Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Halopedia: YOU ARE NOT WORTHY. NOT YET.

(Okay, this was written for Halopedia on August 25, 2008. It deals with issues pertinent to the wiki at the time, which may not be relevant at this time. Normally, I don’t crosspost articles that are just about the wiki, but as Wikia is overhauling the site, I want to have this article on my blogspot where I can trust it won’t vanish into the abyss or just look really hard to read.)

Halopedia hails itself as being the definitive source for Halo information; however, despite having the massive article count of 5,000 some, I don’t believe the wiki to be of high quality. Good quality, sure, but not enough to be the definitive source. As I’ve used the wiki for research (for my fanfiction), I often find myself bewildered by the state of an article and declare at my screen, “Oh, good God!” as was done by William Daniels as John Adams in 1776 when his colleagues failed his expectations. Halopedia needs a lot of work; it needs better references, better definition of terms like “Easter egg”, more uniform standards, stricter control over what stays in the articles, and better policy pages so what we decide can be preserved for the new users, among other things.


First of all, the references. Halopedia makes a lot of claims in its articles, claims which must be cited. Too many articles contain long descriptions of the subject without proper references being cited. Some of it is excluded simply because it is common knowledge among us über-geeky Halo fans, but it may not be to whoever should stop on the site. Moreover, a lot of speculation sneaks through without being challenged. If proper citations were in place, this could be caught and fixed more easily.

The basic implementation of the references is detailed here. The common practice is to list the source, such as a game or a book, followed by a more precise subsection, such as a level or a page number (e.g. “Halo: Combat Evolved, Two Betrayals” or “Halo: First Strike, page 14”). I, however, have begun including the actual section of text that I use as the source (e.g. “Halo: First Strike, page 98: Officially designated UNSC HighCom Facility B-6, the sprawling edifice had been nicknamed “the Hive.””). That way, it’s easier to tell if Halopedia information is correct. I suggest this practice be implemented. I have been rereading the books, and adding a reference to Halopedia whenever I see something I believe to be significant, such as Atmosphere Pit. I furthermore suggest that this be done by anyone with a little free time to devote to Halopedia.

Next in my list of issues of frustration is that of the Easter eggs. Although very interesting, the category has a lot of cleaning up to do, mainly because of people misunderstanding the term. An Easter egg is a little tidbit left in the game by the developer for the consumer to find, much like in an Easter egg hunt. An Easter egg is not necessarily a part of the Halo Universe, as its purpose is primarily to be a fun little distraction. An Easter egg may fit in seamlessly with the story, like the serial number on the Scorpion tank, or it may be a complete departure, like the half-naked Jason Jones.

However, an Easter egg is not some little added detail that both fits in with the story and has no special meaning outside of it. The serial number on the tank has special significance because it is the birthdate of Marcus Lehto; however, most of the minute details were simply added for the sake of realism. The fact that the Rocket Launcher has a “hold like this” diagram demonstrating proper usage of the weapon is not an Easter egg because it’s just a detail that shows a facet of the Halo world and has no significance outside of it.

Then there’s the instances of pareidolia involved in Easter egg hunting. While Bungie has hidden Easter egg images in things, like the face of Halo 2’s environment artist visible in the distant landscape of a Halo ring, many times people will see things, faces or other patterns, in what is just random occurrence. Much like the infamous grilled-cheese sandwich with the supposed likeness of the Virgin Mary burnt in the bread, Halo fans have seen recognizable figures such as Grunts or generic “creatures” in facets of the landscape or backdrop. With the exception of a few incidents, in which Bungie makes such associations explicit, these cases are mainly just optical illusions no different from a cloud-gazing child seeing images of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and the Tower of London a horsey and a ducky amid the chaotic shapes.

Moving on, another issue affecting Halopedia’s quality is that of overzealous categorization. People often think that when an article fits the definition of both a large category and its subcategory that both should be included; however, this is flawed reasoning in my opinion. The subcategory will always meet the definition of its larger category, which is why the subcategory is a division of it. An article does not need to declare that it is within the larger category of, say, The Covenant if it is also within the subcategory of Covenant Species. That it is within the larger category of The Covenant can be determined by going to the subcategory page itself (if it isn’t obvious from the category names). Not only does this make navigation of the larger category difficult, but it muddies up the status of the specific article.

