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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Wiki... or Mostly Harmless?!?

OK, there are going to be people out there who are going to say, “Hey, Barb – suck it up and stop whining”, but this is my space so deal with it. I’ve had a few days to think about this since I originally wrote it, so I’ve done a small amount of revising. I hope now to have it sound more like Arthur Dent’s speaking about Earth being “mostly harmless”.

We (Fragile Gravity, that is) got deleted from the Wikipedia at the end of April for being “non-notable”. The reasons given were that we were 1) way low on the Alexa rankings 2) had minimal LJ and forum activity, and 3) were self-published. There were also some growlings about how we have a store link on our site, but that one I don’t take seriously; if that were a serious consideration for removal, there would be no webcomics in Wikipedia at all. :) The Wikipedia folks have guidelines and it’s their party – fine and dandy. We’re not the first webcomic they’ve removed and we won’t be the last; however, here’s my personal takes on those choices.

1)The largest problem with the Alexa item is that Alexa took a few months to recognize the switch from our home-server-based fragilegravity.com to the virtual address that’s hosted on unseenllc.com. That factor absolutely sunk us and we’re just now beginning to recover from it. Before that time, we were hovering around 650,000 (Summer 2005); sure, that’s not even close to the top 100 guys, but for a smaller webcomic, it wasn’t too bad. Combine that with the fact that the majority of our readership uses non-Alexa-compatible methods of access (52% use Firefox) and one can see why our Alexa ratings are rather unimpressive.

2)OK, low forum/LJ activity – according to their guidelines, this one’s a pretty fair cop. Our new forum’s only been up and running for a month, but even before that we had a very quiet readership. This is something that I’ve been grousing about for years, but I haven’t found any method to get them up and talking… short of the one time I posted “LIVE NUDE LOBSTERS” on the old forum and got a stream of people that wanted to talk about that. :o It is a little odd, though, that the Wikipedia people associate forum traffic with general traffic and notability. There are larger comics with quiet forums and small comics with horribly busy forums. (Granted that on those forums, chatter about the comic is rather limited, but they are very talky.)

3)Self-published… this is the one that burns my buns. What the hell is wrong with being self-published? It’s not like we printed a single book and went “Woo! We’re authors!” There are any number of larger webcomics that have done their books through places like Lulu and Cafepress – does that cheapen their work to “vanity press”? Truthfully, there’s only a handful out there that have their work carried by major publishing houses and they’ve got the blood stains and sweat marks to show all the work they did to get there. It also begs the question of legitimacy for the people we do publish. Are their works more solid than ours because their names aren’t on the LLC paperwork?

We started Unseen Productions, LLC because at the time the options for getting a webcomic published were pretty slim. We weren’t Keenspot material; we weren’t well-established enough yet for Plan 9; we weren’t action-packed enough for Graphic Smash, not thoughtful enough for Modern Tales, and not girly enough for Girlamatic (not that Girlamatic is really girly – I think at the time they were only looking at comics with female writers and artists – my partner Chris looks horrible in a dress) and webcomics weren’t really on the major publishers’ radar. We could have done a book or two, but when we started considering this as a business, we thought “Why not make ourselves into a venue where we could help other webcomic folk get published?” Currently, we’re working with four other webcomics to get their work out there and we’re always willing to talk with other folks as well. (Our one caveat – we can’t do color… yet)

One of the folks on the deletion page mentioned that we’re not on Amazon; he’s right – we’re not. Up until now, we didn’t feel that we had enough properties to justify laying down the money to get our books listed, but now I feel a bit more comfortable with that and I suppose that’s what one has to do to be considered legitimate. The funny part about that is that we were already in Barnes and Noble.

The whole deal depresses me. It’s not like we had a non-working entry on Wikipedia – we kept it updated. I’m not furious and I don’t want to booze up, riot, and salt the virtual earth where Wikipedia is; who knows – in a few months when we meet more of their guideline status, I may even re-submit us. But right now I feel… trivialized – all the work we’ve done for three and a half years summed up by people who likely don’t read us as “non-notable”.