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I've been a long-time user of WoWWiki and have just recently began editing some of the articles here. Like anyone else, in general, I tend to overlook things that could be improved in the hopes that someone else will come up with a solution. The past few months I've noticed some very startling trends that have bumped me into action. Below is a list:
- Some valuable articles being replaced with negatively biased content.
- An overly negative view of Wikia and its policies.
- A lack of updated content for Cataclysm.
The list above isn't new to most users here, but while I have seen many criticisms, I have not personally seen three important things:
- An analysis and acknowledgement of issues impacting our success as a site. Relevant issues are not necessarily caused by Wikia and their practices. I do agree that they compund the issue. There are many things that may be done to minimize the negative changes.
- Goals that correctly address the issues at hand. Most of the approach seems to be get editors, get content. In some cases, this approach may work. But for many issues at hand, having a list of pages with requested changes is not going to work.
- We are lacking, as a community, a site-wide strategy for accomplishing our goals. If it is present, it is obscured. Even worse, we need, in some cases, goal specific strategies.
A Simple Comparison
Comparing this site to Wowpedia, I've noticed some very clear things:
- Wowpedia uses a very similar format, and even copies a lot of the content and tables that we use. This is not an overly negative thing, but without making some changes, we are perpetuating the move to Wowpedia as we are not differentiating ourselves.
- Wowpedia is not that much quicker at updating their content, either. Oh, they are quicker, but there is still a TON to update and Cataclysm has been out for quite a while now.
- Wowpedia's skin is not that much better. In fact, for all intents and purposes, it is similar, but more streamlined.
- Finally, Wowpedia is very, very similar to WoWWiki, and for that reason it has many of the same weaknesses that we do. If we overcome ours in ingenious ways, we might be able to overcome them or even create a positive relationship with them.
Users tend to use what is the most usable, productive and credible tools available to them. Of course marketing and advertising plays a role, but that is primarily for exposure. Repeat "business" is nearly always based on practicality. Hence, I am opening a discussion on issues I have observed, but not seen addressed, and ideas that I have to fix them. I am not an admin, so I will not address strategy.
Issues to Address
Most navigation on the site is pretty well organized. However there are some major concerns and some points that I think should be brought to light.
- Most navigation on the site is not handled by the skin, but by the content. Templates and Tables make up a significant portion of these.
- Most of the content navigation is bulky. That being said, it is very necessary. They also flood the "Global Templates" and undermine the Template Editing Guidelines. If we can find a way to streamline the look while maintaining the feel of the navigation, this would provide a significant amount.
- Navigation could be attached quickly and easily the main articles to which they belong. If performed in the right way, this could streamline the editing process for both the templates and the articles which use them.
- Just some progress... I have a pretty decent example for navigation completed in my Sandbox.
- --23:19, April 10, 2011 (UTC)
While the categorization is logical, it is by no means concise. Categorization serves two purposes: 1) a secondary means of navigation to related content and 2) an organizational structure by which to manage the content (back-end and front-end). WoWWiki suffers from the same problem that many large Wikis do; Hyper-classification. This impedes both browsing and editing, and furthermore provides severe limitation to any form of beneficial templating (lack of a better word). This is not a criticism, merely a growing pain. It happens with large data structures all the time, and simply needs to be addressed if it is to be corrected.
- In several instances, some categories are unnecessary. Multi-categorizing could help the navigation of category pages, and hence the editing of the game content.
- Having to bounce in and out of categories adjust large amounts of related content makes editing troublesome and a boor. Some suggestions are highlighted on my Ideas page.
- Redundant classification could help significantly improve navigation and readability. Consider the talent Improved Fire Blast.
- Improved Fire Blast can be placed in the Talents category under the name Mage:Improved Fire Blast.
- It could also be placed in Mage under the name Talent:Improved Fire Blast.
- Such redundancy would not affect search results, but allow a person to get to the page in multiple ways. It would also provide great organization as all Mage Talents would be likewise grouped next to each other on the Talents category, while placing all Talents near each other on the Mage category page.
- Additionally such redundancy would implicitly state that if it is a Mage and Talent category, it must be a Mage Talent, getting rid of the need for Mage Talents as a category.
There are so many templates that navigating and adjusting them is very difficult. Many are undocumented and therefore, less usable that they could otherwise be.
- Attributing Global Templates to the article they might belong to could easily make for easy reading and more intuitive editing.
- Consider the Glyphs navigation. It is listed in the template Glyphs under the navigation. As a template name, it is ambiguous and tells little about what it does. Also consider the following recommendation:
- Move the Glyphs template to Glyphs/Navigation. This takes it out of the global namespace, and also is clear. Additionally, it allows for us to easily add Glyphs/Sidebar, which in some cases might also be beneficial to specific pages.
- Sub-templates could also improve editing options and clean up the interface. A "sub-template" is a local template for a template. For instance (this is not a suggestion, just a quick random thought):
- ClassLink could be a new template named as such Templates:Links/Class
- A Class Page could then create a sub-template, for example Mage/Link that references Links/Class. Then any page that references Mage/Link would automatically have the appropriate link.
- Better Page Templates would improve uniformity among pages that need them. All World of Warcraft class articles should have similar structure. By having better Page Templates and by utilizing Sub-Templates, we could automate some of the navigation, easily.
- Page Templates should not apply to articles that are inherently unique and subject dependant, for instance, guides.
- Page Templates should apply to specific content groups, or similarly structured information.
To address any of these issues or implement any of these changes is not going to be easy. In regard to content, I cannot address that. I am a data-guy and interface-guy, not really a content-guy. Additionally, a majority of the sites linking to game content and data will have the same content. Our content is not what makes us great, it simply makes us strong. Presentation and usability is key and normally what significantly differentiates one site from another.
Hopefully this stimulates some positive thinking and constructive ideas. In the meantime, I would love feedback while I toy around with these ideas in my User:FuzzicalLogic/Sandbox. If any of these ideas are adopted, I could easily take on the task of making the necessary moves. I only mention this because often the hardest part of change is finding someone willing. Brainstorm aways peoples!