From Homestar Runner Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Don't bother to read this if you're not that interested… it's more than a little bit self-indulgent.



First, some technical terms, since many people got them confused:

The wiki software we use. The wiki software we have used for quite a while. And the wiki software that we were using during the April Fool's day joke, regardless of what we claimed while it was happening.
The usual skin for the site. The one with the "article", "discussion", "edit", etc. links up the top, the toolboxes on the left… the default MediaWiki skin, and the only one that really works on our site.
Another wiki software, that we used a while ago before we changed due to its not being very scalable to larger wikis. It was a very simplistic wiki, without many of the features that MediaWiki has.
A MediaWiki skin that It's dot com made, that looks very much like WikkiTikkiTavi. It was this that made the site look so much like 'Tavi during the day.

Unfortunately, if we simply installed TaviStyle on the wiki, it wouldn't have worked – everyone would have to go into their preferences to change it. We wanted it to be already changed for everyone. So we replaced the MonoBook skin with the TaviStyle skin. So even though it was called MonoBook in the preferences, it was actually TaviStyle. Also, the other skins in the preferences are no less a part of MediaWiki than MonoBook is, they merely do not work properly on our wiki.

The story

Ok, so anyways, one day (March 28, to be precise), I drop into the IRC channel to see people talking about April Fool's Day. Here's how it all went down:

<Dot_com> so, April 1 is between now and next Monday
<Dot_com> are we gonna get an AF toon *and* sbemail150?
<FireBird`> Yay! April Fools Day sigs!
<Phlip> I'm thinking they'll do something clever and combine them into one
<Dot_com> JoeyDay|school: are we celebrating the holiday as a wiki in any way?
<Dot_com> or is that too unprofessional?
<JoeyDay|school> Dot_com: We should put up something saying we've been bought out by Yahoo!
<JoeyDay|school> Isn't Yahoo! snatching up lots of things lately?
<Phlip> JoeyDay|school: how about some "unobtrusive" advertisments
<Phlip> yeah, I stole the idea from KoL, but it was funny
<JoeyDay|school> We should invert the color scheme.
<JoeyDay|school> fuschia on green or something.
<Dot_com> we could point to a different Main Page
<Phlip> "This diff was brought to you by Toyota. Oh, what a feeling."
<JoeyDay|school> We could say we've got inside knowledge of going under.
<JoeyDay|school> Matt called me and said they're shutting down in a week.
<Dot_com> JoeyDay|school: we don't want to do anything that generates even *one* email to them
<JoeyDay|school> Hm, that's a good point.
<HSRusername> yeah, too extreme methinks
<FireBird`> I like being bought by Yahoo!
* Tom39Away Doesn't like anykind of April 1st foolery.
<JoeyDay|school> We should do up the whole scheme BBS style in fixed width font, like 1981.
<FireBird`> HRWiki Premium.
<Dot_com> heh
<FireBird`> If H*R didn't already take it, that would be fun to do.
<Phlip> maybe we should restyle the main page to look like the old wikitikitavi main page?
<FireBird`> That would be fun.
<JoeyDay|school> phlip: That would be cool.
<HSRusername> make the "Successfully logged in" screen say you're blocked
<JoeyDay|school> Or just bring the old Tavi wiki back.
<JoeyDay|school> HSRusername: That would generate a lot of email.
<Dot_com> I like the Tavi idea
<Phlip> like revert it back to or something
<JoeyDay|school> HSRusername: But it would be funny.
<HSRusername> maybe, unless they just tried to go to another page and realized they weren't
<HSRusername> or a note on the bottom
<JoeyDay|school> We could change a bunch of the system messages to crazy things.
<Phlip> you mean like tbird did that one time?
<HSRusername> heh
<JoeyDay|school> Phlip: Heh, yeah.
<Dot_com> I don't think we should change more than the front page
<Tom39Away> Or we could do nothing.
<Dot_com> Tom39Away: :P
<Phlip> change MediaWiki:And to "or" :P
<JoeyDay|school> We could put a bunch of kitten pictures up and say we're switching the whole thing to the Kitten Wiki.
<Dot_com> ha ha ha
<Tom39Away> Or we could do nothing.
<Phlip> but yeah, we want to do something that'll be easy to do *quickly* and quick to revert when we're done though
<FireBird`> "The Homestar Runner Wiki is no longer hosted here. This has now become The Kitten Wiki".
--- Dot_com is now known as Everybody
<Phlip> changing vast number of pages isn't gonna do that
* Everybody knows Tom39Away doesn't want to do anything
--- Everybody is now known as Dot_com
* Tom39Away slaps Dot_com around with a large trout
<JoeyDay|school> Is the username "Everybody" taken on the wiki?
<JoeyDay|school> That's a perfect name.
<JoeyDay|school> Everybody! Everybody!
<FireBird`> Hey, Everybody!
<FireBird`> Heh.
<FireBird`> I bet it is taken.
<JoeyDay|school> La dee doh dee doh!
<JoeyDay|school> It doesn't appear to be taken.
<JoeyDay|school> Oh, with the exclamation point...
<JoeyDay|school> Yep, that guy's got the perfect username.
<Dot_com> Here's why I think the Tavi idea is tops: (1) it's simple; only involves one page edit, (2) it's funny, and a lot if not most people would get the joke, and (3) it still says Homestar Runner Wiki at the top
* Phlip is working on making it look as much like 'Tavi as possible
<Phlip> it'll involve two edits - one to the main page and one to monobook.js, but that's not too bad
<Phlip> it's probably overboard anyways
<Dot_com> can we do it without changing the monobook?
<Phlip> basically hiding all the mediawiki stuff and then recreating it all in the wiki text

So as you can see, the WikkiTikkiTavi idea, and hence most of the the blame, was mine.

