Non-Canon Submission Council[edit]

LRichardson, maybe you and I can craft some sort of submissions 'council' for essays, home rules (which could incorporate custom equipment), etc., where the submission had to meet a certain minimum standard of involvement (registration, maybe?), storage (on a user page, until approved) and formatting (by the poster). --Revanche (talk|contribs) 19:27, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

So, if I am following you correctly, the idea behind a council is to have a sort of "moderated" area of the wiki for such things. In pondering things for a bit I sort of hashed out some talking points. The fundamental question such a council would be asking is "Should this item be included in an encyclopedic style reference about the canonical Battletech universe?" More to the point, is the material of the sort that the people who seek out as a reference are going to be interested in reading? If it is not in line with what people who come here are looking for then it probably ought to be moved or deleted.
In trying to sort through what sort of rubric to apply to non canon pages a few attributes to examine come to mind:
  • Nature - What basic kind of article is it? Essay? Opinion? Rule? Design? Reference? Of course this implies the question "Is this kind of article in keeping with Sarna's goals and character?
  • Tone - Is the item written in a "scholarly" or at least encyclopedic manner or is it a narrative or anecdote?
  • Voice - Similar to tone but has to do with how apparent the author is in the writing. Is it clear whether it is a single author or is it simply direct statements.
  • Quality - Firstly, is it reasonably well written? Also, is the item something that a reader of Sarna is likely to consider using or adapting? Does it add to the readers understanding or appreciation of the games or the universe contained within it?
  • Format - Is the article at least reasonably closely formatted to conform with the rest of the articles here or does it require significant editor attention before it would be a useful item?
I have a lot more detailed notions of what each of these things mean and what desirable characteristics in each of these attributes might entail, but at the least I would say that a non canon article should have to meet a basic threshold of suitability in each of these areas to be considered for inclusion. Most of the observations someone might make when evaluating the suitability of an item here fall into one of those categories, so this would sort of be the top level of the rubric. Before I go too much further with this, I just want to ask if is this the sort of thing you were thinking of? -- LRichardson 00:27, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
I think you not only followed me, but ramped it up a step.
First off, before we get too far, I think it would be good to port Frabby's addition to the fanon discussion -the 'Definition of Fanon' section- to this discussion. Added here:
Because it is a recurring issue in the discussions, here's an attempt at explaining what we suggest be removed from BTW and what will not be affected:

We seek to migrate (only) original Fanon. "Fanon" is synonymous with "Fan Fiction" in this context.

Fanon/Fan Fiction affected by the move
  • Fan Fiction stories and IC articles with purely fanmade content
  • Custom designs ('Mechs, vehicles, fighters, etc.)
  • Custom rules, House rules, fan-made weapons
  • Custom merc or house units
  • images belonging exclusively to such articles
Not affected
Me again.
Ok, in the first section ('Fanon'), I've struck out items I think are clear do not fit into our (your's & mine) idea of what is keep worthy, such as fiction. In the second section, all items starting with 'articles' and the download section are outside the purview of our 'submission council' project. That leaves two items:
  • Custom rules, House rules, fan-made weapons
  • Essays (grey area) can see we have some work cut out for us. We have to argue that custom rules, etc. are valued additions and/or essays have their place here. I believe we can fold custom rules, etc, up into essays, as long as we can properly defend the intent to apply clear and appropriate requirements to submissions, as well as the process.
The process discussion is not yet necessary. Your guidance, the "rubric of attributes", is the appropriate place to start.Keep in mind, a large majority of posters on wiki are not self-described writers and/or do not turn out completed products that meet our minimum standards here. For that reason, we'd need to expand upon your basic descriptions of those five attributes. Each of those attributes, when discussed in a policy, can be expanded upon and have examples provided (both sample examples and links to 'live' essays).

LR, I think we can start working on a policy here, jointly. There already exists the BattleTechWiki:Policies, Essays, Procedures & Projects 'policy' page, but I think this project of our's deserves its own page (if accepted by the community). Do you mind starting the shell of the policy here. We can collaborate there and discuss on this talk page.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 21:25, 2 May 2011 (UTC)
Ah, good, you made a page here for this. I will fill in more of my thoughts on those main attributes soon, probably tomorrow. I have a fairly clear idea of what might work, I just wanted to make sure we were thinking in the same direction before running with the ball. -- LRichardson 22:47, 2 May 2011 (UTC)


I'm going to start this off as a sort of wiki article of it's own and leave my own comments in italics like this. Go ahead and edit the text and comment on the changes made.-- LRichardson 22:24, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

So, the base notion here is that for something to be approved for submission the Fanon work would have to be at least satisfactory in each of a number of categories. As mentioned above:

  • Ownership - Author's (or submitter's) level of involvement.
  • Nature - What basic kind of article it is.
  • Tone - The manner in which it is written.
  • Voice - The authorship of the article.
  • Writing Quality - Overall level of literacy shown in writing the article.
  • Content - Whether or not the subject is desirable on the BTW
  • Format - Whether it is up to Sarna standard.
I've added 'Ownership' as a base requirement. It fails to describe the article itself, but I think addresses a necessary requirement for acceptance.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 14:38, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
Makes sense. I've also split writing quality and content up into two dimensions. The reasons for rejecting an article for either would be quite different from the other. All of the dimensions really discuss whether it is a generally desirable item or not, "content" is more specific as to what we mean. -- LRichardson 23:02, 24 May 2011 (UTC)
Some general thoughts: I like and agree with most, maybe all, that's been said here so far. But we're lacking an accurate definition of "Essay" here, somtething that pretty much belongs to the top of the discussion. Ill see if I can narrow it down in the "Content" section. Frabby 07:09, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
The def'n of "Essay" is what is meant to be the focus of the "Format" section, which is yet unwritten. -- LRichardson 19:40, 2 June 2011 (UTC)


Ownership indicates the level of activity the submitter has in the submission process. While the initial author may not be a part of the BTW submission process, the actual essay submitter (acting with the author's approval) must demonstrate a certain level of involvement to ensure a submission meets our standards.

