After 10 amazing years, it's time for TV Tropes to grow a beard. With your help, we can hire dedicated web developers to focus solely on making TV Tropes more awesome. This will include upgrades to the underlying hardware infrastructure and outdated code base, a new design with simplified site navigation and fewer ads, optimized mobile experiences, attention to the community wishlist, a complete database overhaul, thematic discovery of new media, fun Trope tools and toys, and generally just making all of our wildest Trope dreams come true.
Continue reading to see what is in the works and find the handsome rewards for your help!
Also, we want to make it very clear that this process will truly be a team effort. TV Tropes was built for the community by the community, and nothing about that will change as we move forward. We encourage everyone to share their ideas, questions, comments, concerns, and love both here and in the forums on TV Tropes.
Okay, on to the good stuff:
Updated Design and Navigation
Don't worry, we aren't turning TV Tropes into The Other Wiki. Rather, we just want a simpler, more consistent navigation and menu bar arrangement as well as fewer, less annoying ads. The text and bulk of the content styling will remain unchanged.
In theory, implementing a new design should be relatively easy. Unfortunately, that is not the case here. The current design slowly evolved over the last ten years and, as a result, is hardcoded across 30 files and deeply commingled with non-design, processing code. We are hard at work consolidating the navigation pages into a single layout file - from there, we can quickly prototype new design elements and features. This is what we have in mind so far:
Mobile Device Optimization
Over 30% of Tropers do their Troping on a mobile device. The problem, however, is that TV Tropes is not optimized for mobile (it's really just the desktop version smushed into a smaller screen). The result, a poor user experience, impossible navigation, and frustrating inconsistencies. This madness needs to stop! No matter where you are or what device you use, we want TV Tropes to be a constant Crowning Moment of Awesome. For the new mobile TV Tropes, we envision fully responsive designs with simplified menus and fewer ads.
Community Wish Lists
Currently, there are over 1,500 threads on the Tech Wishlist and Bug Reports, which contain tens of thousands of suggestions, comments, complaints, and wishes for TV Tropes. And if that weren't enough wishes, there are hundreds more on the Darth Wiki Wish List. Many of these wishes have been culled and prioritized by the moderators, but we need more programming help to make them finally come true!
Discovery by Thematic Relationships
TV Tropes is densely interlinked, with some pages having thousands of links to them and thousands of links to other pages - basically an Eldritch Abomination of Graph Theory. Several years ago, Elijah Meeks from Stanford University wrote an article about the weird geometry of TV Tropes. If you are like us and love a good Mind Screw, take a few minutes and read the article here. In short, Elijah embarked on a visual exploration of the vast network of TV Tropes in hopes to find a better understanding of the structure and some of the patterns within it.
Below is one, of many, awesome visualizations showing the 54 most central pages on TV Tropes, considering only links between trope, work and index pages. Tropes are in blue, works are in red and indexes are in green.
Elijah's network visualization approach to discovering thematic relationships on TV Tropes made us giddy like a Genki Girl. The potential for a truly unique way to discover new artistic works across multiple forms of media is very real - and with your help, we can dedicate time and brain power to an in-depth analysis of the maze that is TV Tropes.
A Complete Database Overhaul
We desperately need to transform the main body of the TV Tropes wiki from a text parser-based system to a relational database - with examples as structured elements. This database architecture would greatly accelerate development on new Trope tools and toys. For example, subpages and reciprocal wicks could be set up and displayed automatically, and we could set up dynamic filtering and sorting of trope and work article examples.
The Current Situation
Right now, example lists (for both tropes and works) are stored as raw text. There's a parser that goes in and figures out what parts of that text are wicks in order to build up a fuzzy database of relationships between articles. This is very clunky and has many disadvantages:
- It's subject to the mercy of individual tropers to format examples correctly.
- There's no automated way to detect duplicate examples or sort examples.
- As subpages are their own distinct articles rather than being logically connected to a main article, moving (for example) YMMV tropes to a subpage or vice-versa is a manual process.
- As with the formatting, example indentation is also manual and subject to error.
- Crosswicking is a manual process; adding a trope example to a work article doesn't automatically create an entry in that trope's article, nor vice versa.
- There's no way other than painstaking manual work to change the sorting of an example list — for example, if we want to organize tropes by their function rather than their name, as in Gunnerkrigg Court.
Make all trope and work articles, plus their examples, structured database elements. Rather than being static text, each article view would be generated on the fly on the basis of the supplied parameters, and could be further filtered and sorted dynamically by the user.
Let's take some specific examples to understand this better — some tropes: Big Bad and, say, Alternative Character Interpretation, and a work: Lord of the Rings. We know how the relationships between these work now, but how would they work in the new system? Each of them is a database element with associated properties.
