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  • Writer's pictureConfic Magazine

Tres Ordines Scripturae

Culture & Community

by pixelatedHarmony


In the beginning, there was duality. One man in two roles, one public one private, devolving power to prevent himself or anyone else from being a dictator. The Administrator who gave this power away handed it to a successor before fading into history and legend. That successor was DrGears, who ran the SCP Wiki responsibly when he could give it attention. Now, it is the age of Mann (DrEverettMann), who presides but who does not rule. Real power is not exercised by him, even though he could if he so wished it. Instead the three most powerful persons within the SCP Staff structure today are Rounderhouse, TheDeadlyMoose, and aismallard. This is not the first time the Foundation’s show runners have been in the hands of a three-headed monster. Last time it ushered in what many still consider today to have been a golden age from 2012-2018. Our present presiding trio is still writing the script and their legacy is yet unmade. If they succeed, will the SCP Wiki be back on the path to greatness?

The original SCP triumvirate came about as a result of known creep TheDuckman (better known by the name of a character he created, DrBright) losing his control as lead Administrator of the SCP Wiki. A group of current and former staff members collectively confronted Duck about his leadership and he willingly acquiesced to a new power-sharing system wherein power previously held by Duck would be equally shared by a new group of Administrators, a new mix of veterans and rookies leading the way. TroyL and TheDeadlyMoose were the lead organizers of this effort and they took a commanding role in the new SCP Staff System. Eventually, they formalized their new setup with the SCP Wiki’s Site Charter. Without their efforts, the SCP Wiki probably would have been swept away. A rushing rising tide soon deluged them; the indie FPS Containment Breach expanded the audience by virtue of finding mass appeal among gamers. But that is a story for another day.

The sickness at the core of the SCP Wiki is one of toxic validation. Upvote culture has caused the SCP Wiki to drop all pretenses of artistic integrity to become an end unto itself. It has reached its cold, faintly-shimmering creative death; a process that started with a drift away from horror and concluded with two Among Us SCP articles. The discourse within the community has degraded as authors desperately hoping to peel some slice of attention away from the major authors find there’s no oxygen left for them; the light crowded out by an imposing canopy, save for sparse, small refuges of gleam dappled about the perpetual shade. Meanwhile, the SCP Wiki staff care more about covering their own asses than the community they look down upon from their position of presumed and self-supplied superiority.

The long-term future of the SCP Wiki is perilously questionable after experiencing years of inept and inertly rudderless leadership. While the status quo can be maintained day-to-day, this is proof only that one foot is being placed in front of another and not that the walker knows where they are going. Neither proper managerial stewardship nor sustained writing standards are scaling well with the Wiki's continued popularity, something often pointed to as irrefutable evidence of its perpetual ascent.

An easy and cheap way to track the decline is by looking at SCP article titles. For you see, a catchy title that comes from a bot query is that much more likely to make someone look and maybe upvote. You can sense the desperation behind the smile like a clown dancing to the music with a gun pointed at them just off-stage. As this doomed clown, so too are the users of the SCP Wiki guaranteed no rights to go along with the responsibilities required by the SCP Wiki Staff to continue participating. If you step out of line you will be thrown to the capricious mercy of disciplinary groupthink, your dissent termed "a disgrace".

Clinical tone has become stale. The format is running out of juice. There can be no reprieve in tales, which wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for authors being sick of the format. You’re lucky to get more than a dozen readers, if you don’t mind simping for their attention by spamming links interminably, and to an absolutely detestable amount of what should be shame. Nobody reads anything anymore. CSS themes have experienced a Cambrian explosion in an effort to stand articles out from the sea of faces, and placing less emphasis, time, and care on the actual writing in the process. Unless you’re willing to spam that link to your article all day, or create a veritable, multi-platform social media marketing campaign to promote it, you’ll be lucky to get more than a handful of votes or comments. That is, unless you are part of the insider clique, or in proximity to any one of their fellow travelers.

The international SCP community is much less diseased, looking at the flagship Anglo-Saxon SCP community with a mixture of pity and disgust. They know that they have a tiger by the tail via their association with the Wiki; but you can't live with it or without it. They do not have the turnover or callous that only a convoluted, machine-like operation — nearly ignorant to their dedication — can create. Veteran authors who aren’t on staff rarely pass their wisdom on. Those on staff resign with hands thrown up, leaving behind only the demonstration of burnout in exchange for their volunteered time and energy, this seemingly inevitable on a long enough timeline. All the while, the site as a product does not improve, and has been marred with increasing public scandals and culturally terminal issues. The forum crit system at SCP — the ceaselessly pumping heart of the site —is now a machine designed to weed out coldposts, not help authors improve. It’s an assembly line, a factory of rejection, a roulette of rubber stamping. Contests have become noise, with nobody caring to read all the entries (who can?) or remember the winners afterwards; the goal is the social spoils as much as anything to do with writing.