Articles that pass this dimension:

  • Clearly indicate whether this is the editors own work or is authored by another source.
  • Clearly indicates who the original author is.
  • Show that the author has given permission to post the item.
  • Indicates the extent to which third party editing is welcome to the article.
  • Are posted by an editor with a registered account.

Articles that fail this dimension:

  • Are vague whether this is the editors own work or is authored by another source.
  • Do not reveal who the original author is.
  • Do not demonstrate that the author has given permission to post the item.
  • Do not indicate the extent that third party editing is welcome to the article.
  • Are not posted by an editor with a registered account.

A submitter would first post his/her candidate essay on a user's sub-page (i.e. the submitter's own), and then notify the council of the intent to submit on the council's page, with a link to the candidate essay. As the submission process progressed, the submitter must be able to show continual involvement in the process by meeting certain discussion expectations, such as timely responses (within 15 days?), a willingness to provide edits where the council deems necessary, etc. If the submitter is not the original author, he must be able to either show or indicate approval from the author. If the submitter is the author, a statement to that effect must be made. Either indication will be included on the essay.

Submitters must also be registered members of the site, to provide at least one level of responsibility for an article.

I'm trying to prevent 'dump & depart' articles, where the submitter is non-responsive, non-responsible and leaves it up to others to make the required changes. Registration also allows us to contact the submitter via site email.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 14:51, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
Absolutely. Posting here should be about interest, not just simple vanity.-- LRichardson 23:10, 24 May 2011 (UTC)


This addresses the basic type of article it is. The fanon item must fall within the following categories:

  • House rules or rule changes
  • Essays

Items that do not fall in these categories are covered under other Sarna policies.

This seems like it is pretty straightforward. We can add more items to this part of the rubric if they come up. -- LRichardson 22:24, 8 May 2011 (UTC)
I'd like to propose that house rules, custom equipment, etc., be presented in essay format (see my initial comments regarding this here). I feel that doing so more clearly allows them to be included following the 'no fanon' policy being crafted and allows them to easily be recognized as following under the submissions council's purview. Therefore, I'd suggest that 'Nature' would either be defined solely by the term 'Essays' or that 'Nature' be replaced by 'Content' (or 'Subject').--Revanche (talk|contribs) 14:34, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
That seems workable. I would say that leaving "Essay" as the sole criteria under "Nature" to be best for two reasons: It allows other unanticipated items to be added into qualifying fanon as future consensus forms and it provides that the defining rubric for this section to be able to define what an "Essay" is. -- LRichardson 18:05, 24 May 2011 (UTC)
Having looked up the definition of "Essays" in BattleTechWiki:Policies, Essays, Procedures & Projects, it seems obvious that we're expanding the scope of Essays here from "pertaining to BTW" to "anything about BT". Which is my full intention. However, the differentiation given above doesn't work - anything and everything written under this policy is an Essay. Frabby 07:04, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
Not necessarily. Something written as a narrative is obviously not an essay. A simple description of someones campaign is not an essay. An item formatted in the manner of a TRO entry is not an essay. A flat procedure for a rule is not an essay. An essay proposes or illustrates a central thesis, separately discusses that thesis and then sums up and restates a conclusion. More detailed specifics on what is and is not an essay will be covered in "Format". The categorical limitation of essay is a broad "looks like a duck" pass/fail to address before going further into judging the article against the rubric. -- LRichardson 19:38, 2 June 2011 (UTC)


This dimension addresses the extent to which it is in keeping with the nature and character of other acceptable articles on Sarna. Articles that pass this dimension:

  • Are professional or neutral in editorial content.
  • Are laid out in a direct expository manner.
  • Are consistent with the general type of article it is.
  • Show consideration or thought put into the articles content.

Articles that fail this dimension:

  • Exhibit strong and/or unsupported bias.
  • Have broadly emotionally founded arguments or positions.
  • Do not separate matters of opinion from matters of fact.
  • Include harsh argumentative fallacies such as ad hominem attacks.


Articles on any Wiki are intrinsically assumed to be written by multiple and/or anonymous authors. Typically they do not exhibit a clear individual voice. The Sarna BTW has some peculiarities in voice in that most articles are written "in character" when possible with other items being written "out of character". The inclusion of house rules and essays adds a third layer of complexity to these traits in that they intrinsically have their own source or voice. The author of a house rule or essay may or may not be comfortable in others adding to or changing the content. It in particularly important that there be clarity of voice in articles.

Articles that pass this dimension:

  • Clearly are either an individual voice or a general statement in a given passage and have obvious separation between them when both are present.
  • Are consistent in whether they employ first person or third person point of view.
  • Are consistent in the use of past and present tense.
  • Clearly stay in-character or out-of-character in a given passage and have obvious separation between them when both are present.

