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The GreenReaper Interview

We lured GreenReaper, blinking and staggering out of the Wiki-cave with some cheese and carrots, and then asked him a lot of questions.  After he got through trying to chew through the bars of the interview cage and calmed down, we even started asking questions that made sense. This is the GreenReaper interview:

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Furry 101: We’d like to know a little more about you for our files… Who are you outside of the whole furry thing?  What sort of family do you have?

image16I’m a Brit living in Michigan with family in Canada. I sometimes joke that I have a 3D family tree. My parents separated when I was three, my dad taking a trip around the world and marrying a Canadian when I was nine, while my mum also married and had two more kids while working as a teacher. I spent the next decade taking ten-hour flights to Victoria and Toronto each summer.

Now that I’m working, holidays can be fun - especially when you have to get a work visa to return to the U.S. - but I try to see everyone around Christmas.

Furry 101: Talking of work, what is it you do?

image16In person, I’m a stereotypical geek. I’ve worked at Stardock as a software developer for the last three years. We create and publish computer games and desktop enhancements; I’m focussed on the latter, though I get drafted on all sorts of things.

I normally get up at 9:30, perhaps a little groggy from late-night editing.

Around 10:30 I head in with my ride - I’ve found I don’t need a car of my own, even in the suburbs of Detroit. Login, check email, start a few tasks.

An hour later, I’ll grab take-out from Jimmy John’s, Arbys, the local
Chinese or Thai, or failing that, McDonalds (I tried a salad last week!).
Then it’s back to work, keeping an eye on #WikiFur in case something comes up.

I’m not just sitting in front of Visual Studio programming - there’s
research, email, user interface design, mentoring, testing, writing, even support.

When coding, I’m usually looking at C++, C#, VB.NET or VBScript,
though I dabble in PHP and assembly. My focus is the technical nitty-gritty. If you need to de-elevate a child process, or disassemble and call an undocumented method on a class pointer, or optimize memory use in an XML parser, I’m your man. I might not know how, but I can find out.

I get home around 8. Dinner is either cooked fresh or leftovers from the weekend. After that, I’m back online until bed, a good portion of which is working on WikiFur or Wikipedia. I also talk with other contributors, both on and off the wiki, as well as working on technical matters. Weekends are much the same, except there’s more WikiFur and less work.

Furry 101: Do you ever get a buzz when you see Stardock products being used to customise Windows™ for TV series like CSI?

image16Others at the office do. I’m not really that interested in TV nowadays - I don’t see it as a productive use of my time. Wiki editing is creative, and you can share the results with others.

Furry101: You run financial advice in your LJ - have you ever thought of making those posts into a tutorial like document?

image16It’s crossed my mind - certainly some in the fandom could do with better money management - but others could do a
better job. If anything, I’d edit Wikipedia’s articles on such topics - they’re more widely read.

I do have a couple of pages on Stardock’s internal wiki, tailored to our
situation. Fun story there…

One time, Stardock brought me in on a meeting
with a prospective 401k provider. After a few odd looks - I’m clearly not management material - they went on to talk about how they’d replace the “Office Betty” who gave everyone terrible investment advice . . . and our
team grinned at me. I was “Betty” in our IRC channel for days afterwards.

Furry 101: What made you decide to do a Furry Wikipedia? Was it the success of your Creatures Wiki?

image16In part. Some wikis - say, those for a decade-old computer game - reach a natural point of completion. I’d spent over six months working on the Creatures Wiki, and I was running out of steam. Despite the valiant efforts of many people, the once vibrant Creatures Community was fading away, with little hope for renewal. It was time to move on.

I’d just arrived in the U.S., and was keen to get more involved with a more vibrant community with a similarly creative nature. I started trying to edit furry articles on Wikipedia, but I found their policies too restrictive. I became convinced that we needed our own site. So I started WikiFur. I like to think it would have happened anyway - I was just in the right place at the right time.

Furry 101: Were you involved in any Wiki like projects before Wikipedia and Wikia started hosting?

image16No. Wikis weren’t that popular before Wikipedia, and I didn’t start editing until the Creatures Wiki was founded over Christmas 2004. I’d been busy getting my degree, and working on skinning and open-source projects. (I started work on a Furcadia WindowBlinds skin at one point, but my studies intervened.)

Furry 101: Who or what got you into “furry”?

image16Oh, the porn, no question.

