Bulbapedia has come a long way from being the strange new community-based format for distributing Pokémon information to fans. I've interviewed the people that have been integral in the success of this site. Their experience with the formatting, rules and history of Bulbapedia is unrivaled by anyone else, and it was a pleasure learning from them.
Throughout Bulbapedia's history, the site has been the subject of much criticism, but in the end, we've pushed through and become the largest and most visited resource for Pokémon information on the Internet. Without it, it is likely that Bulbagarden would have never left the ground to join, and eventually surpass, the other great Pokémon fan sites. It's hard to believe that a wiki, with little help from staff members, could have grown to this scale, with more than 16,000 articles. We've even got new skins based off of the Erika's Garden BMGf skin now. It's because of the users, the people like you, that we are what we are today.
Thank you for that.
Interviews with Archaic, head of Bulbagarden, evkl, deputy head of Bulbagarden and former Editor in Chief of Bulbapedia, and TTEchidna, the current Bulbapedia Editor in Chief, are located below. Please be aware that slight editing has occurred in the process of bringing the information to you.
RexRacer: At the conception, did you have any idea that Bulbapedia would become Bulbagarden's cash crop, so to speak?
Archaic: At conception, no, but that's because the conception is a lot older than most people would actually realize. When it first became a reality though....no, we never expected Bulbapedia to be anywhere near as popular as it's become, we had expected the forums to remain the central focus.
RexRacer: You say that the conception took awhile to realize. When did the first incarnation of the idea take place?
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Archaic: Everything can be traced back to 2000, with Bulbagarden's original webmaster Chris. He wasn't thinking in terms of a Pokemon wiki, he was intending to create a site based on the wiki format for anime, entertainment and gaming news, Anenga. I think the first proposal of a Pokémon wiki came from Meowth346 back in...'02? '03? Something like that. I remember that it didn't really attract much notice at the time. It wasn't until Wikipedia started to really take off that anyone really took the idea of wiki based content management seriously.
RexRacer: What led to the decision to name Bulbapedia, well, Bulbapedia? It could have easily been "Bulba-wiki" or something. That's what most wikis are called.
Archaic: You know, I honestly can't remember. I think we just picked the name because we thought it sounded better and more professional.
RexRacer: Does it ever bother you that Bulbapedia has somewhat overshadowed the rest of Bulbagarden with its incredible popularity? I can think of multiple times when users refer to BMGf as "the Bulbapedia forums."
Archaic: It does, I have to admit. While on one hand, we've always run Bulbagarden and its sections in a fairly decentralised manner, people identifying the overall as Bulbapedia instead of Bulbagarden is a bit problematic. Especially considering that bulbapedia.com and .net domains have been squatted practically since we opened the thing to the public.
RexRacer: Why did you choose to have someone else run Bulbapedia when it first was released, and why have you never been a huge contributor to the wiki, edit-wise?
Archaic: Well, there's always been a time factor for starters. When Bulbapedia went live, I was on my way back to Australia after a year living in Japan, and would be finishing up my undergraduate degree that year. Didn't exactly have a lot of time then. After that...between various work and study commitments, I had even less time. It's not only time to do things on Bulbapedia that's been impacted, it's time to do anything on the site. While I do try to take a fairly active hand on the management side of things, negotiating agreements with other sites, and so on and so forth, I think most users can attest to how rarely they've actually seen a post from me in the forums over the past few years.
One thing I did notice early on also was that when I made an edit to something personally, other people who were aware I had been the one to make the edit seemed to shy away from making further changes, even if I'd been flat out wrong on something, or if there was still a lot of work needing to be done to the article. That trend always worried me.
RexRacer: So people were treating you like you were the absolute authority on the subject.
Archaic: Yes, that's the feeling I did get. I've always wanted to avoid creating the sort of cult of personality that we've seen on some other sites in the fandom over the years, where the users defend the webmaster no matter what they say or do. I've always wanted a mature userbase that tells me when I've screwed up and isn't afraid to do so.
