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Axiomist's New Wiki Roadmap / Launch Strategy

Started by Xizor, April 16, 2011, 08:46:46 PM

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As originally written by Axiomist:

New Wiki Roadmap
First is always the idea for a new wiki. Extensive searching should be done to ensure no existing eligible wiki for NIWA exists. It would only embarrass you later if there already are independent wikis on your topic. So in addition to running several relevant search terms through a search engine, check out fan forums and sites, ask around, and get at least one other person to do the same.

  • If an independent wiki is out there, it may be best to work on that one and help them out, tell them about NIWA and its members. If you run across multiple active independent wikis, consider getting a NIWA staff member to speak with them. Depending on the circumstances, a cooperative merge and shared staffing might be possible.

  • If no wikis are found, the next step would be to analyze yourself and the market for it. Ask yourself a few questions, consider these factors carefully, and decide on whether you wish to proceed with it or not.

  • Are you willing to work on your wiki idea every possible day by yourself if people don't help out immediately? Few people out there are willing to work on a site while it is barely built. It can be emotionally disenchanting and frustrating to be the sole editor of a wiki; people have a whole slew of reasons not to help out. If you have a strong, very strong drive to see the wiki created then it should be no problem. If you think you would quit the project from the lack of instant support- then it may be best to not even begin it.
  • Are you willing to lose money on your wiki idea? Even with so many ad accounts like Adsense, Kontera, and Infolinks, a site probably won't be self-sufficient for years. (WiKirby costs around $60-$70 to get a domain purchased and pay TMD for 1 year of site hosting. Renewal fees are expected to be slightly lower $40-$50 range in January 2011. Kontera ads are currently generating $0.75-$1.30 per month. Ad publishers generally do not pay out until the account balance is $100. So it's possible WiKirby won't receive a payment for up to 6 years.) If your wiki plan factors in making admoney to pay for the second year-you may need to reconsider. Websites in general are long term investments, wikis are no different.
  • Do you have any technical capabilities? Help might not always be prompt or available, depending on the nature of the issue. If you are able to solve your own technical issues-things will be much smoother. Bear in mind that running a wiki requires some familiarity with more than the wiki mark-up. The server files are daunting and most of your initial year's work will be in that-debugging and try to even find the problems.
  • The largest and most popular series have wikis, so the remaining series are going to be smaller wikis; unless by some miracle your proposed wiki's topic releases a new game and becomes as popular as Pokemon, Mario, or Zelda. Even then, a game's popularity isn't going to match a wiki's popularity; but it is a good indicator. Look for all of the fansites for the series and honestly judge their activity levels. This is another indication of how people interact with the game's content after playing the game. Try to compile statistics on the fansites (How many members do they have? How many are dead sites? How many are active? What is the Alexa rank of the sites? How well is the wikia version doing? How entrenched is the fanbase with their support for the wikia site? etc) After the basic structure of your wiki is created would be the best time to ask these sites for help and support of your wiki. Asking before then is a huge risk, as people will probably reject the wiki over the wikia one.
  • Do you have any qualms or reservations about using or installing MediaWiki? We do prefer MediaWiki because we know that development won't suddenly stop for it, our members are very familiar with it, it's free, and desired features are likely existing and functional. Those reasons also serve as reasons NIWA will be less likely to support an alternative to MediaWiki.

I'm not meaning to sound so bleak but the above issues are to be expected. I think people expect running a wiki to be such an easy task, and have only imagined themselves editing articles and making decisions as a bureaucrat. My fear is that too many people would have a total system shock and quit the project. We can't tell how you will respond to the stresses, but try to judge yourself. If you have some fantastic idea of the site being a success anytime soon-forget it. The new wiki is likely to be insulted, neglected, rejected, and possibly even vandalized. This is where being a strong leader comes into play, because you'll have to trudge through it all slowly.

Get started
If you're still here reading and willing to proceed, I applaud you. I'm assuming you read the above and have decided that you possess the constitution to tough it out for a long time. NIWA will ease as many burdens as possible, but your upcoming burdens will still be heavy. The first thing you'll want to do is get an actual wiki up. Without going into the extensive technical aspects, there are two possibilities.

  • Set up MediaWiki on a free host site that would allow you to move the content whenever you wanted to. Wikia, by policy wouldn't allow that-so you'll have to find another. The sole positive attribute of doing this is to get a wiki going without having to pay the expenses yet. The only drawback is that the site's history would get the short end of the stick. One factor of Google Rankings is the site history. The longer your site has existed, the higher its rank will be. This is only one known factor of their ranking formula. Building your wiki's url history immediately can help to raise the rank and potentially bring in more members later.
  • Buy a domain, and set up MediaWiki on a paid host. This will cost you money, but paying for the domain will guarantee you get the name you want. The other benefit is that you'll be building up your search engine rank right away. Consider your budget and talk to other site owners. We may have access to deals to ease your initial costs. Hosts can be changed at any time, so you may want to start at the cheapest one you can find even if it imposes limits on the wiki. As the wiki grows, you can move up to more expensive hosts with fewer limitations. A wiki's first year probably won't even cross even the strictest host size and bandwidth limit.

