Talk:IFWiki

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To be clear, this wiki is designed to encompass information about interactive fiction similar to the products that the 1980's company Infocom published, such as Zork and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's also meant to contain information about compilers or platforms such as Inform, TADS, Hugo, and Glulxe. As for the discussion below, we're trying to decide how to go about the business of building the wiki since there are so many disparate websites with detailed information about interactive fiction. In some cases we'd like to link to those sites and in other cases it might be fruitful to absorb that content.

Anything outside of this general topic is considered out of scope for this wiki.


Discussion

Okay. I believe Nick Montfort plans to add more to this page, but here are my thoughts and please forgive me if I make too much about this.

It's my belief that the IF Community wastes a lot of time. There are probably dozens of websites and personal pages that have varying levels of content regarding interactive fiction. Some of the owners of these sites are excellent at keeping them fresh and up to date. Eventually though, it seems that all sites tend to grow mold or content simply disappears.

I also believe that wikis are perfectly suited to many of the types if information that a hobby like interactive fiction contains.

It's because of these two thoughts that we have this website.

It would be nice to build content into the wiki, but I would also ask people to seriously consider what information they maintain on their own websites and determine if that infomation couldn't be better supported on ifwiki.

In the past I had created iflibrary.org/.com and one of the major issues with people using it was that it was more or less "owned" by me. It didn't really feel "public". It was also security driven so that the burden of maintenance was on me or people that happened to register.

So here is a solid pledge. The ifwiki.org is not to be considered an entity of David Cornelson. It is owned by everyone that has an interest in interactive fiction. It is public information. I refuse to be the sole or final judge of how content is designed, styled, or managed. I accept a role as an IF Community member and will work with others as a team to create a useful tool for interactive fiction research.

--David Cornelson 21:10, 1 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

Here are a few general thoughts:

What will this wiki do that Wikipedia doesn't do, and that existing IF sites don't do? Will walkthroughs and detailed discussion of games be included, and if so, how will spoilers be indicated? Should there be a "neutral point of view" as on Wikipedia, or some standard more suitable to making critical judgments about particular pieces of IF or aspects of IF? Will authors be allowed to enter information about their own games, or will that be prohibited, as it would be on Wikipedia? Is there any reason to have a "glossary" that is separate from the other "articles"?

And a few more personal thoughts, related to ifwiki and my own writing:

I'm not sure how collaboratively-written articles, free for anyone to edit, will be useful for the type of writing I've done or the type of writing others have done. My "Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction" is an essay I wrote, presenting my own explorations and arguments, just as Graham Nelson's "The Craft of Adventure" presents Graham's particular perspective. I'd be glad to have it mirrored or republished intact anywhere, but the proper way for someone to build on it or respond to it would be to write another article, not to edit it wiki-style. So I wouldn't think to offer it all as raw material for a wiki.

Now, if we wanted to say something along the lines of "let's everyone detail the way that Shade works, or the way Varicella works, and what we think the allusions/meanings/effects on the interactor are at every step," that might be different, and might lead to an interesting accumulation of discussion. It would be something not supported by other sites, and something probably not appropriate for the shorter-form articles in Wikipedia.

A final note:

I think we should consider who the readership (and the writership) for ifwiki is supposed to be. Even if we're wrong, it's better to have some idea than no idea. Will it be the IF community, adept at searching the Web, communicating constantly on USENET and ifMUD, familar with many of the games we'll document, and perhaps not crying out for a resource like this, whatever this resource is going to be? Will it be students in middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities who are trying to figure out which IF pieces they might study, how they might understand them better, and how they might fit them into broader cultural contexts - which the IF community might not be so concerned about? Will the readership consist of IF nostalgics who might be "recruited" into the IF community? Or a new crop of geeks, outside an academic setting, who might be recruited to play and author IF?

--Nm 21:56, 1 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I think we want to categorize opinions, but not promote any single opinion. So on a craft page, we might link to the various essays that discuss craft.

I would like to see content moved to ifwiki from other sites. Barring that, we may very well duplicate it and reference it.

