Project Foundation Forever
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
Community & Culture / Media & Tech
Sep 25 2021 · 6 min read
It’s a brisk November day, almost exactly ten years ago. The SCP Staff brain trust led by staff members Kens, SophosBlitz, and Quikngrivn are struggling together to find their footing in uncertain times. After the US Congress considered SOPA, a bill which would have had unknown impact on the web had come and gone, along with other web freedom scares, they wished to find a platform of their own where they wouldn’t be held to account for their webmasters on WikiDot. They had no idea they were kicking off a process which would last longer than any of their tenures on the SCP Wiki.
By March of 2012, they had reached an inflection point. After Quikngruvn’s assessment being to write off MediaWiki’s forum extensions as “more or less crap” there was little impetus or appetite to commit fully to the project. The Administrator Bright noted the project as being a wish list item, and not a “huge priority”. Quikngruvn responded that if that was the attitude the project would probably never be completed at all. At the time, he had no way of knowing how prophetic those words would be.
The conclusion of the conversations was to create a migration site which would serve as a hub for conversation and coordination about the migration project. As of writing, the most recent post and only post made since 2012 is one of the project founders, an SCP Wiki member named Bland, rediscovering the site and proposing that it be shuttered due to the project failing to launch. But that was now, back then, they had only energy and hope.
All their conversing was for nothing, because the calculations going into moving off of WikiDot were altered fundamentally and forever afterwards. Containment breach came out on April 15, 2012 and made the problem feel much more acute. WikiDot buckled under the stress of the traffic repeatedly. There were double posts, people swapping accounts for no reason, votes counting seven times and more. It was a mess and it made the perceived urgency to move on from WikiDot that much more intense.
Enter Raven Mackenzie, later known as Aelanna and colloquially known as “Mack.” A former game designer and long-time veteran of both SCP and software development, she calls out the process being pursued by staff as being feeble and unlikely to resolve the problem. This drive combined with her undeniable expertise put her in the driver’s seat for the development of what she would dub “Project Foundation”.
There was discussion on how to form a Limited Liability Corporation and the plan for Project Foundation which can be seen today for what was and was not accomplished on this first attempt to move on from WikiDot. This was also when murphy_Slaw joined the project, a man who tried hard but ultimately could not overcome the obstacle of migration.
By May of 2012, the expertise Aelanna possessed had been recognized as being light-years ahead of her community contemporaries and she was given full control of the project to organize and develop as she saw fit. In a flurry of activity she began to undertake active development while trying to fend off those opposing her for personality-driven reasons.
It is not a controversial statement to say that Aelanna was difficult to work with, a problem exacerbated by the fact that most of her most intractable colleagues were themselves no easier to deal with. However, she was able to make a viable prototype and was on her way to accomplishing her goal. There was even a demo site up showing what was to come. It would never be.
Project Foundation was organized under the Technical Team, who had the job of executing solutions to the technical challenges and preparing the Wiki for the move. This was the creation of the first Staff Team, and would serve as a template for the bureaucratization of staff. It was this process which led to the Sorts forum post “We’re not paying ourselves enough to be bureaucrats” which lamented what the process had done to the SCP Wiki. This would not provoke intractable resistance to the project, which plugged on without taking the objections into account.
The end of this burst of activity in early 2012 was consolidated and described in the form of an FAQ post by Aelanna laying out what was happening and what needed to be done. There would be questions answered by her on and off until September of that year, but it was a high water mark and provided real hope that Project Foundation would be finished in the not-too-distant-future. These hopes, however, would be dashed in a short time span.
In October 2012 though, things were seemingly becoming more concrete. The terms of service were coming into being and there were regular updates to the project. But this would not last. Over the course of 2013 and 2014, the relationship between Aelanna and the rest of staff deteriorated and became more and more acrimonious with each passing day.
This had little to do with the actual progress of Project Foundation, which quietly stalled out over 2013 over concerns that Aelanna would become too powerful after developing it. This spiraled with various circular conversations on the site’s future until October 2014 was when Aelanna finally quit the SCP project as a whole. This was after she had already left staff and marked the true final end of the first attempt at Project Foundation.
The next few years would be spent by staff updating and welding more elements on the staff system they had invented as part of preparing for a move that now seemed like it may never come. The original justification for the formalization of staff, the imminent move requiring professionalization, fell by the wayside, and it became an end unto itself. The original motivation was forgotten, but the professionalization carried on to this day. This correlates with an exponential increase in the burnout of staff, a trend which is surely entirely coincidental.
Six years after Project Foundation launched, there came the second crack at it. DrMagnus had a plan resembling the blueprint of the original Project Foundation, but this time it was going to work. There was new hope not seen since those heady days in 2012 that finally, it would be done. But this was not to be. Magnus was perpetually busy and despite the fanfare at the start of the project, it never got off the ground with visible progress the same way the first project had.
It was a sad twist to what should have been an excellent redemption arc. When he had first been a member of the SCP Wiki, a period from the early days of the site to the early days of Project Foundation, Magnus had been infamous for being obnoxious and immature. When he returned as a technical expert, his reputation completely turned inside-out. But old habits die hard, especially when they’re given power. Eventually, Magnus would be ousted from power over his meddling in the disciplinary action taken towards Cerastes, an action which other guilty parties were not punished for. He went from a savior to a fall guy. But that is a story for another day.
The third, and so far final, attempt at enacting a serious move towards SCP migrating off WikiDot was undertaken by Bluesoul, a man with a similar expert background to Magnus but without the drama. But despite the catchy names of WikiJump and WikiDork, there have only been updates of incremental progress and anything else like a demo site that can be touched and seen remains in the realm of the past.
It has been nearly ten years since the process began and those who have had the power to make change have little more than spare dimes to show for their time and effort. It is unrealistic to expect the SCP Wiki to ever successfully develop a next-generation web platform which is suitable for their needs. It is more likely to see a community break apart once the platform binding them together expires. Some will continue following staff, while others follow those community members with sufficient personal gravity to attach them.
But is that such a bad thing? Containment Fiction is in a far better place now than it was ten years ago. A collapse of the stagnant institution that is the SCP Wiki could lead to a renaissance of creativity and new ideas. Or it could make an arresting stop to all the progress made since the format emerged from the toxic slime pits of 4chan sending it tumbling back down into the abyss. If the latter is the case, they have had a good run. If the former comes, then their time will have passed and our work will have only just begun.
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