Looking at what the TT community created on our GMing wiki during January — the first month of the year-long Bulk Up the GMing Wiki Project — I’m impressed. Creating NPCs, Instant NPCs and Roleplaying NPCs all have good stuff to offer to GMs.
But something’s not quite right, and I think I know what it is. To fix it, I’d like to try using the wiki to assemble free GMing PDFs, with credit given to all of the contributors.
My suggestion over in the forums that we tackle the topic of players for February went over well, and that’s definitely what I’d like to work on next.
The thing is, I think wikis are weird, and I’ve finally pinpointed why I feel that way. I freely admit that this may just be me, so please tell me if I’m missing the mark here. And fair warning: I’m excited about this idea, so I may ramble a bit.
Three Problems with the Wiki
Please note that I’m in no way trying to disparage the work TT members have put into the GMing wiki — quite the opposite! It’s not the work itself, or the content that you’ve produced, it’s the way wikis in general (including ours) work that feels off to me.
I don’t like that members of the TT community who go to the trouble to add and edit wiki content don’t really get credit for doing so — as a writer, I want to be credited for my work, and I want to credit others for theirs.
I’ve also noticed that after an initial flurry of activity, most wiki pages fall into a sort of stasis (sometimes with gaps, or without being fully formed), and there they stay.
And even with Scott’s excellent categorization system, they’re not always easy to find — I’ve never really been able to grok why wikis are organized the way that they are.
The Idea: Publishing Wiki Content as PDFs
Enter new forum member Andy K’s post about a collaborative name project over on Story Games. The kicker is that once the project is finished, they’re planning to publish it as an open-source book.
That’s awesome. We could so do that with wiki content.
And if we did, it would hit the high notes that, in my opinion, the GMing wiki isn’t hitting at the moment: recognition for contributors, a self-contained project and a finished product that’s easy to get into the hands of fellow GMs. And since the GMing wiki is under a Creative Commons license, the infrastructure for that kind of publication is already in place.
Here’s my idea, then (at long last!): Let’s use February’s wiki project — player-related topics — to produce two or three really polished pages, and then publish each of them as a free PDF.
I’ll make a credits section for each project page on the wiki, and when you add or edit material, you can tell me how you’d like to be credited for it in that section. I’ll also do the layout work (using the template I’ve used for all our current free TT PDFs), and of course I’ll contribute to the project myself.
Shortening the window, perhaps to two weeks rather than four, also makes sense to me, as does publicizing this open call for collaboration here and elsewhere. The finished products, as with all of TT’s posts, PDFs and wiki content to date, will be free.
Looking ahead, if the first couple of these went well, I’d want to make this a long-term thing — the wiki would morph into an engine for running community projects. And if we got a few of them together, there’d be no reason not to publish them as a print on demand book, too.
Does my rambling here make sense? And more importantly, is it a good idea? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like this?
Your idea makes sense and is a good idea, IMHO. I would contribute.
BTW, I think wikis are designed the way they are out of chance, not by design. I’ve always struggled at the lack of a comprehensive content page — an “index.” (The Categories page is limited in usefulness.) I guess the search function is supposed to cover that kind of thing? But that’s not very satisfying either, as it only searches for exact page title matches, and then barfs a whole list of full-text matches which have questionable relevance.
I guess the Contents page is supposed to be yet another page that is maintained by the community, eh?
Some wikis do allow content page creation and navigation. I previously used TikiWiki for a gaming project and it was able to function in exactly that way.
By default they are designed to be organized the way that brainstorming and thought patterns happen…
Oh look at that ad to visit Florida,
oh Florida oranges — man those taste good,
Orange sherbet — yummy,
Orange sherbet Push Pops — haven’t had one in a while,
Push pops from the Ice Cream Man — now those are memories
It’s an interesting twist. I’d guess that it will reinforce the stasis… once they’re PDFed, that will feel like the “final” version of the page.
I’m very in favor of experimentation– let’s see what happens. (All of your other experiments here have gone well.)
brcarl: Thanks for the feedback!
BlueJai: I hadn’t thought about wiki organization as being brainstorming-oriented, but that’s a good description.
Scott: What I was getting at by saying “stasis” was mostly the lack of completion — pages sometimes wind up frozen, but unfinished. That seems different to me than blog posts or PDFs, for example, which tend to be written for publication in that form, and are more self-contained.
Now that you mention it, though, completed Wiki-to-PDF project pages could be left unlocked for future editing/additions, or locked once the project was over. I’ll have to think about that one.
I like the idea, it might not work for things like links in the GM software, or some other list type of pages. It also might be hard to compile some of the pages into a more readable format. Like BlueJai mentioned, the organization of a wiki is not really so organized as it is just there. I’ve always thought that wiki’s followed more of a pasta on the wall format, throw it at the wall and see how it sticks.
I think the information that is best included is the stuff that talks about the meta-aspects of GMing. Not just a list of NPCs, but how-to’s on creating NPCs, or the articles that look at GMing weaknesses. These types of articles (and posts) expanded and edited would make one helluva GMing howto book. The TT community certainly comes out shining when we get discussing how and why people do what in games. Whether or not I grab a certain technique from that or not I always fall back on why people say they do things and start building up for my own games from there.