Articles that fail this dimension:

  • Have neither a clear sense of authorship/ position nor a neutral encyclopedic voice or jump between the two.
  • Jump from first to third person indiscriminately or inconsistently.
  • Are unclear on the past or present tense that the article is presented as.
  • Are unclear whether they are in character or out of character.

Writing Quality[edit]

Writing Quality is the overall skill and care that has been put into the crafting of the article. This is basically a measure of how readable the article is. An article could pass on Voice and Tone but still be an atrocious piece of material.

Articles that pass this dimension:

  • Are free of spelling and obvious grammatical errors.
  • Flow in a logical and understandable form.
  • Are clear in what information or ideas that are being presented.
  • Show evidence of thought and insight in to their writing.

Articles that fail this dimension:

  • Have clear spelling mistakes and obvious grammatical errors.
  • Lack a coherent structure or are difficult to follow.
  • Are vague or unclear in the information or ideas that are being presented.
  • Show little evidence of care into their crafting or insight into the topic being addressed.
I may just be reaching the end of my editorial capabilities right now, "but I know it when I see it." We'll need to work on this. We may be able to lean on various other existing policies, including those within the Manual of Style.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 14:57, 18 May 2011 (UTC)
I've split off Writing Quality and Content into separate areas so that the needs of each can be more clearly and directly addressed. -- LRichardson 22:54, 24 May 2011 (UTC)


Content is a general estimation of the desirability of the article to the overall body of work presented in the BTW. As this is the fundamental question of "do we want it here?" this dimension has the most ground to cover.

Articles that pass this dimension:

  • Are directly related to and address some aspect of published canon.
  • Enhance the readers understanding, appreciation or consideration of some aspect of the canonical BT universe.
  • Elucidate the connection between non canon material presented and canonical material referenced.
  • Are self-critical of any original ideas or propositions presented.
  • References made to outside information or ideas is clearly marked as such and linked to where appropriate.
  • Are of use or interest to an audience that is primarily focused on canonical BT information.
  • Either do not directly contradict or provide strong and clear basis as to why they contradict, published canon.

Articles that fail this dimension:

  • Fail to address any specific aspect of published cannon.
  • Do not provide the reader with a greater understanding, appreciation or consideration of some aspect of the canonical BT universe.
  • Are unclear in the connection between non canon material presented and canonical material referenced.
  • Lack self-critical discussion of any original ideas or propositions presented.
  • References to third party information, research or ideas are lacking, vague or nonexistant.
  • Are of little applied use or interest to an audience that is primarily focused on canonical BT information.
  • Contradict accepted canon in a manner that is substantial or not supported logically in the articles text.
I originally had this stuffed under quality, but felt it was substantial enough to merit its own dimension in the rubric. Non canon material to qualify in this rubric still has to be about canon material in some way. A new weapon that is simply a boom-gun that doesn't have any relation to canon rules or history, that doesn't address some need in the game or quirk in the rules, doesn't show any effort to make the weapon useful to people who actually play the game, doesn't explain how its stats were arrived at, stands in the face of accepted cannon and doesn't provide a critique of its own ideas is of rather dubious value as a BTW article. If this article was also of rather poor construction, filled with canon errors, factual errors and spelling/ grammar errors it certainly does not belong on the BTW. If the BTW's purpose is to illuminate the published BT universe then fundamentally any non canon article should still be about that universe as opposed to merely set in that universe.
For example, I wrote an article about stuffing the insides of battlemechs with packing material so that they might absorb critical hits. (see Anti-Spalling Buffer) While the article does add some gizmo to be used in someones game it also illuminates an interesting quirk about how the critical hit system in the original game is set up. The fluff in the article while specific and not at all mentioned in canon also does not contradict canon either directly or by implication. As such that article would still be considered to be about BT rather than just be in the BT universe. To be included as a future article however, it ought to have at least made at least some comment as to potential problem issues with the idea. The requirement that the author complicate his own argument is not so much because the complication is itself of great value (though it might well be) but as a sort of quality check to see if the author is paying attention and actually thinking about their thoughts. -- LRichardson 22:44, 24 May 2011 (UTC)
I think the critical aspect should be that essays must be out-of-character. That is the whole idea behind migrating fan fiction off BTW, after all. Being out-of-character is what differentiates an essay about BattleTech from (in-character) fan fiction. Sure, sometimes custom equipment or designs may show up, but these should be required to add something to the essay; an essay that essentially only serves to publish custom designs is fan fiction, and by extension isn't worth having here. Frabby 07:19, 2 June 2011 (UTC)
I'm not totally convinced on that but I could live with it. IC stuff may be a good fit if it is clear when the IC items are purely the creation of the author and is really just auxiliary to the thesis of the article. As per an essay serving to only publish a custom design, lets see how it would fare against the "Content" dimension. Likely it would not address any aspect of cannon, nor would it provide a greater understanding/appreciation of the canon. Additionally I would suspect that it would be of "little applied use or interest to an audience primarily focused on canonical BT". Ergo, an "essay" that primarily serves to publish a custom design would fail this rubric and not be acceptable. This whole rubric is being advanced as a "must pass" checklist. The complaint about fannon in general is that it is just so irrelevant that it does not merit bashing through just how badly written it tends to be. -- LRichardson 19:26, 2 June 2011 (UTC)


More later. Feel free to tweak what I've put up.-- LRichardson 22:24, 8 May 2011 (UTC)

Crisis of Conscience[edit]

Gentlemen, apologies for my absence. Frabby has seen this of me before, but for the record I am military and don't always have the advantage of a consistent time table nor a reliable connection. When I even doubt that I can be online reliably, I usually shed BTW appearances, due to my personal requirement to focus on and follow 'threads' of discussion that are a requirement of adminship. In this case, I've started another tour (my seventh) down the road from my last and had to shed some responsibilities, until things settled down professionally & personally.

