: Jeff Smith posted at September 3, 2005 9:59 AM

Quote from William_G:

Comixpedia is the ONLY site I think would be able to get away with hosting such a beast because the rest of the suggestions all have an interest in promoting comics of their own. Not that i'm saying they'd use the thing unfairly, but I bet you at least ten bucks they'd get accused of it.


Actually, I don't have a webcomic, I just love webcomics in general and think this is a great idea. Just to clarify.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at September 3, 2005 11:02 AM

I'm a little astounded at the stories of webcomics having trouble staying on Wikipedia. I had a reader email me that he'd created an Arthur, King of Time and Space entry shortly after Eric's first snark on the subject (on Wikipedia, not on AKOTAS). AKOTAS had over 100 in its archive; it wasn't a year old yet (not till last May), but I didn't recall that that criterion had been part of Eric's proposal and apparently neither did my reader (or maybe my reader wasn't a Websnark reader). I don't know whether the entry's had any Votes for Deletion on it but it's still there as I write. I have no idea what AKOTAS' Alexa rating is, but I can't believe it's better than Ryan Estrada's. I haven't caught the wiki bug myself (I think AKOTAS' site's only link to the entry is in the newspost when I announced the entry's creation) but if there were a webcomic wiki I'd be more'n willing to paste appropriate portions* of my FAQ into it and see what happens.

* Master of unintentional alliteration!

Comment from: Tim Tylor posted at September 3, 2005 11:36 AM

I'm all for it. There are lots of "insignificant" strips out there that are still fun and interesting, and it feels right that they should have a chance of being written about somewhere.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 2:31 PM

What would a webcomics list wiki be able to provide that having your site on Onlinecomics.net couldn't?

We're not really discussing a webcomics list wiki. We're discussing a webcomics encyclopedia. Entirely different beast. ;)

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at September 3, 2005 2:47 PM

I like the idea of having a place where, say, my readers can go in and enter as much encyclopedic knowlege of Real Life as they want, without fear of it being removed for being "useless".

And frankly, it'd be helpful to ME. I've been doing this shit 6 years - I don't remember half of the things I've done in the comic. :D

Comment from: Snowspinner posted at September 3, 2005 2:55 PM

I still don't think splitting off of Wikipedia proper is a helpful way to go about it, because Wikipedia is always going to have something that no fork or other Wiki is going to have - massive success. And I think that the mission of Wikipedia does include webcomics. That Wikipedia's VfD procedure has produced stupid results like deleting a Keenspot comic while Keenspace comics survive, and deleting Estrada, seems beside the point - fixing Wikipedia is going to have a better final result than a spinoff Wiki.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 3:04 PM

Snowspinner -- I think "splitting off" is the wrong idea. I'm not suggesting any webcomics entries be taken off of Wikipedia. I'm also not suggesting that new webcomics entries not be added to Wikipedia. (In fact, as new webcomics become "notable" enough for Wikipedia's inclusion, having GNU FPL released entries already written will facilitate that process.)

However, the simple fact is, a specialized encyclopedia for our medium would be very useful. And Wikipedia's idiosyncrasies have highlighted weaknesses that make it difficult for them to fill that role as solidly as a specialist work would.

Our webcomics encyclopedia won't detract from Wikipedia, in other words. But its presence might enhance the knowledge base of the webcomics community. And that seems win/win.

Comment from: PatMan posted at September 3, 2005 3:07 PM

There's so much already said I'll just add this:

Why on Earth is Sean Howard considered significant enough fr a Wikipedia entry when more succesful comics aren't? He's just a sprite comic creator who didn't even last three years. But I guess it's justified, since I'm sure David Gonterman has an entry. (That statement should not be considered a comparision of the artists' personal characters. Only their insignificance and flash-in-the-pan-ism.)

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at September 3, 2005 3:44 PM

I just checked, and it doesn't look like David Gonterman has an entry.

Comment from: gwalla posted at September 3, 2005 5:57 PM

thelemurgod: The problem with the "webcomics articles we need" list is that there is no control over what goes in there. People just add their favorite comics (or their own webcomics) to it all the time because they're too lazy to write an article themselves and they'll get reverted if they add a redlink to the List Of Web Comics article. Nobody even trawls the list to see if the ones listed there even fit the criteria. WikiProject Webcomics is a mess.

Comment from: NathanielK posted at September 3, 2005 7:17 PM

PatMan: It may not have lasted as long as it could have, but there was a new strip up every day for most of that. Besides, I suspect a considerable fraction of the webcomics community has a strong opinion on Sean one way or the other.

Comment from: PatMan posted at September 3, 2005 9:55 PM

RoboYuji said:
"I just checked, and it doesn't look like David Gonterman has an entry."

Well then why doesn't he? He's far more eccentric than our little Squidi. But then, as NathanielK said, Squidi actually produced comics. (And fairly good ones for a sprite comic, I should have mentioned that last time. I was really nervous about that post because I have a saying: "Never, ever, compare someone to Gonterman.)

:)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 9:56 PM

Gonterman produced comics. He just pulled them offline. Often.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at September 3, 2005 9:57 PM

And for the record, I certainly think Sean Howard is "notable" enough to be in Wikipedia.

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at September 3, 2005 10:08 PM

Gonterman produced comics. He just pulled them offline. Often

And that, my friends, is what the Gontershrine is for.

I'd say "enjoy!", but this is Gonterman we're talking about.