The 6K contest saw a 330% increase in custom CSS themed entries, compared to the 5K. These entries performed better than Sigma-9 formatted entries by 69% (Sigma-9 average: +49; custom CSS theme average: +83). The top 5 placing articles in the 6K contest have custom CSS treatment.

The discipline system punishes children and ESL speakers for bad grammar and being “annoying” while allowing an aforementioned Administrator, Duckman, to openly and publicly solicit/distribute nude photographs on social media with community members as young as 18 years old. The layout and on-boarding points of the Wiki are a mess and in constant revision & rewrite by staff. It is built for the benefit of power users at the expense of everyone else. Most existentially of all, the decade-old inability to produce a solution to the WikiDot question has left the SCP Wiki vulnerable to a sudden unexpected shutdown of their hosting service. They fail to allocate appropriate time, attention, and urgency to this deep, central, looming, impending, and existentially catastrophic concern.

It is easy to name and shame all of the differing ways in which the SCP Wiki has fallen from grace. But it has many positive qualities as well, which if nurtured could grow to overcome these deficiencies. There is still a robust writing community in spite of the obstacles holding back new writers and stymieing valuable experience. The staff structure, despite serious shocks, has remained quasi-stable, controlling influence on events even without anyone in the driver’s seat. This is a solvable problem and the SCP Wiki in the past has been lucky enough to find leaders capable of doing so. Their survival depends on doing it again.

TroyL experimented with the Dragon mentorship program, wherein moderators were paired with Administrators to help keep them apprised of what was going on in the site. This had mixed results for informing the Administrators but most of those in the program eventually became Administrators themselves, which was probably the secret second point. (He was quite fond of those.) This initiated a sort of tetrarchy-like college of leadership once he had retired, which quickly broke down as many of its members buckled under the stresses of their new jobs, retiring.

This era of equilibrium following TroyL’s retirement is also when many SCP critics would peg the start of when the SCP Wiki Staff began to seriously lose the plot. There are other stories retelling the wins and woes they’ve experienced since TroyL retired, they need not be restated ad-nauseum. The point is that nobody inside or who has been watching the past four years would say things are as good as they could be, or could ever have been. Is it possible then, that the emergence of a trio both new and old atop the SCP Staff’s hierarchy could mean a future with more decisive leadership?

Now, although this Big Three is certainly new, it is not entirely new. There is historical continuity, a bit of connective tissue, in the personhood of thedeadlymoose. They comprised one of the primary pillars of the original SCP triumvirate: TroyL, thedeadlymoose, and… an office with a revolving door for third wheels. That marks another differentiating factor. The third leg of the triumvirate was previously able to be swapped out whenever the two biggest names inside of it needed a new partner to work with on a particular piece of policy. It was not unlike how in a parliamentary system of government, a minority ruling party might pick and choose different opposition parties to coalition with to pass this or that piece of legislation. Of course, in the days of the original SCP triumvirate, the staff interpersonal conflicts were much less acrimonious, even if it was the worst it had ever been at the time.

The biggest difference is in relation to the aforementioned third pillar. In days gone by, TroyL had a strong enough personality that his own personal gravity negated any oxygen with which a third big player could assert themselves as being necessary to deal with. There is an opportunity to stake a claim to leadership by holding staff accountable to the withering criticism leveled against them. Rounderhouse has taken it upon himself to pursue true inquisition, the most frequently observed to hold the Staff’s collective feet to the fire. It is for this reason — whether it a political expediency or a grassroots concern — that he holds the closest thing to the community’s voice as can be described. The existence of his base of popularity, intellectual heft, and philosophical understanding of the SCP Wiki’s underpinnings make the man impossible to ignore.

The two administrative triumvirs, thedeadlymoose and aismallard, have similar backgrounds. They both started life living in small, religious conservative worlds but found greatly expanded horizons from both accessing the internet and living in more urban areas. That they would find common cause is not at all surprising. Nor is it that they have worked tirelessly to expand the SCP Staff’s power structure, responsibilities, and moral authority. That they would end up butting heads with Rounderhouse’s inconvenient truths and rhetoric is the least surprising thing of all.

Again, that’s another difference. The acrimony. There was never serious conflict within the original Triumvirate. All parties were more or less on the same footing, without any kind of loyal opposition beyond TroyL’s own encouragement of non-dogmatic thinking. But Rounderhouse and administrative triumvirs have frequently butted heads in public and one can presume in private as well. While their objectives are similar, their philosophical approaches differ in terms of how they see virtue in exercising direct authority via the existing Staff Systems. TheDeadlyMoose and aismallard generally favor it, Rounderhouse generally opposes and criticizes it.

