Main Page/Leaving Fandom
Note that this article is written from the first person and is not to be edited.
Since making my last meaningful edits in the first half of 2020, I have been contemplating whether or not to return to the Top Gear Wiki hosted at Fandom.
Up until that point, I'd had a decade-long relationship with the website across many wikis which I helped to improve over the years. The problem is, during that time, the service has slowly changed from what it once was. For me, it all started with the BattleBots Wiki, where I spent the best part of my first year or two documenting robots, biographies, and episodes of the original 2000 - 2002 run of the show under the leadership of Badnik96. Though much of this work was would be left unappreciated by the egotistical berks over at Gametechmods, I got a real sense of fulfillment over working on the wiki, and sought to do more. During the early days of Wikia, admins were free to do whatever they wanted, with hierarchies for other members based on quality and frequency of contribution. For most of the decade, this didn't change. Content was very freeform and creativity was boundless.
Then TPG Capital acquired the service in 2018, and things started to go downhill. It was slow at first, but by mid-2019, the quality of the website hit a freefall.
The final nail in the coffin came in the summer of 2021, when Fandom force-changed the layout on every single wiki to the horrifically bad "FandomDesktop", a gross misnomer that was clearly an attempt to unify the style between mobile and desktop, something which many users did not want. Desktop usability has been sacrificed for better cohesion between the two device types. Already the article area was noticeably thinner than other projects forked from MediaWiki to accompany intrusive advertisements, as well as a scrolling background at both edges. Now it is almost ridiculously thin. Tables in particular have suffered the most from this design choice, with many now non-displayable on 1080p displays without horizontal scrolling. Font sizes have been forced larger to aid reading on a small screen. This has made articles occupy much more vertical page area than before.
In addition, it seems with every successive update Fandom slowly becomes less user-friendly and more corporate. Just before FD's implementation, user blogs were deleted, thus silencing much of the wiki owner's voice, and there is no guarantee that they won't suddenly decide to delete something else, given that they've already deleted NSFW wikis, any wikis which are based around critique of media ("hate" wikis), and have now blocked "competing" wikis of certain intellectual properties to be set up, even though this was previously a big feature of Fandom which allowed people disgruntled with the way a wiki was being run to break away and found their own base of operations.
Frankly, I would love to pick up where I left off. I put many hundreds, if not thousands of hours into the Top Gear Wiki during 2019 and early 2020.
But the fact of the matter is you do not continue to build a house on shaky foundations that move often; you raze what you've built and start over in a new location. In that same vein, I cannot, in good faith, work on a wiki where the service is known to suddenly and drastically change its TOS on a whim. They even closed the Polandball Wiki over completely baseless claims of "racism", for God's sake. When you can't even enjoy light-hearted fun between anthropomorphized countries and a stereotypical summation of their history without getting shut down, nothing is safe.
As a result, it is with a heavy heart I announce that I must finally officially abandon the Top Gear Wiki on Fandom and step down. But as they say; The King is dead, long live the King. Where the Top Gear Wiki has been declared dead, GearKnob rises in its place.
GearKnob joins an ever-growing list of wiki projects that have moved off of Wikia/Fandom in recent years, alongside the likes of Lost Media Wiki, the Runescape Wiki, Halopedia, and the Fallen London Wiki. More than a year of thought was given to this decision, and the events of mid-2021 made my mind up for me. The reason for most of this deliberation is the decision to start completely from scratch, retaining just the knowledge I learned throughout 2019 and early 2020, in addition to a few scraps I kept on my computer during that time. Though the original Top Gear Wiki never went away, it is no longer something I am actively updating. I am done with it, and truthfully, have been since the end of 2019. The pandemic finally gave me the excuse I needed to ditch it for good. From here on in, I no longer support that wiki in any capacity.
I have zero interest in forking since doing so would reacquaint me with certain individuals I have no need to converse with ever again. I do not need any last minute snark or malicious compliance over the decision to take my ball and go elsewhere. They had more than their fair share of chances to talk to me in a respectable and dignified manner, and they chose not to.
