Closure (eviction) of Wikia Uncyclopedia
In February 2019, Wikia (Fandom) staff announced that most of the Uncyclopedia wikis they hosted would be closed. This included the original English version, uncyclopedia.wikia.com. In May 2019, this wiki was moved to independent hosting and the domain uncyclopedia.ca, and uncyclopedia.wikia.com was no more.
But what really happened in those two-and-a-half months, and why did it take so long?
- Prologue: "The Uncyclopedia Reunification Plan"
- Initial announcement of closure
- Hosting options forum
- Moving to Lyrithya's server
- Changing course
- Finalizing the move
- Is uncyclopedia.ca the same website/wiki as uncyclopedia.wikia.com?
Prologue: "The Uncyclopedia Reunification Plan"
For some time, the administrators of the (now former) Wikia site have had regular private discussions via email. This was no secret, as such a discussion had been mentioned in this message on my talk page from 2014.
On 25 February 2019, an email from Zombiebaron was forwarded to the Wikia admins. Zombiebaron is an admin of the other English-language "Uncyclopedia" website, an independent fork created in 2013 with the domain name en.uncyclopedia.co. This is often called just "the fork". It was later posted on-wiki with his permission, so I have reproduced it here in full.
I am writing on behalf of the uncyclopedia.co community. We have discussed reaching out to you for years, and in light of recent events on your side and a large resurgence of activity on our side, the decision has been made to send this email. We are really sorry to see how poorly you've been treated by Wikia/Fandom in recent months in regards to the forced skin and domain name changes to the site, and their unwillingness to cater to Uncyclopedia's unique needs. I know some of us have had our differences in the past, but we are all very sympathetic to your cause and dislike seeing what was once our community treated so poorly. We believe it would be in the best interest of all of us to reunify the Uncyclopedia community at en.uncyclopedia.co.
One of our users outlined a series of actions he successfully took in getting Wikia's approval for a fork of a relatively popular wiki. While Wikia is vehemently against closing their wikis, they do allow wikis to be renamed after a sufficient amount of community approval. This user in particular asked for his wiki to be given "Simple" as a prefix, as a parody of Simple Wikipedia (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page), which Wikia granted without question. After forking the contents to an independent domain, he established a new policy that all articles must be simplified, which meant that all articles were reduced in size to the opening paragraphs alone. He also placed a banner on each article linking to the independent copy, essentially turning his Simple wiki into a large scale ad for the independent wiki. Within months, his independent wiki had taken over the original Wikia copy in search results thanks to each article being reduced to a stub, and he's received no pushback from Wikia. See here (http://community.wikia.com/wiki/Special:Contact/wiki-name-change) for Wikia's form for renaming wikis and urls.
Given how dismissive the Fandom staff is of your situation, we see no reason why this wouldn't work for a Simple Uncyclopedia. It's unfortunate that it's come to this, but the fact of the matter is that Uncyclopedia.wikia is unlikely to recover from the skin change without repurposing itself as something other than a Wikipedia parody - now further complicated by Fandom's new decision to force Uncyclopedia to the Fandom domain.
Obviously we haven't held any votes regarding this yet, as we wanted to hear your opinions first. But if this is something that interests you, we intend to hold a vote that would transfer over any user rights belonging to your members and potentially unblock any of your users upon request. All administrators will be made administrators, all bureaucrats will be made bureaucrats, and so on. If you feel any of our content isn't up to the standards you've set in place, we will work to raise these articles to such standards, and any conflicting policies or guidelines can be re-written as necessary with community involvement. Recently, en.uncyclopedia.co has seen a large increase in activity, coinciding with the return of several former users, and restoration of site functions abandoned around the time our communities split. With that in mind, a handful of our tech experts have already volunteered to handle imports to Uncyclopedia and re-writes of Simple Uncyclopedia. At least one administrator will need to remain at Simple Uncyclopedia to maintain the content and ensure all articles fit the new Simple guidelines, but that most likely won't be an issue.
We've worked very hard to evolve Uncyclopedia.co over the years, as evidenced by our updates to the main page (https://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/Main_Page) and UnNews (https://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/UnNews), and our active social media presence (https://twitter.com/UncycOfficial, and https://www.facebook.com/uncyclopedia). We have around the clock support from our technical staff, so issues like the Featured Article system being broken for long stretches of time will never occur. And above all else, readers don't have to apply difficult browser hacks to read our content the way it was always meant to be read.
If this is insufficient, please let us know if there's anything further we could offer your community. Everyone here feels very strongly about seeing Uncyclopedia succeed, and the reunification of our communities would go a long way to ensure that. Please pass this email along to your fellow administrators. We are very interested in seeing what the Wikia Uncyclopedia community thinks of this idea, something we greatly regret not doing properly when we forked in the first place. Obviously it would be best not to post any details from this email that would raise eyebrows of the higher-ups at Fandom (such as turning one of their wikis into what might as well be an advertisement), but beyond that, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions, and our administrators and tech experts will answer any questions your community might have.
Additionally, if you would like to communicate with us in real-time, we are all here on the Uncyclopedia Discord server: https://discord.gg/qAUySUC
Thank you and all the best, Zombiebaron, and the Uncyclopedia administration
To understand this message and its implications, some background knowledge is required:
- Wikia had already announced their plan to change the domain names of all their hosted wikis from *.wikia.com to *.fandom.com, but this had not yet affected Uncyclopedia.
- The bad relations between uncyclopedia.co and uncyclopedia.wikia.com had a great deal to do with the actions of fork editors after the split. They tried to present the fork as the only, "real" Uncyclopedia despite the continued existence of a community on the Wikia site, and they behaved highly inappropriately toward that community. (More on this later in a future article.)
- The "simple" wiki referred to is most likely Darthipedia, which was renamed to "Simple Darthipedia" after its community left for an independent fork. The two Darthipedia users who have edited the Uncyclopedia sites are Supergeeky1 and Madclaw, who have historically had bad relations with Wikia Uncyclopedia and were never useful contributors there.
- Many editors of both Uncyclopedias, such as myself, were not present before the fork. It is not the case that Wikia Uncyclopedia "was once [the fork editors'] community".
- As far as I know, "the Featured Article system being broken for long stretches of time" has not happened. Zombiebaron is probably referring to the blank space on the main page that occurred when the feature queue was empty. This was not a technical problem but the result of a lack of sufficient new featured articles to fill the queue, which was in turn caused by a decline in activity. (I use the past tense here because the feature queue has since been abolished.)
