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rethinking the way smogon is operated.

Discussion in 'The Suggestion Box' started by Umbreon Dan, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. Umbreon Dan

    Umbreon Dan 〉λ=
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    i've been a member of this community for a little over three years now. in that time, i've seen a lot of things come and go, a lot of people come and go, a lot of hilarity, and a lot of drama. and yes, i've had a blast of a time, and i have you all to thank for that.

    naturally, there have been instances when i've thought, "i wish this were a little different". up until now, i've really not said much (except to those on irc who have asked) but i actually consider it very important that we constantly be evaluating the status quo, and if there's ever a way to improve on it, we should make it happen. smogon may have come a long way since its inception, but i still believe it can be improved, and such is the purpose of this thread.

    i'm asking that several things be completely revamped. i want to fundamentally change the way we view this community. the way things have been done in the past has rarely been optimal (i think we can agree to this) and as such, i think it's time we take a completely different approach to competitive pokemon on the internet. this thread will concentrate heavily on transparency and efficiency, and it's my hope that at least some of these suggestions can be implemented in the near future - but the main point is not to make these specific changes; rather, it is to rethink everything about smogon's current organization and operation.

    ---

    scms editing should be open to everybody.

    smogon currently has around 200 badged users - users with permission to edit the site. yet, it has thousands of readers - many of whom are very capable and willing to make positive changes to the site. under the current system, they can't easily make changes to the site until they join the badged users, which is a great waste of resources. i believe that the site would be maintained far more efficiently if it could get assistance from anybody who happens to read an article: wikipedia-style.

    "but umbreon_dan! that opens us up for vandalism!"

    actually, it doesn't make the site significantly more vulnerable than it currently is. anybody who wants to vandalize can just get a badge easily enough. however, there's no point in getting a badge to vandalize the site, since all changes have to go through site staff any way. my current proposal is not to remove the function of site staff. i do, however, think the ability to save changes to the site should be given out more broadly than it currently is. i think every badged user should be given the ability to save changes to the site. this will greatly increase the speed with which the site is updated.

    secondly: does it matter? the worst that can happen is somebody replaces all the text on a page with "YOU SUCK". the smogon site has thousands of readers. if any reader of the site can vandalize, then any reader can also revert vandalism upon seeing it. with that many eyes, how long do you really think graffiti will stay there? bear in mind that this only becomes an issue if the role of site staff is eliminated.

    with thousands of people to make changes and a few hundred trusted users to review them, the site will be far more dynamic than it currently is, and will almost definitely result in higher-quality information.

    analyses and articles should not be allowed to rot in the c&c forum.

    i know from dozens of reports and from firsthand experience that the time it takes for an article to get from the c&c forum onto the main site can be months. this is not the way smogon is going to stay on top of competitive pokemon. i've heard a lot of talk about "streamlining the c&c process" but i've what i've seen is not the kind of improvement i'm talking about.

    new analyses should be posted directly on the website. they can be quality- and grammar-checked there by the thousands of users who have editing access. there does not even need to be a c&c forum. simililarly, there's no need for grammar and quality assurance teams. which pokemon sets work best can be achieved through community concensus. grammar, obviously, becomes a non-issue with so many pairs of eyes. this follows the "release early, release often" philosophy that linux was built on (see: the cathedral and the bazaar).

    the c&c forum can be converted to play more of a background role in the writing and management of site content. for example, if people can't agree on a particular set, this would be a good place to talk it out. it could also be a great archive. however, it does not need to be a central resource for everything that goes on the site.

    the policy review forum should be discontinued or opened to everybody.

    policy review was originally restricted to a select group of users because it was assumed that average users wouldn't be able to handle its level of formality or complexity. since then, the suggestions forum has been created, which serves almost exactly the same purpose as policy review. it's open to everybody, and it's not the shitstorm we thought it would be. every now and then, we get the "new users introductions forum" suggestion, but it's infracted and life goes on. on the whole, smogon has underestimated the intelligence of its userbase. as such, the whole userbase should be able to give its opinion on matters of pokemon policy.

    one option for opening policy review is to allow only privileged users to post threads, but allow anyone to post in them. honestly though, i would like to see policy review and suggestions merge into one forum with no restrictions on who can post. if somebody makes terrible posts, that can be dealt with. such a forum would have rules and moderators, the usual fanfare. right now, policy review is essentially functioning as a more elitist incarnation of the suggestions box.

    again, smogon is a forum with almost a hundred thousand users. surely several of those will have some insight that the badged community could not have anticipated. smogon is being held back by these users' inability to post in the appropriate forum.

    the smog article workshop should not be hidden before new smogs are released.

    the article workshop is currently hidden from the public, and even from past smog writers. this is a barrier to contributing to the smog. why does it matter if some people can read unfinished articles before the smog is released? let them. there's no reason to force interested readers (who may even make helpful comments) to wait until the official release date. the final released product is worse as a result of having fewer contributors.