What's more, the wiki's attempted raid by TheAldroid & NootOfRoses proved to me that Fandom's existing security measures were woefully inadequate, and that nothing substantial was in place to combat or prevent vandalism. The fact that the wiki's "owner" had to be alerted to it by a regular user DAYS after the fact shows how much these people actually care about the wikis they were given supervision over, and proved to me that over 90% of the wiki's users and critics were nothing more than dead weight that had to be got rid of for the common good of everyone. I had to go scorched earth and make the wiki I wanted and what I feel people want, not what a consortium of barely-invested meddlers sat on high chairs thinks we want.
This is the short, formal answer. Read ahead for the full one, which is decidedly less formal. Reader discretion is advised.
Simple. To get away from Fandom. More specifically, to break away from the tyranny of its bureaucracy.
Apology to Spongebob456
First and foremost, I guess I'm kind of sorry (lol) to Chris, the unfortunate poor sod who had the misfortune of being assigned to supervise the Top Gear Wiki.
I tried my hardest to work with him, I really did.
But if I'm being completely honest, I never wanted to work with this person. It's not that I didn't like him, it's just that I thought when I took over the wiki, I would be left alone to do my own thing. I was perfectly fine dealing with everything myself. I had a clear vision for the wiki, and Chris was really just an extra barrier at the end of the day. Normally, when you're the admin of a website, the host doesn't typically turn around and say "Oh, you answer to this guy now" and sic some untouchable, unbannable super-admin that occasionally pops in and gives random orders on you. That really rubbed me the wrong way, but I was willing to make concessions here and there to keep everything in check. Unfortunately, it just wasn't enough.
I think the biggest problem is that he never really pulled his weight on my wiki. He assisted a few times, diagnosed a couple issues that I probably would not have been able to find otherwise and helped to program in some nice features, but never stuck around to make a page or two, or even facelift some. That's all I would have asked for. He just seems to have received ownership due to his subject of expertise being TV series without any real desire to actually have said ownership in the first place. When you give one guy over-reaching influence over all TV-themed wikis, how do you expect it to go?
That said, I don't actually hate the guy, and most of this was just 2 years worth' of pent-up venting. If Spongebob456/Chris is actually passionate about Top Gear and wishes to join this project, he's more than welcome to. I harbour no ill will towards him. In the event he does choose to join, he would be treated as a regular member and only given a higher rank based on merit.
Before I proceed any further, a special shout-out to Tupka217 and Fandyllic. Without the unwanted input of these two imbeciles, I never would have found the desire or motivation to go about things my own way. Now I no longer have to deal with self-important morons like them. A win for all parties involved, in the sense I can finally get on with what they have helped to delay for over 2 years.
In fact, since the latter of those seems to have a pre-established history of being a histrionic windbag with the maturity of a teenager, Mr. Kinoshita will automatically earn himself a permanent ban should he decide to join, simply for existing. I do not need egos like his on here, EVER.
What's wrong with Fandom?
An awful lot of things. In past years, these could easily be overlooked, but as time has continued to go on, the situation has only deteriorated.
- No quality control.
By far, the #1 issue with Fandom is that it has essentially commodified the MediaWiki software; anyone and everyone can set up a wiki without questioning whether or not they should. Underage and otherwise-incompetent users are using MW as though it were a toy. For every well-sourced, intricate wiki out there, there's another 100 that just use endlessly copy-pasted templates with broken links and minimal content with frequent typos and improper capitalisation. There is also nothing in Fandom's adaptation of MediaWiki that deals with plagiarism - even comprehensive wikis like the Hot Wheels Wiki has a history page that is ripped straight from Wikipedia almost verbatim.
Furthermore, the community itself is a laughing stock of human incompetence - just take a quick glance at Community Central on any given day and marvel at the displays of ineptitude from clueless bureaucrats, admins and contributors who have seemingly never used a MediaWiki-derived website in their life, alongside petty squabbles, 90% of the time for things they did themselves.
- Abolition of power structure.
