Letter From The Encyclopedist

by Daniel DeLorme, Jul 31st 2008

One of the foundations of open projects is transparency. And while the Encyclopedia has always been wide open when adding your own contributions, things get more opaque when it comes to data entered by other users. Among other things, it can be difficult to have complete trust in the information when you don't know where it came from. The Encyclopedia is after all a community-edited database and some contributors are less meticulous than others. So, aiming to empower our users (and hopefully not confuse them too much), I've decided to make public some of the information that was until now only available to Encyclopedia editors.

The first new thing to notice is that each data item in the Encyclopedia may now have an icon next to it: a red i for items that have an error report, a blue i for items you submitted yourself, and a gray i for all other items. These are the meta-icons and clicking on one of them will cause the meta-info menu for that item to appear, roughly like this: editerrorsource. Clicking on the meta-icon again will hide the meta-info menu.

The gray i meta-icon is not displayed by default, so the next new thing to notice is that at the bottom of every page there is a special box that looks like this:
This encyclopedia is collaboratively edited by the users of this site
DISCLAIMER add information report an error lookup sources toggle meta-info
If you click on the report an error or lookup sources links, the resulting page will contain meta-icons for all items in addition to a guidance message at the top. You also have the choice of setting your preferences to display all meta-icons all the time, or only a subset thereof. As for the toggle meta-info link, that has the same effect as clicking on all the meta-icons in the page, expanding or collapsing the meta-info menus depending on their current state.

edit

If you clicked on a blue i meta-icon it means you are the one who submitted that item and you can edit it yourself by clicking on the edit link of the meta-info menu. This was previously indicated by the icon.

audit

For genres and themes, the icon has been replaced by an audit link in the meta-info menu. Just as before, you can nominate an item for audit using this link. But now, if the audit is over, this link will actually show the results of the audit, i.e. how many people voted to keep or discard the item.

error

For all other types of information, we still rely on the good ol' error report system. The icon has been replaced by an error link in the meta-info menu, which works just as before to submit error reports. But now this link has another purpose. When an error report has been submitted for an item, this is indicated by a red i meta-icon. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean the information is incorrect, so you should click on the error link to check exactly what the error report is all about. And if you agree or disagree with the error report, you can add your own comment with additional evidence for/against.

Currently, error reports can linger for a long time because while some are obvious and easily fixed, many others are tricky edge cases which require extensive knowledge of a particular anime and/or hours of research before the truth of the matter is established. But if enough users add supplemental information and evidence, we can build up a whole dossier on those tricky error reports. This would greatly simplify the job of the Encyclopedia editors and speed up error corrections. And to boot, it would leave a permanent record of the issues surrounding contentious information.

source

If you ever submitted information to the Encyclopedia, you noticed that we ask for a source. Whether it's a URL or the name of a magazine or simply stating in which episode's credits the information appeared, the source allows the Encyclopedia editors to double-check information when it comes under scrutiny. Now that source is available to anyone by clicking on the source link of the meta-info menu.


As you can see, none of these are very big structural changes; I am only lifting the curtains a little to give you a glimpse of what goes on behind. But with transparency comes knowledge and with knowledge comes power (or at least so goes the theory). I hope the power you derive from this knowledge will have a lasting impact on how you view and use the Encyclopedia.


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