- "difficult browser hacks to read our content the way it was always meant to be read" probably refers to some code I wrote called "Fake Vector", which mimics Wikipedia's Vector skin. It involved a CSS style sheet and a JS script. Enabling it required adding one line to your common.css page and one line to your common.js.
As one might expect, reactions were mixed. I was among those opposed to the idea.
Zombiebaron makes much of Wikia's negative effects, even citing an action they had not taken. At this time it was not clear if the fandom.com domain change would happen for us, as Wikia had announced that some types of non-fan wikis would instead be moved to *.wikia.org. The issue was discussed here and here. He goes so far as to say that the site would have to cease being a Wikipedia parody simply because of how it looked. This is presumptuous and illogical. Even with Oasis and Wikia's policy, the appearance can be customized in certain ways to look more similar to Wikipedia, which I had done. Furthermore, there is more to parodying and imitating Wikipedia than having a Wikipedia-like skin — in particular, writing style.
He mentions "differences in the past" but no details. (In my case, the "difference" was being bullied off the fork. I used to be one of their strongest supporters.) He does not take responsibility for the past bad behavior or apologize for it, instead glossing over it and presenting it as a mere disagreement. Meanwhile, his statements boast of the fork's alleged positive qualities and paint the Wikia site and its editors as having only flaws. We've got a social media presence and technical staff; you don't, and your site is a mess. If they do indeed have "tech experts" there, either they're incompetent or they had no input in writing this message. The featured article system was not "broken", and Fake Vector was not "difficult browser hacks". It was not difficult to enable for oneself and had nothing to do with browsers (except that different browsers may give different results).
In all this, he fails to give any reason for unification other than the fork being better and "Uncyclopedia succeed[ing]". Succeeding at what? Conspicuously absent is how the fork benefits. The reasons are well known to many editors on both sites, and one is contained in the third paragraph: search results. The Wikia site consistently ranked higher than the fork in search results. It also had more backlinks, articles and active editors. None of these things are in the message. It's obvious how the fork benefits from not having this as a competitor, but he presents it as an act of good will toward us in which they have little stake. In the process, he makes what could have been "let's combine our strengths" into "we're better than you".
Finally, the central premise makes no sense. The purpose of the fork was to move Uncyclopedia off Wikia; it failed because of some editors' choices to continue on the Wikia site, choices that went against the fork editors' wishes. The forkers wanting their Uncyclopedia to be the only one is nothing new. The Wikia editors were in no way forced to be separate — they chose freely. If they wanted to unite, they would have already done it. They would have already abandoned the Wikia site for the fork. Were there some Wikia editors who wanted unification? Sure — but plenty of them did not. There was no collective desire for such a thing, only an individual one.
This seems to be difficult to grasp, so it's worth repeating: if they wanted to unite, they would have already done it.
Initial announcement of closure
On 26 February, the very next day, Wikia staffer Sannse announced that Uncyclopedia would be closed in a forum post (usually called a "forum" for short) entitled "A message from Fandom" (archived, live site). Her message read:
This is a very difficult post to write. As you may know, I have been a big fan of Uncyclopedia for a long time. I used to be very active here, to the point of being made an admin. I have written three featured articles and created four featured images. This is a place I’ve loved to spend time.
Trying to clean up Uncyclopedia would be impossible, and would involve deleting valid (but problematic) article like these. That simply isn't feasible.
Of course you have options, and we want to help this change go smoothly. You may want to talk to the fork about merging in, we could provide a database dump of all articles created here since the fork, or you could be more selective taking only the best new articles. Or you could go to alternative hosting there are many available]. I can't recommend one, but I know that a few wikis in a similar situation have gone to Miraheze.
We can't provide a dump of the images for copyright reasons - what's likely fair use here would be violating the original copyright if provided in a data dump. But you may be able to use sometihing like https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Exporting_all_the_files_of_a_wiki to help.
Again, I'm sorry this is happening, and will help as much as possible to make this a smooth transition.
Following this post, some rather disorganized discussion took place.
Zombiebaron was the first to mention his email:
Hello. I would like to say that the uncyclopedia.co administration has been working for months on a proposal for the reunification of our projects, and we sent an email communicating this to the UncycloWikia administration earlier this week. We are very supportive of a reunification and are open to listening to what it would take for your community to join us in the promised land.
Romartus made this comment:
I trust we can keep this a civil conversation all round. I don't want Uncyclopedians go in for another drama as was experienced in January 2013. On the record, I can confirm I received an email from Zombiebaron and Uncyclopedia.co yesterday which I shared with the admins here. I hadn't realised this was now a pressing issue as regards hosting so this is now public knowledge. As a question to Sannse and Wikia/Fandom I would like to know what happens to the domain name(s) they own as regards Uncyclopedia. I presume these will be given up since there would be nothing to host at those addresses in future? Also, how long have we got here before the lights are switched off?? Therefore it seems the choices this hosted Uncyclopedia has are the following:
- Nothing and everything on the site dies.
- A merger with Uncyclopedia.co
- Export the database to another third party site if they want it via the methods outlined by Sannse.
Depending on how much time we have got, I would all registered contributors provide constructive suggestions and possible safeguards for all users in a future uncyclopedia.
There have been no decisions about the URLs at this point. But I would like to know, if we were to give them up, who would own them? The time-scale depends on how quickly you can organize whatever you need to organize. I would say we should aim for a month. As I said, we want to make this as smooth as possible, so aren't gonna chuck you out tomorrow!
A brief discussion about the URLs ensued, which went nowhere.
On 28 February, Lyrithya (using her alternate "Athyria" account) made a post explaining the process that would be involved in moving evicted wikis to the uncyclopedia.co server. About the proposed merger, she said:
This course of action would mean the wikis would not actually be merged, but rather a copy of what was specific to the Wikia site would be made and Wikia editors would be expected to selectively add content from it to the fork.
On 1 March, Miley Spears posted Zombiebaron's email on the forum with his permission.
On 2 March, I added a comment titled "Technical stuff" in which I discussed the technical details of moving. I also mentioned that I had previously installed MediaWiki and suggested I could do so for a new version of the site, and I raised some possible issues with the Miraheze wiki farm.