Fandom can claim otherwise all day long, but the fact of the matter is for a good decade or so, admins were perceived as the "owners" of their respective Wiki and commanded respect, as they did not get that position by doing nothing. By stating on the official Wikipedia article that "wikis are also not owned by their founders, nor does the founder's opinion carry more weight in disagreements than any other user's opinion" is a MASSIVE slap in the face, and basically implies that a troll, spammer, or complete numpty who can barely write a plain-text article should have the same input in the way a wiki is run as the admin who tirelessly works on accurately documenting and researching their articles and extensively designing templates. No, just no. That's not the way the world works. The village idiot should not be able to overrule the monarchy.
- Poor security track record on the whole.
Wikia/Fandom's security history is among the worst for websites of its calibre; if you take a look through their history, you'll find that they never fix a glaring security fault until it's been abused 1000 times.
- Horrendous, intrusive advertisements, many of which come from Fandom itself.
It's one thing for a bad actor on AdSense, another thing entirely for the wiki's own host to ruin the experience. It's like keying your own car; why would you do it? The worst ones were the pop-up quizzes that asked you random questions about unrelated pop culture. And you can forget about trying to use Fandom on a mobile device, that's all I'll say on that matter.
- Fandom's continued insistence that it is somehow more than just a wiki host, reinforced by the name change from "Wikia" and their flavour-of-the-month new additions (which were almost always colossal flops).
The worst part about this particular reason is that when Fandom wants something, no matter how poorly-received they are by the community, they'll pretend to listen, give a few weeks/months grace so that most of the original critics forget about it, then force a lightly modified version of that poorly-received change on everyone before anyone has time to mount any resistance to it. That was the case with FandomDesktop, where they waited 2 whole years after the universal rejection of the horrifically bad "Community Builder" in 2019.
P.S. The fact they had to reopen a "Wikia.org" URL for wikis of a serious nature is a shining example of the website's hubris in full effect, lest the Cambodian Genocide "fandom" ever started to pick up steam.
- Fandom's increased control and uniformity over pre-existing wikis.
Ranging from the outright banning of large wiki logos, to the "simple" Infobox design which was a royal pain in the ass to use, couldn't do basic infobox functions from the visual editor alone, and wasted shitloads of page space, all the way through to FandomDesktop. Until the introduction of the latter, wikis could still look somewhat decent provided you were willing to put in the hours in .css and template editing to negate Fandom's garbage as much as possible. FD took a big crap over that. Now, wikis hosted on Fandom all look the same; bloated and ugly with absolutely ginormous infoboxes and tables. The font size is too big and takes up too much of the screen, as it is designed for use on mobile devices. All we wanted was an update to the version of MediaWiki so that we could use more extensions and less proprietary junk.
What's even worse is I have visited this website on my phone and apart from a minor glitch involving the positioning of the first few words in articles with infoboxes (which I do not intend to fix unless someone knows what's causing it since this is being designed as a desktop-oriented website), Fandom's own mobile phone interface is actually inferior to the one MediaWiki natively provides. So what exactly was FD supposed to achieve?
- General E-Drama on Fandom as a whole
Along with Representatives and Specialists, Fandom has gone from being a generally peaceful community with little in the way of hierarchy or power structure to a group of the same individuals that seem to want to control the site from within and kick up some of the biggest flamewars in history if they don't get their way. The damage control over FandomDesktop thus far has been hilarious, and believing that its forced implementation was met with anything other than major polarisation at best and overwhelmingly negative reception at worst has their head firmly lodged up Sannse's ass. It works decently on smaller devices. It does not translate to a "desktop" experience, and the fact that Fandom has the gall to call it as such is astonishing.
- Finally, if one thing is clear, it's that Fandom does not give a single damn about the people who actually use it for its intended purpose. They will chew you up and spit you out at a moment's hesitance.
In late 2019, I noticed that a wiki for GEICO car insurance had been (and was continually being) extensively vandalised by an underaged, unregistered user identifying himself as "Thomas Lau", most of the pages referring to fictional crossover crap that didn't exist. Attempting to alert Fandom staff to this vandalism was met with, and I do paraphrase here, the likes of "How can you be sure it's being vandalised?" and "If you're so insistent, go do it yourself."