With that said...the conscience issue.

I am a big fan of fan essays, defined as inspections and analysis of a subject matter pertaining to BTW, usually bringing to light an idea or solution that may enhance the game or the universe in some way. I'm not supportive of alternate universes here, where we're just hosting information for one person or -at best- a very small, exclusive playing group. I think we're all on the same page, in that regards.

There have been some spectacular essays written by people that I've found (usually on CBT forums or on personal sites) that I ported over here, with the intention of 'saving' them from (potential) oblivion. I felt those essays met my definition of allowable editorial comment on BTW. The Anti-Spalling Buffer article is a rare example of custom equipment that also achieves that definition. However, I'm also influenced by something someone repeated to me, in a discussion about this very topic: "BTW should be about BattleTech stuff that was already published elsewhere, as opposed to being a means of publishing stuff." The damning thing was that the original statement was allegedly made by myself, near the early formation of BTW.

I feel the three of us have attempted to really take a logical and educated stab at creating an exception to this basic policy, but I think in doing so, we may create an aura of elitism as perceived by those whose submissions don't meet our standards. Looking at the above, thiat is rather heady stuff, gentlemen, and for Random Poster who has already written their Great Article they now wish to share with The World, these criteria might seem overly dense, nitpicky and -when applied to their Great Article- less than impartial.

I just don't see the structure in place with the regular people we have here that are also interested in this sub-set of the site (i.e., the three of us) being able to maintain those standards, explaining them down to those whose submissions don't meet those standards and attempting to help them bring them up...without creating a lot of bad blood in the process. I come back to the intent of that statement of writing non-opinionated statements about official material and not creating new material. That goal is much more attainable and remains un-diluted if we don't create exceptions.

I do have a solution that requires absolutely no maintenance on our part, but keeps the submissions out of the mainspace: allowing User sub-pages. While they will not be categorized or advertised on the main page, registered users would be able to create /whatever/ content they wanted (as long as it did not violate other policies). They then could advertise the existence on their own User pages, creating -in essence- a portal to their essays, articles, gaming universe, etc. It would also allow us to remain apart from another burden of maintaining this site's standards and keep registered users free from perceived offense. Unregistered posters would have their fanon works deleted and via a banner tag, told about the fanon policy and how to properly post materials as a registered user (which doesn't seem to much to ask for in return for hosting your personal material).

Comments?--Revanche (talk|contribs) 14:31, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