RexRacer: How has Bulbagarden changed because of Bulbapedia?
Archaic: Short answer would be....we have content. Seriously, from when I took over Bulbagarden and brought it back from the dead, up until the establishment of Bulbapedia, we were essentially the forum and nothing else.
RexRacer: Thank you for your time, Archaic.
Archaic: You're welcome.
RexRacer: From what I know, you were a forums moderator at the time Bulbapedia was in the works. What possessed you to become to go-to guy for the new wiki?
evkl: Well, we--Archaic and the other top admins, at the time--were very concerned that we lacked any real competitive advantage. We wanted to put together something big. The first and biggest push was for a Pokédex, but it was hard to see how we were going to beat the other great sites. I forget exactly how we settled on a wiki, but once we sort of went towards that I really started pushing hard for it. It seemed like the best way we could separate from the pack, because nobody else was doing anything even close to it--we were the first to go "Web 2.0"
RexRacer: At the time, was Bulbagarden the "community focused" Pokemon fan site that it is today, and how did Bulbapedia change things?
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evkl: Bulbagarden was a relatively small community back then, but it was tight-knit. So it's hard to say we were community-focused; we were just a community. Bulbapedia certainly was a growth opportunity, but the nature of wikis mean that the real contributors became parts of the community. And so I'd say today we're both a community and "community focused." Obviously we welcome the greater fandom, but there's a core group that understands we're about interaction and knowing each other. And that core group isn't small. In fact, I'd say it comprises anybody who visits the site on a semi-regular basis.
RexRacer: Why did you decide to retire as Editor in Chief?
evkl: I retired because I wasn't the best person for the job as we grew. Zhen and TTE both are extremely good at juggling the little projects. Zhen had a deep and intuitive understanding of how wiki rules, regulations, and systems work; TTE understands how to balance the various areas of the fandom. I suppose I was best at giving that initial drive and push to get things started. Plus, I wanted to be able to focus on expanding other projects; I really love trying out new projects.
RexRacer: Now that Bulbapedia is ranked among the top wikis and is the driving force for Bulbagarden, do you ever wish you had kept your position? Even as head administrator of BMGf, you manage an area that gets considerably less traffic than the place you used to run.
evkl: No, not really. I mean, it's a good position--don't get me wrong. Certainly a high honor in the community and, really, on the internet. But for me it isn't about just managing a high-traffic area. It's about doing things well. And TTE does a better job--and Zhen did a better job--than I could have done through their tenures. I like the freedom I'm able to have doing what I do now. I loved the work in setting up Bulbapedia way back when--plenty of the conventions I helped establish still persist, and that's a source of pride for me. I happily did my part, but I'm glad I stepped down. Bulbapedia is privileged to still be in exceptionally competent hands.
RexRacer: Do you think that Bulbagarden would still be the largest Pokémon network on the internet without Bulbapedia?
evkl: No, I don't think so. If there's anything Wikipedia has proven, it's that you really need to have a community-based repository for information--it ends up being vastly superior to a hierarchical system. And as you mentioned earlier, the forums are not that highly trafficked. It's a good way for people to communicate but relatively little gets done there, unless you're into fanfiction or fanart. And people like being helpful. Bulbapedia lets them do.
RexRacer: Do you think that Bulbagarden would be one of the larger sites at least, like Pokécommunity or Marriland, if not Smogon or PokéBeach?
evkl: Probably. But it's hard to say. Things would've been...very different. We probably would've pushed hard into one area of the fandom--probably anime--on the forums. And things would've developed from there. We would have done okay, I'm sure. But Bulbapedia really gave us...just an incredible competitive advantage.
RexRacer: Taking all that into consideration, through the vandals and the copyright issues, do you still think that Bulbapedia was the right choice to make?
evkl: The vandals and copyright issues are small in the grand scheme of things. Bulbapedia was clearly the right path to take...it put us where we are today. If we spend five to ten days a year administratively fighting large-scale vandals or dealing with major copyright issues, it's a lot. The successes just dwarf the (very limited) bumps in the road we've had.
