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[edit] Introductory Questions

Thank you for agreeing to talk to me about gaming wikis, and the Dwarf Fortress Wiki in particular.

As you know, your responses are intended for use in a research project and, as such, may be reproduced online or in print. You may choose to remain anonymous in any such reproductions, or be identified by your online handle or username, or using your real name if you like. I’ll ask you to confirm your wishes at the end of this interview, and you can see the standard consent form I'd normally ask participants to sign if we were conducting an interview face-to-face here: [1]

To begin, could you introduce yourself and tell me which gaming wiki (or wikis) you use or contribute to? How would you describe your role within the wiki?

My name is Zach, and I am a software engineer by day and climber and gaming enthusiast by night. I currently only contribute to the Dwarf Fortress Wiki, but I commonly use any gaming wiki for information that is available on any game I am playing at the moment.

My role in the wiki is more of a sysadmin / administrivia sort. I pay for and maintain the servers for the community, and try to let the community at large run the wiki however they feel best. There are many contributors who have been using and adding to this wiki since before I took over sysadminship, and they tend to have a good idea of what works for the community and what does not.

[edit] Using the wiki

Do you also consult the wiki, as a player?

How do you typically use wiki? Do you consult it before, during or after playing Dwarf Fortress?

What other resources do you use, in addition to the gaming wiki? Discussion boards? Other social media e.g. Facebook or Twitter? I suppose there are no printed game guides for DF?

As an expert on the game, do you feel you get less out of the wiki than you give?

Absolutely. I consult the wiki constantly when I am playing DF. DF is a very complex game, so it's not at all something you can just consult once and be done - by the end of a gaming session, I will have 40-50 tabs of wiki content open. I personally consult the wiki in before, during and after playing DF, and the analytics that we run on the wiki seem to point out that most other players do the same. Players consulting the wiki before a gaming session usually hit one or two topics to satisfy their curiosity; during a gameplay session, we will see wiki sessions with 20+ active wiki pages on various topics, and after a gameplay session things kind of wind down as people read things they missed during gameplay and close tabs.

I occasionally consult the official forums, but that is a rarity for me. I am in one of the IRC channels for dwarffortress (on quakenet) but I'm not ever really "active." You are correct, there are no printed game guides for DF.

I would hardly call myself an expert on the game. I constantly get a large amount out of the wiki, which is a vast store of knowledge that I could never hope to stuff in my head.

[edit] Motivations

Given that 'learning' the game might be considered one of the main motivations for playing, why doesn't using a wiki spoil the fun?

Might you consider the use of a wiki to be cheating?

And, if you don't feel we've already covered this, why do you contribute to the DF wiki? What is your motivation?

I'd hardly agree that learning the game is a major motivation in playing dwarf fortress. Instead, I'd argue that the major motivation is the ability to explore problem spaces, and to go wild in a sandbox. Because of this, I don't think using a wiki is cheating at all for this game. Instead, it's almost required to figure out how things work - the game comes with minimal documentation, an obtuse user interface, and a large number of undocumented features and issues.

I contribute to the dwarf fortress wiki because, quite simply, I know I have the skills required to keep the wiki running. Beyond that, I learn a lot from the wiki, and this is a simple way for me to return the favor to the community.

[edit] Dealing with challenges

What sort of problems or difficulties have you encountered in contributing to/administering the Dwarf Fortress wiki? Perhaps difficult users, inaccurate information, malicious behaviour (defacing articles, spam)? How have you dealt with such difficulties? How is your time/resource used: managing users or content?

The biggest challenges we have faced are probably with spam and version changes. The game changes rapidly, and we've decided to arbitrarily mark cutoff points (mostly save incompatibility changes) where we archive, essentially, the old content and start fresh with the new game content. We currently track 4 different versions of the game , including the last 2D version released. They aren't as actively played as the newer versions but the DF community does have a surprising number of players actively referencing and using the old content to play "retro" df games.

Spam was eventually managed by restricting create page permissions to users who have 10 edits. We also had some stunning growth, and we are currently running on a 5 server cluster (load balancer, 2 web servers, a db server, a toolserver) with an additional machine running backups for the DB.

Most of my time actually is spent dealing with sysadministrivia, and less with actually managing users or content. We have a number of very trustworthy and helpful administrators of the wiki who help manage the day to day operation of the wiki software, user issues, etc.

[edit] Collaboration and collaborators

Why do you think your wiki is successful? Is an active community an important aspect of a successful gaming wiki? Is it truly a collaborative exercise, or do you feel the content is contributed and controlled by a very small minority, with most users not actively engaging with it?

Do you trust the other contributors equally? Do you trust the wiki more or less than an 'official' or published game guide?

Answer here, please.

[edit] Transferable skills

Have you learned anything from your experience of contributing to or administering the wiki? Are the skills you’re developing transferable?

Could/should wikis be used for more formal learning? Would you still be interested in using a wiki if it was devoted to an academic subject rather than your favourite game? Or maybe you have already used a wiki in school or college?

Answer here, please.

[edit] Final thoughts

Can you think of any link between the games you’ve played and your academic (or vocational/work-related) choices and development? Perhaps playing a video game has taught you something (or developed a particular skill), or a game has inspired you to go and learn about something in the ‘real world’.

Do you have any final thoughts or comments?

This transcript will be used solely for research purposes. If any of your responses are reproduced online or in print, would you prefer to remain anonymous, or may I refer to you using your online username (Briess)?

Answer here, please.

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