Take this job and Staff It!

It's easier to choose people you know, but be willing to unstaff them if they aren't productive. Everyone wants a staff rank and few are going to roll up their sleeves and get the work done. So being tough on that should be a consideration. Your initial staff should be small, try to build a balanced staff and look for people that specialize on things. For example, you'll want someone that has some technical expertise, some one that has a history of image work at a wiki, some one that has done extensive content management and article writing, and some one that has more knowledge on the series than you do. Try to match their current ranks or go one above it to not overwhelm them (although exceptions are expected).
  • Start editing your new wiki and then make a post on NIWA seeking staff. Tell them you are accepting staff applications and get details on where they specialize, how well they know the series, and what they'll do at the wiki. Be sure to link to the wiki and as a litmus test, don't staff anyone that hasn't proven their expertise with a few edits there. Review their work, or ask some other experienced NIWA contacts to check it out to judge its merits.
  • Gauge whether or not they use the same name from wiki to wiki. Some instances of name changing are innocent enough, but many people use different names and only tell others via private messages who they are at Site A, Site B, and Site C, just to hide from people that have a justified issue with the person. Again, ask others about the person if you aren't familiar with them. The knowledge available from NIWA members are your greatest asset right now. Use it!
  • Divide up tasks and give yourself tasks as well, The first thing to do is always policy creations! NIWA Wikis have differing policies, so unless you have a very clear idea of what the wiki will have as policy, research all of them! The member wikis will probably have no qualms about copying their policy to get your wiki going, but its always a good idea to ask first and credit them in the edit summary. If nothing else, this would help build a positive relationship among the wikis.

Initial tasks
The first things to do may seem overwhelming, so having a cookie-cutter plan in place may ease your stress levels. Instead of fussing over what on the long list of things to do should be done right away, simply adopt the following and tweak as needed:
#1.) Policy pages- Articles would be too chaotic without policy in place.
#2.) Help guides- This is also a good start since it helps get the staff busy on easily overcome tasks. Most of the help guides and policy pages can be copied from other wikis (with their permission of course).
#3.) Main Page- Have at least one or two people whose job is to get a decent Main Page going and doing nothing else until it is done. Don't worry about what your ideal Main Page is until you have a general mock up created. It's a lot easier to tweak an imperfect Main Page than to start designing the perfect one from the start.
*See Step 3 here, Wikia offers this advice, which is even more useful if you have a clever name for the wiki:
"Move the Main Page. This trick also helps to maximize the boost you get from having the topic in the title bar. Wikia now does this automatically for all new wikis when they're created, but if you are working on or adopting an older wiki, read on!

First, move "Main Page", and give it the name of your wiki. Having "Charles d***ens Wiki" in the heading at the top of your main page will give you an edge. "
*Despite being Wikia, this is sound advice, your Main Page will be the most viewed page, so if you retitle it from "Main Page" to "___ Wiki" or "___ Encyclopedia" you'll have a strong key word for search engines. I promise you "Main Page" is never searched. So choose something related that would be an obvious search term. (WiKirby's Main Page has been moved to "Kirby Wiki" for instance.)
#4.) Categories-Another boring and easily overlooked aspect of wikis, also one of the important fundamentals. The best thing to do is generate at least one article for each category you want to have. This helps to create an example of how you want future articles to be written, formatted, etc.
#5.) Priority articles- Obviously priority articles are going to be things like the games, the series itself, important items, characters, places, etc.
#6.) Templates- Actually at least one of your staff members should be making templates from the start, preferably someone with prior experience and free time. The all important Notice Templates should be first. (Templates indicating that an article is a stub, needs images, should be deleted, merged, split, etc). The second most important templates are the Formatting Templates (Citation templates, styling templates, etc) From there the others are roughly equal with userboxes being deadlast. Best to even hold off on userboxes until sometime after launch, but if anyone makes userboxes don't worry about deleting them or anything.
#7.) Logo and skin- Another thing that would work out best if someone were tasked with this from the start. A good logo and skin can heavily impact other people's opinion on the wiki. Even a favicon and affiliate banner can be designed all in one go. Consistency is good, but so is variety on those aspects, this is something each staff would have to decide on. (WiKirby for example chose variety, the logo, favicon, affiliation banners [we have 2 so far], and dominant image on the skin are all different. We prefer roundness over the consistent use of a single image.)

