Why Fan History won’t be moving to Wikia any time soon

September 20th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

Why Fan History won’t be moving to Wikia any time soon

I’ve written several variations of this post with varying tones and purposes. Some of these drafts have gone in to several pages. I’m posting this rather simply because in the end, it really is simple.

I’d like to preface this with I have nothing but respect for Wikia. They have done some fantastic things for the wider wiki community. They’ve released several extensions that have been useful to the Mediawiki community. Wikia has sponsored several wiki conferences. Their community is helpful in terms of learning how to handle different situations in the wiki community. They host a lot of unique content that cannot be found elsewhere. They’ve helped expand the definition of what wikis are capable of doing.

But Fan History will not be moving to Wikia any time soon because Wikia wants to own Fan History. We would have to change our license, remove our business plan, give up control of the community, could not leave, would have to give Wikia our domains, etc. When Wikia has approached Fan History LLC about acquiring it, Wikia has generally used the approach of treating the acquiring of Fan History like it should be a hosting decision for Fan History LLC and downplayed the ownership issues. While we love Wikia and some of the things that Wikia has done for the wider wiki community, we do not appreciate their approach in this regard.

Fan History is a business. We are incorporated as a single entity LLC. We have a business plan. We have an intern and are currently looking for more. We have been seeking funding to grow the wiki, improve our back end, integrate and improve FanworksFinder, create related products. We have hired developers to do work for us. We attend professional networking events. We try to keep our actions on the wiki professional and businesslike, rather than purely fannish and hobby like.

If Wikia were to acquire Fan History, it would be great for their business. Fan History Wiki would take Wikia from about 3.2 million pages to 4 million pages. Fan History has the potential to create an organizational structure for Wikia’s entertainment and sports wikis. Fan History is set up to easily promote Wikia’s other content inside of our own. We have a large amount of content that could have its SEO optimized quickly, with the right team, that would significantly improve its current traffic. Fan History has a number of articles in content areas that advertisers would be happy to have ads placed on. Many of these content pages are for areas where Fan History LLC has little competition in terms of potential audience. Long and short, Fan History has a lot going for it that would really, really help Wikia on several levels. We would be cheap to host, cheap to maintain, would require little staff involvement as there is an active and dedicated admin staff. We’re aware of out potential monetary and PR value to Wikia. All of this could help Wikia’s bottom line.

Fan History is a business. We identify as a business. We are registered with the state of Illinois as a business. We do not feel that Wikia has approached us, in their talks about hosting (acquiring) us, as a business acquisition. Their representatives have minimized our real business concerns as not important, or that they are irrelevant to Wikia acquiring us. (Even as these things are central to our business plan, and to our identity in the community which we operate.) They want to us to utilize their free hosting, putting us in a situation where we can help their bottom line. They want us to hand over our business to them, for free. If they want to acquire us, they need to treat us as a business and make a serious acquisition offer. Any other approach is an insult.

  • My primary engagement with Wikia was when I contacted them to express my utter dismay at their hosting a wiki site dedicated to the portrayal of sexualized violence against young children. Their response was to take down a couple of photos out of nearly 40 that depicted real children, displayed in a sexually-charged environment, including butt-plugs and schoolgirls in pigtails. My response was to generate a PowerPoint presentation that I was going to circulate virally to parents, emphasizing that advertising from Pizza Hut, Bank of America, Verizon, Weight Watchers, and Microsoft was subsidizing this site glorifying child abuse. I said, "if that Wikia site is not down in 48 hours, this is getting sent all over the Internet." I had the public relations contact phone numbers for each of the Wikia advertisers.

    After that, Wikia did take down the site in a matter of hours, but Jimmy Wales' primary complaint to me was that I had not addressed this issue "through the proper channels".

    Can you imagine?

    You would do well to stay away from Wikia, and (by extension, considering that the co-founders of Wikia are also the Chairman Emeritus, and the Chair of the Advisory Board, respectively) from the Wikimedia Foundation.

  • I have my own issues with sexualizing of children. (It is why I'm not particularly a fan of this archive which hosts that sort of fictional content and advertises in the fan community that they are home to it and will allow fans to post it there, defending their legal rights to do so. But that's a different kettle of fish.)

    Hell, we cover some of the issues regarding that in fandom. http://www.fanhistory.com/w... is our major coverage. We're... not as unbiased on these subjects as we could be.

    Wikia is what Wikia is. We have our issues with them but still like some of what they do. (I have similar conflicts with Illinois politicians who have gone to jail.) I would be happy to work with the Foundation if we could figure out some way to make this work because I've got a bit more trust in the Foundation than I do with Wikia, even if it is only a result of public perception of what sort of content should be covered by Wikipedia.

    I've also found that working inside the system helps enact more powerful change than working outside it. :/

  • Monopolies suck.

    Not in the naive everything-I-don't-understand-sucks way, but the simple fact is that they do. Monopolies are only good for the highest stakeholders - the rest of us, ie. the consumers on the ground, ultimately suffer.

    Which is why it's good to hear that there are still some people out there who wouldn't sell out nearly as quickly. What we NEED is more - more sites, more companies, more approaches to a given niche of human culture. Capitalistic optimization was never good for the spirit of creativity.

    So on those grounds, Laura, well done - without even getting into the specifics of Wikia's offer ;)

    And, holy cow, 800k pages? :|

  • So on those grounds, Laura, well done - without even getting into the specifics of Wikia's offer ;)

    The specifics are pretty much this: Wikia offered to acquire us for gratis. (They aren't really a host, no matter how much they will bill themselves as a host. Most hosts don't demand your domains, don't demand your content and for you to use a license that runs counter to your business interests. Most hosts allow you to leave. Most hosts don't move your site to a subdomain to boost the host's traffic stats. Most hosts don't look at their customers as acquisitions. Most hosts don't tell you after you move that they can no longer help you, but that all future decisions will be based on the nebulous community.)