I guess making it public now is okay. I had hoped to have more content to make it seem more legitimate, but then again, the quicker people have access, the more they might feel inclined to help build it.

I think pages for authors and games are fine. I think reviews should be somewhere else, but they don't have to be. As long as the review is a title (not just 'review') and linked as an opinion piece, then it should be fine.

For the most part, this could be the hub for all IF content. The ifwiki doesn't need to contain it all, but it could certainly link to it all.

--David Cornelson 22:10, 1 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I guess I would suggest focusing on something that the wiki, and collaborative writing about IF, can do particularly well. I'm not sure that just being the hub for all of IF is a good goal. Why try to defeat Google and help people search for links related to IF more effectively than Google can? Why try to defeat baf's Guide as a good index into the IF Archive? But if we try to exhaustively explore and study particular works, offering thoughts about what different characters, puzzles, locations, texts, etc. actually mean within that work, that might be quite interesting. These always involve opinions, but such an exploration wouldn't be the same as a review. If we were looking at Curses, it might involve explanation of mythological and literary references and the relationship of certain puzzles to those in earlier IF, for instance.

--Nm 22:17, 1 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)


I myself would like to see/contribute to an IF Design Patterns archive. IE, a set of commonly used recurring IF problems/solutions like 'Door' 'Room' 'LockAndKeyPuzzle' 'Maze' 'Follower' 'Compass' 'Knapsack' and how the concept has evolved over the years, the pros and cons of various solutions, and how they can be implemented in a variety of IF languages. The Glossary is probably a step toward this but I'm thinking one step beyond jargon but one step less technical than a language reference guide.

--Nate 00:36, 2 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

So maybe we should try to come up with some ifwiki bylaws. I don't think we're going to be able to narrow down the style in a simple manner. So a list of acceptable content and how it should be styled might be a better way to go.

--David Cornelson 10:37, 2 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

Vote:When should ifwiki.org go public?

--David Cornelson 11:27, 2 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

Nate's suggestions seem good; I might or might not contribute to the articles about those myself, but I can see how collaborative writing would work in that case.

Again, it seems a good idea to consider what special role the wiki is supposed to play, and who is going to read it, write it, and benefit from it, before coming up with lists about what should be excluded or what style things should be written in. I think Nate's ideas would have the IF community and authors as their readership/authorship, while a focus on how games work and the explication of them would include the IF community as well as other scholars and students. They aren't exclusive, of course.

Wikipedia seems to work, in part, because people are descriptive there, writing about other facts, lines of thought, countries, works of art, etc. Wikipedia isn't a way for people to develop new philsophies of mind or to write new novels together, though. This is why I think some sort of focus on something pre-existing (existing games themselves, "design patterns," existing IF development systems, etc.) could be good. I'm not sure people will write something like "The Craft of Adventure" or "Toward a Theory of IF" on the wiki, but they might work together to elaborate on some existing structure. I'm not saying we should exclude everything else, but it could help to decide on one thing, or a few things, that the wiki is supposed to accomplish.

--Nm 21:12, 2 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I'll be honest. This sounds a little too restrictive to me. I'm a simple guy. I think most people that will come across this website will be looking for help on a topic here and there. I agree that we can use the site to deepen discussions or theories, but in order to do that a foundation is required. It's my belief that foundation is in the details that have already been catalogued in other places. So in a way, we need to pull that information into the wiki before we start building on it. There has to be a way for someone to come into the wiki and start from scratch, take a step here and there, and then when they're ready, delve into the patterns and theory articles.

One of the traits that I have had forever has been to champion the new author. I am still that person. I personally want to see design patterns and more threortical works done, but I don't want it on a shelf so high that people can't reach it.

So it's boring and it seems repetitive, but it's my belief that we need to take the time to reconstruct our collective knowledge of where interactive fiction starts.

--David Cornelson 00:23, 3 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

So we want an index of games and authors, as well as terms and techniques? That seems doable.