On 5 March, Sannse requested that a vote be held on what would happen to the site:
I can't begin to resolve the domain name issue until there is a clear decision on where the current community of this wiki is going to go. It's something that (IMO) should be more than an admin decision, it should be one for the community here. Note that I said (twice) that the vote should be for the community of this wiki. If the communities are to merge, I assume there will be a vote or something on the other wiki too, but that's should be separate -- Sannse @fandom (help forum | blog) 22:26, March 5, 2019 (UTC)
Romartus replied saying that a voting forum for hosting options would be posted. On 11 March, Zombiebaron complained that this forum did not exist yet, but he seemed to want it to be about merging the wikis rather than hosting options:
It has now been two weeks since Sannse announced the wiki shutdown and a vote hasn't even been started. The uncyclopedia.co community have voted for userrights parity, many Fandom users have already joined our community, and the only thing standing in the way of a full merger at this point is a formal vote on this end. A vote takes time, and time is running out. I implore you to start a community vote before it is too late. Zombiebaron (talk) 13:12, March 11, 2019 (UTC)
It's actually 13 days since the announcement Zombiebaron. I received an email from you on the 25th February on behalf of Uncyclopedia.co outlining a merger proposal (see above email as published by Miley Spears) before this forum was created by Fandom administrator Sannse on the 26th February. A vote forum will be created so that all eligible users will see the proposals discussed by the administration group for this site's future.--RomArtus*Imperator ITRA (Orate) ® 14:03, March 11, 2019 (UTC)
Sorry if I implied that 13 days was two weeks, I merely meant to give an approximate measurement. My concern is when will this vote be created? There are 20 days left in March. It will take much of that time to move the wiki, and ideally you will want as much time as possible after the move to check for and correct any bugs or errors. Zombiebaron (talk) 14:51, March 11, 2019 (UTC)
Stay Tuned. --RomArtus*Imperator ITRA (Orate) ® 15:19, March 11, 2019 (UTC)
On 13 March, Lyrithya linked to the new voting forum: Forum:Hosting options for Uncyclopedia (wikia).
There was a vote on merging, started on 6 March 2019 by Simsilikesims. Miley Spears had made a forum post linking to a poll about Uncyclopedia on the Discordianism wiki, which Snarglefoop had criticized as "useless", so Simsilikesims added voting sections to the forum as an alternative. Romartus locked it down the same day after a brief, harsh exchange between me and a new user called Dǐll Kevlar, giving the reason "Locking this forum until formal vote is held" (meaning the voting forum he was planning to create). Whether or not this vote should have remained open, it did not have a meaningful result and is unrelated to the Wikia site's ultimate fate. (This forum page is not available in the Wayback Machine, but this edit to it is.)
I found out later that "Miley Spears" was one of several accounts used by a single person (Alden Loveshade) to disrupt this situation. There is more information about these accounts and Dill Kevlar on this page.
Hosting options forum
On 12 March, Romartus made a forum post titled "Hosting options for Uncyclopedia (wikia)" (archived, live site), intended for voting on where the Wikia site would be hosted. Merging with the fork was not presented as an option. Instead, there was an option to have the site hosted on the same server as uncyclopedia.co ("Lyrithya's server") but remain separate.
Three other options were given: Miraheze, Carlb (the host of many foreign-language editions), and me. I was hosting a private personal wiki but had no experience with one like Uncyclopedia, and I had never tried to move/copy a wiki off Wikia before. However, I had already begun making a copy of the site at home. I installed MediaWiki and imported the dump from Wikia into it, then began filling in what wasn't in the dump with the "grabbers" scripts developed by the uncyclopedia.co team.
In the email discussion leading up to the post, Romartus had proposed a rule that no one whose account had been created after 26 February 2019 would be allowed to vote. I suggested these further restrictions:
- Must have five edits to this site before 26 February 2019.
- Active editors on the fork must have five edits to this site between 1 January 2018 and 26 February 2019.
By "this site" I meant the Wikia site, and by "the fork" I meant uncyclopedia.co.
The intent was that voting on the fate of the site should be limited to established members of its community. Someone who had been actively editing in 2019 or 2018 prior to the closure announcement can be considered an established member, even if they are also active on a competing site. Someone who is established but inactive is still a community member, unless they have indicated by their actions that they are no longer — such as by being active on the fork, meaning they have most likely moved there. I set a fairly low bar for activity. Those who passed it might not be what one would be inclined to describe as active or established, but those who did not pass would clearly be non-members.
Furthermore, as I stated earlier, the purpose of the fork was to be Uncyclopedia's new home — its only home. Many editors of the fork still value that ideal, as was made clear by the talk of merging. This vote did not give merging the Wikia site or shutting it down as an option. When the choice is where — not whether — it will live, those who wish for its death should have no say.
Romartus agreed with the rules I proposed, but no one else commented on them.
When I first saw the forum post, the voting was already in progress. It looked like this. I noticed that Romartus had set out a list of rules that included the account age rule but not "my" rules. I also noticed that Dill Kevlar, who met the first requirement but not the other two, had cast a vote. Romartus had evidently gone to bed at this point, as he lives in England and it was well after 1:00 UTC/GMT. I figured he had made a mistake, and I panicked a little, thinking I had to do something before it got even more out of hand. I added the missing rules and struck DK's vote.
If DK had not yet voted when I saw the page, I would still have added those rules, but I would have been in less of a hurry. I might have realized that I should give some explanation of what I was doing, perhaps in the edit summary. There was none.
DK became angry and hostile, saying "I guess your reader community doesn't matter" and unstriking their own vote. I struck it out again, but Miley Spears appeared, objected to the rules and undid the strike. She had been in the admin email group when I proposed the rules but said nothing. I made this comment explaining my actions:
Romartus and I already agreed on that part by email. I would have added it before Dill's vote if I'd seen the forum in time. Dill is not here in good faith and should not get any more attention.
