The Future of Wikiwrimo: I Need Your Help

Wikiwrimo has come a long way from its first edit almost a decade ago. What started out as an longtime unemployed recession grad’s side project has evolved into a 2,000+ page labor of love documenting almost everything about NaNoWriMo’s history, culture, and lore. Back then, much of NaNoWriMo history and culture got wiped every year, and it was easy to lose track of what year such-and-such happened. Past winner certificates and icons. Word crawls. Regions.

It truly is a labor of love. I pay for the site’s hosting and have made over half the edits on the wiki. To be honest I’m a little surprised that number isn’t significantly higher since it feels higher sometimes (although it could be thanks to spam edits). I’ve dug through the Wayback Machine, old emails, old forum posts, personal photos, Discord servers, social media posts, annual reports, tax information, and so much more to collect any and all NaNoWriMo-related information.

I don’t say all this to complain, but to point out a few problems with this setup.

One, the site was designed to be a community wiki for anyone to edit, not just my views on NaNoWriMo. Yes, I can edit anyone’s edits, but anyone else can edit mine. One of the things I made sure to mention during my virtual world tour if people recognized my name was that yes, I’m the person behind Wikiwrimo, and yes they can add to it, but I understand if they wait until December. This leads to another question lurking in the back of my mind that I’ll leave unaddressed for now: who else cares?

Two, there’s no Plan B. As the pandemic has shown, every plan needs a Plan B. Wikiwrimo currently has no Plan B in case I’m hit by a bus or am otherwise incapacitated. If something were to happen to me, the site could die too. That’s a decade’s worth of research, writing, and passion down the drain. It would potentially be recoverable through the Wayback Machine, and I do keep some backups, but there’s no human backup with the knowledge. I am the weakest link to this project, and that’s a dangerous position to be in.

Three, I’m drowning. As I’ve talked about before, there’s a lot to juggle and only so much time. Productivity experts will parrot out that you make time for the things you want to do, and that’s true to an extent. Like being frugal with money, there’s only so much you can do to make the best of your time after you’ve prioritized the big expenses (or time sinks). I make time for my work because it brings in money, we’re stuck in a capitalist regime, and I have financial goals but no Bank of Mom and Dad to lean on. I make time for the wiki because I’ve poured over half my life into the NaNoWriMo community and believe the site has become the best resource out there for Wrimos to learn about NaNo’s history and terms. Heck, Wikiwrimo becomes a second part-time job for a month or two each year when I’m updating all 669 (as of 2020) regions with the previous year’s MLs and regional stats.

In my recent Wikiwrimo adventuring, I noticed that a lot of articles haven’t been updated since 2016 or 2017. Coincidentally, this is around the time I started working more and acquiring a more active social life all around the same time, practically running myself thin to do everything and somehow failing at everything at the same time. I’ve set aside my own goals, like finishing my novel edits, to take a break after burning myself out after marathon editing sessions. This isn’t a sustainable lifestyle, nor is it a sustainable way to run a community site.

So here’s where I ask: I need help.

I genuinely appreciate everyone who had made the other half of the non-spam contributions, even if it felt small to you. Everything you added was something I didn’t have to hunt down and add myself. You are what make the wiki and the wider NaNo community what it is. Thank you.

In order for the wiki to be a growing and thriving resource that remains sustainable, it needs more than one person making the bulk of the content. I don’t expect anyone else to pour as much time into this as I have, but the past few years have made clear that I can’t do this alone anymore.

So what can you do? Here are a few things.

If you see something that’s out of date, update it! All you have to do is create an account.

Tell your friends about the site. Your ML. Your fellow Wrimo friends.

Check out the to-do list and see what you can add. It’s woefully incomplete but it’s something.

Check out the incomplete articles and see what you can add.

Check out articles like the main NaNoWriMo article and see if you can flesh out the history section or anything else where the article looks like it just ends several years ago.

Hopefully, we can build a site that can live long-term and work for the wider Wrimo community. Together.