I do like the idea of aggregating the common knowledge of the community into a common wiki format. Heck, I hang out on ifmud all the time but I have no idea really where to go to answer simple questions about what games are what. ifarchive.org is the only site I know of for sure, and that doesn't answer questions. At the very least a reference to things like Cloak Of Darkness (if it still exists, and wherever it is) should be on the wiki. Things like InfoDoc too, and whatever else is out there. I keep forgetting the URLs to those.

I guess I see a wiki as a step up from Alex, without the deliberate stylized wackiness.

Would it be an idea to have templates for standard game, author, etc pages, or is that putting the cart before the horse?

--Nate 01:11, 3 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

Yes, a more academic and robust version of Alex is an excellent comparison. I think templates would great though I have yet to delve into them. There was also the thought of mirroring Baf's database and auto-generating protected content (uneditable) from his database. This way, we're in sync with Baf's and we don't have second-hand data.

--David Cornelson 07:41, 3 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I'm not sure if this is the correct method to add a comment, I hope to have done the right thing, but here's my two cents:

First, about the scheme of a standard article on the bylaws page, I agree in general, but i suggest also a provision for spoilery recension/comments (I suggest a separate page, linked with suitable warnings in the main page and at the top of the spoilery page).

Secondly, I suggest to find a manner for handling subjects like Paul Panks and "A.P. Hill" whose surely can't resist the temptation of making self-advertisement (And Mr. Panks has already caused trouble at the Wikipedia, and also one of Wikipedia's admin have posted a post on r.a.i.f. and there begin one of the longest discussion....)

That is all I can say; surely I can contribuite, but being not of english mothertongue, some proofreading is surely needed. (BTW, you can correct my comment if you want)

Best regards from Italy,

-- Dott. Piergiorgio.

I don't plan to get involved with this at the moment, but I'll nevertheless make a few suggestions:

1. Get your outline structure in place first. Keep it really really simple, so that there's little ambiguity about where an item of information might be found. Publish a clear rationale for the structure.

2. Use the Glossary as the entry portal: it provides a logical way into the database. Incidentally, why is there a 'Glossary' and a 'Category: Glossary'?

3. Add the Categories to the alphabetical glossary list, but emboldened to distinguish them.

4. Keep the number of Categories small. Really small: seven or fewer. I'd personally go for 'Authoring Systems', 'Craft and Theory', 'Test and Release', 'Games', and that's about it.

5. I'd strongly suggest NOT having 'Authors' category, even less 'Award Winner' or 'Publisher' -- they demean the whole enterprise and makes it look like an exercise in vanity publishing. The place for such material is a personal website, or the entries at Baf's. As David W rightly comments "writing about myself. yick.", which is why the only authors who'll create entries are likely to be those that the community least cares to read about.

6. Be factual and neutral: avoid judgemental and opinionated text which is bound to provoke editorial wars.

7. Avoid repetition: you don't need a blurb for 'IF development system' and a separate one for 'Authoring system'. (Incidentally, the latter is expressed much better, IMHO.) See suggestion 1.

8. Get your act together on acronyms. You don't need separate entries for CYOA, GAGS, NPC, PC, RPG -- a 'see' link to the full entry is better.

9. Never create a dead link. Either link to an existing page, create a new page and link to it, or DON'T make it a link. Nothing puts users off more quickly than discovering that half the links don't work, and many of the rest have little real added value.

10. Create a template page showing how entries should be structured. Compare 'Inform' and 'TADS 3' to see why you need to do this.

Oh, and don't go public until you've got a clear idea on structure and content, and a reasonable amount of self-consistent data.

-- Roger Firth 5 Jan 2005

To address a handful of Roger's points:

2. We have both Glossary and Category:Glossary because when we had only one or the other, we ran into problems. Having no Category:Glossary would lose us the advantage of the category page: automatic indexing. Having no Glossary page means we can't search for Glossary directly, and as can be seen with the current redirect from IF development system to Category:IF development system, we don't get the member listing in that case. Wikipedia uses the dual method approach, so we're assuming that works and taking our lead from that.

3. Categories are themselves automatically added to the Special:Categories page, which is easily found by linking the Categories word itself, and thus don't need to be manually added to the Glossary page. Also, as far as I know, we cannot embolden selected entries on a category page; those lists are generated on their own.