Whether DK was acting in good faith, I can't really know, but their behavior was not appropriate. DK and Miley did not accept my reasoning and went on attacking me:
You eliminated many uncyclopedia.co users and myself because you already knew what their vote would be. These terms that you fabricated are biased and this vote's result should not be taken into consideration by Fandom. My posts are in good faith. In fact, I'd like to think "my unfaithful contributions" just exposed some shady behavior. --— Dǐll Kevlar (talk) 02:53, March 13, 2019 (UTC)
Llwy-ar-lawr, maybe that's the way you run things when you're in charge, but that's not the way Fandom works. Two people are not in charge of this site. It belongs to everybody who comes here. That's in Fandom ToU which overrules anything posted here. Admin DAP Dame Pleb Com. Miley Spears (talk) 02:55, March 13, 2019 (UTC)
As I explain above, I intended the vote to be limited to members of the Wikia site's community (who could also be fork editors). This is not a put-down of anyone who is excluded, as the vote is about what is best for that community. Where the site is hosted is not the business of those who contribute not to it but to its competitor, and it has a negligible impact on the average reader.
At 5:08, Lyrithya made a post with an overview of each candidate host. She said this about her offer to host the site:
- We would absolutely be getting the full history - not just since the split, but all of the content before as well. Prior messages indicated otherwise for feasibility reasons, but having looked into the matter more thoroughly, it won't actually be feasible not to do it this way, as the sites have not just diverged in terms of new edits, but also page moves and deletions. So yes, this would be the full site history.
- Despite this being the same host as the split wiki, there will be no requirement of merging, one way or the other. That would only happen later if both communities agree to... whatever. Seriously, please figure it out.
This made it even clearer that they were not offering a merger — at least, not at this time. My concern was that, in this case, a future merge vote would come out in favor of the merge because many or most of those opposed to it would not migrate to the Lyrithya-hosted version and the vote would be regulated and judged by fork editors.
She listed "pros" and "cons" for each candidate, giving this list for me:
- Uncyclopedia hosted an Uncyclopedian.
- Plans to maintain full site history, including old revisions, deleted content, and logs.
- Managed by a single person, and thus will not be able to respond quickly to things or do as much as a full team could.
- No proof of concept or portfolio of prior experience provided; unclear technical capabilities or server capacity.
- Unprofessional regard for other community members; removes votes she doesn't like and changes the rules at the same time in order to justify it.
The "cons" here are legitimate except for the last item. I had already explained myself over two hours ago, and she overlooked or ignored it, instead inventing a motive. Even without that and assuming I was malicious, it is untrue. All I did was strike out one person's vote, so it is not the case that I "[removed] votes" of "community members", and DK was not a community member anyway — they were not an established editor, and they claimed to be just a reader. Lyrithya was so intent on using DK to prove a point that she ignored their own words.
Finally, none of this has much to do with how good I would be at hosting the site. IT people aren't known for their community relations skills. If I act "unprofessional" in a venue like this, it's par for the course.
When Romartus came back online, he confirmed that it was an oversight. He also stated that DK's vote would remain because the rules had not been fixed when it was cast. He asked Lyrithya to strike out her last point. After a brief exchange, she did so.
The situation appeared to have settled down at this point, but Miley began causing trouble again. My efforts to counter this were largely ineffective.
On 16 March, Romartus restarted the vote. The new vote had separate sections for each option instead of just one section. He added votes cast in the original round of voting to the new sections, including DK's vote. I think this was unwise, as all the rules were already in place at that point and a single vote could make a very large difference. Whose vote counts in something like this is not about being fair and inclusive to everyone who has an opinion, but rather what is best for the community of the website under discussion. As unfair as it may seem to exclude someone like DK, it is even more unfair for their vote to count against the wishes of actual community members.
The only person to vote for me was Nigel Scribbler. I asked him in an email to switch to Miraheze because I thought it had a better chance of winning, but he instead switched to Carlb. Snarglefoop had voted for Carlb but switched to Miraheze because Carlb would not win. Later, however, Nigel switched to Miraheze as well.
Romartus did not vote himself until 24 March. At this point, Miraheze and Lyrithya's server would have been tied at 8 if not for DK's vote. Carlb had one vote in favor, from Expert3222, and I had none. Romartus voted for Lyrithya's server and locked the voting forum, stating that this is where the site would move to.
Moving to Lyrithya's server
On 24 March, Romartus opened a forum titled "Uncyclomedia" (archived, live site) in which he announced that the Wikia site would move to Lyrithya's server. This server is often called "Uncyclomedia", though the term can also refer to Carlb's hosting.
I left this comment on it:
Well, this is goodbye then. I would have stuck around if this had ended differently, but I'm glad to get this over with in any case. I have a life to live and xkcd comics to waste time on. I was never much of a humor writer anyway.
Rhubella Marie responded:
I hope you remember the last sentence among the characters in the movie Casablanca, Llwy. That this is the "beginning of a great friendship".
I gave this reply, then made no more comments there. At this point I had decided to walk away from Uncyclopedia issues entirely because I did not want to be part of the site anymore if it was hosted on Lyrithya's server. I also needed a break, as the whole situation was a stressful mess. I intended to come back if (and only if) there was a change in direction and it ended up being hosted somewhere else. I stopped work on the backup during this period, resuming it at a later date.
You have no idea what you're talking about. I was treated so badly by Lyrithya and Zombiebaron's clique that I had to leave for my own sake, and none of them have ever apologized. Their talk of "setting aside differences" is empty. I want nothing to do with them again, ever. They are not entitled to my time and energy. You are not entitled to your preferred outcome for a community you were never part of.
Romartus, I'm going to say again that this is a bad decision. The "majority" hinges on you deciding that Nigel Scribbler's vote doesn't count and Dill Kevlar's vote does, even though Nigel is eligible to vote and Dill is not. The end of the voting period was not clearly defined until today. It should be a tie between Lyrithya and Miraheze (9-9). But it's not like there's anything I can do at this point.
This was actually incorrect. Nigel had said that he thought the score for Miraheze should be 9, and I took him at his word; in fact, he miscounted. His vote brought it to 8. Also, Romartus had previously stated that the vote would end on 23 March at "midnight in Hawaii". However, the consensus is still clearly lacking.
Before Romartus cast his vote and closed the forum, Miraheze and Lyrithya were nearly tied. The only thing breaking the tie was the vote from DK. DK's vote was dubious and probably shouldn't have been counted. Who else voted for Lyrithya is also telling. I noted in an email that "no one who has said they, personally, want the site to survive has voted for Lyrithya". Simsilikesims said the sites should remain separate, but she herself supported merging them, taking the separatist position for the sake of others. Aside from her and Romartus, no one else supporting that option had endorsed remaining separate in these discussions, either publicly or privately. Conversely, those voters who supported merging were all in favor of Lyrithya. There seemed to be a general feeling on both sides that moving to Lyrithya's server = merging with the fork. It's not hard to see why: while it is not the same as merging, it is clearly a step in that direction, and it was presented as such.