At first glance, the subpages solution seems very elegant and a quite compelling idea. It would have been the ideal solution if it had been implemented immediately upon making Sarna a wiki. However, remember why we're discussing this in the first place: the Fanon Purge (tush!).
Without having looked this up I think a significant share of the Fanon pages here were created by IPs instead of registered users, and I don't like the idea of having to move one part into a user subpage during the Purge and another part over to the FanonBTW. This approach somehow stymies the Fanon Purge as such by not purging it all from BTW and at the same time weakening the FanonBTW by witholding content that it desperately needs. See, I'm not personally interested in the FanonBTW but I want it to take flight and be(come) a viable alternative for users who want to post their fanon.
When viewed exclusively in regards to Essays (and not Fanon in general) then the subpages idea may still hold water. I especially like your well-worded thoughts about the process outlined above coming across as eliticism; this sums up my feelings very well (which is why I was opposed to all that administrative overhead from the beginning, I just couldn't put it into words as well as you did).
So, to sum it up: Subpages are an excellent solution for the issue of Essays, because we weren't sure how to tackle these in the context of the Fanon Purge. Subpages should not, by contrast, become a (possible) vessel for Fanon. We therefore should keep the Essays policy, and only add the condition that Essays must be put into user subpages. Frabby 08:36, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Actually, Frabby, I'm thinking of going a step further. All non-official material (fanon fiction, units, equipment, rules & essays, etc.) should fall under the Great Purge of '11. Using notification banners that announce the deadline when everything gets lined up against the wall (ok...that metaphor was getting harsh; "when everything gets relocated"), everything that is still in the mainspace on that deadline gets moved over to FanonBTW and deleted here. Owners that /want/ to keep their materials here need to move them to their subpages. (This can also be said on the banner.) I, for one, will definitely be moving the essays I brought here to my page. In other words, everything gets moved over to fanon unless the original poster actively chooses to retain it here. In this way, we don't become the arbiters on whether something is an essay or a fan creation. If it's not official and on the mainspace, it gets moved. What do you think?--Revanche (talk|contribs) 13:23, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Sounds workable. Btw, in case you've been wondering why I haven't pushed the Fanon Purge forward: No time. I am swamped with work currently and just can't get my head free. If you'd bring forward an announcement on the main page that would be great, and we also need to tear down the "Want to create a custom article" links asap. Frabby 14:05, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Okay, I'll hit the announcement and those links this afternoon. I know we'll be disappointing LRichardson, but there is still plenty of time for him to weigh in.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 14:36, 8 July 2011 (UTC)
Since you asked nicely, here is my two C-notes and three critical slots.
I admit, I always knew I was on an uphill slope on this one. I certainly do not feel slighted about the views presented here. Nonetheless I still strongly feel that a submission council is the best option to take. Such an option can be fair, manageable and of considerable service and interest to the Sarna community. This type of content is of enough value to merit inclusion in the Sarna resource. I hope that I can present a thorough and convincing case for this here.
There are a number of separate issues to address here. The biggest one is subjectivity in that it is the primary complication in implementing a criteria or submissions council.
On Criteria:
The proposal was that a clear rubric be composed as to the characteristics that make an essay desirable to the Sarna community, that essays must meet these criteria to be kept and that a small council of editors be the arbiters of such a criteria. The objection has been raised that such a criteria would be too arbitrary and could be perceived as unfair. Such a perception by the readership is not desirable in order to maintain the reputation of Sarna as being a trusted community resource.
It can be shown academically that a well composed rubric defining the characteristics of a thing for the sake of classification will give consistent and transparent results both when what is being graded is something that is intrinsically subjective as well as when that thing is something that could be quantified numerically. An example is in the grading of lumber for structural applications. To date no one has come up with a non destructive testing method of estimating the effective structural properties of a given piece of wood that outperforms a trained grader eyeballing the look and feel of the wood. Indeed, a trained grader tends to perform within a quite tight tolerance compared to destructive testing. Such a rubric has also held up in court in being able to show to a jury of laypeople that even though the dimensions of the rubric individually can be taken as quite subjective, as a whole they are reliable, explainable and consistent between graders. The deviation of estimates between trained graders is similar to the deviation of results from Charpy token testing in steel design, an emphatically empirical physical test of a much more predictable material. Similar principles have held when it comes to the mass grading of academic papers, such as admission essays for universities and standardized testing of students writing abilities. The rigorous and consistent evaluation of subjective material is precisely what rubrics do well. So, as such I refute the direct concern about excessive subjectivity in deciding if a given essay or rule is of acceptable quality.
With many of the same arguments I also feel that such a rubric is transparent enough as to avoid concerns about the appearance of elitism. If the points on the rubric are clearly described and of limited extent it is a simple matter to show where a given example does and does not pass the bar. Indeed, because of the direct application point by point it also becomes very easy for the author to address items of concern about a given proposed article. Not only can such a system be measurably fair, it can be perceived as such.
A well designed rubric is also expedient, especially one whose dimensions are binary (pass/fail). Read the article, go down the list and mark any fails. That is the other strength of a rubric determination, throughput. The administrative overhead of such a test is not substantial, even when faced with a large volume of material to be considered.
On value:
The next point to address is the overall worth of essays here. This comes back to the question of whether or not there is value to the Sarna community of reflections, observations, explorations and opinions about the canonical BT universe. I feel there is to a demonstrable extent. One reflection of this esteem is in that the material was included here in the first place and accepted for so long. Another observation about the value of essay content is in the access count of essay pages vs general pages. I conducted a little analysis to try and separate my own bias from the discussion.
The number of essays is small (more on that later) and as such a full population mean and median can be conveniently calculated. For all the essays put together the mean number of accesses per page was 3033, the median accesses was 2624 and standard deviation was 2624. The index page was not included in this calculation. For the general population of non fanon pages obviously a full population calculation is impractical. In taking a statistically large sample of n=30, random pages were accessed from the main page and calculated. No index pages occurred in the sample. 31 pages were accessed with 1 discarded due to it being a fanon page. For the 30 non fanon pages the mean calculated was 2282, median of 1368 and standard deviation was 2879. As one of the values for the random pages was rather large, 30,000+ accesses, a 90th percentile analysis would drop the mean considerably. Note that median value is a more reliable indicator of central tendency than mean in any system where there is a minimum value within a few deviations of mean and there is no potential maximum value. So, in short, the essays are consistently being accessed at probably twice the rate of canon pages and at worst at a similar rate to the canon pages.
Notwithstanding the lack of popularity of fanon among the editors here, clearly essay pages are being viewed very frequently among the Sarna audience at large. This is a strong observational argument that essays have a place on Sarna. Since there seems to be consensus that user sub-pages would be acceptable the value of essays seems to be a given. Nonetheless, showing affirmatively that the essays are at least as popular as the average page on Sarna is a telling point.
On sub-pages:
This brings me to a serious concern about the notion of moving essays et all to sub-pages and removing the links on the main page. This seems to be the equivalent of outright banishment. It is similar to if you needed to subscribe separately to get the editorial section of the paper and there was only a minor note somewhere in the small print that told you that you could do so. Readership of the editorials would probably drop nearly to zero. Similarly I suspect that the accessing of such user pages would also drop of precipitously. Without links on the main pages sub-pages with user essays would effectively be gone. Again, since they seem to be as popular as the rest of Sarna's archive, this would be unfortunate.
On objectives:
Perhaps here is where it would be best to remind ourselves of the reasons for wanting to purge fanon in the first place. The typically questionable quality of material that is frequently only tangentially related to the BT universe is not worth the editor time and attention needed to bring it up to Sarna standards. Further, the narrative tone and nature of most fan-fic is not consistent with the character of the majority of the canonical content at Sarna. Sarna is encyclopedic, not biographical. A view supporting essays to be different is that fundamentally they still tend to be about the BT universe as published rather than being a separate, independent and frequently conflicting addendum to canon. Lets keep in mind that the essays are themselves very limited in number. Essays and house rules together consist of only 15 articles between them. If custom weapons are also included as being fundamentally a rule change (as opposed to a mech design which is simply someone following the rules) then the number goes up to a whopping 54 articles. Many of those custom weapon articles are themselves merely variants of each other, diminishing the effective number of such articles present.
