Much Ado About Nothing: The SCP Wiki's Most Controversial Article
Updated: Jan 22
Culture & Community
by Lack of Lepers
"There has to be a way to show that SCP-579 is the most controversial article on the SCP Wiki."
This was my heart's cry as I researched Anonypoet, an old author from the EditThis and 4chan days who you may (but not likely) know better as "scroton" on WikiDot. You surely do not know him as the pen-name he adopted while on 4chan: "Captain Cactus and the Water Preservation Squad”.
Anonypoet — which is what I'm going to call him for his own dignity's sake — first posted SCP-579 to EditThis on March 2nd 2008 (or March 3rd, depending on the archived timestamp). It was his first article, and it is largely unchanged from that version, aside from a Mass Edit-mandated touch-up in 2009 by user Sophia Light.
By its critics, it has been called a gimmick, lazy, a format screw, a meta-narrative, ironic commentary, "hard realism", a Mad-Lib, an ambience piece, a constitutional crisis, a legacy item, utter vagary, a blank canvas, lucky, a one-off, and the culmination of every [DATA EXPUNGED] on the site. By its admirers, it has been called a gimmick, lazy, a format screw, a meta-narrative, ironic commentary, "hard realism", a Mad-Lib, an ambience piece, a constitutional crisis, a legacy item, utter vagary, a blank canvas, lucky, a one-off, and the culmination of every [DATA EXPUNGED] on the site.
SCP-579 contains 50 [DATA EXPUNGED]s. The entire description is expunged. Containment procedures are redacted for God’s sake. It made the SCP Wiki question — I mean really question, for the first time in its rapid development — why information is redacted or expunged at all. It sparked debate about the very role of the SCP article; is it primarily entertainment meant to placate an audience, or art meant to challenge them? Some have even claimed that SCP-579 is an idea so begging as a logical conclusion that it has to exist on the SCP Wiki — and that if it didn't, something else like it immediately would.
“Eventually the world will be divided into two groups: Those who like SCP-579, and those who don’t. There will be a war. The folks who like 579 will be the ones who get to use it in the war. [DATA EXPUNGED.]” — eric_h, 2011
If the results of the above poll end up being anything like the small sample size version conducted on our Twitter, then most people intuitively understand which articles are the most controversial and why — even among the choices here, which are all controversial in their own right. It's between SCP-579 and SCP-2721, isn't it? It may have even been a tough decision between the two for some of you. Most of you know your SCP, and relatively few are distracted by the recency-bias choice of the Series 6 article, or the deep history red-herring of Eberstrom's ARC'd SCP-001 proposal.
The claim that SCP-579 is the most controversial SCP article is not meant to be just a passing curiosity, strictly for the sheer entertainment value of saying it. If it were, we could stop the post here, on the Confic Magazine, where opinions and conjecture reign supreme (by design, I'd remind you). We could use the above poll as a sufficient reference of sorts, and call it a day. No need to explain, it just is.
But my heart's cry regarding SCP-579's rightful place as the most controversial article on the site wasn't aiming for Confic Magazine, but something much stricter; somewhere more ambitious for a claim to aspire to. I wanted the claim to be a definitively supported statement on the Confic Wiki, where everything is justified as a meticulous point of fact by an absurd amount of citations and an OCD-grade archival of records.
To do this, I would need to find not just the what, not just the why, but the how.
Some might say the question as to which SCP article is the most controversial depends entirely on how you want to define "controversial". That it's hopelessly subjective. And that's true, but it isn't an automatic endpoint for us. Luckily, we have a mathematical formula.
It's called the controversy index (CI), and you can read more about it in detail here on the Confic Wiki if you really care to. The controversy index is a crude, relatively simple calculation that attempts to put a number to controversy, using WikiDot statistics that are plentiful. We don't have to go into the detail here, just know that it’s basically a grade; the closer an article's controversy index is to 100, the more controversial it is; the closer an article's controversy index is to 0, the less controversial it is.
I hear the humanities-inclined lot of you readers scoffing that no number could capture the raw gut feeling of what is controversial and what isn't. So, to get your trust for the controversy index's accuracy, let's look at a few examples across containment fiction communities.