Furry 101: …

image16Well, let’s expand on that a bit. The truth is, I’ve had all sorts of influences, from TV shows like “The Raccoons” and “The Dreamstone”  to AD&D gamebooks, with their lavish illustrations of anthropomorphic lizards and cat-folk. Then there’s the computer games – particularly “Exile”, from which I got my first anthropomorphic character, and of course “Creatures”.

Once you’ve latched on to the concept of animals as intelligent beings, it isn’t that far a step to furry fandom. I’d been reading Ozzy & Millie since 2000, and I soon became a regular consumer at Yerf and the VCL. In mid-2004, I started getting into MUCKs. With the move to the U.S., I decided to take a more active role in the community - and here we are.

Perhaps a better question is why I’m still here. In sh…

Furry 101: We are asking ze questions! So… why are you still here?

image16… in short, this community has some great people in it, and copious opportunities for creative expression. I’ve made many friends and feel my work is useful and appreciated, and that’s why I’m around today.

Furry101: How is the move from Wikia to Timduru’s hosting coming along? What is involved, from the front-end to the back-end, in moving WikiFur?

image16Timduru and I have a long checklist of tasks - most of which are complete, though we find more on a regular basis. For technical reasons (Wikia uses off-table storage for page revisions), we’ll be merging a database and image dump with an XML dump of the latest content. This has required a little tinkering with the import script, but I’m confident that it’ll work.

We could theoretically move the sites tomorrow; you just wouldn’t be able to login using your Wikia credentials, the last major feature to be completed.

In practice, we plan to move the non-English languages first to let us work out the kinks. We’ll then open up editing on the new sites, switch the WikiFur.com DNS entries, and have Wikia close down the originals.

Meanwhile, we’ve been adding features that can be used before and after the move. Some were announced on our LiveJournal, like shared statistics, automated inter-language links, sitemaps and our multilingual portal. Others - like offsite backups and automated dumps - are less exciting, but arguably more important. There’ll also be a few bonus features, like breadcrumbs.

Finally, we’ve been converting inbound links over to the new domain,
en.WikiFur.com, as well as taking DNS redirection in-house (GoDaddy fails miserably on international character sets).

We’ve broken in the new server by hosting three new languages on it:

As well as the new image pool.

With the the work we’ve put in, I’m confident in its ability to host English from day one. Indeed, it could easily handle ten times the traffic we get (around 30,000 pageviews a day). Of course, all this comes at a cost - Timduru spends over $2000 a year and long hours keeping it up for various fursuiting sites and  the Funday Pawpet Show, so we’ve switched our donations over to him.

Furry 101: In the matter of being removed or excluded from WikiFur:
Why are some people denied exclusion based on their notoriety, while those that have made worthwhile contributions can ask to be excluded?

image16People are excluded - and occasionally not excluded - because WikiFur’s editors believe it’s the right thing to do. Asking nicely is appreciated, but what matters is whether there’s a good reason to deny the request.

Sometimes editors feel their effect of certain people has been significant enough that removing information about them would compromise our mission.

Others think WikiFur should warn others of troublesome members of the fandom, similar to LiveJournal’s “artists_beware”; or that some people have made a choice to seek notoriety that can’t be withdrawn.

The number of such cases is relatively small. There are currently 160 active exclusions, and perhaps one-tenth that number of contentious exclusion requests in our entire history. That’s not much when you consider we have over 5000 articles about people.

A little background on how we make decisions: In terms of article content, what matters is how good your editing is. In discussion, it’s how persuasive your arguments are. We prefer to decide matters on a case-by-case basis.

Policy is distilled from past discussions, but is open to review. Sometimes I weigh in personally, but I’m just one voice, and decisions don’t always go my way.

When people first asked us to remove information, we held extensive debates. We came to a rough consensus: we support the removal of some information, in most cases. This was a compromise - some took the position that we had the right and duty to say whatever we wanted, while others felt we shouldn’t write about people at all without their permission.

I see our current policy as “compassionate, within limits.” We refuse to remove information where it would harm the fandom to do so - usually because a crime or harm is threatened or has taken place. If we believe you’re dodging commissions, you can’t just quash discussion. Similarly, public creations are unlikely to be excluded - if you write a comic that furries appreciate, we won’t delete its article just because you don’t like us anymore.

Furry 101: Boxers or briefs?

image16What are these “boxers” you speak of?

Furry 101: You’ve obviously got some name recognition in the fandom, almost “e-fame” (or “F-Fame?”) if you want to call it that - what with the interview itself, and such. Were you at all this well known before starting WikiFur?

image16I was a nobody. Never attended a convention of any kind, or met another furry fan. I had a few accounts here and there, but I remained mostly silent until I saw the need for a better furry information site.