Compared to the bulk of Fanon material in question, I would offer the opinion that essays and house rules tend to represent the best of the user generated original content here being quite in keeping with the nature and quality of the canonical content present. Further,more essays and house rules are perhaps the least likely of the fanon content to be confused with canon material. When reading an essay about canon material the existence of a separate authors voice is obvious. This eliminated the concern of confusion by the average reader over what is canonical and what is third party. If the essays are up to par, are popular among the audience, are clear as to their authorship and are limited in volume then there are really no strong concerns about them being left in place.
In summary:
I apologize if my commentary here has run somewhat long; this is something I feel fairly strongly about. Basically though this can all be summed up concisely.
The essays on Sarna are a valuable and disproportionally popular type of content available here. The very low numbers of essays submitted mean they are not a significant burden on the editorial staff here. A well constructed criteria for acceptance of an essay into the Sarna body of content is easy to implement, consistent in its evaluation and transparent enough to be accepted as fair. I feel the establishment of an inclusion criteria in the form of a rubric is the best course to take.-- LRichardson 00:20, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
First off, LRichardson: very impressive. It is clear you really put some well-thought out effort into making your case and I really wish I could wait until I read it a second time, just to give it justice. I'm also aware, though, that if I wait, I'll be walking away for a considerable time (a day if not a week), before I come back to it. And, as I stated above, my change of heart really tore at me, because I knew you'd be disappointed, and I really didn't want to do that. You're clearly someone who is ready to put some effort into this and I really wish we had a corps of similar editors, so that I could have the faith the project would succeed, grow and not impinge on the greater editorial staff here.
I'll hit off on some of my major points, without trying to repeat myself too much.
  • I wouldn't trust the page count, especially the random pages. I believe (but don't know) that the major search engines do trawl through here, possibly distorting these counts. That would account for the average showing. It was wise to remove the other fanon article from the study, as I imagine they see a lot less in-person hits than the official pages, thereby skewing the results. However, when reviewing Special:PopularPages (and I am aware of how this isn't an acceptable sample, but...), and dismissing the Main Page count, I see 'Mechs take up a clear majority of the top 30 articles reviewed (18) and the remaining twelve deal with factions or products. No fanon, no CCG pages, no artwork. I'm tempted to take it further, to 50: one shy of 30 are 'Mechs, now we see two articles about games (trading and video) and some of the non 'Mech model pages are actually about swaths of 'Mechs (Clan 'Mechs, Inner Sphere 'Mechs). But no fanon, not even essays. Again, that's a very small sampling, I'm aware, and unfairly established as a means of determining favoritism (since we're down to a matter of only nine thousand hits between #s 25 & 50), but I also just doubt people are coming to find essays here. After all, in almost two months of discussions (advertised on the main page), only you and I were standing up for them, and we're regulars here.
  • I would make the case that your argument would justify building up a strong area on BattleTechFanWiki (BTFW) to 'sell' these essays, if they are so valued. I agree, for someone seeking out to read good works of analytical writing, putting essays on sub-pages does not help them at all. However, providing a link...on the main page (which I would support), would alleviate those concerns you have, as -instead of being directed to a mainspace portal here- the reader is now directed to BTFW, which would show him the essays available there. Trust me: I understand you look at the wiki and you see what it has failed to do since its inception. But I assure you: that's a failure in leadership. After 19 articles, the site's 'founder' just packed up. (It didn't help he was competing with us, either.) But, believe me on this, BTW was just as likely to be at that same point: it was competing with two other wiki-style encyclopedias (I was a proponent and early member of one), and one was Roosterboy's, whose name is now a statement about rapid knowledge on CBT's forums. I don't know what happened to the former, but Roosterboy's couldn't compete with us, because not only did we have structure, but we were open-source (in building articles). What I'm failing to say is this: BTW took off not because Nic Jansma converted what Sarna had already archived into a wiki form or that he ran a planetary database through MediaWiki (which still remains our most cluttered project), but because I (tooting my horn here) established some easily understood criteria, policies and community effort around the 2,000 insta-articles that were already here (allowing me to fluff up a bit about how large the site was "already"). BTFW can become that, as well, and it won't do it in competition with us. It does need to have experienced and (most importantly) committed leadership. I'd say it really needs a Lead Admin. If that interests you, its your's to grab, and you know you'd have our technical support when requested.
  • The two biggest arguments I have against essays here are the oft-stated argument they run counter to what we do here and the dedication essays require.
    • Its easy (for me) to lean one way or the other on the former issue: 1) Essays are clearly not within the expected realm of what we do here. They are creation of material only based upon the greater work (BattleTech) and are dependent upon opinion, rather than verifiable fact; 2) Essays are not fanon, because they don't deal with an alternate universe, like new vehicles, units, weapons, etc. and they discuss (or should) the issues revolving around the core universe. But, in the end, if placed against that rubric we've established as a community for a huge majority of our articles, it fails in one critical juncture (that being verifiable 'fact' rather than opinion), and it plays host to all sorts of other issues that are outside the judgment scope of the other articles. Its easy to cull it, when it's lined up against a bio of a character or a writer, an article on a planet, 'Mech or faction. It's "one thing that's not like the others", to rob from young Bill Cosby.
    • You and I have an interest in this area, you much more so than I, as evident by your commitment to it. But the two of us are not enough, especially when considering my numerous other areas of concern as an admin here (as well as my infrequent but necessary sabbaticals). A project of this scope, in my opinion, especially one so inherently different in nature, requires a team that can cover and support each other in applying that rubric of which you wrote. You deserve to be able to go away for 1, 2, 5 months and come back to find the project in good hands. I have that with my fellow admins on a larger scale, and it's needed. Just recently, we had to deal with two drop-in posters who wanted to put custom art into official articles, because by their standards it was demanded and expected. Bile and discontent was received from these two, and in one case aimed at one admin, when it was explained that the policy did not allow for representation of fan-generated art, even if it was 'better' than the official art. None of us are allowed to get mad; we represent the greater project and the consensus that editors, writers and admins all developed, but it is up to the admins to bear. And this was on a subject that -in my opinion- was clearly understandable by the vast majority, but in one of the cases, he choose to use 'victimization' as his method of trying to control the wiki's actions, and we had to rebuff the attempt, while still remaining conciliatory. Again, this was about something clearly in violation of a standing policy long in effect. Essays are much more nebulous (again in my opinion). You can absolutely expect one of two things (actually, both): hurt feelings over why this poorly crafted, spelled and edited 'article' can not be kept here or lack of responses by the poster, leaving the team to do the work of bringing someone else's personal labor of love up to a community standard. Even if you had 4-5 active people on your team, admins would have to keep an eye on and step in to deal with the upset feelings that would arise. This one here is what ending up swaying my perspective: I don't have the level of commitment to helping you maintain this one project among many others and I can't condone leaving it only on your shoulders, because I know other admins would have to get involved constantly, and it would wear all of us down and without much to gain.
In summary, I do believe if you had been here back in 2006-2007, this level of commitment on your part would have shaped the project's mission early enough on to make it a part of our culture here. Fiction, which has been allowed since the beginning, barely has a hold here, after just shy of 5 years. But I'm also aware that, with only 45 active members at the moment (of varying levels of attendance and skill), we're still young enough to not be able to successfully take on that task at this time. Now, as always, I'll bend to consensus and I think there's no reason you shouldn't try to build it, but I don't believe you'll find enough active support on BTW to do it. I regret that some of the essays I've ported over here haven't been able to funnel their creators along with them, and I think that's telling.
You have compelling arguments, rooted in logic and not emotion, and for that I thank you. I also think you're talking to a much more limited audience (on this sub-page of mine), so I encourage you to seek consensus and commitment to keep the essays here. You don't need Frabby or me to allow it. We'll do what we're led to do, by the community (though no promise we won't take part in the community's discussion).
My sincere apologies, LRichardson. I dislike standing in the way of the energy and organization you provide, as we need more of that here, and I don't like being on the opposing side of any argument to build BTW. --Revanche (talk|contribs) 02:58, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
I have said before, and I will say again, I have no problem whatsoever leaving constructive essays on the wiki, as long as they pertain to actual Btech written stuff and not actual fanon. I think there have been some good arguments made here, but I confess I don't feel as passionately about this as some. So whatever format people think will work. ClanWolverine101 03:43, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for both finding this (!) and weighing in, ClanWolverine101. I was concerned the conversation was too far out of the 'sunshine'.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 21:39, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