So I did. After having my initial adoption attempt rejected by an absolute colostomy bag by the name of CzechOut (despite fulfilling all criteria AND having nearly a decade's worth of experience to back it up), I finally gained admin access, only for a random user to immediately enable something that prevented unregistered users from making any further edits and negating my job before I even had the chance to start it. Had I known about this, I would not have put in the effort. At no point did any of the staff tell me that you could do this, even if you weren't in a position of authority to do so, and the fact that there were people working on Fandom's staff that appeared to genuinely not know about it was quite frankly alarming. In addition, the site's adoption process is irredeemably awful (a person with 1000 contributions over the course of a year is inarguably better for the role than a newbie with just 14 made on a daily basis), and the fact it can be arbitrarily rejected is even worse. It's really bad that a website that tries to portray itself as professionally as possible is staffed by some of the least professional people on the planet.
Example of Fandom Admin power abuse
After about 5 minutes of searching, I found this little example from 2021 that is a PERFECT demonstration of how Fandom's staff acts on a regular basis.
From what I can gather, this user did nothing wrong, and that the admin, Kimberton, whoever they are, either made an incompetent error and believed that the user's legitimate addition was not made in good faith, or maliciously abused admin powers simply to virtue-signal. Either way, Kimberton was in the wrong, as basic research will indeed show that the character's middle name is in fact "Shanaynay Martin Luther King Boulevard", as "racist" as it may seem to a kneejerk reactionary like Kimberton.
I am a staunch advocate for apolitical entertainment, as I do not believe the topic has its place in media, and that stretches to the documentation of said media. I will keep my personal political views firmly out of everything I do in a professional manner, but the fact that decade+ veterans can be banned on a whim for holding the wrong views by an online lynch mob seriously scares me, and is not the sort of environment I wish to reside any longer than I physically have to.
A Human Tragedy: The Ballad of Owli Powli
Largely due to Fandom's steadfast ignorance towards "fanon" wikis, which are as I'm sure you'll agree, a MASSIVE waste of bandwidth, Fandom sets an extremely poor standard for the rest of the site. Why bother making something interesting and well-researched when you can just make crap up in your juvenile brain for HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of pages?
The worst part about this is that it invites people who do not belong onto otherwise good, factual wikis and tarnishing them with their bullshit,
An example of this is the Midtown Madness 2 Wiki, a wiki that was otherwise about a real video game. Around 2014/15, a user by the name of "Owli Powli" somehow got admin rights on this wiki, seemingly without any prior vetting, and immediately set about vandalising the main page with a statement about his non-existent sequel, presenting it as though it were an official follow-up title, and then LOCKING the page so that only Admins could edit and remove this blatantly false information. As of 2022 this vandalism remains.
For those who don't know (I don't blame you), Owli is one of Wikia's most infamous members. He was banned more times than you can count, constantly raided wikis with sockpuppets, and was overall a general nuisance.
Initially, the MM2 community believed Owli's claims, since he was a relative unknown, but the cracks eventually began to form. By 2016, he was no closer to making his game than the initial announcement.
He eventually attempted to seize control of the Midnight Club Wiki, continuously harrassing a well-respected and proven member of the community called Sajmon14. Owli would CONSTANTLY make excuses as to why he wasn't further ahead in game development, until Sajmon finally pushed him, by which point, by Owli's own volition, he began posting "concept art" drawings that looked like a 5 year old had drawn them. He also clearly displayed no knowledge on how games worked, or so much as the basics on how to make one. Owli continued to try justifying himself, digging a bigger and bigger hole until eventually he gave up. After this debacle, he changed his aspirations up to a Mario Kart clone centred around the long-dead internet meme Weegee. He went cold about a year or so after that, but his destructive path through Wikia remains to this day.
The EXTREMELY worrying thing I found out is that even after seemingly being IP banned, Owli still reveals ambitions of making his non-existent game from time to time. Though the username is gone, since having been deleted, I can tell this is him. No-one else in this day and age gives a crap about the Weegee meme. His idea has now switched genres completely to a fighting game, and he clearly has no more clue as to how games are actually made or how engines work, judging from his posts. He thinks he can just grab the engine from an off-the-shelf copy of a video game and begin working on it as though it were open source.