Comment from: tem2 posted at September 3, 2005 11:29 PM

Heck, I'd host the site if nobody else can.

Comment from: ecrane posted at September 4, 2005 12:54 AM

"And for the record, I certainly think Sean Howard is "notable" enough to be in Wikipedia."

He seems to vehemently disagree. Just read some of his comments on the current vote for deletion page.

Comment from: quentin mcalmott posted at September 4, 2005 2:30 AM

Well, I was the one who created the Gossamer Commons wikipedia entry. And Eric Burns, for that matter. I think that Gossamer Commons is noteworthy not really for its own matters (even though, as I noted in the VFD, it did get an honorable mention in the 2005 Cartoonists Choice Awards), but more because Eric is doing it. Websnark gets a fair amount of links from other comic creators (Kurtz, both Tycho and Gabe from PA, and Jeph Jaques, that I could find in a few minutes). Eric writes a column for Comixpedia. I guess it possibly should have been under his wikipedia entry, but it all seems relatively notable to me. Oh well, I haven't been around wikipedia (as an editor) that long.

Comment from: thok posted at September 4, 2005 4:16 AM

Incidentally, I noticed that nobody had made a page for the Daily Grind yet (Kurtz's participation by itself should make it worthy). So I made one

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Grind_Iron_Man_Challenge

Should this get added to the webcomic project page?

Comment from: miyaa posted at September 4, 2005 4:29 AM

The problem I have with Wikipedia is that it's trying too hard to list everything.

Encyclopedias are a good first step to any research project, but it's just very basic info. They'll usually list more information if you need a deeper, more indepth study on a particular subject. Wikipedia tries to cram every little bit of information about anything remotely involved with a particular subject.

What you guys are really wanting to do isn't an encylopedia at all, but more like a dictionary or a specialty book. Right now on my bookshelf, I have a few broad textbooks on synoptic meteorology, a few textbooks on more specific meteorology topics, the MLA and Chicago style handbooks, the whole Alton Brown book collection (and a nifty little book on making every kind of grilled cheese sandwich and variants) and the CRC Standard Mathematical Tables and Formulae, 30th Edition. The webcomic "wikipedia" should be more like the CRC. It should have a list of every webcomic you can find, definitions that define various genres (serious, comic, furry, human, mix, narbonic, etc.). It should also include a history of the webcomic, essays on various issues involving webcomics, like copyright infringement, adult webcomics, and whether the standard paper comic is still the ultimate nirvana of being in the graphic art industry (wow, does that sound pornographic...)? It shouldn't say which webcomic is the best or worst (something that I have found on occassion with some Wiki topics), and it shouldn't be ruddlerless either. (Wiki needs an editorial review. Deciding by free-for-all consensus leaves us with a few subjects that everyone agrees should be in there, and other materials that are in there with a certain "eh"-ness in it.)

Comment from: Grumblin posted at September 4, 2005 7:48 AM

Hmmmm... I think most people here forget that the whole concept of "significance" is irrelevant to an online encyclopedia.

In the old paper-bound versions you ran into rather severe limitations because of some very simple matters of economic feasibility.
After all, in the end you had to sell a rather hefty set of bound paper.
Not to mention that the accuracy of the knowledge contained within those sheets of paper would be out of date regularly, so that you would have to try and sell addenda, and occasionally go through the whole editorial, printing and marketing effort again. and again.

This obviously placed severe restraints on what could and would be included in those paper volumes, and so "significance" of items of knowledge became an issue.

An online encyclopedia's restrictions are however solely limited by storage capacity and bandwidth issues. And even then no-one ever said that all of the encyclopedia should be stored/hosted physically in the same place. Storage and bandwidth can be distributed.

So really the only value "significance" has in any subject matter as far as the mechanics of an online encyclopedia is concerned is as a discussion article in that encyclopedia, and maybe human ego.

But "significance" sure as hell isn't a factor when it comes to including articles on specific webcomics. That's thinking along the restrictions of the old paper model, which for all future purposes is dead.


The only real "rule" I can see as prevalent is the "You shall never write your own wiki entry".
But as long as even one other person feels it necessary to write up something decent as an entry, I see no reason not to include it in a Wiki encyclopedia.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at September 4, 2005 7:52 AM

riiight... typekey + formatting= syntax error...

Comment from: Nobody posted at September 4, 2005 9:45 PM

I agree with Eric, that the webcomics community is ripe (or perhaps even overdue) for a full, online encyclopedia that is prepared to detail each and every webcomic that has been, is, and will be. I was actually researching into the logisitics of creating a wiki for just such a purpose, but I guess I was too slow in my preparations. :} Good luck to Xerexes and the folks over at Comixpedia on their new project! :)

Comment from: Ray Radlein posted at September 6, 2005 7:10 AM

The problem with the "webcomics articles we need" list is that there is no control over what goes in there. People just add their favorite comics (or their own webcomics) to it all the time because they're too lazy to write an article themselves and they'll get reverted if they add a redlink to the List Of Web Comics article. Nobody even trawls the list to see if the ones listed there even fit the criteria. WikiProject Webcomics is a mess.

I'll admit that I've been on an extended vacation from Wikipedia for a few months now, but while I was active on Wikipedia, I hand-checked every new entry against the alternate guidelines (for that matter, I was the one who placed most of those entries on that list to begin with). If WikiProject Webcomics is a mess now, that's something that's only come about relatively recently.

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