Hey everyone! It’s finally the day we have all been waiting fo-- Oh wait. No, not that day. You still have to wait a week for Oathbringer. But it is the day that I have been working towards for a couple years now. The idea that it is finally out is a tiny bit terrifying, but Harmony is it exciting as well.
Before we get into it, we should all thank Theoryland and all those who contributed to their database. They have done a great service to our fandom. We just wanted something more tailored to us, with more features and active development.
Here it is. Arcanum, the Brandon Sanderson Archive:
Take a look. There are over 7,700 entries in there.
We did not simply copy and paste a bunch of text from the old Theoryland database. We hunted down audio from many years back and put it into our new system. The result is this for any audio we have found:
You can press play on any entry and get the audio of that exact moment. No longer will you have to take it on someone's word on what Brandon said; you can just press play and listen to it!
In the process of getting all these audio sources into Arcanum, we found that there were mistakes in some old transcriptions, or things that were never transcribed at all, existing only in heavily paraphrased form. As such we have worked hard to ensure the accuracy of everything that has been inputted into Arcanum. This is trickier than it may sound, as while our brains are good at registering the meaning of what someone is saying, they aren’t always so good at remembering the exact phrasing. If the transcriber is not careful, those mistakes can add up to the opposite of whatever was intended.
Our goal is to have a centralized place where everyone can reliably find all audio and all quotes for many years to come, and do so in such a way that we can have these quotes be as accurate as we can get. WoBs for which we don't have audio (or are directly written by Brandon) are always marked as paraphrased, so you won't have to guess which things are accurate and which are not. Audio is the best way we can ensure accuracy, and so we put it front and center.
(One note on Words of Brandon: signing lines can be very long, and Brandon's memory is not perfect. Brandon can make mistakes. Brandon can also change his mind when actually writing a book, instead of just talking about it. We do try to denote things like this whenever we catch them, but, at the end of the day, the books are the true sources.)
What's in Arcanum right now?
It has been a massive undertaking for our small team to import every WoB ever and update things to our new standards with transcriptions. We have a ton of WoBs--over 7,700 of them. A lot of this is from Theoryland, but there’s a good chunk that is brand-new stuff which is not.
- Every annotation for the main books, including those for The Way of Kings
- Every relevant quote from Reddit and Twitter we could find
- Everything from 2014 to the present is fully imported*
That includes several events where the full transcriptions were never made available, which include some never-seen-before WoBs:
- Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing
- White Sand vol. 1 Orem signing
- White Sand vol. 1 release party
- Barnes & Noble B-Fest 2016
- Calamity release party
- Bands of Mourning release party
- Shadows of Self Portland signing
- Shadows of Self release party
- Firefight release party
We are not yet finished importing everything from Theoryland, but we wanted to make sure that Arcanum was live and ready to go for the release of Oathbringer. We focused on events 2014 and forward as that was the point where the WoB situation began to deteriorate and things started to become harder to find.
We do have various things from before 2014, most notably the annotations. We also have the A Memory of Light tour in (the Brandon related stuff, not the Wheel of Time stuff, which we are not importing), much of the Steelheart tour, and much of the Alloy of Law tour. We also have some very old, yet foundational events like the Hero of Ages TWG Q&A (where we learned about Shards for the first time), the Barnes and Noble Book Club Q&A, and other text events.
All said, we needed our Arcanists to transcribe things and we decided to spend our efforts on new things. After the Oathbringer tour we will get these older years inputted, and when there is audio, get it into our new format.
If you're wondering whether Arcanum replaces Theoryland, the answer is yes, but on some very old things, we aren't going to do it just like Theoryland did. Theoryland made an event for every one of Brandon's blogs in the beginning, and we are not doing this. Many of Brandon's blogs are updates, announcements, and other things that are not important to search. We are just grabbing the parts of Brandon's blogs that are relevant. There are also a lot of interviews that Brandon did with media outlets that is more of a promotional nature and aren't important for Arcanum.
Long story short, we will finish the project of getting everything relevant from Theoryland to Arcanum, but we felt you still should get Arcanum now, because we can wait a bit on some of the older Theoryland stuff being imported.
(*There are some events that have general Q&As which are not transcribed yet, but those contain very little relevant information. We will get them in soon.)
Other Big Improvements on Theoryland
Arcanum has made big strides over Theoryland in usability. Arcanum has a totally responsive design, so it works great on your phone or desktop.
Searching functionally on Theoryland, or rather the lack thereof, has become an unfortunate meme in the fandom in recent years. As such we’ve made sure our search works. We’ve also made sure to include options to give you more control to fine-tune the results you get.
In Theoryland it’s not immediately obvious how to link directly to an entry. For Arcanum we’ve made sure that it's easy to grab a citation, just click that Share link for the direct URL for the entry. You also get this link even in the search results page.
How to help
One of our primary goals with Arcanum is to make the transcribing process and input process are transparent, rather than be a mysterious cabal of people who input stuff into Theoryland at a very slow pace. And we need your help, too.
The biggest help you can be is if you have a recording of a signing or something Brandon said, upload it! This was why we worked so hard to get Arcanum ready for the Oathbringer tour, so we are no longer in the Shadowdays where audio was hidden in random places. We can now have audio in one centralized location where we can transcribe it.
Do you have audio? Adding it is easy! Go find the relevant event--we have most events made except very old one; Oathbringer tour events are already added--and on the upper right of the event, click "Upload Sources". Easy! If you get new audio on the Oathbringer tour, don't delay, let's get it into Arcanum so we can transcribe it immediately. If you have old audio from years past, we'd also love to see get that, too!
Right now our Arcanist team has done transcribing efforts, and they are awesome and fast. But our plan was always to let the general public assist in transcribing too. This functionality is currently been the top programming priority, but it isn't ready right now. At the very least, you can upload audio. Stay tuned in our Arcanum forum or our Arcanum channel in Discord, and help coordinate event audio and transcription efforts there!
Arcanum is a community effort. We can't do this without you. We hope with your help the Oathbringer tour will go smoothly and we'll get new information to you sooner than ever.
In 2018, our software will go open source and if you're a web developer, you can go contribute there! If you're in another fandom and you'd like a system like this, you'll be able to make your own installation of it.
Arcanum has been in the works, in one form or another, for over two and a half years now. We're thrilled (and terrified) that you all finally get to see it, and we hope it will be everything you wanted it to be.
We want to tell you everyone on the team.
Our administrative consists of me, Mestiv, and Chaos. I suppose I'm ultimately in charge of this project, and I've transcribed a ton of things. Mestiv is our amazing coder who suggested all of this audio stuff, which changed everything. He's a rock star, and is the real hero. Chaos does a lot of the managerial work keeping everything organized. He also headed up the design team, and helped whip our Arcanists in the right direction to get things ready for launch.
Special thanks to Joe_ST, who coded a previous incarnation of our WoB archive and always has sensible suggestions to improve things. Without Joe, we never could have gotten here.
We invited a bunch of people who provided input, bug testing, and most importantly, worked their butts off inputting and transcribing things.
Some special thanks: jofwu is a god at transcribing difficult audio (don't listen to the Arcanum Unbounded Hoboken audio unless you want to cry), Argent is an absolute machine of work-ethic and did so much, and somehow Calderis did all his Arcanum work on his phone.
Last, but not least, thank you KChan for the beautiful logo, and moru for design help!
We really hope you love Arcanum. There's still plenty of work to do on it, but it's amazing.
The Arcanum Team