I knuckled down and made a page that looked pretty much exactly like the old wiki mainpage (with a few CSS enhancements to get it to look right – make the red links, remove the "external link" icons and so on – these aren't visible in this archived version. Just trust me that it looked pretty much exactly like it). Then I wrote an ugly JavaScript hack (and I do mean ugly) that would hide all of the usual MediaWiki toolboxes and banners and such – basically it moved the page out of the content area and put it on the bottom, then just hid everything else. It worked, and it would mean that the Main Page would look like 'Tavi, and every other page would look like MediaWiki (so as soon as you clicked a link, you'd get the joke).

Then, It's dot com got the idea of making another MediaWiki skin, based on the skin Nostalgia, that would look like 'Tavi. The idea had been thrown around a bit, but it was generally decided that it would be too much effort. Luckly for us, Dot com never uses "too much effort" and "coding stuff for the wiki" in the same sentence. Seriously, that guy's amazing. He set it all up so that we wouldn't need to put the 'Tavi-like red links in the final Main Page, and we wouldn't need my ugly ugly JavaScript hack. Plus, if you went to any other page, it would still look like 'Tavi. Apart from the occasional suggestions, he did it pretty much by himself (and very quickly, too).

In the meantime, I worked on adding the "What's New" section to the Main Page. Simply including our current {{whatsnew}} template wasn't going to be any good – it didn't blend in well with the rest of the page. But we didn't want the users to think that we'd reverted to the old database too – we still had all of the current toons, including any April Fool's content that The Brothers Chaps made (which they did). So we needed a new banner. Using The GIMP, I put together a whole bunch of different ideas for the "What's New" banner, we eventually chose Pom Pom.

So then we decided we needed to test the skin. For real, on the real wiki, not on the small test wiki we'd set up to build it on. So we waited until the dead of the night, when there were no edits going on, and we pushed out the skin to the live server. It only took us 11 minutes to check everything that needed to be checked, and then put the usual MonoBook skin back. It was ridiculous, and not even funny. We thought we'd gotten away with it, when tragedy struck! We'd been caught! YK put a message on Talk:Main Page, saying he'd spotted the new skin, and wanted to know if it was vandalism, hackery or an early April Fool's joke. To keep the surprise, we had to delete his edits from the page… we talked to him though, and he was cool with it. He even joined in the fun later, which was good.

And that's about it really… We were done then, except for the odd tweak here and there – sacrificing authenticity in the name of usability (adding a lot of links to the red panels, where there was one in MediaWiki but not in 'Tavi). Even after only the couple of days that we had the skin working, we quickly got accustomed to it, navigating around just as quick as in MonoBook (to all the people who thought it was unusable: it's only because it was new. After a few days you would have found it usable too, though of course it was only around for one day). We just sat back in nervous excitement, watching the little countdown timer I wrote, waiting for it to hit T−0:00:00. Then, we set up the Site notice, locked the database (for show – we didn't need to) and rolled out the skin.

The effect was almost immediate.

Comments on the talk page, comments on the forum… pretty even mix of people who really thought we'd changed back, people who got the joke and were playing along and people who were angry about the change (because yes, it's not quite as pretty as MonoBook, in that it doesn't have as much eye-candy… though I personally like minimalist things like this). JoeyDay came up with the idea, on the spur of the moment, to claim it was because of server load… which is half true, 'Tavi does have a lower server load than MediaWiki does. This wasn't really planned, but it worked rather well.

There were even the few people (I won't name names, to protect the guilty) who decided it would be a good idea to prove how clever they were and spoil the fun for everyone by proving that we were still using MediaWiki. It isn't really all that hard if you know where to look – the source code is the usual MediaWiki format (not the 'Tavi format, which used (()) for links instead of [[]], for example), pages like Special:Search look a lot different to the old Search page, MediaWiki even has a Special:Version page. Perhaps the most telling is that 'Tavi didn't have Discussion pages. And then there's the more obscure, such as the version line at the bottom saying we were powered by WikkiTikkiTavi version 0.2T. Of course, not everyone knew about these, but they aren't that hard to find if you know where to look, and it doesn't show how clever you are to point them out to people – it just makes you look like a jerk for gloating and spoiling people's fun. There were also the people who were angry that we'd even consider doing an April Fool's day trick. These were sometimes even the same people who were anxiously waiting to see what April Fool's content the actual Homestar Runner site would have. This confuses me… of course it was an April Fool's joke – if you were able to spot that it was MediaWiki, that fact should have been clear. Of course we weren't going to drop the pretence just because you'd figured it out, if everyone stopped doing an April Fool's joke just because someone figured it out, no-one would ever finish them. The plan was to keep it up until April 2, then revert everything back and explain it all. I find it strange that people would quit the wiki in a flaming troll-y fit, just because we pulled a one-day gag on you all. Are you going to stop going to because they turned everything upside down for one day? Or stop going to google because they have a fake Romance Search page?

Um, OK, that turned into more of a rant than I had hoped…
Incidentally, all that ranting is not aimed at people who didn't figure out it was a joke – I have nothing against them, there's nothing wrong with not knowing about the features that would tell you it was really MediaWiki, you don't need to know about them to use the wiki, and use it well. It's directed at the people who knew it was a joke, and decided to act immature anyway.

Incidentally, this is pretty much why I love MediaWiki and why we'll probably never change – it would be downright impossible to tweak 'Tavi so that it looked like MonoBook. But it was almost easy to tweak MediaWiki so that it looked like 'Tavi.

Anyway, that's the story of the first April Fool's event on HRWiki. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Come on, you know you did. Take a deep breath. Put a smile on your face.

See you around, phlip TC

External Links

Personal tools