Some time ago, Encyclopedia Dramatica went poof, and was replaced by something called Oh Internet.

And as you may have guessed, things went predictably weird.

The first thing you’ll probably say when you visit Oh Internet is “damn, did I accidentally hit the Know Your Meme bookmark?”

It’s fairly certain that the idea of Oh Internet is to replicate KYM - and I don’t think that is an entirely bad idea. The world needs something like KYM: A methodical, analytical, not particularly flamey site that documents Internet memes.

Note, however, that I don’t believe Oh Internet is that site. Nor do I believe KYM is that site either.

Short version: Girlvinyl got a decent enough idea, but the… stunning execution of that idea means that people will probably be overly critical of this idea. And probably rightly so. It’s a shame, because if the circumstances had been better, things might have turned out differently. For example, the talk says Oh Internet is going to use Semantic MediaWiki, which is a bloody awesome software and, if used right, it might have beaten the snot out of ED’s disorganisation. Folks in ED, after all, don’t even really use MediaWiki’s categories well. (…of course, I have this strange tendency to not trust people who think Gawker’s recent redesign was a good thing. The reason you hear next to no grumbling about it is that Gawker managed to drive away their entire userbase before the disastrous new design came to be, though.)

What should have happened? Build a meme database to end all meme databases - something that demonstrates, by its very existence, that ED is unnecessary. Allow these sites exist in parallel, until it’s perfectly clear to every last soul that ED is useless. (Yes, this was tried before with Whatport80. The thing is, it could have been tried better.)

Instead, we got a site that people didn’t quite think was as good as ED was. And ED was gone. In the software world, I’ve seen people get mighty peeved when pre-existing features get cut down in the “new and improved” versions. (*ahem*Amarok*ahemahem*)

Can people make good databases on memes? Perhaps. KYM attempts this, but I’m not sure of their methodology. There’s some veneer of “scientific” approach, but it’s not exactly the sort of thing that might pass peer reviews. If real scientists got involved, people would think of the methodology first and start collecting data next - you’ll need to know what questions to ask before you can get answers.

Could interesting and not-so-flamy things said about dramatic individuals? Hell yes - just look at CWCki and Bad Webcomics Wiki. It’s really amazing what people can do when they quit flaming mindlessly and analyse things (at least semi)rationally. A lot of people fail at things, sometimes amusingly and sometimes… not so amusingly. Failures can be learned from.

Did ED fail? Yes and no. ED is hardly of consistent quality, so answering that question is difficult. Girlvinyl had a good point in that flames and racism and trolling isn’t necessarily good content, but the flaw with that statement is that that’s not all of ED is. Some of the ED material is utter bullshit, yes. Some might be funny, but has no practical worth beyond that. Some of the material has potential, but it’s disorganised, particularly what comes to the chronology; people just dump stuff where it’s funniest. You can compare CWCki with the ED article it branched out from; it just shows that if there’s a grand amount of weirdness, one article just doesn’t do - you need a wiki of its own for this stuff. The advantage of CWCki is that it has made easier to write about specific incidents, the circumstances when they happened, and the people and things involved.

Was the adult content a reason for ED’s failure? Not necessarily. Some people might find the shock content the height of hilarity, I just stick it in adblock and move on. But I also feel that this sort of stuff should be blocked at that level: the Internet isn’t censored, so the research into Internet phenomena shouldn’t, and can’t, be limited to safe-for-work stuff. And, uh, I think the output of scientific research should be SFW by definition. (’s just science. Objective examination of the raunchier parts of the culture… or something like that. With the intent to inform, not to annoy.) In short, if you want to create a “safe for work” version of ED, you do that by increasing the quality of the work, not by arbitrarily limiting what you include. You shouldn’t exclude “Jews did WTC” solely because it’s racist; you should, however, make a clear note that article might not have appropriate sociopolitical analysis of the Jewish (lack of) involvement in the September 11 attacks, and as such the quality might be questionable. (Hey, there are real nutters who keep saying Jews did WTC, right? Point a finger at them. Laugh. Like shooting fish in the barrel.)

But one thing is fairly clear: As crappy as ED got at times, shutting it down meant losing years of edit history and images. This was a thoughtless move by all measures. Even if a bunch of stuff in ED could have benefited from a good boot in the hind and restarting from scratch, the material should have been kept at hand to help people. In that light, the new ED fortunately lives on.