I was too hard on Romartus, and on reflection I don't blame him. I blame those who put him in that position. People who know how to conduct something like this the "right way" don't just grow on trees, and the "right way" in this case is not obvious. Neither is the rightful outcome.
Miraheze had been looking less and less like a good candidate. They are a small operation that runs on donations, and during the discussions it came to light that they were really struggling. In particular, they were running out of disk space and probably could not fit a wiki as large as Uncyclopedia until the situation was resolved. Also, as above, not everyone who voted for Miraheze preferred them. Nigel and Snarglefoop didn't, and neither did I (I would rather have voted for Carlb).
Lyrithya posted this response to me:
Llwy, if I was ever rude/mean to you, I seriously am sorry. Unfortunately I have basically no recollection of much from that time to begin with, so can't be any more specific, but if there is anything I can help you to resolve now, or that we can discuss further that I should be, well, trying to avoid doing, please don't hesitate to contact me. I know I've done some very dumb things on both sites, and been needlessly combative in the past, so I am trying to do better.
I did not reply because I wasn't sure how or if I should do so. On one hand, it came closer to making up for the past than any statements by other fork editors. On the other, she does not apologize for anything specific, only for things she speculates about having done but says she doesn't remember. She also says nothing about her attack on me in the voting forum. That said, I remember her as one of the better people on the fork. There was some negativity between us, but most of what she did wrong was fail to intervene.
This was the extent of her remarks addressed to me in that discussion. She and other fork editors did not seem to notice the problems with the vote.
On 4 April, Lyrithya (using another account "Haydrahlienne") announced that a copy of the Wikia site's database had been started and "should finish in a few days".
On 7 April, Awesome Aasim asked what the new domain name would be, since uncyclopedia.org had not been released. On 8 April, Lyrithya responded:
We're thinking wikia.uncyclopedia.co for now, unless you all can decide on a better idea and/or sannse or someone comes and yells at us about this.
Also, update: the move is going a bit badly and we've had to restart a couple of times because of... api weirdness? But we do still expect it should all be done in the next week.
On 9 April, Carlb offered the domain name uncyclopaedia.org, but Nigel said it would be a bad idea. They discussed the domain on the 10th and 11th but did not conclude anything. The discussion stopped here and resumed on the 19th.
I sent a query to FANDOM about the use of "wikia", which was replied to by Sannse by email:
Wikia is a trademark, and still the name of the overall company. So it's definitely not something you can do with the URL/name. Sorry!
If you need her to post confirmation here, I'm sure you can ask via her message wall. Meanwhile, another name, please. --Nigel Scribbler sig2.png (talk) 10:41, April 19, 2019 (UTC)
No, we need you to come up with an actual usable alternative, as we've been waiting for the past week. The wikia suggestion was supposed to be terrible (though I think she's actually wrong, that we probably could argue an exception under the circumstances and get away with it, that's not the point) so that you'd come up with something less terrible. But you haven't. And now you are at our mercy. Athyria (talk) 16:20, April 19, 2019 (UTC)
Give the luminaries a bit of time to hash this out. Yes, time's a-wasting. In the meantime, there is undoubtedly a cost to registering the name. Please give us an address for kicking in a bit for that, assuming you can take PayPal. --Nigel Scribbler sig2.png (talk) 22:46, April 19, 2019 (UTC)
Finally, on 20 April, Lyrithya announced that the site was online at a placeholder domain.
Sadly our other sysadmin is something of a professional and didn't go for my 'uncyclopedia.uncyclopedia.co' idea, so you'll find the new site at https://un.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/, except the mainpage is broken and so is a lot of other stuff because... uh, some combination of bad js, jumping 11 mediawiki versions, and who knows, but if we've set up login, go ahead and log in and try to fix stuff? I dunno, I'm being paid to start a war with my coworkers, not all y'all, so I should get back on that and stop drawing pictures of the same angry cat chewing its way out of sundry containers.
And again, in case this wasn't made clear: this is a temporary placeholder domain. Don't eat me. Athyria (talk) 15:43, April 20, 2019 (UTC)
Sorry, didn't mean to bite. Well, the mainpage has been a mess to understand and I don't know all the parts. I'll look in and see if I can do anything. Hopefully, the brain trust will have seen this and will agree on the name. Stay tuned. --Nigel Scribbler sig2.png (talk) 05:01, April 21, 2019 (UTC)
The main page of un.uncyclopedia.co looked like this:
That mangled raw code at the top is the featured article system. This is what it looks like when DPL is not installed.
Lyrithya's request that we "try to fix stuff" was not something we could entirely follow through on. MediaWiki extensions can only be installed with server access. DPL is hard to work with but easy to install, and the problem was obvious, so in theory it could have been recognized and fixed in minutes by a member of the technical team. It was not.
Even if it had been possible to fix all the issues without server access, we still couldn't have because she had not set up logins.
What does this mean? Wikia does not provide dumps of user data, so for users to carry their accounts over when a wiki is moved off, workarounds are required. Included with the grabbers is a script called "populateUserTable.php" that creates user accounts with no passwords based on other imported data such as edits. There are two MediaWiki extensions (MediaWikiAuth and StubUserWikiAuth) that enable users to log in to these accounts with their Wikia credentials. On un.uncyclopedia.co, there was only one user account (the one created automatically as part of the MediaWiki installation), and neither of those extensions was installed. Also, editing and account creation by anonymous users were disabled. All this meant that there was no way for us to do anything on the wiki.
While I had stopped editing, I had not asked to be taken off the email list, so I continued to receive messages from the admin group. On 6 April, I received an email saying that Miley Spears and Alden Loveshade were the same person. Evidently Zombiebaron had sent evidence of this to Romartus. It turned out that this person had voted three times for Lyrithya's server using the accounts Miley Spears, Alden Loveshade and Devil Details. Discounting the two extra votes, Lyrithya was at best tied with Miraheze. Discounting both the extra votes and DK, Miraheze was the obvious winner.
