Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Comic Vine: How not to run a community website

Last week when I was searching for information on one of the latest "Angel" comics issues, I came across the website called Comic Vine for what was not the first time. I figured since I keep bumping into the website, I may as well join and see if will do the job of "Last.fm for comics" for me.

So I joined Comic Vine and after using it for a few days, just as I was beginning to like the system [and considering becoming a paid member and inviting friends], I happened to come across a wiki page about a comic book that I had just read. The page was missing the "Plot Summery" section, so I figured I may as well be helpful and add the few lines. Now, for anyone who may not know... these type of plot summaries are like movie trailers. You see the same standard synopses on Wikipedia, Amazon, and many other websites related to comic books or books in general. And that's why you see the Wikipedia plot summaries [and many other pieces of info, for that matter] on pretty much every wiki page on Comic Vine. Also, lets keep in mind that the content on Wikipedia, according to the Wikipedia terms of use, are under the Creative Commons licence and free to re-distribute.

Anyhow.. I took the plot summery from Wikipedia, and added it to the wiki page on Comic Vine, and I did this for 2 issues of the same comic series. What happened next was somewhat unbelievable. I received a message from one of the administrators of the website, giving me what they were referring to as a "First and final warning", for PLAGIARISM!!! Oh, and to make things even more fun, the other one of the 2 summaries I had submitted at the same time and from the same source, was approved!!!

Well... you can probably imagine that as someone who's active in the research field as well as academia, I know only too well the definition of the word plagiarism, and you can also guess how much I don't appreciate being wrongly accused of it. I added a standard piece of information, a tag-line if you will, from a public domain source, to a wiki in a website which more than anything is a database of information regarding collections of work created by other people to start with. Information that is by definition not a property of Comic Vine, and is quite visibly coming from sources all over the web. I didn't claim to have created the book, the tag-line or anything else for that matter. My name is not printed under there, I'm not even breaking any copy-rights, and I'm most certainly neither getting paid nor marked for that work. All I did was sharing a public trailer. So, how in the heaven's name did they come up with plagiarism?!

That of course was the question I sent back to the moderator who had given me the warning. And that was the start of a rather pointless and circular conversation. The kind you usually get with the tech support of Rogers Inc. First I got a couple of 1 line responses without any form of a clear point, the sort that is designed to get rid of you as fast as possible. Then there was some very fuzzy explanation saying that the whole plagiarism issue may or may not [?] apply to the plot summery, but it does to some other [?] parts of the website. So the person in charge is not even certain as to where to apply a supposed rule of an ambiguous nature, but I do end up being insulted either way. After all I'm only a user, who cares about my respect anyway right? [Anybody else having Twine flash-backs? Well, we all know how that one ended..] Then I received a link, to a forum post by a moderator, saying "Don't Plagiarize"!! Well, 2 problems here:

1- Yes generally plagiarism is bad. It's one of those things you morally don't go about doing. So all good and fine with the article, but what does that have to do with my situation? Where is the plagiarism in what I did? Of course if someone writes a piece of literature somewhere on this website consisting of information from other sources, without citing, and taking full credit for themselves, then yes you have a case of plagiarism. But what does that have to with editing a wiki page on a service like this? How could you possibly commit plagiarism on what is, as I mentioned, a database of publicly available information on other people's creations?

2- If you're going to refer me to your website rules, should they not be a part of your Terms of Use? I mean, isn't that the whole point of a bleeding Terms of Use page? So does that mean, the random words of your moderators are the rule books of the website, and that I should be reading through every single forum post, to find out what your team of site-Gods would like me to do on your website? Well I'm sorry, but that is not happening. Some of us have a life outside of comic books.

So then, after a whole load of explaining myself, quoting website ToU and demanding a proper response from anyone who can, I received an - oh wow - more than one line response, explaining very politely how that's just the way it is, and letting me know that the reason I've been granted all the friendly unhelpfulness is that the person on the other side of the line is "very tired". At that point I really controlled myself not to write back "Do you want to compare schedules? Life? Usual amount of work?" So, I have been insulted, accused of something I haven't done, been responded to as if I was a proper idiot, have had my time wasted, and you tell me you are tired. How awesome is that?