4. I agree we don't want to go overboard with category page creation, but your list sounds really limited to me. I'd propose not creating a category until there's at least 10 actual existing items to go in it, and even then I'd think twice about it.

5. I agree that the Award Winner category is tacky, but I didn't create it. I have no idea what the Who's Who category is supposed to be for. And I think I'd prefer a People category over an Authors category, maybe. I'm still unclear what exactly I'd write up about anyone in particular. Best I could really do is list their games, which comps they've organized (if any), links to interviews with them (if any), link to their homepage, and add any other IF contributions. Maybe add which country they live in, but I doubt we'd want to list their RL job or martial status or birthdate, even assuming we had it.

7. I agree that the IF development system vs. Authoring system stuff is a big mess right now. That was built from at least four directions when we knew even less about what we were doing. I will clean it up when I have the time.

8. The acronym thing was inherited from the IF Glossary. Those should probably get turned into redirects, yes. My concern here is that if an abbreviation like PC is redirected to Player character, we cannot list PC on the Category:Glossary page.

9. I disagree. Dead links are votes for page creation.

10. Well, yes, we are still fumbling with formats, which is one reason we didn't want to go public just yet. On the other hand, I'm finding it difficult to decide on formats until I know what raw information we have to format. The process seems to be, put up draft versions first, think about it, then reformat. Which probably curdles the soul of many of us, but I've been coping so far. As I get more experienced with wikiness, I hope I'll know better how to choose a good format beforehand.

-- 206.172.61.21 12:12, 5 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I'm not sure how much Roger's suggestions fit within the "wiki" structure. I think his comments are excellent suggestions for general web information development, but wiki's tend to take a path that almost "fly in the face" of traditional web content. So there are two goals of this discussion and from those two goals, we will have more goals.

The first goal is to determine content levels. After thinking about nm's comments and my own view of things, I think we need to have several abstract levels of content. A first pass at this might include "definitions", "reference", "technical discussion or how-to's", and "craft and theory development".

After or while we're determining the content levels, we then need to dig a little deeper and determine what sorts of things will encompass each level.

Once we have these two tasks completed or in the works, we can then choose formats or templates for secondary content items. So primary content might be references and a secondary content under that might be people. I agree we don't need the authors tag. I think we can change that to People and have pages similar to mine David Cornelson. I can remove the picture if people think that makes it too much of a sales pitch and less of a definition or reference.

Technical HOW-TO's should be self-explanitory. The Craft and Theory layer is where I like nm's idea of having places where a single thought can be discusses and either have multiple white paper comments, a running discussion, a mass-edited white paper, or all of the above.

Roger - I think one of the things I'd ask is that since you own some excellent static content, do you think it would be helpful to move some of this content to the ifwiki and force the maintenance burden on the community? I'd ask that of everyone else too.

--David Cornelson 16:30, 5 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

In brief response to David C and to the previous poster (David W?):

Links: I hear what you say, but I'd still urge extreme conservatism in adding them. For one thing, a page that's over-sprinkled with links is much harder to read than one with a few key references. For a (bad) example, see 'ADRIFT', which has dead links to 'Visual Basic', 'Microsoft', 'Windows', 'programming' and 'shareware', none of which IMHO deserves a page in this Wiki -- there's nothing whatsoever about them that's IF-specific, and I think you need to keep sharply focused if the whole thing isn't going to sprawl out of control.

(Also on that page, I'd avoid phrases like 'relatively new' which are effectively meaningless. Do the research and find the release date, or just omit the words. Also 'people who do not like programming' isn't really the point; I'd say it's intended for people who feel that they /can't/ program in the conventional 3GL sense, but this really just highlights the need for careful word-smithery.)

Structure: my knowledge of wikis is extremely small, so I may well be talking nonsense. Nevertheless, I thought Dennis's original Glossary worked well, and I'm delighted to see it revived. Sadly, the current wiki is hard to navigate and currently has no obvious starting point, and I /do/ think you need to address this issue in some way -- given that the scope is tightly constrained to 'IF', I ought to be able to come in at the top and get anywhere in two or three clicks, without having to hunt around playing the web equivalent of guess-the-verb.