    "but umbreon_dan! that will ruin the surprise and nobody will read/support it!"

    if you think "nobody reading it" is a problem, you do not understand how the smog works. the smog is not written because people read it; it's written because people want to write and improve the site. the smog doesn't need readers to justify its existence. even if the smog didn't have a single reader, it would still get written because people like to write it. conversly, even if it had millions of readers, it wouldn't get published if nobody wrote it. the smog is not a commercial enterprise; it does not have, nor does it need, 'support'.

    ---

    in 1993, microsoft introduced a commercial encyclopedia for windows. microsoft has deep pockets to make such a thing happen - they hired professional writers, they created a marketing campaign, they did everything they knew how to do. their encyclopedia was called encarta, and you probably haven't heard of it - it was a total failure. encarta was eventually discontinued.

    in 2001, another encyclopedia was launched. this one followed a completely different development design - it would be written by volunteers from around the globe with virtually no regulation. as it turned out, the power and willingness of these volunteers far outmatched all the financial power microsoft could muster. of course, wikipedia eventually went on to be kind of a big deal.

    i would like to see smogon follow that path. we can make it happen. let's not become the next encarta.
  2. billymills

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    Liking the first two ideas, I definitely think they're reasonable (though I do think a site staff should weigh in how much work the increased changes would make).
    Having an easier analysis submission section that is accessed directly from the site should increase submittals and hopefully quality. I do think there should be a basic quality check before any analyses are made public (possibly 1/3 quality checks) to cut down on the irrelevant analyses. Non-checked and non-grammared analyses could then be sieved out.
  3. Deck Knight

    Deck Knight October Surprise
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    College professors don't accept wikipedia as a reliable source of information in any serious college paper.

    They do accept the articles contained in Encarta.

    Most of this is just going to create more work for everyone involved. You can blow off vandalism all you want.

    Actually, I say we allow everything dan has posted as our new policy.

    He will be responsible for cleaning up all acts of vandalism on scms.
    He will be responsible for making sure the results of The Smog Awards are not leaked beforehand, and that we increase Smog readership with each new release.
    He will be responsible for putting all articles on site from the forums and making sure they adhere to the current quality of the model in C&C.
    He will be responsible for moderating all posts in Policy Review and weeding out those posts that do not contribute or are filled with erroneous logic.

    Since he is so committed to helping the site, even though he currently does none of these things, I am sure everything will work out just fine.
  4. tennisace

    tennisace ium's avatar is his butt on my face
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    It isn't closed because we're afraid of vandalism, site staff has to cache everything manually. SCMS is closed because it would be a hell of a lot more work to have to check every little change users submit instead of having that in a thread then having badged users submit when the analysis/article is completely finished.

    C&C is fine as is, maybe instead of whining about how inefficient it is, you could grammar check or check analyses.

    suggestions != policy review at all, this is just silly

    "but umbreon_dan! that will ruin the surprise and nobody will read/support it!"

    name one legitimate magazine that allows its readers to see articles before they are finished. seriously this is really really silly.


    In conclusion, if you want free editing, go to bulbapedia.
  5. Umbreon Dan

    Umbreon Dan 〉λ=
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    some teachers do accept wikipedia, and those who don't are wrong because wikipedia is (on average) far more accurate and comprehensive than encarta, britannica, or any other encyclopedia ever.

    it would create more work, but we would also have 100 000 people sharing that work.

    it amuses me to no end that you posted this. i don't do any of things things because i've been blocked from doing them. i used to clean the site regularly. obviously, i don't any more. i'm also not a policy review moderator (obviously...)

    you're arguing that having more site submissions is a bad thing? yes, site staff cache every change. this would be counterbalanced by having 200 extra site staff members.

    you have missed the point of this thread. i want to reevaluate c&c. saying "it's fine, just deal with it" is not the best way to proceed.

    the only real difference is the access level...