Soft launch
Now your wiki should be well rounded. Invite NIWA members and people in your contact pool to review the wiki and point out any issues they come across, no matter how minor. Ask them to report which browser they are using, and any other relevant factor. Ask them to also try editing even a userpage (logged in and out, using as many browsers and devices such as PCs, Laptops, phones, etc that they have can access) to see if there are any issues needing attention before a full launch. Give this phase a minimum of 2 weeks to ensure adequate time for bug hunting. Be sure to follow up on changes, fixing one thing may break something else. Ideally it's best to wait for each issue to be resolved before a full launch.

Now would be a good time to get extensions added. This can be done at any time, but usually is best done after thoroughly debugging. I think each member wiki has their own stories of extensions that caused problems, expect a comprehensive NIWA extension guide sometime in the future.

Full launch
This is the big day, You should be planning it at least a week in advanced, preferably 2. Contact as many sites, NIWA ones included, and ask them to report on the news of the new wiki launch. Have a date set and stick to it. Ideally a Thursday. This will ensure your news is visible on a Friday and probably during the high traffic weekends. Consider other ongoing events during your launch, for example, if it's Christmas, or school is starting, you may want to scrub the launch date for a few days or weeks until a better time window is available. Many fan forums won't allow you to post an external link without having had a certain number of posts or certain number of days from registering. It's a valid spam fighting tool, so as preparation, join as many forums and general Nintendo sites as possible and get the minimums taken care of. Ask the staff if they are willing to report your launch news via pm. If they decline, you can always make a post in a relevant board (check their rules on that first tho-or even get their blessing for that). And lastly, many of the current staff members of NIWA have contacts that you wouldn't normally be able to access. Let us know your plans and progress and we can coordinate on getting your news out there. Expect a lot of views, some new members, and hopefully new editors on and after your wiki launch. Choose a weekend in which you can actually dedicate yourself to overseeing the new edits to fight spam and vandalism; as well as answering any questions that are asked.

*Another good optional idea at this point is to contact the staff of the wikia version. They'll find out about your wiki anyway-so you may want to be the messenger. The main concern to expect is rampant copy/pasting, if you have your policies in place, inform them that you won't allow any plagiarism or paraphrasing. They likely will be worried you are out to steal their work. The best thing to do is to establish a channel of communication and inform them that your wiki will act when someone plagiarizes from them. If staff members of both wikis keep cool heads the issue can be resolved immediately without flame wars.  Ask them to inform you and link to issues of plagiarism (links to both, stolen article, and place it was taken from) instead of dealing with it themselves.

NIWA membership

The rules aren't finalized on this. But that's worse for you. Each voter may have their own standard in which they'll judge a wiki on. So far each new member did reach the 200 article minimum before induction. The absolute best path would be to become an affiliate of the member wikis for at least a month prior to a formal request for membership. I think in general new wikis are going to be judged by:
  • Their relations with the communities for the series-Has any effort been put into involving fan sites?
  • Relations with NIWA wikis- Does the new wiki have members at other wikis? Are they willing to share knowledge and ideas with other NIWA members?
  • Value as a NIWA member-Will they mostly be a burden or an asset? We understand new wikis are going to need more help than established ones, but if it seems like the proposed wiki is being too neglected by its own staff, or that the staff is incompetent we may reject them.
  • Content management -stubs are tolerable, but mere article count padding is not. For the record, Article Count padding is a flurry of one line "articles" made just to bring the count up. We generally can tell intent by viewing Recent Changes, page histories, editor histories, etc.
  • Staff- although only one aspect of a wiki, troublesome staff members can easily break the support of current NIWA voters.
  • Main Page, Skin, and Logo- These are minor aspects, but the appearance of proffesionalism can bring in much more support than the lack of it.
  • Your request for induction- "Hey, we have Wiki X, can we be NIWA members too?" is going to be ignored, if not outright contested. A better plan would be to write a letter length post covering any site history, achieved milestones, goals, mention the status of relations with other fan sites and NIWA wikis, number of affiliates and list of who they are including links, and anything else you feel is warranted.  Be clear, forthcoming, and completely honest with any bragging points you make, Bragging about 500 articles won't do you any good if we look deeper and find that only 10 are above stub status. Aspects you may not even have considered may be reviewed by NIWA voters. So don't insult their intelligence, some of these people have a knack for sniffing out specific problems!

Post NIWA induction
In all probability, your wiki will be bursting with activity and life after this point. You may want to consider drafting a strategy for the days ahead after evaluating how well things are going and where improvements are needed. If you find it easier to follow a strategy than to create one, feel free to ask your fellows in the NIWA staff for help.  Also at this stage, chances are you'll be seeing new wikis trying to start up, be humble and help them out. Share your experiences and knowledge with them. Consider ways to add to your wikis resource pool without draining a fellow wikis' own resources. Keep a look out for new sites pertaining to your topic or even new places to invite editors such as Facebook, Wikipedia, or even refresher articles/threads at your current affiliates.

Bureaucrat of