- Big Bad is typed as a trope, and also associated with one or more indexes via properties (Villains, Characters, Authority Tropes, etc). It has associated text elements like a description, a caption, and a page quote. It may have one or more associated image elements, one of which is flagged "primary".
- Alternative Character Interpretation is also set as a trope, but is flagged as Audience Reactions. Thus, the database knows it's supposed to be YMMV.
- Lord of the Rings is set as a work, and it also has description elements, image elements, and index elements — so we know it's Literature, High Fantasy, a published work, written by J. R. R. Tolkien, etc.
The Moderators have put forth a well defined map and list of goals for the new relational database structure. What we need now is some programming man power to translate this plan into code and beta testers to vet the implementation.
If you haven't heard of Echo Chamber, click that link! Echo Chamber: The Adventures of a TV Tropes Vlogger is an original TV Tropes web series made by Tropers for Tropers. The show follows the travails of a group of tropers trying to make a "Trope of the Week" video series. Which they do. Sort of. In spite of their best efforts. Here is an episode from Season 1:
We've been in discussions with the Echo Chamber team about producing a third and maybe fourth season of the show. With your help, we can fund the production costs and bring Echo Chamber back to the Tropulace!
Other Fun Things
Unlike traditional product based businesses, we do not manufacture "physical" products, and thus do not need money for production and material costs. Rather, our expenses come in the form of people and infrastructure, both hardware and software. To support a community as large and passionate as TV Tropes, we need more power - both man and horse!
So, with that said, here is how we will use the money raised from this campaign:
Goal 1: $50,000
- Y'all are totally Crazy Awesome!
- If we reach our target, we will hire one full-time programmer to focus entirely on the projects and dreams above for the next year, as well as upgrade all of the existing servers.
Goal 2: $75,000
- What happens when you get Real Life Super Powers?
- No idea, but if we reach this goal, TV Tropes will add additional servers to handle more powerful tools and hire another part-time programmer. And on top of that, we will start work on a Trope API so the community can easily tap into the massive Troperverse.
Goal 3: $100,000
- Things just got really real. At this level, we should be able to afford Boxing Lessons for Superman!
- TV Tropes will sponsor Season 3 of Echo Chamber and produce an additional Vlog series just for Tropers!
In addition to all the new fun and exciting changes coming to TV Tropes, you will also be rewarded with these way cool TV Tropes inspired goodies:
That leaves us: Chris and Drew. We are youngerish TV addicts, movie lovers, gamers, and web developers. To be more specific, Chris is a college drop-out programming whiz and Drew is a retired (washed up) patent attorney.
We have a ton of passion for TV Tropes and an agenda with one item on it: making this site insanely awesome!
Now that the Admin cat is out of the bag, Drew will be involved in the Trope Repair Shop and Image Pickin areas of TV Tropes. Chris will chime in from time to time on the forums, but will mostly be cranking out sweet ass code and working with the new programmers to get sh*t done.
Tropes Are Tools, not clichés. They are plot devices and progressions (similar to but more defined than literary devices) that have been around for a long time because they work, and there's no inherent loss of complexity through the use of them (most of the time).
Note the inherent creativity of many shows. Hell, you'd be unable to find a show that doesn't use tropes, especially given that the avoidance of some tropes are tropes in and of themselves. You're failing to appreciate the material if you immediately assume the show is unoriginal if there is a trope involved.
Thinking about what you watch and acting critically toward it makes you an active, intelligent viewer, pulling you away from the Lowest Common Denominator who just buys whatever the media pushes on him.
Many students in Film or Media programs tend to say that they never look at a TV program, advertisement or film the same way ever again.
Analyzing a medium in depth and pulling it apart by the seams teaches you to watch things critically — analyzing every aspect and codifying them inside your mind.
Most Tropers, academics, directors and writers who do this start to find new ways to enjoy media. The subtle blends of plots, the new spins on old stories. The rare and welcome times where a plot you weren't expecting appears. But it is never the same.
Enjoyment comes from a balance of Recognition and Surprise — we enjoy things that we can relate to and have seen before, but we also like to be surprised. Total recognition is cliché; total surprise is alienating. Through comparing different works of fiction, browsing TV Tropes will merge surprise almost entirely with recognition and you will begin analyzing everything and taking a totally new (and possibly better) enjoyment from media - or reality.
For those of you that are unable or do not wish to donate through Kickstarter, you may use PayPal. Simply click on the button below and follow the instructions from PayPal. You will still earn rewards through Paypal.
Risks and challenges
"If you want to make enemies, try to change something." This is our single biggest risk with both the Kickstarter campaign and the new developments to follow on TV Tropes.
We are here to make changes the community can support and to keep TV Tropes from joining the ranks of They Changed It Now It Sucks. This is the phase where TV Tropes Grows a Beard, not where it morphs into something new and scary.
Please share your Questions, Comments, and Concerns either here or on the TV Tropes Revitalization Project thread in the forums.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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