    wikipedia

    you want to turn people away from smogon and to another website for their competitive pokemon? this is obviously not in smogon's best interest, not even close.
  6. GtM

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    I think it'd be pretty cool if people who worked on articles for QC or GP had access to their respective articles, since it would allow analyses to be updated more dynamically as the metagame changes (I know the Gliscor analysis probably requires adjustment now that Excadrill's gone) Plus, it would encourage more long-term commitment and would help users develop and gain experience. However, I realise that this would be really hard to manage on a large scale, giving access to specific articles to specific people, so I understand why this measure wouldn't be brought about.
  7. tennisace

    tennisace ium's avatar is his butt on my face
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    In response to point 1:

    Yes, I am arguing that more access to the scms (which contains not only articles but some of the site code) is a very bad thing, especially when it is not needed. There will be a clusterfuck of people editing and re-editing articles constantly, and site staff will have to sort through them all. You also make it sound like the "200 extra site staff members" are all going to be excellent contributors with smogon's best interest in mind and are totally knowledgeable about the changes they are making.

    In response to point 2:

    There will be massive changes to the Smogon infrastructure in the nearish future anyway, so yes, the system is fine for now.

    For a real response, your entire point hinges on everyone being given SCMS access, which I assure you won't happen. In addition, what is the difference of having the sets posted and checked on the scms, where there is no ability to comment fully, or having them checked on the forums where there is room for discussion? Your point makes it sound like we're just going to post stuff blindly on the site, check them later, and then discuss them on the forums. This is nowhere near as efficient as the current process of Post on forums, discuss/check, post on site.

    In response to point 3:

    Good, you understand that there is a difference in the access levels! Policy Review is for more serious issues that have already been kicked around internally somewhat. Suggestions Box is flooded with "LETS MAKE CLANS".

    In response to point 4:

    Wikipedia is not a magazine, you are horribly misguided. Wikipedia is completely different from The Smog, which is a (i think monthly now) e-magazine. It is supposed to be presented to the general public as a standalone collection of polished articles relating to competitive pokemon and the general culture of Smogon, not a mishmosh of half-completed articles.

    Finally, my response about Bulbapedia was obviously in jest, since you keep worshiping Wikipedia.
  8. Deck Knight

    Deck Knight October Surprise
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    Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, which means it isn't really scholarly to any degree. Many of their articles are incomplete, inaccurate, and lacking the citation that all serious upper level work demands. Shovelchoad19's content edit is not in the same league as a peer reviewed, cited study.

    You have always had a lot to say about what is wrong with xyz, but my experiences with you have always been somewhat Negative, Nancy. It is barely tolerable when you speak on something you have knowledge of since large segments of it are whining DGAF type responses.

    Allowing more access doesn't increase the amount of work done. We have a massive amount of contributors working on articles, but not all of them contribute to scms. Making scms a free-for-all will not increase the work done one iota, and instead will tie up anyone who has to cache the data with an endless queue of edits to filter through.

    I'd like to believe you, but you haven't done the work in C&C to even maintain a ladybug, or worked hard enough, long enough on the site or contributed some level of content to earn another badge. Yet you think opening up scms is going to create an onslaught of new, quality contribution? And to add to that, we're suddenly going to give a whole slew of new people caching power to keep up with this new onslaught?

    Nothing has ever stopped you from contributing to C&C enough to earn contributor, Smog to earn Smog, or irc to earn one of the irc badges. Don't complain that you lost access, Smogon just isn't that hard to contribute to and we don't ask impossible tasks of our precontributors. Hell, I got my ladybug from doing 4 4th Gen LC analyses, got it revoked because of an irc whim then reinstated because that was BS, and then I worked my way up in the Smog to get a full Smog badge, and eventually contributed and fought long enough for CAP Mods.

    Smogon is nothing if not a meritocracy. Work your way up and you will have ample opportunity to cement your influence and make your voice one of reason and responsibility. Don't try and bullshit me, I've had to build a lot of goodwill up over time to get to where I am.
  9. Umbreon Dan

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    since the new site staff will be the badged, trusted users, why wouldn't they know what they're doing?

    the difference is that the content is posted to the site sooner, where more people will see it and improve it. also, posting on the site first is more efficient because discussion on the forum would not even happen until a dispute arises about what's best for the article. the current process takes more steps and the result will usually not be as good.

    so you understand the problem then. non-badged users don't have any way to be seriously heard on site matters. limiting the pool to a mere few hundred posters is a gigantic waste of potential.

