Online decentralization and Wikiwrimo

If you know me at all, you probably know about Wikiwrimo, my passion project of the past thirteen years. It’s been cited by sources all over the internet, the folks at NaNo HQ use it, and I’m pretty sure Wikiwrimo has helped me get at least one job.

If you don’t know this, you’re probably in that very large circle of people who play my secret Pokemon Go hobby but somehow don’t know about my less secret hobby of NaNoWriMo.

It’s a weird secret to keep because in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t worked that much on the wiki in over a year. I mentioned this last year; I don’t need the money to keep the site afloat. I need help.

I’ve touched on the topic before, both in my 2021 post asking for Wikiwrimo help and in the “What has happened here?” thread on the NaNoWriMo forums in late 2022.

Now, the biggest challenge to running Wikiwrimo isn’t help. There’s a wider issue of decentralization online that is not unique to NaNoWriMo, and you’ve probably noticed it in every online community you’re in.


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.


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?