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."
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