Wikiwrimo’s Regional Directory Challenges

I founded Wikiwrimo almost seven years ago when all I had going for me was some spare time on my hands. A year or two in, I introduced the regional directory as a way to keep track of regional histories, from MLs to stats. While Wikiwrimo’s contributors and I have gathered a lot of information on 600+ NaNo regions, there’s still a long way to go on a project that may never be complete. There’s only so much one person can add to Wikiwrimo about regional histories and cultures; that’s why one of the biggest things you can do for Wikiwrimo is write a little bit about your region, especially if you’re not in my region.

Chances are good that I am the only person outside of NaNo HQ interested in such minutiae of maintaining this directory, so writing all this information down is mostly for me to outline all the challenges bouncing around inside my head while figuring out next steps to take. But hey, maybe you’ll find it of interest too. Continue reading

The NaNoWriMo Pre-Season

For many years my NaNoWriMo season started in October. Since the NaNo website relaunched in early October (and one year in late September), this was a normal thing to happen. I would get excited over the site relaunch a few weeks in advance, then pounce the forums when the site relaunches in its clean, sometimes redesigned glory. And then I’d take over the forums or lament the fact that I couldn’t immediately, as was the case a couple of years.

But as the years passed and I started running Wikiwrimo, I found myself getting excited for NaNo and getting ready for it much sooner. This is normal for some folks too; after all, they may come up with a great idea and start planning it. While I’ve come up with some great ideas months in advance, my pantsing ways have led to coming up with ideas closer and closer to NaNo.

Running Wikiwrimo has contributed the most to the pre-season sneaking up on me earlier and earlier. The site relaunch every October means a scramble to gather everything possible about previous NaNos during the months before the relaunch happens, lest that content get lost forever. “Forever” may be an exaggeration; after all, the Internet Archive is a great resource, and sometimes the NaNo website provides the official archives. But the archives aren’t currently available, and for some years (2004, I’m looking at you), they really are gone forever. Not to mention the Internet Archive simply doesn’t archive some pages, and some pages are hard to access.

This leads to the best solution I’ve found: archive all that content before it goes down. This usually means in August or September so I’m not overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done the week before. Wikiwrimo can easily become a second job this time of year if I let it. And let’s not forget all the new info that arrives come site relaunch: new forum moderators, new regions, other new site features that need Wikiwrimo mentions… If I’m going to do Wikiwrimo well and still get excited about NaNo, my NaNo season needs to start months in advance in order to avoid burnout. Luckily this excitement is an organic one, probably because my love of NaNo and desire to archive all the things tend to feed off each other.

Long-time MLs can probably relate; they’ve led their regions for long enough that they know the routine by now and start planning months in advance. They may plan by booking venues for events, getting items for goody bags, and getting prizes for their Wrimos. Starting to plan in October is a guarantee for burnout and stress; it’s why MLs now get accepted earlier. This is especially important for international MLs so they can order ML goodies from the store and get them in time for the kickoff party. (Trust me on this; I’m a former ML.) The planning can feed the excitement, which can then feed the desire to keep planning (or in my case, archiving).

And then there are the other features I keep coming up with, and there’s simply not enough time to implement everything, not to mention a few other NaNo-related archiving projects I have up my sleeve. I like my current job, but creating everything I have in mind for Wikiwrimo could easily become a second job (or at least a part-time job) for awhile.

This is why I start talking about NaNo so early… all year long, at times. If I don’t, none of this would get done.

NaNo’s almost here plus a fun Wikiwrimo fact

NaNoWriMo relaunch is going to happen any day now. I’m so excited I’ll burst. My plot (the first one, anyway) is ready. I’m not MLing this year, so in theory this should leave more time for the community and the wiki. Everything is ready.

Well, almost. Less ready is Wikiwrimo. I had a very long to-do list, but the more I do from that list, the more items that creep up that need to be done. Not everything is going to be done by launch time, and I should just accept this. So should my wrists, actually. They haven’t been happy with me lately. Don’t they know that now isn’t the time to rebel?

To tide you over, here’s a fun pic straight from Google Analytics of what the October/November Wikiwrimo stats looked like for 2010 and 2011. 2010 is in orange; 2011 is in blue. That extended peak in 2011 is from Wikiwrimo’s stint on NaNo’s front page. I believe the 2010 peak is when NaNo mentioned Wikiwrimo on Facebook or Twitter. Not sure which.

