Saturday, February 13, 2010

Idealism is dead

Back in January, I had an idea. A good one, I thought. Wikia operates ArmchairGM, a sports wiki where the social tools originated. My idea was to improve some of the unreleased tools, such as sports network tool. To do that, I needed to access the source code. Here's the catch: these tools are unreleased. Thus they cannot be found on Wikia's SVN.

What to do? On January 20, I emailed Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and co-founder of Wikia, about this issue. My email was quickly forwarded to Gil Penchina, the CEO of Wikia, Inc. Long story short, I was asked to come to Wikia's office, either Poland or United States one, and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in order to gain access to the ArmchairGM source code and be allowed to clean it up. Wikia even offered to pay for the expenses and meals.
I wouldn't have minded signing a NDA, but flying to another country is just not possible for me, at least not anytime soon. I thought I had found a solution: I have a friend who lives in Poland and also is a programmer, so I thought that he could go to Wikia's office. I informed Wikia about this idea, and their reply to this was, "Sure". A few days later they inform us that "I can't let some "guy off the street" we've never met or built a relationship with get that sort of access to our internal systems".

Now, here's the thing: my friend's not just some guy off the street, but a smart programmer who's more experienced in programming than I'll probably ever be. He has a Master's degree and he's trusted in many different places, both offline and online. The major difference between him and me is that I once had global administrator rights on Wikia and he didn't. Big whoppin' deal.

My motive in this whole deal was to help out the greater community -- other users of MediaWiki and fellow MediaWiki developers. So that they'd have the largest possible pool of code to choose from. ArmchairGM's social tools are truly unique, as is its skin. I believed that I could change the world -- just a little, but for the better. Apparently that was a stupid idea. Should I just scrap my skin system rewrite project then, too?

Because Wikia thinks that ArmchairGM is a failed project, they aren't willing to clean up the code themselves. This means that a great skin and many great extensions have been lost forever...unless a developer in PoznaƄ or San Francisco area is willing to negotiate with Wikia. Anyone up for a challenge?

1 comment:

some guy off the street said...

Kind of a shame, really. Through Wikia's odd approach to the concept of trust, they score a fail in yet another aspect of being an "open company".