So, Harry and Dan sold the domain to Wikia last month. This completes Memory Alpha's degradation from mostly-autonomous cc-by-nc "sister project" to just another sucker-powered Wikia filler-generator.
Considering the way Wikia treated us in the past, I can't see how this could make things better. Here is a list of things "the community" was largely or totally against, but Wikia forced on us anyway:
- Wikia creates alternate language MA versions without any discussion with the existing community, and without making sure they fit with MA policies regarding canon.
- Wikia forced a change to a new skin that is more includes more than 1MB of scripts, and generally slows down every page load.
- Wikia has added flash advertising inside the articles that displaces sidebars and images in the articles with ads bigger than the image thumb size.
- Now, Wikia is moving us from memory-alpha.org to memory-alpha.wikia.com, so they can attract more advertisers, which of course means they intend to sell more ads, and they'll need to find a place for them on the pages that are most viewed.
- There are more, feel free to add below.
Now that they own the domain, we could never leave, no matter how bad it gets. If we did, we would have to fight against the content we created, in search engines and in attracting editors, but mostly it just wouldn't be the same without the domain.
I don't have a problem with Harry and Dan selling out because of whatever profit they made, but that it happened in secret. Considering that those with vast majority of content created here didn't have any say, and there was no chance to stop it. I also don't have a problem with Wikia selling ads, but the in-content ads are not acceptable, and its really junking up the place for visitors. Not that it matters to Wikia what we think about anything.
Lastly, I would point out that many of the other once-independent Wikis acquired by Wikia largely regret the decision, including Uncyclopedia and WOW. Joe, at Battlestar Wiki makes some good points against selling out to Wikia in a blog post he made there. I hope that future wikis will see what has happened to Memory Alpha and avoid these problems by avoiding Wikia.
--Bp 20:57, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
- Well, on the other hand, Sannse has been good to us with regards to turning off several features that we haven't wanted (read: "hated"), namely this crap. --Alan 21:08, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
That is true. They did remove that one really terrible thing they added. --Bp 21:14, 23 February 2009 (UTC)
Let me first point out that none of this was ever supposed to be secret or something to be kept from the community. Quite clearly we failed in this regard, but I first want to tell you about the things that happened.
Around this time last year (January 2008), the domain had just been renewed by me, when I got an e-mail from Angela. It's easiest to quote it:
It's a while since we've been in contact, but Wikia's CEO is getting a bit concerned about us driving traffic to a domain we don't own, so I would like to offer you two options. The first is that we move Memory-Alpha.org to memoryalpha.wikia.com. The advantage to this is that users who are logged in to Memory-Alpha would automatically be logged in to all other Wikia sites, which makes it easier for those who want to do cross-wiki editing. You might also find that the high Alexa rank and Google page rank of the wikia.com domain helps to drive more visitors to the wiki. The second option is that we purchase the domain name from you and keep the site on memory-alpha.org. The advantage to this is that it helps with the branding of "Memory-Alpha". We could make changes to the skin to ensure strong branding on another URL, but I think this second option might be easier. If you are interested in the second option, please can you let me know whether you would accept xxxx for the transfer of this domain? If you would prefer the first option, I hope that you would redirect Memory-Alpha.org to the new memoryalpha.wikia.com domain. When the domain expires in 2013, we would be happy to buy the domain from you then to ensure the redirect continues working indefinitely, just to avoid any links breaking.
Presented with these two options, Dan and I had a discussion on the subject. Firstly, we both felt strongly that it was our decision to make, since, to put it squarely, we were the ones that had put money into the site to host MA in the first 1-2 years. But I think our mutual feelings are best represented by this quote from one of Dan's mails to me:
- Emotionally, I'm torn. Not just because of the "we own MA" concept, but because I've always had in the back of my mind the eventual goal of hosting MA myself on my own colocated server that I'd like to buy someday. But that's probably at least five years off. And Wikia certainly has the experience and resources for managing MA long-term.