We are thus seeing an interesting 2:1 mix of dichotomous forces here; the strong centralizing forces of Moose’s patented procedural microscopy plus the tech-minded expansionism of aismallard, and the decentralizing force of Rounderhouse’s populism. The first would see staff’s purview rise to new heights, in order to meet the tall challenges of today; the second would see it flattened, as if staff’s bulk was the very issue, in need of simply getting out of the way.

Rounderhouse has acquitted himself well by leading the Wanderer’s Library, SCP Declassified, and through adept management of a coalition filled with big personalities to keep everyone pulling in the same direction. None of these efforts was done by Rounderhouse alone, but he has played a key role without sacrificing team play at the altar of his ego. This is the reason why Rounderhouse has continued succeeding within the context of SCP Staff politics while his erstwhile counterpart and finally-wise-by-errors djkaktus has, at least historically, continually set himself up to fail in matters of representation and diplomacy. All it takes is a little self-awareness to be humble when it counts. Rounderhouse can count that skill as the most valuable arrow in his political quiver; the ticket to a success lost to his mentor.

Aismallard possesses many of the same strengths as Rounderhouse but with the added benefits of age and wisdom. While lacking in the rhetorical prowess of her triumvir colleagues, this is more than made up for with deep esoteric understanding of technical processes combined with an ability to communicate those processes to outsiders, e.g. her work on WikiJump, the newest manifestation of Project Foundation. Aismallard acts as a bridge between the world of the engineer and practical reality. That isn’t to say her textual oratory is unimpressive; recently, aismallard singlehandedly stopped the headstrong, uni-mind momentum of a proposed -ARC article deletion, and sent it at equal speed in the opposite direction — only with just a few paragraphs of focused reasoning. This alone would make her a force to be reckoned with but combining that with a sharp instinct for implementing progressive change from idea to reality, it’s really more or less the complete package of what you would want an SCP Administrator to do. Perhaps the only thing checking her power, tightrope balancing in the SCP Staff triumvirate’s power, is a lack of confidence in her own ability... also possibly a godsend among what is a historically self-congratulatory position. If her personality were to turn on a dime tomorrow, aismallard has the political strength to banish her colleagues into the abyss, and the wherewithal to drive intellectual circles around them, spelling her name in burnt rubber. But her personality in actual fact precludes this possibility, at least if public perceptions are to be believed.

The eldest of the triumvirs, in both age and experience, is thedeadlymoose. Moose has been a player in the SCP Staff game for as long as anybody else. Their career stretches back to the misty days before Containment Breach, which may be the defining characteristic of a true “old-guard” SCP Wiki member. Having been the right-hand for TroyL during the golden age he presided over, there is a case to be made that thedeadlymoose is the person most single-handedly responsible for the massive cultural shift towards the SCP Wiki taking progressive public stances on LGBTQ+ issues. This also means moose is responsible for the flowering of LGBTQ+ literature on the SCP Wiki. While it could be argued this also means moose is originative to the backlash against those trends too, the only true factual statement would be that instigating these changes preceded said backlash. Any big shift is going to make large ripples, and thedeadlymoose is a person capable of dreaming big. But when you turn the world upside-down it often leads to unforeseen consequences. A big SCP Wiki can make a big positive impact, but it can also mean their missteps have an impact which is that much more magnified.

Each of these three, through their fairness and their faults, effectively keeps one another in check by tempering their worst impulses. While two are clearly more philosophically opposed than either are to the third, the dichotomy of two terms itself is given its real meaning by the introduction of a third. Removing any single piece of the trio would eradicate their effectiveness, their relative equilibrium. But should present trends continue, it is not out of the question that the lightning-in-a-bottle combination of the only logical successor to TroyL’s legacy, one of the most talented young authors the SCP Wiki has ever produced, and a bitingly intelligent and clear-headed duck could team up to make the SCP Wiki great again?

Only time will tell.

© HB

© Confic Magazine

Artists "HoneyChips4090" and "ksaid" created the art adapted for the depiction of Rounderhouse and thedeadlymoose.

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Lack of Lepers
Lack of Lepers
20 apr 2022

There are a ton of reaction points in this, but one that I keep coming back to is the use of the two Among Us articles as endpoints for the creative life of the site. Obviously it’s a bit of hyperbole, but there is some real echoing, unsettling, fridge truth to that; if only after replacing “life” with “vitality” or ”respectability”. In writing them, Tanhony — a real author’s author — endorsed the meme-fueled, bottom-of-the-barrel scraping of the lowest and last barrel; meme culture played straight. He is like that straight A+ student who got caught up with the wrong crowd and dropped out of school 3/4th of the way into the senior year. You just hate to see it.…

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