Wikiwrimo 2010 vs. 2011 stats

Who’s ready for NaNo?

Now, a NaNo archivist geek moment thanks to the Wayback Machine

One of the challenges of running Wikiwrimo is researching all the material that happened in past years. The NaNoWriMo website has a site archive, but the archive isn’t complete due to some of the archives being lost and the most recent years being missing. The Wayback Machine at wasn’t much help either, for the archive was way behind and didn’t have much to offer in the past few years from NaNo.

Until now.

I was looking up the 2009 article featuring YWP forum moderator Cylithria Dubois on the NaNo front page and couldn’t find it online thanks to the site wipe. (Even though what you see gets wiped every year, like the forums, the news archives generally remain. However, this year almost everything apparently got wiped in the transfer to Ruby on Rails.) Since this was an important citation for the article, I turned to the Wayback Machine even though I knew the archive might not work. And then it did. So I tried for the main NaNo website, and sure enough, there’s a NaNo page from June. Hooray! This will make researching for Wikiwrimo so much easier. There are even pages (though I don’t know how many since I haven’t clicked too thoroughly) for the lost year of 2004.

Researching things for Wikiwrimo just got so much easier.

Wikiwrimo has finally grown up

Soon after the new NaNoWriMo site launched last night, I found myself on there, refreshing intermittently while doing other things.

A proper review of the site is in the works for the next day or two. I have to give the new site time to get some of the old features back.

But there’s one very big thing from the relaunch.

Wikiwrimo is the very first site featured in the Procrastination Station… meaning it’s on the front page of NaNoWriMo right now.

Oh. My. Baty. Threads I’ve started have been featured there, but never a website I built. Then again, Wikiwrimo is the first NaNo-related site I’ve built. Still, seeing it on the front page of NaNo is ridiculously awesome. I BUILT that site, after all. My Wikiwrimo is all grown up.

Wikiwrimo is more open than ever

I love being a geek, but there’s one problem with it. The problem is that I’m up at 3am because I was fixing geeky things. Here the geeky things were things on the Wikiwrimo site, hammering them into shape before Nano season really gets going. This is particularly important as one huge feature has been broken for months and I never noticed. Oops.

Which brings me to the big thing. You can now just sign up and edit! Just create an account and start editing the wiki. We’ll see how much spam the site gets as a result, but I do have a few measures in place to prevent some of it with more ideas in case the spam gets bad. The big weapons haven’t been brought out yet.

So get to editing! And especially find your region and write about it. I can’t write about all the regions, and you know yours better than I do. Even a few sentences are better than nothing; those few sentences can encourage more folks to edit the page to a great article. So what are you waiting for…inspiration?

Introducing the Wikiwrimo regional directory

I hinted at this on Twitter over the past week or so, but it’s finally ready: the Great Wikiwrimo Regional Directory.

What is this, you ask? Wikiwrimo’s mission is to archive the history and culture of NaNoWriMo because so much of that gets wiped with the forum wipe every year. But there’s so much culture in each NaNo region, and there’s not much of a place in the main wiki to put all those regions. Sure, I could make a page for each region, but that’s a lot of regions, and consistency in region formatting in the article names could be an issue. So I sat down and figured out a way to make contributing a region to Wikiwrimo easy and finally came up with the current structure.

Here’s how it works. Visit the main region article, and navigate to your region. If you live in the United States, it may be, for example, United States::Georgia::Atlanta, so you’d click on the United States page, then the Georgia page, and then click the red Atlanta link and start editing. International regions require fewer clicks because there are fewer regions.

Just one thing: Not all the Elsewhere:: regions are up yet, partially because I’m hoping there will be some regional reorganization come October when the site relaunches. Mexico, Israel, Central and South America, Russia, I’m looking at you in particular. If you live in a part of the world whose region you can’t find and you want to create it (or you just want to create it), then use your own good judgment. Redirects can happen later.

You should request an account before editing, of course. It would also be a good idea to look through the Wikiwrimo guide to editing for some tips, particularly the section on regional pages.

Happy editing!

