Welcome to the first 2012 installment of our Featured Wikian blog series featuring The 888th Avatar!
Wikia: Tell us a little bit about yourself
- The_888th_Avatar: I’m just a teenager who’s happy to have finally completed high school! This year, I plan to begin a five-year double degree in Arts and Law, which could really take me anywhere. I’m also a Chinese Australian who takes great interest in technology, travel, history and politics. My favorite pastime is writing, which I sometimes take very unconventional approaches to – much to the frustration of many of my former teachers.
Wikia: How did you first discover Wikia and which wikis do you spend the most time on?
- The_888th_Avatar: I began following Avatar: The Last Airbender after I became immersed in its qualities as a show heavily drawing from Chinese culture while maintaining a genuinely interesting plot line. When I searched for the show on Google, I was unimpressed by what the official sites and the most popular fan sites of the time had to offer. I found Avatar Wiki on the second page of results (we’re doing much better now!), found it was better than the rest, and decided I could offer it some improvements. I gradually became involved in Wikia as a whole as well when I discovered a passion for wikis as a method of content presentation.
- Avatar Wiki and Community Central occupy most of the time I spend on Wikia. Avatar Wiki is definitely my main wiki – two-thirds of all my edits on Wikia are there. While I don’t do as much article writing as I did when I began there, I still help put out fires, maintain site policy, keep the technical stuff in order and do various admin jobs. You could say I do a bit of everything.
Wikia: What do you think is great about Wikia?
- The_888th_Avatar: Tradition says that wikis are designed to be encyclopedias. My experience with Avatar Wiki, however, is that you can out-compete other sites on the same topic by incorporating their social elements with the power of a (well-written) wiki encyclopedia. Meanwhile, you can dramatically improve the encyclopedia itself with a larger pool of contributors – the more you have, the more likely a quality editor will come across the site. Wikia enables this potential while attempting to retain some balance (for the most part). Obviously, communities have to do some of the balancing themselves, such as maintaining tight quality control on encyclopedia articles, but Wikia features go a long way in helping wikis succeed.
- Oh, and Wikia creates exciting communities – you can’t underestimate the fun in talking to people from around the world who share your interests!
Wikia: How has Wikia inspired you or supported your passion?
- The_888th_Avatar: At its roots, Wikia is about written content, which I’ve always been passionate about. I’ve taken a lot of time getting to know the ins and outs of the MediaWiki software, CSS etc., but the wiki experience still comes back to the words I read on my screen. Particularly on my home wiki, Wikia’s given me a place where I can freely make my improvements, or write new content. I take great pride in the fact that Avatar Wiki’s article on The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra is much more up to date, is more accurately sourced and is written to a higher standard than its equivalent Wikipedia entry.
Wikia: What would your top 5 tips for new folks on a wiki be?
- Be nice to everyone every time, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to their face. If you’re not sure whether what you’re saying will be seen as offensive or dismissive, it’s better to fix it until you’re sure it will be inoffensive before posting. People assume that on the Internet, it’s safe to say things they would never say out on the street “in the real world”. The problem is that the Internet is part of the real world – real people are reading what you say.
- Recognizing that sometimes, you will "lose". Most wikis’ democratic mechanism for making decisions mean that it's unrealistic to expect that you'll get your way on a wiki every single time. You could be the best essayist in the world and you still won't be able to convince everyone.
- Don’t take anything too seriously. If you take every post that disagrees with you personally, you're going to keep falling into heated arguments that can be permanently damaging. Same if you take every bit of vandalism as a personal insult.
- Know when to take a short break – a few days where you just disconnect from the wiki altogether. I mean, we're not robots.
- Have fun. Not much point sticking around unless you’re actually enjoying the content and the community each wiki offers.
Wikia: What would you like to see that isn't on Wikia already?
- The_888th_Avatar: Better forums. Forums are good because besides being one of the most important features dedicated fans want, they help the site become stickier and retain a larger pool of participants while being far less intrusive than features such as article comments. For now, this remains an area where fan sites can outdo wikis.
Wikia: Avatar Wiki has a lot of pages with Chinese characters in the infoboxes, is that something you contribute to?
- The_888th_Avatar: Actually, no! Much to my admiration, the wiki has fans dedicated enough to do translations to Chinese, and most of them aren’t Chinese and have no background in studying the Chinese language. All I usually do is check these translations, and I’m consistently surprised at the high quality of the translations they do. Would this be possible on a traditional site built by a set team of contributors? No way.
Wikia: You write the Ba Sing Se Times blog posts, can you tell us what that is?
- The_888th_Avatar: The Ba Sing Se Times is Avatar Wiki’s newsletter, published fortnightly. I publish the newsletter, distribute it to talk pages (which have a link to the blog post) and write some of the newsletter itself. I think it’s a great way for people to keep themselves up to date with the various corners of the wiki and with the topic of the wiki itself. It’s especially helpful for people who can’t check in to the wiki every day, because we’re not robots and we do take breaks. It can also be a lot of fun. So we have sections for the latest important discussions and announcements, technical updates (some of which are pulled from Wikia’s technical updates) and an opinion or advice-based “editorial”, as well as humor (which is always very popular) and theories. The only problem is that it’s such a big job compiling contributions from so many people! I used to compile and design the newsletter by myself, but I’ve outsourced a lot of the work now to two other very talented and dedicated users.
Thank you to The 888th Avatar for taking the time to answer our questions! If you or someone you know would make a great Featured Wikian, please let us know by leaving a comment here with their username and one sentence about why they should be featured.