People like Owli are part and parcel of a service that does not curate its userbase or wikis and appropriately merit its harder-working members. There are likely hundreds, if not thousands of people like him that would have been kicked off a long time ago.
How did this happen?
Although I only took control of the Top Gear Wiki in Spring of 2019, much changed in a short period of time. Here's a basic recollection of the most important points.
- The Wiki itself had been orphaned several times in its decade+ of existence up to that point.
As a result, many pages were written at a time when even major pages hosted on Wikipedia looked like a Middle Schooler's rushed literature report. Many pages were low quality with poor, broken, or non-existent formatting. Even a year in, my job was far from done.
- The Wiki only had one semi-active user, SennaPerformante, who would disappear for a few weeks at a time, before reappearing with low quality edits that almost always had to be tweaked.
Every time I thought he'd gone for good, he'd re-emerge a few weeks later and mess a few more things up. It was like trying to babysit the toddler relative of someone you didn't really talk to anymore, but felt obligated to look after. He had a keen spirit, but was just perhaps a little too keen and lacking where it mattered most. Like Spongebob456, he is welcome to join this Wiki, but he will be beholden to much more strict rules. If he were to continue with the crap he pulled over on Fandom, he will be shown the door. Language is no excuse for a lack of familiarity with basic formatting and templates.
- Just a couple of months into my tenure as wiki owner, Wiki Representatives and Specialists emerged.
With their announcement, Fandom told us, that under no uncertain terms, Admins were no longer the "owners" of the wikis we curated, that we were merely replaceable "caretakers", and that these people would become the "true" owners. I found this assertion gravely insulting, and as the weeks passed with no further news on this, I hoped that this was not mandatory or that they'd somehow miss the TG Wiki due to its relative inactivity compared to the typical fare of Doctor Who and Marvel Wikis. Alas...
- Immediately, my experience with the service began to worsen.
Chris, the Representative assigned to my wiki, as I've stated before, wasn't really doing much. Admittedly this may be due to his ridiculously wide responsibilities preventing him from really working on a single wiki, but even so, is perhaps endemic of a bigger problem where Wikia/Fandom simply does not have enough qualified members to police and curate its many wikis. Something I would have gladly signed up for had Fandom put such a program in place, with or without financial backing.
In addition, I would also be pestered to include "newer" content (i.e. post-CHM Top Gear), even though I was happy working on documenting older, more obscure content like The Car's The Star, and the low page views on post-2015 Top Gear content compared to say, The Grand Tour did not justify expansion on content that a lot of people don't watch and has otherwise comprehensive analysis already available on the internet.
- There is no point trying to fight your way to the surface when the same hands that need to pull you up are the ones actively holding you down.
I kept to myself and got on with it as much as I could. And yet, almost every time I asked for help in Community Central, I would almost never get a straight answer and would either be questioned or insulted for asking such a thing in the first place. Half the time I did bother to communicate with Spongebob456 about my intentions, it would end up being rejected by those he was in communication with. Take this thread again for instance. I presented a clear-cut argument as to why the Top Gear Wiki should have been expanded to incorporate similar shows, using the Professional Wrestling Wiki as an example, and not only was it shot down, but they did so in an extremely unprofessional manner.
To that end I say fuck that shit. I do not bust my back working on templates, pages, images etc. just to have my hard work insulted. If that's the way Fandom's staff wishes to act, then they'll just have to deal with the consequences.
What did you decide to do?
In the end, there was only one decision to make. It was a tough one, but it was a necessary one. I had to start afresh. Start all over again, grab some of my templates, and just remake everything, but better, and the way I want them to look.
In hindsight, I honestly believe that this was an inevitability.
First of all, aside from SennaPerformante's occasional additions, the wiki was a one-man affair for most of the time I worked on it. There was realistically no way I could have enforced any form of 24/7 security. All other big wikis had a team of mods and admins working around the clock to make sure if a bad-faith edit was made, the culprit would be punished within a matter of minutes. The Top Gear Wiki just had me. At any moment, a group of trolls could have raided hundreds of pages over the course of a few hours and I would have been powerless to stop it, and this indeed occurred in May 2020. This is a massive security flaw which Fandom has nothing in place to combat, as you saw above.
