Hi everyone! I wanted to talk about spoilers on the Coppermind and some things we are doing on the Coppermind to assist here.
First, whoa, our servers have had some serious problems keeping up with you all! The server load was really high, so apologies if you were trying to get to the wiki Tuesday and Wednesday and saw various server errors. I've upped the server capacity so we should be good now.
Turns out a whole lot of you really would like to refresh your mind on details as you read the book. Now, the Coppermind has always been a site with spoilers, as wikis often do, and so we kind of played this release with our business-as-usual attitude. I'll talk a little bit about why have done things this way historically a bit later in this post. But given the server load, and the amount of comments we've had regarding spoilers, we've made some changes that I think will help everyone a bunch.
Coppermind Spoiler Changes and the Time Machine
First up: the Time Machine, a new permanent feature to the Coppermind! This allows you to actually set a specific date, and you will see the versions of the Coppermind page that existed at that date. So if you want to refresh yourself on a topic, you can simply set the Time Machine and select "Before Rhythm of War" and you will get the version of the page that exists at that specific date. I am REALLY excited about this, because I think this will really help the vast majority of users. There are a few ways to access the Time Machine:
When you go to the Coppermind for the first time, you will get a pop-up saying the wiki can contain spoilers, but it will also have a link to the Time Machine.
A link to the Time Machine is in our wiki-wide purple spoiler warning at the top of pages. (This banner won't be permanent, but it'll be up for at least a month.)
Lastly, toward the top of the left sidebar, there is a Time Machine link.
In the Time Machine, you can simply go in the dropdown menu, which has a few presets, which include: "Before Rhythm of War," "Before Rhythm of War and Dawnshard," "Before Oathbringer," "Before Shadows of Self, Bands, and Secret History," and lastly, "Before Words of Radiance." You can also select whatever date you'd prefer as well. We'll update this list with each big cosmere release.
There are a few issues with Time Machine, so it isn't flawless. If you set the Time Machine to a certain date, and you specifically go to a brand-new Rhythm of War topic, there's no "previous" version for the Time Machine to give you, so it will give you a page after 11/17. Also, when looking back on old pages, templates use their current template version. For example, the navigation box at the bottom of Stormlight pages might have additional topics. We'll try to not have glanceable spoilers there. The last issue is that the further back you go, the more sucky the wiki is. The "Before Words of Radiance" one will look really bad and have broken templates. But! For more recent things, especially OB and on, I think this will be really, really nice for most people. Do also note that for whatever you pick, there will be spoilers for other series that existed at that time.
Other things we have done beyond our usual spoiler banners at the top of pages to help with this:
- We now have the spoiler pop-up the first time you go to the wiki, explaining that the wiki does have spoilers.
- There were lots of reports of Google indexing some spoilers in its text previews for pages, which is not great. This should no longer be happening.
So yeah! I hope those things, with the Time Machine, that we can get the majority of users happy. That's the main new thing for the Coppermind.
Talking about the Coppermind Spoiler Policy in General
Now I'd like to talk about why the Coppermind has operated this way in the past, and hopefully these explanations make sense. So, I realize I am quite biased here, but I generally assume that the internet will spoil everything all the time. This happened Monday prior to release where some jerk joined the Discord, posted a big spoiler, then left that same minute. It's the few jerks on the internet that really ruin it for everyone, right?
So, the way we've done things on the Coppermind generally is to put spoiler tags as soon as possible on topics that are in the book. That way there's a big flag on top. That way, if anyone puts a spoiler on a page--which since it is a wiki, it's inevitable--then we are sure that we warned people. We did this for Oathbringer and it worked pretty well, but the fandom is clearly much bigger now. That's why when Rhythm of War came out, I spent about four hours putting spoiler flags on pages that could have Rhythm of War content, so that if in the next day spoilers were posted, they would be flagged.
Many have asked why we don't put a moratorium on spoilers right after release. This is a great question. Historically, the first week after release is a huge spike of excitement. There really aren't that many wiki editors (though the last two years have been incredible, compared to 2010-2018), so this is really important excitement to have. Wikis are always perpetually behind, especially since Brandon is so prolific, so we need people's help. You can look at our recent Dawnshard Blitz where people just got a ton done.
Let's suppose we did have a moratorium on spoilers, though. There's two ways to do it: we simply make that policy, and remove any spoilery edits. We do this when sample chapters come out. We didn't allow any Rhythm of War Part One content, and we had our purple spoiler banner that spoilers are not allowed until the book comes out. The issue with this was pretty simple: people put spoilers in anyway. We tried to get them removed as quickly as we can, but I can absolutely imagine a situation where after the Rhythm of War rush that there would have been tons of editors adding information regardless of our policy, and we don't catch it fast enough, and people get spoiled. I think there's a big difference in making clear and labeled spoilers rather than surprise spoilers you weren't expecting. (That was of course the problem with the Google snippets, that they were surprises.)
The other way we could implement a moratorium on spoilers is by preventing anyone from editing in this period. That definitely gets around the issue of accidental spoilers for sure, but on the other hand, that is an aggressive wall if you finished Rhythm of War and you just helped out. That'd be a pretty big exit point, and we'd lose out on that.
And, of course, everyone would feel a moratorium should be different lengths. Should it be one week? Some haven't received their physical copies. Should it be two weeks? A month? The longer it is, the more safe the wiki is, but the more the wiki is behind because we lost potential new editors.
That's why in the past we have not done a moratorium, and we continued our spoiler policy that we had since the Coppermind's inception in 2010, to spoiler flag articles ASAP to minimize potential spoilers. I hope our new implementations with the Time Machine, the spoiler pop-up at the start, and preventing spoiler in Google snippets achieve our goals: 1. Letting people look stuff up as they read, which is a big improvement and a capability we have not had before, 2. Educating people about the Coppermind's general spoiler policy, and 3. Not having accidental spoilers.
Our standard spoiler banners will exist for nine months after Rhythm of War. Dawnshard spoiler banners will exist for three months. I think we will keep our spoiler pop-up just so people know the Time Machine exists, so different readers can view articles at certain times that they desire. I'm really excited that we can actually offer this for you all. I'm so excited the answer was actually fairly simple to implement, which is typically not the case with MediaWiki.
Big thanks to @Paleo, who made the spoiler pop-up and made some enhancements to the Time Machine for our use case. He's the same guy who did the coding for the fancy Roshar Map, so he's basically a wizard.
A big apology to anyone who did get spoiled, especially with those Google snippets. That was not good. It definitely sucks majorly. Hopefully now we won't have this problem ever again with these new features, and we are thinking about other ways we can deal with articles that have severe spoilers on them. Nothing's ready yet regarding those, though.
Apologies for being rather verbose. I thought you would prefer a full-thought out write-up, but this ended up being... much longer than anticipated. However, I imagine with us being Brandon Sanderson readers, you're not scared of large amounts of text I could obviously blab more, but I'll leave it here for now.
If you come across issues, bugs, or you have any other comments or suggestions, we have a dedicated Coppermind board, and we also have a Discord server dedicated to Coppermind Editing here. If you want to help out with the wiki too, you can join us there!