Hi all, Atvelonis here. Welcome to 2019! I hope life is treating you well. At this time, I would like to take the time to share some administrative insights with the wider TESWiki community. I believe that a certain amount of transparency can go a long way toward building and maintaining trust between the staff and users, and that feedback from users about problems that affect both groups can help us improve the way we carry out our responsibilities to a significant extent. The purpose of this blog is to share my perspective as a community leader of the evolving state of the wiki. I will primarily be attempting to detail some of my internal thought processes in order to better facilitate an effective course of action in the future (it is not just PR). Perhaps unsurprisingly, it will be a bit long-winded.
Three years ago, on January 1st, 2016, I authored a blog titled "New Year; New Goals" that laid out a vague plan for dealing with the wiki's most glaring issues at the time, which were primarily related to the staff and associated community drama, as well as a general content slowdown. Many of you were not around then, but the wiki went through a few rough patches in 2014 and 2015, the worst of which surrounded the resignations of five long-standing administrators. You can take a glance at my history page if you would like to learn more about the events leading up to this, but suffice it to say that our task of guiding the wiki through a much-needed recovery process was far from an enviable one. As smoothly as the place operates today, the loss of so much experienced leadership (and, by extension, so much institutional memory) was a major hit to our productivity as editors and to our strength as a community as a whole.
A number of steps were taken by the administration in early 2015 and beyond in order to rectify the general feeling of discontentment that had plagued the community for some time. As you can see from the User Rights Log, this was immediately preceded by the promotions of Cheatcodechamp to bureaucrat and myself to administrator in March. A number of staff members who were knee-deep in the drama of the period also resigned over the next few months. With an almost completely new administration and several slots for other positions suddenly open, we had a perfect opportunity to turn a new leaf for the wiki. We did just that. We hammered out CTs and created the moot to revise archaic policies, encouraged content addition with community events, and kept people in the loop about it all with the weekly updates.
When I sum it up like that, it sounds like the "rebuilding" phase was pretty straightforward, but we have the benefit of hindsight today. The solutions we came up with were often massive risks, such as switching from a system of closed nominations to open applications for staff promotions. Several failed entirely, like the editing guilds. Each of these decisions were the product of hours of continuous back-and-forth debate. The social landscape of the wiki then was much more heated than it is now, and, particularly for the first few months of my tenure, we admins were walking on eggshells with literally every statement we made, public or private. This caused us no small amount of paranoia—"If we upset the wrong people with our decision here, we could be demoted within a week" was an unhealthily common thought. I got through that year by being extraordinarily cautious, which is reflected in some of my habits today.
The community was evidently satisfied with our leadership strategy, though, and by the time 2016 rolled around, things were starting to settle down a bit. I became a bureaucrat in February, and it was only at that time—after being an administrator for an entire year—that I began to feel truly secure in my ability to carry out every duty the position demanded of me. (I cannot speak for all staff members, but my quick promotion to sysop had initially caused me a certain amount of anxiety.) I remember a quite vivid sensation of confidence in my knowledge of policy and crisis management. I could answer anything and would stop at nothing: that looming "imposter" anxiety had finally disappeared.
Unfortunately, my promotion was followed by the resignations of Cheatcodechamp and Emperor Jarjarkine—both of whom had been steadfast servants of the wiki for some time—from bureaucrat and admin, respectively. More institutional memory gone! This time, though, I was equipped to deal with it. I knew exactly what I was doing editorially, and I had a robust team of patrollers and Forum/Chat moderators behind me to help handle any inevitable roadblocks along the way. I was able to lean on Timeoin and Flightmare for help with any administrative concerns that popped up, and my real-life workload was relatively insubstantial, allowing me to write gigantic essays about wiki editing, history, and administration in addition to my regular projects.
We were doing great. Beyond some difficulties in moderation on the Discussions, there were basically no major conflicts between users on the wiki at this point. There was still a bit of staff reshuffling, and arguments happened here and there, but they were resolved neatly and had few or no lasting effects. The creation rate of Consensus Track threads decreased almost to zero, and we even had to start holding fewer moots out of a lack of issues to discuss. We also became much more organized: the staff are now required to be in a dedicated Slack channel to collaborate and keep in touch, and our community Discord server sees a lot of editorial usage. Content was coming along fine and has been ever since. Even so, in the background, a certain amount of pressure was starting to build up.