- Here's what I think it comes down to. Right now, our arrangement with Wikia is effectively just a "hosting" arrangement. Although I have no idea about the process by which we'd accomplish it, I've always figured that we could potentially choose to move MA to another web host. Once Wikia owns the MA domain name, that effectively means they own the "trademark" (so to speak) as well, and determine the future of the community. Or better put, the identity of MA. I'm okay with it if you're okay with it.
The reality is, that even when still owned the domain name, Wikia ran the site. The apparent ordeals with new features, the new skins and the ads, all happened with us owning the domain. As best we could, we tried to see what the experience with other wikia's was, both those who had been taken over by Wikia and those who hadn't. From what I could see, even though they'd had a lot of discussion about the subject, the actual wikis hadn't changed very much at all. Certainly before the recent drive to put all Wikia's under sub-domains, we could not see how Wikia owning the domain would significantly change the way the site was run. Owning the domain did give us the power to move away from Wikia, of course, but both Dan and I had already experienced that (before Wikia) hosting costs became so high that neither of us could afford it (both money and time wise), and donations were not high enough to compensate. For what it's worth, we also considered that, should things turn out to be really, really wrong, the content would always be safe through the CC license.
That was our rationalisation of agreeing to the domain transfer. The actual transfer itself is a fun story that I do not want to withhold from you! So essentially we agreed to a transfer in late January 2008. The plan was to get the transfer done as quickly as possible, and the make the announcement to the community. However, as I was ready to transfer the domain, it turned out our registrar, and Australian company, is not allowed to transfer domains for 6 months after any administrative change to such domains. Since I had just renewed it in December, I had to tell that embarrisingly, they'd had to wait 5 more months. When June came, a Wikia tech guy and me tried again to transfer the domain from the Australian registrar. This time, I ended up having to update an old e-mail address connected to the domain. You guessed it, it got locked out for 6 months again. Which brings us to January this year. This time, I had given Wikia the information they needed to deal with our registrar themselves, to avoid any more accidental lockouts.
Now, when they finally did complete the transfer with the registrar early this year, I should of course have informed the community. I must admit that, with Wikia finishing the transfer, I was not on top of things as I should have been. The painful thing is, we actually did have a statement draft ready, first written after our initial discussions, and slightly after the second transfer attempt:
- Hey folks,
- Recently, Harry was contacted by Wikia about purchasing the MA domain (www.memory-alpha.org) from us. After a bit of discussion, we decided to go forward, seeing as how it doesn't affect our mutually-beneficial arrangement for the hosting of MA, anyway. However, in consideration for those who in crucial first year of MA's existence provided support for its management, we wanted to make sure that the domain purchase was sufficient to cover the amount of donations we received over the course of the first year. Long story short, Wikia agreed.
- So now, the question becomes, how do we handle these funds? After going over the records, we determined that the total amount donated was €132, which is roughly equivalent to US$200 (on today's exchange rate). Certainly the most obvious option would be to return those donations to the members. However, we don't have current contact information for everyone after all these years, and it would be difficult to arrange all of the returned donations.
- Our other idea was to arrange for a donation to a charity, selected by popular vote of participating members, on behalf of the Memory Alpha community. We had two ideas to start with: either SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, http://www.seti.org) or else the Hollywood Charity Horse Show (founded by William Shatner, http://www.horseshow.org). And we're sure that some of you could come up with some other good alternatives, too.
- So please, give us your feedback on how to proceed with this.
- Dan Carlson and Harry Doddema
There's not much need for that statement anymore, but the offer to give back the donated money to the community, via a charity donation, still stands of course.
You all know that I haven't been active recently, and I sincerely apologise for keeping you in the dark, this had never been our, or my, intention. I hope I have taken some of that feeling away. And in response to what Cid asked me, I am perfectly willing to stand down as Admin.
So the two options were:
- move the site to a sub-domain of wikia.com
- -OR- or Wikia would purchase the domain and keep it at memory-alpha.org
The most logical assumption then, is that because they purchased it, we would not be moving to a sub-domain. I have absolutely no expectation that Wikia will honor that agreement. How did you expect they would?