At this point, logically, someone should have made a public statement that Miraheze was the rightful outcome and begun the process of moving there. Instead... nothing happened. No one was willing to take that step. There hadn't really been a consensus for Miraheze either, and there was little support for it in the admin group, as it was still looking dubious and unfeasible. (The disk space issue was not resolved until 9 April.) There was also no collective interest in any other option. We didn't know what to do.
In an effort to provide a "proof of concept", I rented some cheap web hosting and imported my copy of the Wikia site into it. On 17 April I sent out an email linking to this, offering my services as a backup option in case other options did not work out or the site moved away from Lyrithya. I regretted not doing something like this earlier, as if I had, others would have known I could pull it off and there could have (possibly) been a more likely candidate for getting the majority vote. I had considered doing it when the vote was in progress, but I did not want to seem pushy. Also, I am not really a technical person. I have no formal training in anything computer-related, never mind the areas relevant to a project like this. I learned most of what I needed to know after I started the work. At the beginning I didn't even know what kind of web hosting would be required. If I had been an expert in MediaWiki and the so-called "LAMP stack", I could have put up something good-looking and visible in a lot less time... but I wasn't.
I wasn't really expecting to end up hosting the site, as others were still intending to use Lyrithya's version. This had not gone up yet because we were waiting for them to pick a domain name and they were waiting for us to do the same.
After Lyrithya's site finally went up on 20 April as un.uncyclopedia.co, we noticed the broken main page and inability to log in and edit. I suggested telling her to open the site up for logging in, but others seemed to feel that her team just wasn't done yet and we should wait for them. So we waited. And waited. Meanwhile, I continued working on my version of the site, since it looked like we might need a "plan B" but I hadn't been told yes or no.
On 25 April I acquired the domain name "uncyclopedia.ca" because it was available, it was cheap, and I could obtain it due to living in Canada. I attached this to my copy of the site to add some completeness. On 30 April I rented a dedicated server and moved it there.
The aforementioned problems with un.uncyclopedia.co continued to be unfixed, and there were others as well, most remarkably the presence of cached content from en.uncyclopedia.co. I was informed of this by other admins but didn't see it for myself on the Linux computer I mostly use. When I looked at the site on my Windows laptop, however, it became obvious. The main page looked like this:
There are several differences between this and the screenshot in the previous section, notably:
- The content of the main page. Aside from the obvious lack of broken code, it closely resembles this snapshot of the fork's main page from April. The Wikia site's main page was very different.
- In the first screenshot, the links in the top right indicate that account creation by anonymous users is disabled, as there is no link for creating an account. (MediaWiki does this automatically.) The second screenshot has the set of links that appears when account creation is enabled. Account creation was disabled on un.uncyclopedia.co but not on the fork.
- The links in the left sidebar. In May 2019, the main page of uncyclopedia.ca looked like this, with a sidebar like the first screenshot. (This sidebar was not available in the Oasis skin, so it could not be seen on the Wikia site.) The main page of en.uncyclopedia.co looked like this, with a sidebar like the second.
- The number of articles given. The Wikia site had over 32,000 articles, while the fork had closer to 30,000.
un.uncyclopedia.co is present in the Wayback Machine. One snapshot shows the erroneous main page, while the other shows the real, broken one. The statistics page shows that 32,252 is the real number of articles, not 30,788.
On 10 May, after a lot of waiting and indecision, it was decided: uncyclopedia.ca would be the Wikia site's new home — not un.uncyclopedia.co.
Finalizing the move
On 10 May, Nigel Scribbler created a forum post titled "Uncyclopedia is moving" (archived, live site), announcing that uncyclopedia.wikia.com would close soon and the site would continue elsewhere. He did not give the new location yet because we were waiting for me to finish some aspects of uncyclopedia.ca. There were problems that had to be worked out, including bad decisions I'd made about how to handle updating the database after new changes to the Wikia wiki (discussed here).
On 12 May, Romartus announced the new location there as uncyclopedia.ca. This prompted the following discussion:
So I take it you are no longer intending us to host this site? May I ask why, or when this decision was made? Athyria (talk) 21:22, May 12, 2019 (UTC)
As far as I know, it's not a question of anyone here making a decision. It is not possible to sign in, register or edit on un.uncyclopedia.co and FANDOOM's shutdown of this wiki is imminent. We can't go to Miraheze as they're running virtual machines (100Gb RamNode.com) which are too small for us. There has been no progress since April 20 on the server and we've heard nothing from Wikia in more than a month on the domain name. That backs us into a corner where there is nowhere else to go. It's this or go dark? carlb (talk) 21:49, May 12, 2019 (UTC)
It was an issue discussed between the 'Spoons' last week when it was evident that Fandoomed-Wikia were itching to pull the plug ASAP on here. --Laurels.gifRomArtus*Imperator ITRA (Orate) ® 23:20, May 12, 2019 (UTC)
We made the new wiki read-only when we didn't hear anything from anyone affiliated with the project. We've been waiting for some clarification what's been going on here for the past month. Are you saying you were aware of this issue the entire time, and just never thought to tell us? Athyria (talk) 23:28, May 12, 2019 (UTC)
un.uncyclopedia was ALWAYS read-only. Recall that you invited us to come over and look and see if we could fix anything. Sign-in with current credentials as well as opening a new account to look inside was NEVER possible. I tried several times over several days. And from what I could tell, nothing was happening with the front page except it was en. uncyclopedia's, with updates from the same. There was no "Recent articles" front page section. UnNews only had en.uncyclopedia articles. A lot of things weren't working otherwise and no fixes were being done. No data was merged after about the 3rd week of April. I was also told that if the site was accessed with Linux, it would appear to look as expected for un.uncyclopedia. Otherwise, any other browser would show the live en.uncyclopedia front page. What kind of shit is that?
It did not help that you told us a lot was broken, period. This was always going to be a given. I thought you wouldn't leave that mountain of problems for us, since you touted all the knowledgeable staff you had. Meanwhile, the backup/mirror site was advanced enough to actually largely work. But it certainly looks to me like you were going to leave us floundering if not left for dead after just making the move to a new server. --Nigel Scribbler sig2.png (talk) 08:08, May 13, 2019 (UTC)
Wikia's content is simply not currently compatible with upstream MediaWiki. We weren't going to lie about this. It was always going to be up to the editing community to update the content to work with current standards; that you have now evidently done this is great, but just makes it all the more illogical to blame this on us or lay such an expectation at our feet now.