Remember: low number = not controversial, high number = controversial.
Controversy Index (CI)
The Backrooms (WikiDot)
Controversy Index (CI)
"Seems to check out."
If you are still unconvinced, let's take one hell of a good example. This one is the canary in the coal mine that the CI is doing its job decently well.
The SCP Joke article/page with the highest CI is SCP-7K-J by Elenee FishTruck, which is exactly what SCP-7K-J intended and set out to do. Released during the SCP-7000 contest last year, this excellent joke article plays on the contest theme of luck by asking readers to flip a coin and give the article an upvote or downvote depending totally on what side the coin lands on. This gimmick is that the article's upvotes and downvotes should cancel each other out over time per the rules of probability, and so approach an average rating of +0 (thus a CI of 100) over time. This is a perfect set up to test the CI, because SCP-7K-J is designed to appear controversial to our formula — that is to say, it mimics controversy in having lots of votes while hovering close to a rating of zero. And the CI passes the test, giving SCP-7K-J a SCP-Wiki-high (for Joke articles) of 95. In case you are curious, SCP-7K-J is followed by I, a polar bear covering my nose in a snowstorm by Kothardarastrix, with a CI of 86.4.
Realizing I'm onto something too eagerly, I sigh as SCP-2721 surpasses SCP-579 in CI, a betrayal of the highest order, my own flesh & blood proving me wrong. But I notice that there is plenty that CI can't tell us. For example, I find there is an article on the SCP Wiki that has a higher CI than SCP-2721; SCP-2704 ("🕷️ Beetle Royale 🕷️") by ResearcherPie, with a CI of 98.9; near-perfect controversy.
So there is an intuitive component missing from the CI. While the numbers make SCP-2704 a technically more controversial article than SCP-2721 (SCP-2704 currently has a rating of +1 with 92 votes, and has been on the Wiki since 2019), no one thinks of it as one of the most controversial articles on the site. It just isn't well-known enough.
Onto something called "adjusted CI" (CIa). Adjusted CI sort of explodes the whole picture, sending articles with comparable CIs dramatically far away from one another for better representation. It incorporates both article longevity (how long it has existed on the SCP Wiki, surely a factor to consider) and how ratio'd an article is (its comment:rating ratio). You can kind of think of adjusted CI as the volume in cubic meters compared to the regular CI's surface area in meters squared. It’s a whole new dimension or two of controversy to measure. (Again, see the wiki article for more details.)
"Maybe adjusted CI can help crown SCP-579."
Let's revisit that same table, now with adjusted CI added. Remember, a low number is still non-controversial, and a high number is still controversial. Only now, we will be exiting the range of 0-100, and going much, much further.
Controversy Index (CI)
Adjusted CI (CIa)
"Yes. Hell yes. The comeback, baby."
It looks like we are onto something. The newer SCP articles' controversy unravel when adjusted for age and being ratio'd. Articles that feel as though they should be more numerically controversial are, and vice versa. Have we done it?
SCP-579 squeaks by the nearly-as ancient Eberstrom's Proposal-ARC for a CIa of almost 2,000. The adjusted CI is compensating for the regular CI's failures, and casting out those articles whose controversy is new, fad-like, and thus, relatively weak. Only the truly strong survive the test of the adjusted CI, and SCP-579‘s score has been multiplied by nearly 24. Victory.
We just have to watch 2015's SCP-2721 sink with the rest of the pretenders.
Controversy Index (CI)
Adjusted CI (CIa)
That’s a double take. Run the calculation again. Same result.
It's a flogging. An utter beat down. SCP-2721's adjusted CI is over an order of magnitude greater than SCP-579's; over 15 times larger in fact. That's a larger relative gap than the difference between Earth's radius and Jupiter's. It's a larger size discrepancy in magnitude than the one between an elephant and an 8-inch bird perched on its back.
To help give you a visualization of the scale of SCP-2721's sheer volumetric controversy:
Defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory, and the punches just keep coming now that the flood gates are open. The previously underestimated SCP-2704's adjusted CI rockets to more than twice as high as SCP-579's, to 4,747. Articles from the galatically-expanding Backrooms WikiDot routinely outpace SCP-579's adjusted CI value by the thousands (Level 4.1's CIa is 4,314.) SCP-2721 looms over them all, as if they were ants — 6x the size of the next largest discovered CIa in all of containment and liminal fiction. There is a time and place to tell the story of just how controversial SCP-2721 is, but that time and place is not here.