In mid-2017, after more than a year of smooth sailing, things started to take a turn for the worse among the administration. By this time, a variety of personal and professional disputes had arisen between Timeoin and some other editorial staff, and they were not looking as though they could be resolved quickly. After a brief period of escalation, he resigned from administrator in August. The drama was largely contained to off-site platforms (as to not alarm editors), but this marked the first serious internal conflict we had experienced since 2015.
After Timeoin's resignation, I was granted the uneasy title of "The Bureaucrat," as opposed to its indefinite counterpart (there were other admins, but I was now the only crat). I had already sort of unofficially taken on this role, being the sysop who happened to be the most engaged with page deletions, blocks, Recent Changes patrolling, /d moderation, and other assorted tasks, but I definitely did not consider myself "The" anything: I was one of many, and far from the most senior. I held a lot of mental security in the knowledge that if I did something wrong, there were people more experienced than I was who would swoop in and patch things up. Even though that was not really the case by 2017, it still felt like it.
As you might expect, having my perception of security shattered in August was incredibly jarring. I was no longer a happy little cog in the machine, but the driving force behind the wiki's leadership. Combined with various external sources of stress, this took a pretty nasty toll on my mental state, and I seriously considered taking a permanent leave of absence. Furthermore, over the past few months, the resignations of three additional patrollers/administrators due to declining interest in editing have not contributed positively to my workload. They each left cordially, and were completely within their rights to do so—I absolutely do not mean to place any blame upon them here—but their absence has exacerbated my stress levels somewhat.
Now, most of the work I do on the wiki is invisible to the average person. Oftentimes, the only interaction users have with me is if I correct an edit of theirs and leave them a talk page message explaining their error. The administrative duties mentioned above are collectively some of the most time-consuming things that I do, namely patrolling Recent Changes, a job which has become increasingly challenging with a smaller set of editorial staff members. The wiki easily receives 300–500 per day at this time, and each of these has to be manually reviewed by a patroller or administrator. Many smaller edits can be quickly patrolled, but some take minutes or hours to confirm, and that really adds up.
The truly invisible part of my job is the operation of my bot, AkulakhanBot. Since he has not yet gained sentience, I have to spend time working through an already bloated list of tasks mostly semi-automatically. Just the other day, I ran a file maintenance script that resulted in about 20,000 edits (you can see Akulakhan hard at work right here), but because this is bot work, most people are unaware that such tasks are even occurring in the first place. That is not to mention my participation in Wikia's Community Council or all the miscellaneous organizational things I do on a regular basis. All in all, I have way too much food on my plate.
But to Oblivion with all this cynicism! Rest assured, I am still madly in love with the wiki, and I am content to remain the sole bureaucrat here for the foreseeable future. I can complain all I like about my workload, but that on its own will change nothing. A couple weeks ago, I sent out an anonymous Google form asking for feedback on my leadership style (you can still fill it out, if you so choose). I found the responses I have collected so far very interesting, and I think there are certainly ways in which I can improve my execution of administrative duties on an everyday basis.
My primary goal for 2019 will be to increase the size of the staff, mainly on the editorial side, in order to create a more stable body of leadership. By the end of the year, I would like to see at least an additional two patrollers and administrators each. This would leave us with a total of five admins and five patrollers. This could play out in a few different ways: we could get four new patrollers, two of whom later become admins; alternatively, we could promote two current patrollers to admin, and promote four more users to patroller; or something in between. Who knows? Staff management is not an exact science. Since we have also been expanding our social media presence, I think it would not hurt to get another person or two on the news team as well.
My approach here will place great emphasis upon the long-term effects of any actions I take. I do not intend to rush this process in any way. I want staff who are dedicated to the wiki, qualified to hold a leadership position on it, and capable of working cohesively with the rest of the team at all times. Our staff promotion process has always been rigorous, and for good reason: a lackadaisical process produces a dysfunctional team. Editorial staff are in high demand now, but it would be a mistake to needlessly lower our requirements just to get our numbers up. I am supremely confident that there are currently several members of this community who are solid material for patroller and even administrator. If this interests you, but you lack direction or wish for some advice, feel free to reach out to me privately for support.
