The future of IFDB: volunteers wanted

Over in the IFDB curation questions thread, there was some discussion about community maintenance and updates of IFDB as a service.

Dan Fabulich and I contacted MJR about this to ask his thoughts. Turns out, Mike has been thinking about the same subject recently. He wrote:

I think you guys [IFTF] were thinking along the lines of trying to resource some incremental development work on the site. At the moment, I’d be more inclined to look into outright migration of the site, as that would better address keeping the lights on long-term.

So we started talking about that, and, long story short, we agree that it would be a good idea for IFTF to take over IFDB.

Of course there’s a lot more to this than just saying so! Here are the easy parts:

  • A domain name. I’ve prospectively registered http://ifdb.info and http://ifdata.net. (Opinions?) (Both point to ifarchive.org right now, but this will change.)
  • Server hosting. IFTF has a standard setup for this (linode hosts). I can spin up whatever is needed.
  • Getting the software and database from Mike. I will talk to him about this. (This is a MySQL database and a lot of PHP.)
  • When the site is up, Mike will point the old domain (ifdb.tads.org) at the new site.

Here are the parts that still have to be figured out:

  • There must be a committee. That is, a group of volunteers who will be actively in charge of running IFDB.
  • Someone has to run the show. The buck stops somewhere.
  • The committee will be responsible for policy decisions and planning updates and new features.
  • The committee will be responsible for editing. This means fixing metadata where necessary. (There was some discussion about fixing incorrect or malicious tags.) It also means dealing with spam and trolling, both of which are real problems that Mike has had to deal with over the years. I figure there should be at least a couple of people on active editing/moderation duty.
  • Someone has to be technical lead. This means being able to administer the database, fix bugs, apply software updates, add new features as the committee decides. Again, this is MySQL and PHP running on Linux.

I expect that this will wind up as a subcommittee of the IFTF Archive Committee, which means it will report to me. (And I report to the Board of Directors.) I do not intend to run the show! My goal for this thread is to get a bunch of folks who are excited about running this show.

The curation thread demonstrates that there are people on this forum who are enthusiastic about IFDB policy issues. :) So that should get us started! We will also be canvassing other forums and communities, since we want a diverse and inclusive committee.

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Fair warning: There will be policy arguments in this job. Probably not every day, or even every month. But IFDB is an important resource in the IF world, and that means that people will have strong opinions about it, and sometimes they will disagree!

In particular, IFDB has a strong role in defining what “interactive fiction” is. (So does IFComp, of course.) The XYZZYs rely on IFDB as their domain. And so on.

IFTF as an organization is committed to the idea that there are a lot of kinds of interactive fiction. New kinds of IF arise from the communities around us, and we want to make sure that we recognize and accept these. Some of our jobs (e.g. running IFComp) involve asking “Is that really IF?” But IFTF does not exist to police the borders of the IF world.

We’re actually in the process of writing up an explicit IFTF values statement. (Slow process, sorry.) But the above is basically the sentiment we’re going for. Also the fact that, when lots of Twine games started showing up in IFComp, the organizers’ response was “this is awesome.” That is the spirit of our projects.

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ifdb.info >>> ifdata.net

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I probably shouldn’t run the show, but I’m available to help.

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I also support IFDB.info as supporting the IFDB name, although I’ve never seen that suffix.

I’d love to volunteer to help with maintenance. I spend a ton of time on there.

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I am a major supporter of the IF community. Since retiring early this year, I have a fair amount of time on my hands. I have administered at least one linode continually since 2009 so I am familiar with their system.

I would be happy to help if you can put me to use.

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Very good! Thanks to those of you who have spoken up.

jcompton, what about you? I nudge only because you started the previous IFDB thread…

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I’m in to help out as well. I use the IFDB all the time and would like to support it.

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Improving the IFDB seems to me one of the most urgent tasks for the IF community. Now I can’t commit very consistent amounts of time (so active moderating duty: nope) and I certainly don’t have the technical skills to be a technical lead. But if more people are needed, I’d be willing to help out as part of a committee.

Summary: I don’t need to be in there, but I’m willing to be part of the process of finding out whether it is helpful to have me in there. :slight_smile:

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I’d be happy to help, if needed.

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I make a better insane overlord than committee member. Probably better to let me just keep lobbing “Well, what about this? What about this? How about that?” white-hat-hack questions at more suitable authority.

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This is awesome news! I’d be happy to help out too.

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That’s fair :) The whole point is to have a more responsive and involved IFDB, so forum discussions should be a good way to stay involved.

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Does this mean that old links to individual game pages are going to keep working, long term?

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That is the idea.

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This is great news.

I also would prefer to have ifdb in the domain name rather than ifdata or anything else.

In the medium term (once the existing site has been transferred to its new home) it would be interesting to see whether IDFB could work on MediaWiki software. If I could see the code I would be happy to try to answer that question.

Then in the longer term it would be good to approach the people behind IFWiki to see whether their content could be incorporated into the new site. Oreolek made an interesting point about the lack of a specific licence on IFWiki, but I suspect that it mostly contains text to which nobody is likely to claim any rights (e.g lists of external links).

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I can help, if more people needed.
Have technical and managerial experience with a lot of IF love.

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I can also help with testing etc. if needed, though I do not intend to be in the committee.

I am still concerned about the idea of making IFDB into a wiki-like site. I think it would be much better to have links back and forth between IFDB and IFWiki. I think IFDB should cover what it has always covered, and for more in-depth articles you go to the IFWiki. If there is a link from the top of an IFDB game listing to the main article of the same game on IFWiki and there is a link going the other way too, that is all we need. Hopefully, the IFWiki is flexible enough to hold all kinds of information about a game, though most of the game articles on IFWiki only have these “chapters”:

  • [1 How It Begins]
  • [2 Notable Features]
  • [3 Versions]
  • [4 Links]

I haven’t looked into the IFWiki’s policies - perhaps everyone are allowed to add all sorts of related information.

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IFWiki seems to be almost identical to Wikipedia - any registered user can completely edit any page, although there is a preferred format for game pages and they do get occasionally groomed by others or the admins (?) if they’re way out of whack with the norm and can be reverted.

IFDB is currently more editor-friendly essentially using forms, but Wikis take a bit of markup knowhow and there’s a learning curve.

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I suppose this is something the new committee can discuss in due course!

There is an extension for MediaWiki called Page Forms which works similarly to the forms on IFDB.