Discussion: maybe it's me, but I see nothing in the wiki mechanism which supports discussion, in the way that they happen all the time on the newsgroups. I personally think it's pie-in-the-sky to believe that such material will ever find a home here. What /might/ have a place is an index into useful Google discussion threads, but I strongly doubt anybody would bother to maintain it.

People: if you're determined to have this, I'd suggest a few clearly-understood rules: 1. include only /genuinely/ notable people (determined if needed by a little behind-the-scenes voting). Ask yourself: would folk really want to read about this person -- nine times out of ten, the real answer is no; 2. nobody writes their own entry; 3. no photos. In other words, keep it as neutral and informative as the rest. Sorry: none of the current 'Authors' entries meets my criteria.

Borrowing my content: no.

-- Roger Firth 6 Jan 2005

Roger - I think your comments are clearer this time and I agree with all of them. I think your voice is very important to the development of ifwiki. As for your content, that was just a suggestion. I think your website is so worthwhile that at least linking to it where appropriate is important to ifwiki.

On the authors/people note. I think this is where we might feel differently. I believe people are just as important to the IF world as Inform and TADS and theory. Maybe we don't need every author and limiting it to the Who's Who? might be better, but I still think indexing the community "leaders" is important. I agree that these reference should be neutral and written by someone other than that person.

I think nm see's wiki discussions almost as a "project". So a topic might be "How to implement strong NPC's" and the :Talk page will contain the discussion on how to build that article. A "progression of thought" or "socratic discourse" might be more accurate than "discussion". I think you point out an interesting feature missing from this and other wiki's and that's a sort of usenet/bulletin board style discussion. That can of course be mimiced, but it's not something that's inherent in how the wiki is edited.

As for the current navigation, that's understandably poor. We're just getting started. Eventually we will have a main page that will give you a well rounded view of the entire wiki and yes, allow you to only click once or twice to get to where you want to go. But this is where a wiki is really different from traditional website...it's intended to be heavily linked. It's nature is more like an encyclopedia.

As for links like Visual Basic, I think it would be okay to make those types of things glossary items. We certainly don't need a full blown article for it, that's for sure.

Please continue to monitor our progress and offer feedback. I think your guidance where content is concerned will only improve the nature of ifwiki.

--David Cornelson 11:04, 6 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

I think nm see's wiki discussions almost as a "project". So a topic might be "How to implement strong NPC's" and the :Talk page will contain the discussion on how to build that article.

Just to clarify: No, I don't. I think the way to figure out how to build strong NPCs is to have Emily Short write an article about the topic, have Adam Cadre write an article about the topic, have Stephen Granade write an article about the topic, etc., and then have people try to create games that implement stronger NPCs, and then have people write about that experience, and so on. This process is pretty much already going on, of course.

A premise of Wikipedia is that there is some Platonic article on "Wal-Mart" or whatever other topic you like that will emerge from collaborative writing on that topic, as long as enough people are willing write and edit. The truth is out there, in other words.

I do not believe there is any such Platonic article to be written about "How to implement strong NPCs," so putting up a text on the topic and allowing the world to hack at it forever will be futile, and will not cause that article to appear. Different people have different ideas about how to implement strong NPCs. These ideas might be based on RPGs, computer science, literary writing, dramatic writing, or something else. You can't just integrate or edit them all together into the one right idea. To provide another example: You probably wouldn't have much success if you tried to get anyone in the world who was interested to collaboratively write an article about "How to write a good poem."

My suggestion is just that if ifwiki is to be a good system for collaborative writing, we should select some things that can usefully be written about collaboratively, and then declare that this is what ifwiki is for. The things I can think of right off (I'm sure there are plenty more) are "explaining the way that particular games work" and "explaining the references and allusions in particular games."