Mainspace content is the bread and butter of this wiki. It is the reason that hundreds of thousands of people come here every single day: they want to read our quest walkthroughs, our lore explanations, our character descriptions, our weapon statistics, and so much more. However, these pages are far from comprehensive. Although we presently have well over 62,000 content articles on the wiki, many of them lack sufficient information about their topics, and are thus not as helpful to readers as they could be. It is paramount that everyone in the community roll up their sleeves and contribute to the mainspace in a meaningful way in 2019, because it is the foundation upon which the entire wiki rests.
A lot of users come to me saying that they want to help out, but the wiki looks so complete as it is, so what use could they possibly be? As it turns out, there are a myriad of editorial tasks just waiting to be completed by editors such as yourself. We have thousands of stubs, missing images, articles needing citation, and so much more. If you have even the tiniest bit of knowledge about a topic, you are absolutely encouraged to work on improving its article and those of any related subjects. If content addition is not really your thing, loads of pages are filled with spelling, grammar, and formatting errors, which you can find fairly easily with the "random page" feature and subsequently correct.
The best way to edit the wiki is using the Source Editor, but if you are not yet comfortable using it, the Visual Editor is a perfectly respectable starting point! Just be aware that we have a great many resources on the wiki dedicated to helping users edit more efficiently using Source, such as my syntax guide for the editor. Of course, you can also ask a staff member at any point for help, which they will gladly provide.
Bethesda will surely not be releasing The Elder Scrolls VI until the 2020s, so we will have to wait a while for our base of editors to explode in size. When that day comes, it will be like nothing most of you have ever seen—but we have to be patient. Until then, we have two solid ways of drawing users to the wiki to become editors: through the wiki's on-site Discussions forum, and through off-site social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Ideally, both of these should be leveraged to the maximum extent possible.
Discussions may lack many of the features of our current Forums, but that does not mean that it is entirely useless to us. The /d community is extremely passionate about The Elder Scrolls, and a sizable portion of them genuinely want to help the wiki. However, because the mobile app has no built-in editing feature, it is somewhat difficult for them to get past that particular hurdle and actually start editing. However, we have gotten a number of fantastic editors out of /d already, such as CarloV3r and Rozty. By emphasizing the usefulness and ease of editing in announcement threads on Discussions, we can hopefully attract even more users to editing.
In terms of social media, Carlo and Poisoned apples have seen great success as of late sharing factoids and quotes in a visual format on Instagram and other platforms. By maintaining a presence among the wider TES community, we are more likely to receive drop-ins from curious users hoping to learn more about how they can help contribute to the encyclopedia that they appreciate so much. Additionally, community events such as our recent holiday raffle have proven to be extremely beneficial in regards to content addition on the site, particularly from users who have not edited before.
The next step in my plan is to increase our productivity by allowing additional staff members to operate bots on the wiki. In the absence of The Crusader of Truth's aptly-named Crusader Bot, I have been doing all of the editing tasks for the bot by myself (Flightmare thankfully handles all of the logging jobs with KINMUNE). Now, it is worth noting that the requirements for becoming an operator are quite stringent, namely the bit about having off-wiki bot edits (which can be fulfilled on a sandbox wiki or elsewhere). Because bots can edit so quickly, and because they will literally always do exactly what you tell them, even if it is horribly destructive (intentionally or not!), it is important for bot operators to be capable of planning their approach to task completion in a way that catches all the edge cases and therefore minimizes errors. I think it is totally feasible to get one or two more maintenance bots actively running on the wiki in 2019, and would be happy to guide interested staff in learning the skills necessary to operate a bot smoothly.
I would like to thank each and every one of you, dear readers, for your continued support for the encyclopedia over the years. TESWiki is remarkable in that the community here presently holds itself together much more strongly than that of most other websites. There is a good deal of mutual trust, concern, and respect among the users here, and in this age of tribalism and narcissism brought on by the advent of social media, the preservation of kindness and cooperation across a relatively large group of people like this is truly incredible. I would like you to know that the wiki means a lot to me, and I appreciate the role you all play in its overall character. I am your humble servant. Thank you.