We can say that SCP-579 is the article with the highest CI that also has the most total votes. You might be happy to call this combination the better definition of controversy. Good for you, I’m envious. I can’t bring myself to. Why not? An article like SCP-343 has more votes and a slightly lower CI, so it immediately begs the question; what should be more weighted, CI or popularity? And where do you draw the line? The top 10? The top 20?
SCP-2721 is nowhere near making this list. Does that make it less controversial? No. So why should SCP-579 be considered more controversial based on its vote totals? It’s just not that simple and clean.
And so, I come to you, writing this here on the Confic Magazine instead of the Confic Wiki, because I failed; I couldn't find a satisfying way to give SCP-579 the objective, definitive title of the SCP’s most controversial article. If I had to make a locker-room defeat-speech, I might say this:
Numbers just don't tell the whole story. They never have and can’t. Numbers can't account for the fact that SCP-579’s controversial nature is timeless, while SCP-2721’s is pinned to a certain point in space and time. That SCP-579’s controversy is about the writing, while SCP-2721’s is about the events around the writing. That SCP-2721 was a bystander caught up in an exogenous controversy, while SCP-579 made its own. That since SCP-5000 cast SCP-579 as a central character, its rating has benefited, ironically giving it a lower CI value, making it less controversial, while SCP-2721 is permanently frozen in its most embattled moment.
Statistics can’t explain what it means that an intrigued user in 2012 took the time to hand-count all the upvotes and downvotes on SCP-579 and group them by year that the voting WikiDot members joined the site, just to see how its reception had changed over time. That SCP-579 was, in its EditThis heyday, beloved enough to be nominated as the SCP-001. The numbers here can't tell you that SCP-579 spent the first 4 years of its life in a slow burn of single digits, only pushed definitively above double digits after the influx of the Containment Breach crowd, while SCP-2721 enjoyed a linear rise in rating until it went parabolic overnight.
Or that when in 2012, Anonypoet returned to WikiDot after 4 years of silence, and completely overhauled SCP-579 on a whim, it was itself a whole new controversy, and just as inveterate as the first one:
“To scroton: Bright didn’t really elucidate on his telling you to go write something new and to leave this and 071 alone, so let me say what I got out of it. Both this and 071 were pretty old and well known to people that have been coming to the site for years. Their appreciation for the articles as they were should have some recognition and some level of respect. To come back and perform drastic changes really is akin to someone coming by and knocking down your neighborhood to redevelop the place. The new developments may or may not be better, but it’ll always trigger some feelings of loss in the people that remember.” — Hurtz, on the June 2012 rewrite
“Downvoted due to the recent changes. And that hurts, since I’ve been a strong evangelist of this article since I don’t remember when. Put the keyboard down and back away We don’t need any midicholorians here.” — spikebrennan
“Man, why don’t you just start writing some new material, and let that get torn apart, and become more attuned to what the site likes before you come back to these? All that’s gonna happen is that people are gonna resent the shit out of you for fucking with stuff they liked before.” — thedeadlymoose
“Man, this is interesting to watch. Our very own constitutional crisis. I love how the most controversial article on the site now has another controversy stapled to it.” — Anaxagoras
SCP-579 is, was, and always will be a controversy within a controversy. It's a fractal that begets more. Anonypoet couldn’t do a thing about it, and neither can we. And you know what? That it isn't clearly the most controversial article by quantitative metrics like CI might just be another of its controversies.
“Much ado about nothing” — Hurtz on SCP-579, 2012
To read more about Anonypoet, SCP-579, other trivia & selected quotes, visit the Confic Wiki article on Anonypoet:
You can also read about the controversy index here:
See Lack of Leper's linktree here:
Data collected for CI calculations was taken from WikiDot's ListPages module in January 2023. Data collected at different times and from different sources (e.g. Scpper) may differ.
© Lack of Lepers
© Confic Magazine