The way I see it, a wiki is a system that allows everyone to write and edit together; it isn't a place to host content or a place for a single person (or a small set of people) to plan and write articles. If we choose a mission for ifwiki that is appropriate to the nature of the wiki as a system for collaborative writing, we'll be better off.

--Nm 23:22, 8 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

The ifwiki should defintely not host content such as downloadable materials, but it can certainly host information.

The type of information hosted is likely going to be a menagerie of content ranging from the mundane indexing of current knowledge to the more sophisticated centralization of themes. In the former case, David Welbourn has already provided a sizable amount of indexed content. I sense David is Shoeless Joe and the ifwiki is Kevin Costner's baseball diamond in a cornfield. The latter type of content will take time to develop and index properly. I sense there could be disagreement on its presentation.

This is where leadership is required. It will take someone with a deep knowledge of interactive fiction themes to create focal points and index internal or external articles properly. I would like to see an extensive list of topics on both technical craft (design patterns) and writing craft (translating traditional writing to an interactive fiction genre).

These indexes or focal points should have levels of experience integrated within, so that beginning, mid-level, and senior authors and programmers can identify what they are most likely to want to review.

We've already addressed some of Roger's complaints. David Welbourn has done an excellent job of changing things around so that ifwiki has a neutral indexing format.

We're already answer some questions that people might ask about interactive fiction. Some of this may end up being lead-ins to the IFaq and IF FAQ content. The IFaq page is on plover and in my mind not very useful. The general faq is posted to usenet every month and although that's nice, moving some or all of that information into the ifwiki would be extremely beneficial.

Once the ifwiki has a solid faq type information base, the more serious indexes should happen on their own. If someone wants to volunteer to "moderate" a section of ifwiki, I think that might be very productive.

That's all I can think of for now....

--David Cornelson 11:29, 10 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

Prompted by some of Dave's comments, how about we go ahead and write a FAQ for interactive fiction. Such a document *does* seem like it will be useful, and that it will be good to write collaboratively. We want to answer common questions that we all probably have similar answers to, and there is not a lot of peronal theory of NPCs or the like involved. I offer an early outline...

--Nm 01:33, 13 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

FWIW, I think that this would be an excellent project. The current RAIF FAQ hasn't been touched in 18 months, and Steve G shows no sign of active involvement. The RGIF FAQ is even less fresh, and has no maintainer since SvE dropped out. A single wiki-based R*IF FAQ which started from the good bits in those two documents would be a real asset to the community.

-- Roger Firth 13 Jan 2005

Cool. I have started writing a bit - I just wanted to note explicitly that everyone is welcome to change the outline, add to the outline, write more text within the topics that are there, delete and revise text that is there, etc.

The one thing that I'd suggest (and you can ignore this if you like) is that we work on the FAQ for at least a short while without looking closely at the existing ones or importing lots of text from them. This way we can start off by imagining what a reader of the FAQ would really want to find out about at a high level, and try to write and organize in response to that.

When we then go through the existing FAQs, we might find that some of that material is better placed in a different document, or that it is better covered by some other existing resource. Or we might find out that we overlooked a bunch of things and the existing FAQs got them right - but at least we'll have had the chance to see the document from a fresh perspective.

--Nm 12:21, 13 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)

First off, a complete first version of the FAQ is done. I'm proofreading it now.

Also, I wanted to suggest that we make the copyright/licensing policy of ifwiki explicit. (At the risk of starting another copyright thread...) My suggestion is that contributors offer their submissions under the Creative Commons by-sa. As far as attribution is concerned, the understanding would be that ifwiki is credited as the source of any documents written here, and people can come back and read the logs if they want to know who wrote what. The original authors would retain copyright over whatever text bits they wrote, but everything submitted to ifwiki would be licensed to Dave (and to everyone else) under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license, allowing the wiki to exist and the materials on it to be re-used by anyone who abides by that license.

If this sounds good, I think everyone who has written text so far, or whose text has been incorporated, should "sign" somewhere on the wiki to agree to this, and a note should be added to the submission form saying "you agree to offer this submission under the Creative Commons by-sa license" or somesuch.

--Nm 16:59, 15 Jan 2005 (Central Standard Time)