On the same topic, it is ridiculous in my opinion to have the enormously high categories of specific games listed on individual articles by way of the Era template. Era is designed to show which games or books an article’s subject is featured in, using a little 28x28 icon that floats on the top right of the article page on the same line as the title. However, preceding the release of Halo 3, it was edited to also add the Halo 3 category to articles that used the Halo 3 icon. This was done as a way to help keep track of appropriate articles for a contest in which people would receive prizes for a high quantity of beneficial edits done on Halo 3-related articles (incidentally, I got a nifty Halo 3 T-shirt). After the implementation of the Halo 3 category to Era, the other game categories were also added. This is a big mistake in my eyes. Now we’ve got junk like Cattle in the great ilovebees category even though there’s only a peripheral relationship (i.e. a character mentions a cow), cluttering it up and making the truly relevant stuff like Mayday Texts lost in the mess.

Moving on, one of our biggest issues involves the status of canon in relation to our articles. One of the things we absolutely do not want at Halopedia is the inclusion of fanfiction or “fanon”, which is a Halopedian term for fan-created material that is not canon. However, a problem that has arisen in light of this policy is the opposition of officially created material that meets the notability requirements but does not fit in with the main canon of the Halo storyline. The reactions to this are either to campaign for deletion of such articles, which include Dead or Alive 4 and ilovebees most notably, or to alter (read: implement fanon or speculation) to force them to fit within the accepted canon storyline. Both are silly and against the encyclopedic goal of Halopedia. The point is not to only include canon information, but rather to only include information that comes from an official source; even though 4orty2wo Entertainment and the team behind Iris were not Bungie, their campaigns were official tie-ins with Halo, and they had access to the Halo Story Bible. Furthermore, there are plenty of continuity errors within Bungie-sanctioned material, most prominent among these being the Hunters, which were depicted as bipedal creatures with bones and individual limbs until Halo 2, from which point on they were a collective entity comprised of numerous eel-like beings. The Halopedian campaign against ilovebees was eventually halted when Frank O'Connor made a statement about ilovebees being “[embraced] as canon” while talking about the then-upcoming Halo Graphic Novel, which would include references to the ilovebees characters Herzog and Standish, but in my mind the debate should have ended much sooner for different reasons.

The seventh fifth issue I’d like to address is that of the crazed number speculation run rampant on Halopedia. Now, it’s a known fact that Bungie is obsessed with the number seven and has a history of hiding it in the games and books, sometimes a layer or two deep. However, Halopedians take this too far. I mean, we’ve had clearly unrelated stuff taking numerical significance too far like saying a character has seven letters in their name or, worse, something like “Halo: The Fall Of Reach is the prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved. Prequel is a 7 letter word.”

This also extends to speculation regarding the significance of the character name “John-117.” Now, to me, I think it highly likely to be a reference to a Marathon Easter egg involving a Level 819 (117 x 7 = 819). This is open for debate, though, and other explanations are listed, which is fine… It has, however, established a precedent for people to wander in and post their own theories, which may be vastly unrelated. “John-117” sounds Biblical, which is a reasonable conclusion, so people post verses to which it may pertain. There are several books to which “John” might refer, so the Bible speculation section grows quickly. And that’s only Bible speculation, as people think it could pertain to something else, so the section only gets larger and larger. This section is eventually cut down and/or relocated, and the cycle begins again. I believe the only way to stop is to remove the speculation entirely and perhaps provide the browser with enough information to construct their own speculative hypotheses, unconnected from Halopedia entirely.

Finally, I consider one of the best ways to improve Halopedia is to give our community a better collection of help and policy pages. I mean, look at Wikipedia with their massive collection of such pages. Those guys have come up with all the management issues and everything already through years of experience, and make pages for the new users to read. Us Halopedians, now, we’ve got years of experience and a load of policy that just hasn’t made it to the help pages. Even our inclusionist policy, the one that says we can write silly articles like Milk and Tea, hasn’t been made into an official article. I, for one, get a bunch of messages asking to delete the sillier ones, and it would be good to be able to point to a policy page rather than paraphrase an agreement we came to in the now-defunct wiki forums. Back when we were just a small community, this was less of a problem because newcomers could pick up the standard easier from veteran users, with who they were far more likely to come into contact; however, since February’s tremendous user influx this way of thinking has become obsolete.

In conclusion, though we’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings, Halopedia still needs a ton of work to become what our founder AgentSeethroo decided we should be: the definitive source for Halo information. This – admittedly ranting – criticism should not be taken as a flame, but rather as advice as to how we can improve to be not only the best resource out there, but to fulfill our potential for absolute greatness. Let us fix what fundamental flaws lie in the construction and build outward, maintaining a sturdy form throughout.

You will become the best we can make you.

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