Yes, it was always read-only, because we weren't going to open it up for editing until we got some sort of commitment from the community to actually edit it (we never did; only one person - you - even responded at all). Likewise, no fixes were done because they were never reported to us (we're not mind readers). After the initial announcement, nobody told us they were still trying to log in, just as nobody ever reported any of the other issues with the wiki itself. We have heard nothing from your community in weeks (we've been trying to contact Romartus for some time now, as we were under the impression he was supposed to be our point of contact). The only way this could ever have possibly worked is if you had worked with us - not just by editing the wiki, but by reporting issues; making clear your expectations; working with us on both the content and, if you indeed do have the skills for it, the software; and generally, you know, actually talking to us at all - as every other project has. That you apparently had both the content and technical skills to work on all of the relevant problems makes this even more baffling - why in the world did you not tell us? Why waste our time and tell us we need to do it ourselves, rather than work with us? Why not work with us on the software? Why have we not seen any patches submitted for review against the components in question?
We're volunteers too. We went out of our way to put in weeks of development work on this project based on the consensus that was established, and then, a single lap to go, silence. What happened? Athyria (talk) 12:33, May 13, 2019 (UTC)
You never opened the wiki to login, registration or editing. You posted this on April 20, then disappeared for three weeks. I'd tried e-mailing you on tax day (April 30th) about other wikis: many still point special:interwiki entries to dead Wikia, de:Special:Statistics reported 14 - now 17 - content pages, DPL on fr: returns incomplete or empty results because no one populated the category table. No response. On un.uncyclopedia.co Special:Listusers would report only two users (probably 'bots) and Special:Recentchanges would have nothing since 2019-04-20 as the wiki was never open. carlb (talk) 15:49, May 13, 2019 (UTC)
Yes, as I have already stated twice, we never opened the wiki, as we weren't sure what was going on with the community here, and thus mostly stopped working on it until we heard more.
As for your emails, I did respond (it took awhile because you emailed me on easter and I've been incredibly busy over the past month with work, so please double check if you got that, and email me again if you didn't/if there's something new?), but that's really not a conversation we should be having here as it's entirely off topic. Athyria (talk) 17:00, May 13, 2019 (UTC)
You're arguing in circles here. If we could never see un. and only a mirror of en., how is anyone supposed to tell you what to fix or change? I don't use Linux. And there were obvious things broken, like the missing "Recent Articles" section of the first page that en. doesn't have. --Nigel Scribbler sig2.png (talk) 22:25, May 13, 2019 (UTC)
What are you even talking about? Where did this 'linux' thing come from? Also, I think you just answered your own question. You could have told me by... telling me. Exactly as you are doing now. Did this really not occur to you or anyone else, or is there something else going on here? Athyria (talk) 23:40, May 13, 2019 (UTC)
Both sides of this try to put all the blame on the other. Neither is entirely right, but I believe that Lyrithya is the closer to being entirely wrong.
There should have been communication between us and Lyrithya's team about what was going on. It would have been good if someone in the admin group had let them know we were considering hosting the site somewhere else, mentioning both the lack of a real consensus and the problems with un.uncyclopedia.co. It would also have been good if someone from Lyrithya's team had made clear why logins, account creation, etc. were not available and that they were waiting to hear from us — that is, assuming this is true and not just a reason she gave after the fact. Neither of these things happened. This is unsurprising, however, and requires no assumption of bad faith to explain: both the Wikia site and the fork tend to be somewhat disorganized, and neither side fully trusts the other.
Lyrithya is unwilling to accept any responsibility for what was wrong with the site. She puts all the blame on us for not telling anyone about the problems. Coming from the spokesperson of the technical team, this is a disturbing attitude. Reporting problems is good and should be encouraged, but the people who actually fix them should be looking out for them too. Given what un.uncyclopedia.co was like, this did not seem to be happening. The DPL and caching problems (which had nothing whatsoever to do with "upstream MediaWiki") were so glaring that someone should have noticed them and at least tried to do something, or even just mentioned them to us as being known issues and on the to-do list. Did they? Apparently not.
Most people on the Wikia site were not technical experts, not even to the extent that I was. Nigel Scribbler is no exception. His remarks here show that he didn't understand the nature of the caching problem well enough to report it. Lyrithya still blames him for not telling her, and she doesn't seem to grasp the issue herself. While it's, again, disturbing that she doesn't get this, it's little wonder that Nigel doesn't. The average person who saw something like that would just be baffled or assume the misplaced content had been put there on purpose. I had to think about it before I understood what was happening, and even now I don't know what really goes on inside the server to produce something like this. I can't recall ever seeing it before. All I really know is, if this happens to your website, you're doing it wrong.
I can sympathize with her apparent feeling of betrayal on finding out that she would not be hosting the site after all and the work done was for nothing. I know exactly what kind of work is involved and how hard it is. I admit I was disappointed when I thought I would not be hosting the site and my own work would serve as nothing but a historical record. I'm also aware that she and the other technical staff have busy lives, including setting up the other ex-Wikia wikis they'd agreed to host, while I had the privilege of basically unlimited free time. But to the people you're doing the work for, none of that matters. All that matters is if you can get the job done. I did, more or less; Lyrithya's team did not. Who is to blame for that is ultimately irrelevant.
On the other hand, I believe there's a darker side to this than Lyrithya's team being busy and disorganized and then having hurt feelings. They host a competitor site, en.uncyclopedia.co, and the original statement about the hosting offer implied strongly that it was meant as a step on the way to merging. They were not invested in keeping their hosted version of the Wikia site alive in the long run, so they naturally had less of an incentive to work on it than on the other newly acquired wikis. Those other wikis came out better but had their own serious problems, indicating that there was also a general insufficiency of time to work on technical issues, interest in doing so, and/or competence. un.uncyclopedia.co just got hit harder. As for putting responsibility on us for picking a domain name and dealing with problems, this can be ascribed to a view of us as a separate community — which we were. It was our site, the line of thinking must go, and so they're our problems that we have to go fix. They're just providing the space. To an extent this makes sense; ideally, domain choice and rewriting code on wiki pages should be dealt with by the community. It stops making sense when the community can't or won't deal with the issues themselves. This is not respect but "us" vs. "them". "We" are not "their" problem.