That was the end of it. I really wasn't interested in continuing the conversation that would only have bought me more insult. And obviously I have lost all interest in using the service itself. I spoke with a couple of my comic enthusiast friends who let me know that they were already aware that the administration of the service in question suffers a bit of a God/celebrity complex, and I should have just asked them first. [Yes, perfect! =P] I've also been directed to another website for comics that is apparently run by a "nicer" crowd. We'll see how that goes. ;) I'm also very much interested in more suggestions on the topic and opinions in general... so ... comment away! =)


Update I

Xander has made an interesting point in the comments that a lot of people seem to be referring to, so I'm adding it here. It's somewhat dark, but it seems true.

"This god complex that you're mentioning, I'm thinking it has deeper roots into certain types of communities. It's not just something about this specific website. That's my opinion. What I'm trying to say is, unfortunately if you look into communities that are built around similar interests like comics or gaming (as you were saying earlier), you will always find too many people who suffer this sort of god complex. They make up a personality based on how awesome they are known to be in the community and live by that personality. Getting lost in the characters of comics or games, forgetting entirely that there are people out there, real people, who are making a difference in the real world. The actual super heroes.
The real ugly comes when one of these community superstars finds it fit to insult and dismiss one of those people who is making a difference in the real world. This seems to me like one of those times. Sorry love, but really, you should just ignore folks like that.

@Xander: Well, I most certainly don't see myself as anything like a superhero [ =)) ] but I do see your point, and I'm afraid I'm quite familiar with what you're pointing out here. I've had so many people tell me that they joined the "ABC" community or game or this or that just to have a simple good time, and they've ended up having to deal with something of a religious cult instead. "The air of elitism" as Char puts it, is something that I personally have a hard time dealing with.

I don't know if what happened here was exactly that... but it's not so unlikely since a good deal of attitude could easily be felt there.


Update II

Well, I must say that it was very nice to read from Comic Vine [refer to the comments] and it's good to see that they're paying attention. As I wrote in the comments, I'm not all that certain that my problem was only with a single administrator. I mean surely it would have been nice to have dealt with someone more interested in helping out, but if for instance what I did [or anything of the sort] really is considered plagiarism according to the regulations of that community, then my problem is more with the system rather than the person representing it. If words change definition and regulations become a full semester study, then I simply can't afford the time. This whole thing was supposed to be for recreational purposes to start with.....

My decision now is to not publish this article for the moment, and stick around quietly and see how things develop with Comic Vine. Meanwhile, I will be giving a try to other suggested services as well, and thanks for all your comments and suggestions.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh my God I don't like this... I don't like this... I don't like this one bit! =P Arrrrrrrrgh... I don't like this!!! I do however still find it very much worth watching, specially with the nice concept robot and everything... but I DO NOT LIKE THIS! xP

A short film about a helper robot who doesn't prove as helpful as the advertisement claims. Written and directed by Ruairi Robinson.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011
Happy Persian New Year! =)

Happy Norooz everyone! =) Tomorrow night is the beginning of year 2570 [1390] of the Persian solar calendar. Winter is officially over, and Monday is the first day of spring, even though Z├╝rich was freezing cold today. =P So make sure to have as much sweets and cookies as you can in the next few days, visit your friends and family and pass around some gifts. ;)

My 7sin is pretty much ready, even though some of the items are impossible to get around here due to the lack of a Persian community of any sort. My mom sent me most of what I couldn't find here from Toronto. But I wasn't able to get my hands on Samanoo at the end so we're going to make some chocolate cream and imagine it's Samanoo. =P

I have to admit though, I have all sorts of mixed feelings right now. The "situation" in Iran has made it very difficult for many people over there to celebrate anything, and I feel the weight of that inside of me.... and of course my mom's not where I am this year, which really totally sucks. But I'm trying to make the best out of a ... well... very complicated situation, and hope for the best in 2570.

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Friday, March 18, 2011
Fasnacht 2011

Oh, right, I forgot to mention.... the pictures and movies from Fasnacht 2011 parades are online! You can check them out here. =)

I was at the venue both in Biberist and Solothurn this year, so there's photos and videos from both. It was quite a lot of fun being there, and I'm still collecting confetti from my clothing, shoes and the flat's floor. =P As you may notice in a couple of Solothurn videos / pics, I was given a bit of an up close and personal confetti shower so when I got home, I was looking like a very colourful clown of some sort, specially since confetti has a way of sticking and staying in my curly hair. =P

A few examples:

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Thursday, March 10, 2011
Not a vegetarian, not planning on ever becoming one...