    i'm not suggesting the articles be published half-completed, i'm merely asking that all of smogon's users be invited to help create the polished product. its presentation will be the same, only it will be more polished as a result of having been read by more curious users in advance.
  10. Lady Salamence

    Lady Salamence
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    As said on IRC, we already invite users to help work on the smog, they just have to request to join.
  11. Umbreon Dan

    Umbreon Dan 〉λ=
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    that's going to be true of absolutely every information source. however, any google search will tell you that wikipedia is among the most reliable of all time, and that's a direct result of enabling all of its users to give their knowledge back.

    enabling more users to help won't increase the help you get?

    you can't be serious

    from a personal standpoint, i would start making site changes again if access were opened to everybody. so, yes, i believe the contributions would improve.

    nothing has stopped me, except a lack of interest. i don't want to write any more smog articles, or c&c analyses, or whatever else you're suggesting. what i'm interested in doing is making small, incremental changes to the site, knowing that i'm improving it. i made hundreds of minor edits while i had access (check my scms history, or the top posters in the small changes thread). blocking me from making the contributions i want to make isn't going to send me making other contributions. i'm just going to contribute to a different project/community.

    then that's just a pointless obstacle for users to overcome before they can help out.

    it also makes more work for whoever is tasked with keeping track.
  12. Firestorm

    Firestorm I did my best, I have no regrets!
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    Making site content editable like a wiki instead of going through a series of checkpoints does seem great in theory. After all, we have moved from analyses from figures of authority (up to beginning of DP) to a community-powered resource (late-DP to current). However, one key difference is that Wikipedia is strong because all statements require citations. I'm wondering if most of these analyses coming down to beingf really nothing more than opinion and first hand experience will hinder it?

    I disagree on The Smog. The writers may continue to write, but I think I like the reader experience of having a package that is released all at once of interesting articles.
  13. capefeather

    capefeather YOU CAN'T STOP THE FORDS
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    They really should accept neither. Everyone I've ever talked to about citations has said that citing encyclopedias is a bad idea. The goal of an encyclopedia is to give a good general idea of a subject, not to have enough substantial info to be referenced like a research paper. Wikipedia has dedicated projects to maintain the quality of articles of different types. To point at randomguy7086 as a representative of a Wikipedia editor is completely disingenious, and really it's just derailing the thread. Wikipedia is not a fundamentally bad source of information as people so often claim just because of what they perceive as a free-for-all.

    Articuno64's planned site transition makes it hard to address the OP all that well, but I'll try.

    OP point 1:

    I'm reminded of a comparison of various media used to make guides (somewhere here), and while I don't agree with a lot of it, I definitely know first-hand the diminishing returns of more helping hands. There is a plan to redo the site so that its different aspects are more prominent, and in that environment, it could be a great idea to open sections of the site to editing by sections of users. My main concern with opening the SCMS up to every user is that I'm not sure we have access to a group of people to dedicate to the task of maintenance. Wikipedia is all about the info, while Smogon is not. We could also give out a badge for this kind of thing... I also share Firestorm's concern of citations.

    OP point 2:

    The C&C point is so intertwined with the SCMS point that I don't see a way to address it separately.

    OP point 3:

    I'm not sure that Policy Review is going to survive the planned site transition, to be honest.

    OP point 4:

    I think that there is a difference between the Smog and the rest of the site content. The Smog is not an ongoing project, but rather it generates one-time content every month. The way I see it, the article workshop could just end up being the "inside scoop" of the Smog section of the site. I'm not sure about opening the article workshop up to everybody because it seems to detract from the whole point of the Smog as a "magazine". I don't feel qualified to say how open the Smog should be, but I'd hope that it's fairly easy to say "yo guys I got this great article idea" or "yo guys I feel like grammar checking" and be invited in.
  14. Aldaron

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    Ignoring the various specifics in this thread, I will say I agree with one general point:

    1.) We should work to give the community at large as many tools and opportunities to help us.