During the discussion on 13 May, un.uncyclopedia.co was taken down, putting the final nail in the coffin of Lyrithya hosting the site. The very next day, uncyclopedia.wikia.com was closed. Sannse brought it back up briefly so one last dump could be obtained; after that it went down for good.
And so it was that uncyclopedia.ca became the Wikia site's new home. I don't like that the domain name is close to uncyclopedia.co, but using the Canadian TLD is oddly appropriate: this is the Uncyclopedia that stayed with Wikia when a rival faction broke away for independence, much like Canada staying with the British Empire when the Americans fought to leave.
Is uncyclopedia.ca the same website/wiki as uncyclopedia.wikia.com?
Yes and no.
From a technical point of view, they are obviously not the same wiki. uncyclopedia.ca is an imperfect copy on a different server. But when moving a website to a new server, you always have to copy it; it's never really "the same". Digital information is not transferred the way physical objects are. If Wikia provided full database dumps instead of just pages and history, I could have made a much better copy in much less time, but it would still be a copy.
There was a brief period in which uncyclopedia.wikia.com and uncyclopedia.ca coexisted, meaning that uncyclopedia.ca could be considered a fork. Usually, though, the point of making a fork is that it splits off from the original project and goes its own way. uncyclopedia.ca was meant to be a mirror or replacement. It diverged somewhat when it first began to be edited, but I recovered everything I could from uncyclopedia.wikia.com right up to the day of closure, meaning that it is less a fork and more a continuation. It picked up where the closed wiki left off. (I merged content from uncyclopedia.wikia.com into uncyclopedia.ca twice, once with edits up to 8 May and once with edits up to 14 May. The first time, I brought over a more up-to-date copy and imported new changes from uncyclopedia.ca into that. The second time, I imported material from the final Wikia dump. The imports I made are logged here.)
uncyclopedia.ca is not a domain name Uncyclopedia has previously had, and no previous domain redirects there. This was sadly unavoidable because Wikia has not given us any previous domains. Does this mean it is not the same site? Plenty of websites have changed domains, and their old domains do not always redirect for one reason or another, but they do not become different websites.
It's difficult to prove that uncyclopedia.ca contains the uncyclopedia.wikia.com data, but there is strong evidence. While the Wayback Machine does not contain a complete archive of the Wikia site, it has a good deal of it. If you find any page from uncyclopedia.wikia.com there that hasn't been deleted, I am 99.99% certain that you can also find it somewhere on uncyclopedia.ca. If you try one and don't find it, tell me.
This article has some examples of archived content, namely the links to forum posts. Every pre-move forum I mentioned can be found on uncyclopedia.ca and in the Wayback Machine, though what's in the latter does not always have all the discussion. Another good example is the abuse filters. I made sure all public data relating to them was in the Wayback Machine because the script provided with the grabbers for importing the filters did not work and I wanted to make sure they were preserved. Later I wrote my own script, ran it, and retrieved every filter and its full history. This is the page on uncyclopedia.wikia.com that lists all the abuse filters. This is the corresponding page on uncyclopedia.ca; this is how it looked on 12 July 2019. You can see it is somewhat different, but this is because changes have been made to some of the filters and some of the usernames on the Wikia site were wrong due to a Wikia technical problem. If you look at the filter histories for the public filters, you will see that all the entries from the Wikia site are there. Here is the history for the filter numbered 1; here it is on uncyclopedia.ca. This is one of the filters affected by the username problem, so here's one without it: here is the history of filter 24, and here it is on uncyclopedia.ca.
The statistics page is also telling. The last archived version of this page on the Wikia site is from March 2019, and most numbers it lists are very close to those given on uncyclopedia.ca in May 2019. Note, however:
- All Wikia wikis have a unified login and share a user table, so the number of registered users listed on their statistics pages is always the same large figure that includes every account created anywhere on Wikia. This is somewhat misleading. The number of users listed on uncyclopedia.ca only includes accounts created by populateUserTable.php (corresponding to Wikia users that had made at least one edit or logged action to the site, including creating an account there) or created directly on that wiki after it went live.
- The number of edits listed on uncyclopedia.ca is smaller because deleted edits (edits to pages that were later deleted) are included in the number and about 70,000 of these could not be downloaded with the script provided for that purpose. This is because of a problem on Wikia's end. I was not able to do anything about this, but I screenscraped most of these edits with a script I wrote and saved them as HTML pages. They are preserved but not in the database.
- The number of articles listed on uncyclopedia.ca is slightly smaller. I originally wrote that this was because of "a database table that did not fill in properly", but I now believe it to be a combination of Wikia counting articles differently from the default MediaWiki setting (as I observed a similar discrepancy in article count after moving Wackypedia, where I made sure to rebuild the database tables) and a small number of missing pages (which I've now fully retrieved).
Many of the Wikia site's editors came to uncyclopedia.ca as well. Most of the regulars came over, though some who were new or edited less frequently have not yet arrived; they may not have found us. Wikia wikis no longer provide lists of active users, but I can show contribution histories that list edits extending from before uncyclopedia.ca existed to after the closure. Here are some:
- Alec Pradeux
- Llwy-ar-lawr (me!)
- Nigel Scribbler
If uncyclopedia.co did not exist, I think no one would question that uncyclopedia.ca is essentially the same site as uncyclopedia.wikia.com. The existence of one fork makes it seem as if this is yet another fork and not the original, but is it really? I would say no.
Uncyclopedia was not hosted on Wikia to begin with, and it was located at the address "mrpalmguru.com/uncyclopedia". When it moved to Wikia, what came to reside there was a mere copy of the original — and a broken one at that — and the "mrpalmguru" URL went dead instead of becoming a redirect or a separate version. Was it still the same website that had been founded in January 2005? Of course it was.
When en.uncyclopedia.co was created in January 2013, most of the active editors moved over there, but many remained behind. uncyclopedia.wikia.com still lived. Was it no longer Uncyclopedia, the original, just because another website had the same name and its own fork of the content? Of course it was. Even if every editor had departed never to return and it never saw another edit, it would be. Usually it is technically impossible to "move" a wiki away from Wikia because they are unwilling to close the original wiki, so the closest one can get is a fork.
So when the content and editors from uncyclopedia.wikia.com moved somewhere else and there was nothing more at that domain, was that "somewhere else" not still the same thing? What else could it be?
uncyclopedia.ca has the original Uncyclopedia's soul in a new body. Its old body withered and died, but it lived on. So it goes.