Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Shifting Focus

Let's talk about Wikipedia.

Wait, wait, wait! Don't run away! At least not yet!

I know that the subject has already been beaten into the ground. Repeatedly. I know that the majority of people are either tired of the entire debate, or only growing more upset the more they hear about it. And, honestly, I'm halfway in both camps - equally frustrated by the situation itself, as well as all the drama (often meaningless) it's creating.

So why, then, am I writing about it?

That's a very good question.

Quick summary for those who somehow missed the rest of the drama: Wikipedia has had a tendency to delete non-notable webcomics listings from their site. Their definition of non-notable clashes significantly with that of the webcomic community itself. Thus, conflict.

One thing I've noticed, recently, is that many people seem to have a hard time pinning down the purpose of webcomic listings on Wikipedia. They aren't there to lead people to the comic - if you are listed on Wikipedia, it isn't going to get you any noticable new traffic. It is a nice mark of accomplishment - but a webcartoonist who has thousands of readers should feel that regardless of whether Wikipedia recognizes them as notable or not.

The primary use of those Wikipedia entries, in my mind, is to provide information. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. It is a catalogue and compilation of information. With the majority of its topics, that information isn't something easily found elsewhere on the web. If I am trying to learn about a specific novel, and I don't have that novel on hand, Wikipedia just might have an entry with some valuable information.

I don't go to Wikipedia to find new books to read - I go there to find information about books I already know about.

When I go there looking for webcomic information, it is usually to dig up random facts about the webcomic itself. When it began, names of characters, etc.

All information, by and large, that I would much rather have on the webcomic's site itself. After all, webcomics are on the web. If I can get to Wikipedia, I can get to the webcomic's homepage. In a perfect world, everything I need to know about a strip would be right there next to the archives.

Unfortunately, many webcomics don't have much more than the bare bones around. They've got archives, and usually a forum or place for comments. If we're lucky, a cast page (which, more often than not, isn't up to date).

If I get more than that, I count it as a genuine accomplishment. Having a storyline guide, detailed character pages, searchable archives - those are amazing things. But generally, the webcartoonists are too busy with, say, actually producing new material (entirely for free), and simply don't have the time, energy, or know-how to put those features in. I can't complain about it - that's just the way it is.

It would be nice if every webcomic had all the info we needed right there on the page, but it just isn't going to happen.

Hence why I go hunting through Wikipedia. Or, with Wikipedia yanking out entries left and right, to Comixpedia.org. Gilead Pellaeon, over at the Webcomicker, gives his own response to the matter - he plans to work hard at fleshing out Comixpedia.org and the information there. Which is an idea I can certainly get behind, and I plan to do my own fair share of work on the database there.

There have been those who have... well, let's not say criticized, but rather, been dubious of the use of Comixpedia.org. The arguments have often been that it isn't going to do what Wikipedia does, and that only people already in the webcomic community will even know about the page.

But that's ok. The purpose of Comixpedia.org is to be a collection of information on webcomics. Not a guide to introduce us to the outside world, not a guide to lure newcomers into the fold. Which isn't to say we don't need more along those lines - but being posted on Wikipedia certainly didn't do that. It collects knowledge in a place we know where to find it.

The more people working on it, the better a tool it is. Gilead's got the right idea. If you want to worry about notability at Wikipedia... well, go for it. I do agree that their current standards are fundamentally flawed, regardless of whether the concept itself is or not. But I think Wikipedia is a lot less important to us than we think - and while it is easy to feel it is a personal attack, the amount of energy wasted on the matter could be put to far better use.

Like fleshing out the websites of the comics themselves. Or working on Comixpedia.org. Or finding new and innovative ways to draw people into webcomics.

I suspect if we could spend half the time being productive as we do ranting, we'd see a world of difference.

2 comments:

Joseph Kovell said...

I'm glad to see that this controversy may just result in giving Comixpedia some much needed editing attention by some of the people who are in the best position to do so (Webcomic critics.) But there is something obvious that I think webcomic creators themselves should do: link to your Comixpedia page on your main site!

I was considering switching my Wikipedia link atop No Need for Bushido to its Comixpedia page for a while now, but this whole mess has really given me a reason. It's been a bit of a tough decision in that I AM pretty proud that NNFB made it (more through luck than quality) into Wikipedia, but that makes the switch all the more meaningful.

So this Monady I'll be switching the link to Comixpedia. I hope that more webcomics can help out by doing the same. Just toss up a link!

Maritza said...

That's funny... my cast page is complemented by the wikipedia crfh!!! page. I have to say, that one is a lot more complete and thorough (although spoilerish)