The money is not the issue. The issue is Wikia's history of deception, secrecy and indifference to the community; and your ignorance of (or participation in?) that. --Bp 14:24, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- You know, not everyone shares your utter hatred of Wikia, and you yourself have for all intensive purposes not been an active member of this community for more than a year. Except to occasionally rear your head and complain about our hosts, and occasionally offer a little help on the auctions. --OuroborosCobra talk 14:35, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- Intensive purposes? Anyway. In this particular case I agree with bp0. Wikia has a history of making changes that affect us on a whole without really discussing it with us. Sure they discuss it with us but in the end they're going to do what they're going to do. By moving the domain (which, how many of us really think that won't happen) we lose the brand. By purchasing the domain Wikia now has full control over what happens on this site with no need to ask anymore. We can't move the site to a different host in the future if we wanted to. The ads that are on the site are horrible. "No wonder people want their pages removed from the site" as one person put it. Trouble is there's no use in bitching about it because it's all a done deal. We can either accept it and move on or never come back. I haven't decided myself yet but this whole turn of events has been troubling. — Morder 14:47, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- By yours and Bp's own admission and claim, Wikia already does (and has for quite some time) eventually done what they wanted anyways, regardless of what we want. Alan already pointed out that isn't exactly true at all, but if you are right, then what exactly has changed? They've gone from doing whatever they want to being able to do whatever they want? --OuroborosCobra talk 15:06, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- Well, for what it's worth, you can completely count me in on Bp's side in that matter. Wikia's way of dealing with an existing community like ours is, and for the most part always has been, poor. There's a bright spot here and there, but this recent information shows, for me, a modus operandi that isn't really becoming of a company that claims to be "community-building".
- As Harry confirmed by quoting the original offer made by a Wikia representative, the alternatives were presented as "domain sale while keeping content there" or "no sale while moving content". Without this being fixed in some sort of official contract (I guess there is none), Wikia obviously has no legal obligations to fulfill their part of that deal, and may just backtrack and change domain names anyway. Having had a look at Wikia's track record in that regard, I feel as if they weren't to keen to fulfill any moral obligations - but let me send this out to them, anyway:
- Think about what you're doing to a community that has been in existance for longer than your whole company. We've already put up with many unwanted actions and changes, from the creation of language versions that no one even cares to maintain, to the addition of unnecessary features and making us beg for their removal, to adding tons of ads everywhere, etc. Now going forward with this domain name change, after you've explicitely stated the exact opposite to gain access to our domain name would be a prominent display of arrogance and well-calculated duplicity. Is this really what you want?
- It's probably all the same to you, seeing that all the other language versions of MA haven't even been officially contacted regarding the planned move to a Wikia.com subdomain. When exactly did you plan to make those announcements, by the way?
- Back to our own community, while awaiting a reply, and to clear up the reference at the end of Harry's post here: In a mail to Harry and Dan, I suggested that they both might as well step back from being listed as Admin, if this "non-communication" is their way of dealing with the community. If you have any objections to this, let them be known. -- Cid Highwind 15:16, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- I'll admit to being very disappointed with how Dan, and most especially Harry, behaved in this matter. This is something they've apparently known about for over a year, a time during which Harry at least has made contributions and edits to this site, as recently as last October. He should have made informing us about this entire affair a top priority from the moment it was being discussed, and certainly from the moment they seem to have made the decision. To wait until a month after the sale has gone through, and in fact only telling us because Bp threw it out into the open, that is not alright with me. I agree that Dan and Harry should step down.
- That said, I again have to ask what has really changed in the eyes of the Wikia haters here. For years I've seen you guys say "Wikia just does what they want anyways, regardless of what we as a community want." So what has changed? They've gone from being able to do whatever they want to being able to do whatever they want? Hell, even on the subject of domain name change, Bp admitted last October (before this sale had happened and before any of us knew about it) that it was probably going to happen whether we liked it or not. I believe his exact words were "acceptance of the inevitable." So I ask again, what has actually changed here from the perspective of Wikia doing whatever they want?