Revanche: Thanks for your considered reply.

Please don't worry that I will be all huffy or dejected about the consensus being reached counter to my thoughts. I saw the writing on the wall before my very first comment on the subject. While it is an honest opinion of mine the truth is I enjoy constructive debate as much as I enjoy writing, so don't be too worried about my disappointment. I'm not going to stamp my feet, call you guys poopie heads and never return. To be honest, I did not think my position would be the path taken right from the beginning, and I am okay with that.

I'm honestly a lot more impressed with you lot that I have been given as much of a hearing as I have. I'm even amused and a bit tickled that an example of custom equipment that made the quality grade was the very first original thing I contributed to Sarna.

With regards to popularity and value, it is true, page count is indeed only one measure. Beyond the top 30 even, none of the essays or house rules appear in the top 500. I confess that using mean and median was something of a disingenuous exercise. I knew beforehand that the distribution of page accesses would be such that there would be a numerical fallacy. There is an enormous tail on the distribution that would bring the population mean down and a very tall initial peak that represents the true bulk of the site traffic. Still, I hope I at least showed that they were also non negligible.

As per people coming here to find essays I offer one critical complication: That is how I found Sarna. I was looking for house rules and equipment. It was only afterward that I noticed the rest of the bulk of the content.

I am not sure I can really tease out why it is that the BTFW has so much less interest to me than Sarna when it comes to essays and/or editing. I think the biggest part for me though is that for most of the focused content that the BTFW is about I share much of the frank disdain as most of the editors here. Additionally, for essays in particular, (though less so for house rules and essays about house rules) BTFW doesn't seem to be quite the right forum either. You touched on this yourself in describing essays as not really being Fanon. I do agree though that the essay really is the odd one out when compared with the core body of work at Sarna.

I guess the point where I most strenuously disagree with your position is in the needed commitment. I don't necessarily disagree with the specifics you put forth. Indeed, I fully recognize the issues of disgruntled submitters. I've had a hobby of managing, administering and moderating of online forums since when I had a dozen state of the art 2400 baud modems in my house and the term was “Sysop” rather than “Admin”. I know full well the sort of conflicts that I am sorry to hear you had to deal with recently. My dissent on this point is one of volume. Frankly, I guess I just don't believe that there would be the sort of quantity of material where these issues would be too much of a burden.