    We don't particularly want to sell out at Fan History. We view ourselves as no-profit LLC, more like a non-profit in that way. If some one offered to acquire us where we thought our mission would be successfully dealt with, my admin staff has said I can pursue it. We just have never had one. (We have had awesome advice from other wiki companies on how to meet our mission better.)

    And yeah, 808,000 is a bit mind blowing. We're trying to build the framework so that people can easily add information. It is about lowing barriers to entry. Our actual goal is to hit a million articles.

    (Also, if you get the chance, I have an idea for a new project that I want to run past you, maybe get you involved with. It stems from something that we are doing with Fan History.)

  • Regarding "Any other approach is insult", are you willing to say how much Wikia insulted you? As in, what did they offer, in terms of cash and/or stock options?

  • Wikia offered us free hosting. They never offered cash or stock options. We were told a few places got some cash but it was all based on traffic levels that were substantially higher than Fan History's current traffic. If Wikia had come to us with a real offer, maybe it wouldn't be so insulting... but the last e-mail from Angela in June was that she'd be happy to host us.

    We reached out to them once and basically said we'd be happy to do revenue sharing with them in exchange for a skin they designed that worked with our need needs and managing our ads... but were told that it would be too much work to design a skin for one site so that wasn't an option. No other alternatives were discussed, though we would have been open to them. For me, coming out of the wiki community, having heavily promoted them on our blog and in the wiki, they could have made some show of good faith.

  • GuildWiki was sold for $62,000 in cash plus some stock options. See the links at:


    Maybe you'd like to add your story :-)

    [Disclaimer - I've written criticism of Wikia, but I'm not associated with the complaintwiki.org site - though I am sympathetic.]

  • Also, read your blog before and liked it. ComplaintWiki makes some good points. There are some issues regarding wiki ownership for wikis acquired or started by individuals who just pushed them along that aren't really addressed by Wikia or ComplaintWiki. I think both tend to like to default to "What is good for the community" as defense of actions, where maintainers and their own issues are secondary.

  • Thanks for the nice comments and replies. Regarding ComplaintWiki, I think they're basically addressing issues from the perspective of non-profits, not businesses (my paraphrasing). Wikia is a business, and you're running a business, which puts you in a different position vis-a-vis Wikia than most community websites. I suspect Wikia doesn't want *wiki* business partners (just more digital-sharecroppers building pages for Wikia to sell ads).

  • No problem. This is a topic I have wanted to address because it has come up several times. (Most recently, in a September 2009 discussion with Wikia.)

    Fan History is a business. We're not making money and our goal is not to use the site to make ourselves hugely rich. We DO have certain goals that we want to accomplish. We need money to make these things happen so that we can serve the community that we are in. (There are some analytics tools we want to develop. We want to fix FanworksFinder. We want to develop some extensions for micropayments of wiki contributors to reward them. We want to develop a firefox extension to preserve history of parts of fandom online.) I think of us more as a no-profit corporation with a goal of wanting to break even while serving the larger community, being closer to a non-profit in that regard. So I don't think it is that different a position.

    I just mention that because I have been told of a situation or two where founders have told me that they have been ignored by Wikia, who claim that they are doing the will of the community. The founder's intentions are ignored, even as they may be best suited to deal with certain situations. Active founders generally know their community, can articulate the purpose of their wiki, who the audience is, can predict traffic spikes, understand the politics of the community. When active founders are ignored because of the nebulous community? As a wiki maintainer that they are courting, a wiki maintainer who can clearly articulate her plans, this is not a good selling point.

    I doubt Wikia ever wants to be business partners with us. I do suspect they just want our content. We're not opposed to that. I really understand those business conflicts. (It has also been why I have been advised by others to stay away from VC.) I just don't appreciate the fact they obviously want us for the content, for the size we can grow them to... which obviously would help their bottom line... and their answer to that is pretend that they are operating from a more noble purpose to help us by providing us with free hosting, where they want us to ignore that we would lose everything in the deal.

    (Though if they do still want to make us an offer, we're always open to listening to serious offers that we think will serve the best interest of the community, information and ourselves personally. We're just pricing our own value based on content pages and want to be paid around that.)

  • I knew about the Guild Wiki situation. I was told by people affiliated with Wikia that yeah, the community was really unhappy about it that he took the money and ran. The underlying message felt like "Let's not talk about money because look how it damaged this community." I know that a few other wikis have been acquired by Wikia where they have paid. It is always explained as not much money, where no one really profited off of it to make building and spinning off wikis to Wikia a profitable enterprise. (The major exception being Armchair GM, where Wikia acquired them for their back end development.)

    I know at one point in my conversations with Angela about 18 months ago, we were told that we would be front and center at Wikia... that our wiki would be (was) central to their plan to organize their entertainment section on Wikia. We were told that this was an area that they really wanted to expand in to.

    They never could reassure us. (What about our other business plans and revenue ideas? You can do them on your own. Will you cover our costs for promoting the wiki? Other communities pay for that sort of thing themselves. Wikia doesn't generally involve itself in the day to day running of its wikis. What about our license and our fear that some one could duplicate our content with our permission? You'd have to switch over to GFDL as that is a requirement of being acquired by Wikia being hosted. What about building our brand? You'd have to give us all your domains related to the wiki as part of being hosted by us for technical reasons.) There were just a number of things that set off alarm bells that we couldn't get past. Wikia never addressed them. And they never made us a monetary offer. Ever. We had a sliding price point that the admin staff could live with in exchange for concessions where there was legal obligations to meet. They told us we would be central to their entertainment... but they never really followed through with that you know? Actions speak louder than words.

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