    That said, The Smog and C&C are both extremely well run institutions that churn out great work regularly (look at the DPP analyses on site, those are absolutely amazing...c&c might have had tl;dr issues at one point and a perceived red tape issue, but now it is an incredibly well oiled machine). I don't want to sit here declaring a change in philosophy in how they are run, including showing Smog articles before the release.
  15. Swaggersaurus

    Swaggersaurus I DON'T NEED A MAN
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    sorry to contribute with a relatively empty post; i've read the whole thread and i'm mulling but i just want to echo the sentiments already expressed about the smog

    releasing a full package is fine the way it is, i think. it's not a constant thing to be updated all the time like the site, it is periodical and i think standard "closed" production and then an "open" release is the best model for that
  16. iDunno

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    Just saying that when I was in middle school, I passed my time editing Wikipedia pages, adding in things like how Ronald McDonald was a rapist, Santa Claus was actually discovered to be Hillary Clinton in disguise, the Easter Bunny was in my backyard, etc. The other guys there got really mad because I kept making work for them and it was hysterical. To the point: Do not underestimate the obnoxiousness of Middle School kids.
  17. macle

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    you're not still in middle school?
  18. iDunno

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    nope - I'm just really immature
  19. Chou Toshio

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    ^What he said
  20. TheBaron

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    I agree with all of Umbreon_Dan's ideas, with the exception of The Smog.
  21. NixHex

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    Here is some fun math to show the efficiency of a system of "everyone can edit, all badgers can cache"

    ratio of site staff : current badge holders = 27/200 = 13.5%
    ratio of badge holders : current "capable" members = 200/100,000 = .2%

    So basically, .2% of Smogon is expected to read over and cache incoming edits? And don't pretend there won't be multiple edits all at once, leaving the new staff to pick through "innovative" Ring Target Starmie sets and countless other gimmicks that would otherwise be shot down in c&c. Honestly, under the current system, c&c is a breeze. If you want a set done, write up a skeleton and post it. It doesn't take long for QC to reject or accept it. If it's accepted, the author needs to be proactive about writing it up and passing it to GP. Trust me, active and amateur grammar checkers will jump at the chance to check something. To paraphrase John Lovits: "If you post it, nerds will come."
  22. eric the espeon

    eric the espeon maybe I just misunderstood
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    I'll just be replying to the first two points. Opening up SCMS to the public, with restrictions, is something I've brought up with admins several times. I believe Cathy was the first to support the idea, though she thought it would be some way off. If I recall correctly DJD said that there would be security issues, closing off any possible exploits in the current SCMS/making vandalism in all forms easy to revert would require more programming resources than anyone seemed willing to provide.

    However, I strongly agree with the sentiments expressed in the OP, and that open contribution is the way forward, and have been following that philosophy when creating and running the Pokémon Online Wiki. Much of what you say reads almost like my reasoning for creating it, in fact. I believe that while Smogon is extraordinarily successful, it is wasteful of talent to a disgraceful degree. The number of users willing to help is massive, and a large proportion of them are able to contribute at a fairly high level, or at least make useful tweaks. With what is available to us now we should be able to do so much more. I have come up against the limits of SCMS many times, and know how frustrating they are to deal with. C&C's system is well optimized for what it is, and certainly produces huge amounts of good content, but it is limited by software, the need for peer review before any form of publishing, the fact that users don't just have to write the base for something useful for it to go up, they have to keep coming back to it and getting others to check it (why should one person be required to be involved all the stages of getting a piece of content up to good quality?), and the lack of sensibly usable collaborative editing in the pre-publishing stage (reapplying GP edits is simply inefficient). I do not see this situation as a whole as likely to change in the short-medium term, and think any attempt to do so would be met with large opposition (as seen in this thread) because it is utterly alien to the way Smogon has worked for a very long time. Even though people could come round to and love the idea, it would have to be implemented, and without the guy who seemed to be Smogon's best chance for it in quite the position he once was I doubt that will happen for a long time to come.

    It should happen. But it almost certainly won't, so I'll be working where things are set up which allow me to arrange things in the way which seems most useful.
  23. capefeather

    capefeather YOU CAN'T STOP THE FORDS
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    I do think that people are being overly hostile with the idea. Maybe I'm biased because I know what it's like to suggest open contribution to an elitist fan website, but I don't think that the idea of open contribution is such a bad idea as to warrant this kind of derision.
  24. iDunno

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    How about just restrict it to *must have an account for x amount of time and have at least x amount of posts and have no active infractions and at most, x amount of inactive infractions from the past 6 months*. That might get rid of almost all of the spam edits.
  25. Firestorm

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    People who currently feel like they are in positions of power and status do not like giving it up without a fight. Wikipedia can have the same criticisms applied to it but refutes them all by the mere fact that it still stands as the single greatest knowledge-sharing website in the world.

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