Happy birthday, Wikiwrimo

Somewhere between a year and a half and two years ago the idea of a NaNoWriMo wiki popped into my mind. I thought of all the newbies who had questions about NaNo that didn’t show up in the FAQ and the things that only Wrimos would know about and thought of how great it would be if there were a place where all these questions would be answered. At the time I was still struggling to figure out WordPress, so I thought running a wiki that someone else would be using would be outside my skill set, even though I had plenty of time on my hands to launch the thing.

So I put it off. And put it off. And put it off some more.

Around June last year I told myself, “You know what? No one else is going to do this, even though I’ve already voiced my desire to build such a thing.” So I set aside a weekend to figure out MediaWiki and what I’d need to know to get started and got to work on what is now Wikiwrimo. MediaWiki turned out to be much easier to configure than I thought thanks to all the documentation out there; for comparison purposes, I broke WordPress more often than MediaWiki, and I broke MediaWiki in a more than minor way only once.

Right now Wikiwrimo stands at 676 total pages, which includes uploaded files, talk pages, and redirects. That number will likely go significantly up before NaNo season gets here because of some big projects I have up my sleeve. Wikiwrimo’s pages have been viewed 106,543 times in the past year and edited 1,715 times. According to Google Analytics, traffic is up almost 90% over the past month, something I can thank Camp NaNoWriMo for if the searches that bring visitors to Wikiwrimo are any indicator.

What’s coming up for Wikiwrimo? Lots of things! I can think of lots of pages off the top of my head that aren’t complete or may never be complete. (Lists, I’m looking at you.) Then there’s the very long list of wanted articles that still needs to be written, along with at least one huge project up my sleeve whose implementation I hope to have figured out and ready for human editing by NaNo season.

Here’s to another year of Wikiwrimo!

Wikiwrimo press?

Day Two word count: 25,157 words.

Things of note: I am currently on page six of the NaNoWriMo author word count list. That is, if you search for all the authors and sort by word count, I’m currently on page six. This won’t last for long, though, so I need to get myself in gear to maintain this, or better yet, write my way to page five.

But today I’m here to talk about Wikiwrimo. Over the past month there have been several spikes of activity, mostly when the URL appeared on NaNo’s Twitter stream (which has happened three times), the NaNoWordSprints Twitter account (quite a few times for the word war article), and the first page of a forum post that was featured in the Procrastination Station.

That was nothing compared to the spike on October thirty-first. The NaNoWriMo website was slow and continued to be slow over the next two days thanks to being featured everywhere on the Internet, including being the number one trending topic on Twitter. I tweeted about Wikiwrimo asking what needed to be there, the fine folks at NaNo retweeted it, and the spike in my site stats that resulted makes the rest of the month look empty in comparison. Okay, there’s a small spike, but it looks so lonely.

Wikiwrimo’s existence is starting to get recognized, though. A bitter author for the Salon wrote an anti-NaNoWriMo article arguing that people shouldn’t do NaNoWriMo because there need to be more readers out there. She fails to see that the intersection of the group of readers and the group of writers is nonempty; that is, there are people who are readers and writers. In fact, the threads on the forums about books are extremely popular. But this part stuck out:

In that spirit, NaNoWriMo has spawned countless tutorials, tip lists, FAQs, wikis and Twitter feeds, all designed to cheer the contestants on to their own personal finish line.

If you read that sentence carefully you’d notice the mention of a wiki. If she did her research for this article, she’d know that NaNoWriMo did in fact inspire a wiki. Even if I disagree with just about everything in this article, I’m amused at the mention of a wiki in it, even if it’s not linked. Maybe people will start looking for it.

The second part of Wikiwrimo press comes from an article I was quoted in. North Carolina State University’s Technician featured an article on NaNo, and a friend who attends passed along an email requesting a quote to me. Yes, that article has my real name in it. Yes, I am amused at being the community manager at Wikiwrimo because that’s actually a non-writing dream job of mine. Of course, I could call myself anything at Wikiwrimo: founder, administrator, tech person, grand poobah, and it’d all be true. I couldn’t call myself a dictator, though. Wikiwrimo is anything but a dictatorship despite any executive decisions I make.

This means it’s time to make a Wikiwrimo press page, known as “sites besides NaNoWriMo that acknowledge Wikiwrimo’s existence.”