I view this as a good thing. Consider the fandom - do you really want
a well-known personality starting an encyclopedia? Would you trust them to make unbiased decisions? Not knowing anyone means you have to build a community from scratch, based on talent. Our editors come from a wide variety of backgrounds; they got where they are not because they’re my friends, but by making actual contributions.

To be honest, those who see me as “Mr. WikiFur” - good or bad - give me too much credit. WikiFur is a team effort; I serve as the public face and facilitator, but there’s many others who play a crucial role. Last I counted, we have over 30 active administrators, English and otherwise. Over a hundred people made five or more edits this October. Then there’s the supporters who help pay promotion and operation costs, and those who provide technical assistance.

Furry 101: …

Furry 101: Sorry, I was kind of expecting you to slip in an “Over 9000” reference there. Do go on!

Sometimes people assume I’m responsible for writing every furry wiki article out there. The truth is, the vast majority of my edits are trivial or stylistic; most content is written by others. I’m heavily involved in the “soft stuff” - talking with editors, juggling servers, and other off-wiki tasks. Even at Wikipedia I can only claim a few photographs and most of the article on furry conventions as my own - the latter just because it hasn’t had many editors.

Furry 101: Raids and vandalism are a somewhat common problem with WikiFur, it seems. Has any raid ever proven to be a legitimate threat, or have they all been just annoyances?

image16WikiFur was always going to be a target. Three weeks in - just after kicking off a LiveJournal promotion - we received the dubious honour of being named Something Awful’s Awful Link of the Day. (I seem to recall Furry 101 staff had something to do with that . . .)

The result was one edit every 45 seconds for a 24 hour period. We considered blocking anonymous edits, but decided to meet the challenge head on by drafting a few Wikipedia admins to settle things down. It was the right choice - many furs signed on to help defend the wiki, and we’d added a thousand articles by the end of the month.

Since then, we’ve had the occasional disruption, but nothing close to that scale. You might break a few pages, but a minute later you get reverted, and then what? The only issue worth mentioning was when someone hooked up a vandalbot to the Tor network. I spent two hours blocking 700 Tor nodes. Nowadays we have wiki extensions for that. We also have a custom-made site protection tool, but it’s rarely been used.

WikiFur’s best defense is the liberal devolution of power. We’ve enough users that there’s always someone watching recent changes and checking their email for change notifications.

While writing this, someone replaced the “yiff” article with a one-liner. I was there as soon as I heard, but by the time I’d clicked “rollback” someone else had done it. Then I tried to block the IP, only to find another admin had a minute earlier.

I’d say we’re well protected - which is good, as I’ve had to exchange active administration for other roles as we’ve grown.

Furry 101: Who’d win in a fight between Steve Jobs and Bruce Schneier?

image16Well, Bruce has his shiny head and his epic Password saga, but Steve has that reality distortion field and good dress sense. I think I’d have to give it to Steve, though I’d never buy his products. Bruce gets a consolation prize for his work on the MiniCon 34 restaurant guide.

Furry 101: What’s your perfect Sunday?

image16It depends on my mood. If I feel like editing, I might head over to Wikipedia, tinkering with the furry portal, a new
template, or an article on Anthrocon’s very own Uncle Kage - did you know he worked on a patent on recyclable packaging peanuts?

Furry 101: No I didn’t. That’s pretty weird but also cool.

image16Often I decide to work on the more creative admin tasks. Last week I added Content negotiation to our statistics to
ensure viewers got the right language. A couple of months ago I got a second-hand Nokia Internet tablet and went around making sure each sure each wiki fit in 800×480. A fortnight ago I prototyped multilingual typeahead search suggestions on Wikifur.com. Alas, it only worked on the nightly builds of Firefox, but it was fun getting it to work at all.

As you might guess, I’m only truly happy when there’s new and exciting things to do. Fortunately, there’s still plenty to be done at WikiFur.

Furry 101: If you could ban any foodstuff at all, what would it be?

image16Mushrooms, definitely. But I know some people like them, so I’d just request a 500 foot restraining order.

Furry 101: How considerate of you. Thanks for your time, here’s some cheese.


All rumours that “WikiFur: The Movie” is being discussed with Samuel L. Jackson playing the role of the Disambiguation page are false. They’re getting Keanu to do it.

And remember: Wikifur is a community project – Without your help it won’t grow, so drop a little cash in the donations box or donate some time to write about a topic dear to your heart.

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