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2012/07/14: Much Ado About TVTropes

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(I may eventually move this to a different section from the blog.)

So, I'm not gonna be linking to TVTropes anymore. I won't remove all references I've ever made, since this would be difficult and counterproductive, but I've got to put this particular message somewhere.

First of all, let's get the terrible code out of the way. I don't know all the details, but I do know that 1. they store your user-password in plaintext (without even trying to disguise it or anything), 2. they recognize you because your browser cookie also stores your password in plaintext, 3. there's no way to recover your password if you lose it unless you create a second account and ask for admins to be reset your old password in a public thread on the forum.

As for the philosophical problems, here's the basic rundown. Setting aside your personal definition of "trope" (i.e. "storytelling device" vs. merely "stuff that happens a lot in fiction whether or not it has anything to do with the plot"), the rules have a a "no negativity" clause, which sounds like an implementation of Wheaton's Law, i.e. "don't be a dick." The thing is, the mods don't seem to make any distinction between statements like "Uwe Boll is a worthless human being who deserves to die," which is obviously not a nice thing to say, and "Uwe Boll is extremely arrogant and conceited, his movies are universally reviled, and the only reason he's still able to make them is because of a loophole in the German tax system," which is demonstrably true. I mean, I can see how it's useful for not making TVTropes a gigantic pool of vitriol when we're talking about actual people, but rather than trying to clean up the hate-speech about Uwe Boll and other creators who nobody had anything nice to say about, the admins simply deleted the articles and prevented anyone from remaking them in any form. This makes it fairly difficult to say anything about them anywhere else. The thing is, it's possible to have an article about something which was universally disliked without resorting to bile and personal attacks (see their article on Sonic 2006), but they seem to forget this when it comes to articles about the creators themselves. (On the other hand, I can understand a little bit if the problem is that the users themselves insist on putting in the flames, but still.)

Then there's the community. I admit that this is largely second- and third-hand information, since I almost never ventured outside the Touhou thread (which I quit months earlier for largely unrelated reasons),1 but it happened once or twice there, too. On the forum, due to the "no negativity" clause, Everybody Must Be Nice To Each Other, no matter how obnoxious or idiotic they are. People can be openly racist and mock rape victims and unironically espouse the virtues of pedophilia, as long as they aren't swearing in all-caps to each other about it. Then, if someone gets too mad at someone else on the forum, i.e. a 15-year-old girl who complained loudly about sexual harassment, or a few people in the Touhou thread who were tired of someone or other being a self-centered idiot? The complainers are the ones who get punished, with minimal attention going to whatever started the complaint in the first place. (The 15-year-old girl who was being sexually harassed actually got banned, for instance, and a really obnoxious and creepy twerp in the Touhou thread was only banned after he posted a link to some porn without any warning. "The Complainer Is Always Wrong," indeed.) I'm not even going to start on the way this environment affected the wiki itself, beyond mentioning that there are an excessive number of articles about breasts.

But here's where things go further south: someone reported the substance of the previous paragraph to Google, which promptly pulled the ads they hosted on TVTropes — ads which fund the running of the server. Instead of trying to deal with the problem on the forum itself, the TVTropes admins tried to start deleting some the "creepy" articles, and in the process, they purged the site of every article with "rape" in its title. So, the article about The Rape of the Lock (a satirical epic poem, containing no actual rape or sex, about a stolen lock of hair) was deleted,2 but the articles "All Men Are Rapists" and "Old Man Marrying A Child" were left untouched because they didn't have the exact word "Rape" in them. This obviously underscores the fact that merely mentioning rape in the title is entirely beside the point. This was covered in the feminist blog The Mary Sue, which pointed out that these days it's especially important to have tropes about misogyny and stuff like that, given their prevalence in media and the need to have the tropes available for discussion. The admins reinstated these articles after realizing that this made TVTropes look bad, not (as far as I can tell) because they actually saw The Mary Sue's point and thought it was a good idea ...

As far as I can tell, the situation is still developing/ongoing/"happening", whatever, but honestly, by this paragraph I'm pretty much just belaboring the point, which is that TVTropes is kind of a wreck in its current state, and the administrators are dealing with it using something other than intelligence. I'm not going to act like it's some sort of moral failing if you use it regularly or merely link to it; whatever else you have to say about TVTropes, it's big, it's familiar, and the worst parts of it tend not to be the ones that people see on a regular basis. I'm gonna just ... not involve myself with TVTropes for now.

1Short version: I was depressed, I didn't feel a genuine connection to either the people or the conversation, and I didn't reliably enjoy the links and images that people posted with very little description.

2Actually, technically, it was merely hidden by a filter, and wasn't actually deleted, so you could have gotten around it by typing "The Rap Eof The Lock."

18 Comments (disabled) (rss feed)

Omnicrom

I'm gonna have to bookmark this because you've basically nailed it.