RexRacer: Thank you for your time.
evkl: No prob.
RexRacer: What brought you to Bulbapedia initially?
TTEchidna: The site itself? I just randomly found it, actually. I forget how. It was in the summer of 2006, though. As for why I joined and started editing? Really what I wanted to do was add stuff I knew so I could come back later and look it up. Has a side effect of helping others, but that's just a bonus. I suppose that's how any wiki works. You add what you know so you can come back and see it. And if everyone does that, you end up finding out stuff you don't know.
RexRacer: Did you ever think that you would become the leader of the place?
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TTEchidna: Ever thought I'd become the guy in charge? Actually, from when I first became a Pokémon fan, I wondered if I'd ever end up knowing the bigger players in the fandom. I started out as a Zeo user... always went on there, never posted. I was scared to, because I didn't wanna look dumb. But back when I joined BP, that was just before Gen IV began, when we were on the last legs of Gen III. And I couldn't foresee at all becoming the guy in charge of it.
RexRacer: You were the first leader of something big like this on Bulbagarden, if I remember correctly, to not have been there since the relaunch in 2002. How do you think that affected you in relation to the other staff members, and how do you think it has affected the dynamic up to present day?
TTEchidna: Yeah, I think I was too. Anyway, it was certainly weird. I mean, it's not like I didn't know the people I was dealing with. But here I was, someone who had been in the fandom since getting Yellow in 1999, and I was suddenly on-level with the big names in the fandom. I mean, when I first came upon the fandom, I did wonder if I would one day talk to someone like Archaic or Serebii one-on-one. And look at me now. I'm dealing with Archaic for our site's details, and others in the case of intersite relations.
RexRacer: One of the things that I've noticed about you is that you often put a personal touch on your work with the wiki. You have many backstories relating to your experiences with the games, from getting Yellow as a result of your parents winning a contest to the shiny Sandshrew and your Psychos. You've got a lot of stories that you post about your times with Pokémon, something that most other staff members neglect to do. Why do you do this, and do you think that it brings you closer to the users as a result?
TTEchidna: Pokémon's supposed to be customizable, really. The point of it all is to choose your own team. It's why I've always been against turning the pages into "recommendation pages" for Pokémon, moves, and the like. I share my stories because those are indeed my stories. How many people have a shiny Sandslash that they caught in Union Cave? How many people caught Mewtwo by a fluke, throwing a Great Ball? Sure, plenty might have a shiny Sandslash. With the size of the games' userbase, and the amount of them, certainly there has to be tens, if not hundreds, of people who legitimately caught a shiny Sandslash. But make it unique. Recommendation pages take out the uniqueness. I share what worked out for me in my userspace because that's what worked out for me. But I don't go into articles and say "use Garchomp because it kicks everything's ass".
Get what I mean? It's why you can name the player. It's why there's 493 plus two; so you can have whatever team you want. It's why I didn't like the kids who used Mewtwo back in the day because it kicked ass. I used my Mewtwo because there was something unique.
RexRacer: How was the transition from being an Editorial Board member to Editor in Chief? There was the unofficial handing off of powers from Zhen Lin, and when that was made official, did things change from how they were when you were unofficially in charge? Maybe a little more talk page flooding?
TTEchidna: By the time Zhen handed power off to me, I was pretty much already in charge, so it was a smooth transition. It wasn't sudden or anything. Not to say I saw it coming, I was actually quite surprised, but yeah, the talk page floods were already there.
RexRacer: Were you active on any other parts of the site while you worked on Bulbapedia?
TTEchidna: I've always been primarily BP. Forums came out of necessity, really. I'm basically 90% Bulbapedia, 10% anything else.
RexRacer: Thank you for your time, TTE.
TTEchidna: You bet!