- In case Wikia is bothering to read this, don't take my statements to be support of moving our domain, or of supporting making changes to this community at will without our having a say so. I don't. I fully support Cid's statement that you uphold your end of the agreement in the sale, I am fully behind Cid's statement. --OuroborosCobra talk 15:28, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
Cobra, as often happens, your post betrays you for not reading the discussion. If you had read my orignal complaint maybe, then maybe you could argue the merits instead of being a superficial, irrelevant distraction. Anyway, the difference was we could leave if things got too bad, and Wikia knew that. Also, "... Wikia's CEO is getting a bit concerned about us driving traffic to a domain we don't own ...", MA moved to Wikia because the traffic was too much, it didn't need traffic "driven" to it. What does Wikia really think it is doing for MA other than hosting it? MA is the traffic draw, for Wikia. --Bp 15:32, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- I read your statement just fine, thank you, and saw that section. Maybe I'm the only realist here? We were never going to leave Wikia hosting, let's face it. It was an empty threat, one we never publicly made as a threat, and one I'm sure Wikia did not take seriously. None of us has the hosting ability to run this site, and we apparently suck at raising donations if the dollar amount Harry has told us for that first year is true. Leaving Wikia would have meant the end of Memory Alpha. We never would have gotten around to it. We're either too lazy, too poor, etc. I figured I didn't need to come out and state the obvious on that end. --OuroborosCobra talk 15:36, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- As Harry has said, there was no intent to keep the transfer of the URL a secret. With the arrangements having been made so long ago, I had assumed it was already public. It seems the problems with the registration company threw us all off there.
- And the time factor is important with the plans for the URL too. A lot has changed in the year since Angela's mail to Harry. Yes, our intention then was to keep Memory Alpha on the .org domain, and we had no reason to think that wouldn't continue indefinitely. But that didn't turn out to be possible. See Forum:Domain name change for more on this.
"our intention then was to keep Memory Alpha on the .org domain ... But that didn't turn out to be possible." It is simple: Just honor the agreement and keep memory-alpha on the ".org" domain. What is so "impossible" about that? It seems like it would be easier now. Oh, and the other things.... Let us have monobook as the default again, turn off the in-content advertising that displaces or replaces the sidebars, stop creating alternate language versions without discussion on EN first.... Oh it's so... IMPOSSIBLE! --Bp 22:09, 24 February 2009 (UTC)
- I'm sorry Sannse, but you guys have to rethink your decision regarding moving the domain, whether you think it is "final" or not. The fact is, while Harry and Dan did drop the ball in not telling us about this sale during the entire year, you didn't tell us either. Worse still, you announced the domain name change without telling us about the prior arrangement you had with Dan and Harry. That is an extremely foul business practice on your part. You essentially kept secret that you were violating the terms of a sale, at the very least to us (the people that make this wiki anything but an empty shell) and possibly even to Dan and Harry (the people you made the sale agreement with). You need to seriously stop what you are doing, and think about this. Whether you intended to or not, you guys at Wikia screwed up big time in this affair, and you need to stop doing what you are doing. Reconsider your domain move. --OuroborosCobra talk 17:47, 25 February 2009 (UTC)
- I have to agree with everyone here who basically said "Wikia sucks for all the bad things they did." That said, I'm sure they've done some good things, too... yes? Maybe? Anyway, I, too, am frustrated at how little Wikia seems to care about the community they claim they are trying to build. I'm not going to outright lambaste Wikia as evil (Pure and simple by way of the eighth dimension!), but I am concerned with how little respect they have for the community. Really, it seems like sannse is the only one who cares about us at all. The features they have implemented as described above have made MA and other wikis far less attractive and, even worse, much less user-friendly. It would be nice to see Wikia and their advertisers take us and other communities into consideration once in a while. As for Harry not telling us in advance... yah, I'm a bit miffed about that, as well. But, whatever. Truth be told, it shouldn't be a big deal, but it is thanks to Wikia's poor track record in dealing with us and other wiki communities. --From Andoria with Love 04:34, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
- Sure, they've done good things in the past, but, as I already told Sannse on IRC yesterday, Wikia currently has a another big problem besides, apparently, not making enough money. That problem is the company's reputation. People believe that Wikia considers their communities slave workers on their ad plantations, people believe that Wikia deliberately tries to sabotage moving communities elsewhere, and people believe that Wikia has a long history of generally being deceitful towards "their" communities. There are more accusations hidden on those pages, and others linked from them, so take some time to read them.