TVTropes in my opinion has gone downhill for the same reasons as some other user-built sites have, the really crazy and dedicated people work on it for so long that they drive out all the rest of the sane people. That line about Uwe Boll is incredibly important as well, some of their best articles have been expunged because they're making mockery of people like him or comic book author John Byrne (Who believes that there's a secret conspiracy against him).

bp3500

That...
What does one say about something like that? What the hell is wrong with the world, maybe? That's been said too much.
The first thing that comes to my mind is... Well, Fuck.

OneMore

I agree with that completely.
Funny, considering that as far as their opinion goes, I'm with the "pedophiles" (I'm not actually one, of course)...

Linhasxoc

Well, I'm sorry that the worst parts of the site ruined the experience for you (although I don't blame you; there's a reason I generally stay away from most of the right-hand side of the forum).

linkhyrule5

I've been incredibly disappointed in TVTropes ever since they pulled Fate/Stay Night for awhile, but I never even knew they had forums til now. (Google too, incidentally...)

... Yeesh. Talk about Network Decay :p.

xaekin

I've come across this stuff elsewhere, I'm just glad people are talking about this stuff.

The coding issues are actually the reason I stopped going to the forums myself. I was fine with most of the Touhou thread, and there was an interesting discussion going in the fighting games thread, but the code issues were enough for me to leave the forum.

tl;dr- That's probably the right decision, Muffin.

Hunter 1

...You know, I would really like to say you're wrong about TV Tropes...

But sadly I am of the opinion that the site's been going downhill for the last couple years, what with the separation of YMMV tropes, the removal of the super secret spoiler code, the removal of the strike-through code, the renaming of the "You Fail X Forever" tropes...

Yeah, in short, this is just starting to get ridiculous and close to one thing too many for me.

Wolf

So in other words it's stupid people in charge doing stupid things on that site am I right?

In any case I know a freind that tends to mention certain Trpoes becuase they tend to be brought up in certain conversations, but to think the site would be dumb enough to ban people that complained about another member(s).

The only thing that would come to minds as to why that happened would be said person the complaint was aimed towards was a friend of a MOD(s)/Admin(s) of the site and they allow them to do stupid stuff on thier site without any recourse at times.

*sigh* At least this gives me an excuse to stay away from that siad site now. *roll eyes*

David J Prokopetz

Some of the site administrators have revealed some peculiar biases since the whole mess started, too. There's one guy who's exploiting the review process to purge articles pertaining to North American media that draws on Japanese inspirations; when questioned about it on the forums, he rants about how much he hates "weeaboos" and bans the complainant.

Kurisu

When Fast Eddy and the other members of the staff decided to go Bleached Underpants and remove over 75% of the sexuality-related content, I knew the place was going downhill. I only have a profile there so I can view spoilers. Eddy's not using his head properly, and the site is going to keep suffering for it.

Asator

I've long been of the opinion that Fast Eddie has no idea how to run a website, and that no one else in charge there has any idea how to police a community. More than anything I think that's what draws out the sheer creepiness of the forums and several articles. It develops there because it's allowed to. Of course, many of the other problems on the site (outright deleting articles instead of properly cleaning them up, deleting all the examples in nightmare fuel because one guy cited an example that really didn't belong there under claims of "too much drama"), can be attributed to the same problem.

Linhasxoc

@David: I don't know which mod you're talking about, to be honest, and I've been following the main content-review thread pretty closely. I do know there was a member of the task force that's supposed to be in charge of this thing that quit in a huff after people accused him of having an anti-anime bias, but he wasn't an admin, so maybe we're thinking of the same person, or not?

Spirit Tsunami

Glad to know someone else is pissed off about P5. Still, it's not like I can just stop going there.

...And I really only head to the forums when there's something I need to complain about.

Sparky Sparky Boom Witch

I can agree with the parts I know about. I can't get an account because the site seems to think I already have one for some reason, and I think just deleting articles that attract hate and tropes about rape is covering up issues rather than dealing with them. In addition, there's been a lot of humour-removal from the wiki, and the environment is becoming colder and stricter. I don't like the way things are going.

As for the community, due to my aforementioned inability to get an account, I don't know about it, so I'll just have to take your word for it.

A chicken passeth by

Ah, so this is why articles have been disappearing lately. No loss, ain't the first good site that died because its owner went mad.

Ozimul

I had no idea.
Then again, I never go to the forums.

Nyarly

You are wrong. Not completely, of course, but there are certain, in my opinion important, things you got wrong.

Of course, TV Tropes is beyond hope. But saying "TVTropes is kind of a wreck in its [i]current[/i] state" and that it has gone downhill is wrong. It was completely awful from the beginning. It just takes a while for some people to realize that (I know that from personal experience).

Honestly, I find this blog a bit laughable, since it seems like a sudden shift in opinion. You looked away from some bad things, even though you knew about it, but now you complain about it. But at least you finally realized how bad TV Tropes is, even if you have misconception about it "going downhill", as if it hadn't been at the bottom from the start.

Dizzy H. Muffin

So I was aware of one dumb thing that happened once = I "looked away from some bad things, even though [I] knew about it". Surprising though it may seem, 100% of the pages on TVTropes are not obviously terrible.

Cave Johnson, we're done here.