And finally, following TPG Capital's buyout of the service, there have been constant talks about "official" wikis, which have since become a reality, for instance in the Dexter Wiki, which has Showtime's involvement.
For me, this is a MAJOR no-no.
Having official ties between a website and an intellectual property means that you are typically limited in the ways you can talk about a particular piece of media. For instance, I would not be able to call the 2016 onwards series of "Top Gear" a steaming pile of dogshit buoyed by bought reviews and inflated viewing figures, endlessly reheating a long-obsolete programming format that should have been put to pasture long ago. And yet, here I can.
What are the benefits?
There are quite a few benefits to self-hosting a wiki as opposed to relying on Fandom.
- Full control over operation of the wiki and its member base.
User accounts can ONLY be created by communicating via Discord. Doing it this way makes it 99.9% secure to outsiders who do not belong.
- Full control and free will to organise information however I choose, without any reliance on outside interference.
I no longer have to wait for a wiki sysop to get out of bed and enable a feature that is standard on virtually every other MediaWiki service in existence. In addition, I can work on the content that I want to, not what some smoothbrained midwit wants.
- A better outside image.
Let's face it, Wikia/Fandom has picked up quite a stigma over the past 15 years. No matter how well you write your wiki, fact check etc., it will never get the recognition it deserves over an independent one.
- No bullcrap.
I do not need to hear how Capeshit Film #4721 is the best in the franchise, nor do I need to hear which characters in GOT deserved to die the most. I do not need my wiki's search function advertising the Genshin Impact Wiki. This website is for Top Gear and similar content only.
- Not needing to self-censor.
Though the problem rarely reared its ugly head, there are certain things that you cannot talk about on Fandom, which prevent a writer from accurately conveying depicted events. Starting up independently places this responsibility in the hands of the web host, not of the website.
So, how does this work now?
It's simple. This is a brand new wiki that will eventually have a website-come-blog attached to it.
My first course of action will be to make pages for every single pre-2002 episode and series of Top Gear, along with all its associated spin-offs, as there is currently no online resource that does so. Nik will work on covering Best Motoring and other similar Japanese programmes.
On the whole, we aim to get detailed pages for every episode of 1977 - 2001 format Top Gear, early Fifth Gear, 2002 - 2015 format Top Gear, and The Grand Tour done in the first couple years. Eventually, we intend to move on to more car programmes and their associated publications (Motorweek/MotorTrend for instance). The end goal is to have a wiki that celebrates automotive journalism in all its forms, not just one or two programmes' worth. This is a big reason as to why I left Fandom above any other; the ship had just unfortunately sailed on making a general car show wiki a few years before I turned my attention to TGFW, and I did not want to fight the staff longer than I felt necessary.
Hopefully the Top Gear Wiki at Fandom will continue devolving into a lawless hellhole and people will learn to put quality over an established name. People will begin visiting this wiki of their own accord, and it will naturally grow and expand over time. This, I feel, will be a valuable lesson in humility to those I have mentioned in a negative light. Don't push people around who have no time for your bullshit.
Any last words?
Aside from what I've already iterated, the very existence of this wiki is 90% down to Fandom's administration and intended path. I will not be coming back. Any other projects of mine will also be transferred to the same host in due time as well.
On the whole, Fandom more than had their fair share of chances. More than I should have allowed, in retrospect. The only people who have themselves to blame are those I have already mentioned, along with the rest of their ilk. I can now work on this wiki, in peace, with who I want, how I want, and without worrying about a single damn thing. And to be honest, I would have done this a lot sooner if I had the money.
It is a massive sigh of relief that I can wake up every morning knowing that this actually is my wiki, and that no-one can take it away from me. No-one can berate me in the face of my hard work, nor deride what I have built.
And as for Tupka, Fandyllic, CzechOut and all those other bottomfeeding wasters?
They have no power here, and they never will.