- Now, the important point (for Wikia) is not whether each and every of those conspiracy theories is correct - but the simple fact that, even assuming that the theories are incorrect, Wikia's demeanor is constantly fully compatible with them:
- Wikia, starting in 2008, (in)conveniently forgets telling its community about a domain name purchase going on: Could be a mistake, but matches the theory of Wikia trying to sabotage site moves
- Wikia, in 2009, (in)conveniently forgets telling its community about the purchase being finalized as they speak about moving domains - something that has been stated to not happen upon purchase, to convince the domain owners of selling it in the first place: Could be another mistake, but matches the theory of Wikia being deceitful and not giving a damn.
- Now, the important point (for Wikia) is not whether each and every of those conspiracy theories is correct - but the simple fact that, even assuming that the theories are incorrect, Wikia's demeanor is constantly fully compatible with them:
- I'm not sure if Wikia fully understands that, but this is a public relations nightmare in progress - if your business model is based on people working for free, you do not want those people to think of you as some colonial slave owner with an evil grin on his face.
- To avoid that, Wikia might want to, just once in a while, do something that is completely incompatible with those theories - and letting us keep our independent domain might just be that. My hopes for this happening aren't too high, I admit, but it would still be the right thing(TM) - otherwise, more negative publicity, and less people not believing it, might just be around the corner. -- Cid Highwind 11:04, 26 February 2009 (UTC)
I think the first thing I want to talk about is a very personal frustration. I am Memory Alpha's main contact for Wikia. It's my job to be here and help you directly, to arrange for other staff to work for you in the background, and to be the spokesperson for Wikia. So it's frustrating to hear "sannse is the only one that cares" when I know that my colleagues are working with me on all of those aspects and care just a deeply as I do. So my request is to please understand that I work for this community as part of a team - the good and the bad are a group responsibility.
So over the last few days, that team has been reading and discussing the comments here and on IRC. Some parts we feel are fair: we didn't communicate the changes well. And while what was said to Harry and Dan a year ago was the situation then, things have changed over the past year. Nonetheless, we have decided not to move Memory Alpha to wikia.com at this time. We still believe that moving wikis on to wikia.com is an important part of Wikia and her communities being successful, but we will hold on this move for Memory Alpha.
As for the theory that we set out to keep the transfer of the domain name a secret, this is harder to respond to. Of course we can say "no, not at all", but clearly there will be those that simply won't believe it. In fact, I'd predict there will be some that see leaving the domain name as is for now as proof we are trying to cover up our Evil Plan.
There are a few other issues that were raised here that may be more appropriate for another discussion. For example, regarding foreign-language versions of Memory Alpha, I really don't see why the English version should decide the policies of the French version (for example). But it's certainly something we can discuss on another page... as long as the other languages are fully represented of course.
Also mentioned were new features and changes to the interface. Our aim with these is always to encourage editing, boost new editors, and improve the ease of using the system. New features are more appealing to some communities than others and that's why we, whenever possible, give the option of turning off these new features if the community decides they are not appropriate for their wiki.
So, I hope you understand that we are listening - me and the rest of the team. Sometimes we have to make difficult decisions for the good of our communities as well as for Wikia as a business. At this time, however, moving Memory Alpha to wikia.com isn't the right decision, so we're changing course. There's no Evil Plan™, we just made a mistake.