I have to start this by saying that I'm not trying to "bash" vegetarians or vegetarianism. I'm not an anti-veg, and I don't have a problem with vegetarians or vegans for that matter. Generally I'm a kind of person who believes that every human being is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, and I respect people's way of life, regardless of how different from mine they may be. I have to insist on all of the above, because I don't want to cause any misunderstandings.

I don't know how exactly this started, but I'm currently feeling exceedingly tired and annoyed, as a result of a collection of encounters that I have had with vegetarian people during the past couple of years. When did vegetarianism turn into a religion? And why is it that a very large percentage of the people who turn veg, see it fit to try to either convert you, or act as if you're somehow unholy?

I read the labels on the food products I buy [or anything else for that matter] quite carefully. I pay close attention to my diet, nutritional balance, and needs of my body. I do sports and I exercise every day, sometimes heavily. Generally I pay attention to my health and fitness. Apparently, this somehow makes me the perfect target. First I am "invited" to take the "next step", then comes the bickering and well, if you know anything about me you probably know that I don't react too well to someone trying to poke at me using arguments that they can't properly and logically defend. And yes, I'm afraid most of the times the discussion comes to an uncomfortable halt once you bring the medical and nutritional facts to the tables. Facts that unfortunately most of these terrifyingly passionate vegies didn't think to read through before they chose vegetarianism not only for themselves, but for the rest of us as well.

But before we get to the actual health facts, I also have to make a mention of another questionable reasoning the religious vegies usually bring up [very often when all else seems to fail], and that's the whole animal cruelty discussion. Well, I don't wear Merino wool or fur or anything of the sort. I don't eat in McDonald's or any of the similar chains. I think what these corporations do to animals is indeed criminal. But is that in any way the same as what humans have traditionally been doing for millenniums now?

When the Native Americans hunted a buffalo, they killed it as quickly and painlessly as possible. They did so for their survival, and they used pretty much every part of the animal for a purpose, so that nothing went to waste. Like them, I believe in nature, and in it's rules and balance. In the cycle of nature there are billions of examples of bigger living organisms feeding off of smaller ones. I don't see anything wrong with that. To me, that's as correct and  natural as it gets. However, unfortunately us human beings have turned into the only animals who kill other living beings just for the heck of it, or torture other living beings for our own profit, and I truly despise that. But how does it make any sense to say that use of meat or other animal products in the traditional sense is also "animal cruelty"??! "Meat is murder"? Really? If that's the case then I suppose mother nature is the biggest murderer of all eh?

So now let's get back to the health and nutrition side of things. I'm not going to try to explain the medical facts myself seeing that I don't have a degree in any of the related fields, but instead I have decided to create a reference list below, from a number of quite well written articles on the web that explain everything.

Of course I have to add a few notes of commons sense as well. In general what a person's body needs and what keeps them healthy is to a good extent depending on the person's body type, age, sex, life style, form and amount of activities and many other details. To recommend a diet [more like a life style in this case] to someone without taking account all the variables of their life, is generally a very bad idea. I for instance have a somewhat above the average amount of physical and mental activity per cycle, and I hardly ever sleep. The following articles will give you an idea as to how it would be an extremely bad idea for someone like me to become a vegetarian.

Also, if your diet used to consist of so much meat that you may have expired from Gout, your new vegetarian diets is most certainly much healthier. If you pay a good deal of attention to your vegetarian diet and make sure to include replacements for what you don't eat, you can certainly have a more healthy diet than most people in this world. But again, that doesn't mean that vegetarianism can be healthy for everyone and in fact, very often it is not, specially since it becomes a severe pain to create a "real" healthy vegetarian diet, which is something that many vegetarians don't seem to realize.    

The list of articles and references below is something that I'm compiling [with help from friends] so that from now on I can just forward people with "suggestions" to it, instead of having to say/type it all again each time. I have gone through the articles that I'm listing, with a couple of doctor friends, to make certain of their validity. If you'd like to add anything to this article or the links list, either log onto Verse and do so, or contact me. Enjoy reading! ;)

[I have posted this article and the actual links list on this Verse page. This way anyone else interested can edit and contribute, so that we can have a more complete reference in time.]

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Ahoo "Aasemoon" Pirsoleimani, 1998-2014