Nonetheless, again I must mention that I was really resigned from the beginning that the position of keeping the material as is was not going to win out. I will say that I do like the idea of tolerating essays and such on peoples personal pages. It neatly deals with both the issues of authorship and clarity of canon. It keeps the material here without confusing it with the body of work in general. Something that did occur to me last night was the notion of a category on the main page that would provide links to user pages containing things like these essays that the editors here specifically found notable. This would include things like fan projects, house rules, ect that the consensus was that they have merit in their own right but aren't strictly speaking what Sarna is about. These would mostly be user pages that were worth highlighting. This would eliminate the need for editors to manage or maintain the articles themselves in that the page must be clearly connected to a registered author. This is also where the rubric comes in. This would be the basic measure used to decide whether it was appropriate to link to this user page in this “Editors Notables” category. Failing to meet the rubric doesn't mean that the page is altered or removed (thus avoiding most of the dischord). It simply means it wont be linked to in the index page of notable non-canon items. By being purely a collection of “stuff the editors here think is worth reading” it is outright acknowledged that it is a subjective opinion as to quality. By having a proper rubric for inclusion in this category the collection becomes much less subjective than would be acceptable for such an editors choice type of category. If someone asks to be linked on the page and their article doesn't quite cut it the rubric provides fairly specific guidance as to how the author can improve his work to merit attention. How does this sit with you as a sort of compromise, that user pages that meet a certain level of quality and note might be linked to in an index page listed on the main page in lieu of the fanon links currently present? -- LRichardson 21:09, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

Before BTW, Sarna attracted me because of the archives, and specifically the house rules. Back in those (bad 'ol) days, the RPG side of FASA BT was too scarce for my taste and I wanted something more in-depth. Some very basic rules on quirks and colony establishment I found here were great motivators.
Something that did occur to me last night was the notion of a category on the main page that would provide links to user pages containing things like these essays that the editors here specifically found notable. --LRichardson
I had a very similar thought, too, but only this morning! Its a /bit/ different, in that it doesn't apply standards, but does require proactivity on the part of the original poster. My thought is that random drive-by posters will be cut by the requirement to be registered to create a sub-page, thereby bypassing the need to cull a significant number of the sub-par material.
The idea is this: we create a category called something simple yet descriptive, like 'Subpage Essays' or a bastardization of your idea, 'Subpage Notables' (which I like better, now that I re-read it). Users self-assign their pages to these articles.
I'm willing to bet that, with a demonstrative number of articles, we (collectively) could petition to get front page real estate. There would be no overt administration of this category (unlike what you had in your example), as we allow it to fester a bit. You and I can 'invite' (inclusively, of course) others to join our 'cabal' category. It'd be like a slow-growth experiment in developing our own self-regulating essay community. What do you think?--Revanche (talk|contribs) 21:39, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
I wholeheartedly agree with the concept. As for a name, I'd like to point out that "Essays" as we have them now will be culled; I suggest to switch the existing Essays category to list those user subpage content pages that have suitable content. Frabby 21:53, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
  • If I understand you correctly, Frabby, you're suggesting we recycle the category name. I humbly disagree, as I think it needs to be crystal clear (especially at this time) that this is about individual users self-identifying, rather than BTW (or its admins) categorizing. In fact, I think LRichardson (I swear, I'm gonna start calling him Lil' Richard) should be the one to create this new category, so there's no confusion about what the admins are doing. --Revanche (talk|contribs) 22:23, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
  • While I think that the rubric above would be an excellent workable way to manage content quality I am absolutely comfortable with making the only criteria that people self-include their user pages in an index. It eliminates almost all need to manage those pages and seriously cuts down drive by posting. Such a list establishes authorship and clarifies that they are not canon. Simultaneously it provides visibility to the material to interested parties. Yes, this could become a means by which people post fanfic but I think that would be infrequent enough that such things would be dealt with on a case by case basis. Honestly, if it is not a space identified as being for fanfic in the first place, that it is clear that the space is for essays and such I am comfortable that it just wont occur to fanfic writers to post it there. At least since articles in that index would be connected to a specific user there is no confusion as to what the article is. The idea of adding quality control to the listing is really only useful when there are considerable numbers of entries. While this could evolve into a moderated essay space in the future I don't feel the need for focused moderation currently.-- LRichardson 22:12, 10 July 2011 (UTC)
Gentlemen, I do believe we have a plan.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 22:23, 10 July 2011 (UTC)

User Essays Category[edit]

Has been established: Category:User Essays. I've included some condensed verbiage to indicate the kinds of articles that the listing is meant to include. -- LRichardson 18:22, 11 July 2011 (UTC)

Excellent. Thanks.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 18:32, 11 July 2011 (UTC)
After I flesh out some more essays of an appropriate level of quality to act as an informal set of posting guidelines, who should I bother / petition to consider putting a link to the user essays page on the main page? I am thinking I will deliberately wait until the official purge date to do this push. -- LRichardson 00:36, 31 July 2011 (UTC)
Definitely let it lie fallow until some time after that. We don't want to confuse the issue, have it prematurely seen for the backdoor it is. But any admin, really, can add the link to the main page.--Revanche (talk|contribs) 02:50, 31 July 2011 (UTC)