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Hello, Creatures Community!

I'm Catherine from the Wikia Community Team, and I'd like to discuss what we can do to make the necessary transition to the Monaco skin easier for this wiki. We have put off making the changeover for some time, knowing that you are discussing your options as a community, but the time has come and we hope to make this change in the next week.

To reiterate, we would like to change the default skin displayed to anonymous visitors on this wiki from Monobook (the Wikipedia skin) to Monaco. Logged-in users will continue to have the option to select Monobook in their preferences and see the wiki without changes. We feel Monaco has many benefits for users, especially those new to wikis, and it supports many modern features that cannot be implemented in Monobook.

We understand that there are concerns about accessibility, particularly in the JS-driven flyout menus in the Monaco sidebar. This menu can be heavily customized as described at Help:Sidebar and Help:Customizing Monaco -- the menu can be made into a single-level flat menu without flyouts, the font size can be adjusted, and numerous other CSS adjustments can be made that may help to alleviate your concerns. We are happy to help work out the details with you.

I look forward to working together and discussing your concerns. Thank you! — Catherine (talk) 16:37, September 15, 2009 (UTC)

I have a concern.

It recently has come to my attention that Wikia has put advertisements on external links. I wonder if Wikia realizes that they have put advertisements on community created content. I think this is highly unacceptable, and if it does not change, I will have to remove the links that point to my content.

I do not log in regularly, and I have no intention to so after the skin change. However, I had the "pleasure" to witness the Monaco theme, and am of the opinion that the advertisement draws the attention away from the actual article too much.

If and when there is a alternative, I will remove myself from this wiki, and Wikia in general henceforth, as this is the only Wikia based wiki that I visit that hasn't moved yet.

All of this has nothing to do with making a smooth transition, nor am I in a position to reply to this subject, but I am a disgruntled user, and I had to make it known somewhere.

The advertisement was the final straw. I'm not sure if there are a lot of wikis that link to user created content, but it is rather an insult. Vampess 19:04, September 15, 2009 (UTC)

Nothing has changed.

Our concerns have already been aired many, many times in the past, Catherine. Nothing has changed. Wikia has made its choices, and our opinions of these choices were made public at the same time. Admittedly we have taken a long time to make our choices, but they will eventually be made. Do what you must, but don't expect us to be happy about it if the current plan remains unchanged. ElasticMuffin 20:25, September 15, 2009 (UTC)

I'll add that per Vampess I have noticed that you are indeed doing weird things to outgoing links now. This is pretty darn sketchy, don't you think? Wikia has generally done a reasonable job telling admins about things they do to the site (except, for, say, when they buy your community's domain name without asking), but this was mysteriously not mentioned. Care to explain? ElasticMuffin 23:20, September 15, 2009 (UTC)


Hi Catherine. I doubt that the necessary accessibility adjustments to Monaco can be made within the timeframe of one week, as I would like to test the adjustments and make sure that they are suitable, and as this is the first I've heard about how to make the Monaco skin accessible for our users. Is it possible to make the Monaco skin a logged-out user would see accessible? As it is, I would much rather retain the Monobook skin for everyone, as I have only seen the inaccessible Monaco to date. If that means moving the Creatures Wiki to another hoster, so be it. --Malkin 23:43, September 15, 2009 (UTC)

Thanks for your responses, everyone. I am aware that this is a controversial change, but remaining on Monobook as the default is not an option. We have moved all of our other wikis (except Uncyclopedia which parodies Wikipedia) to Monaco, and the results have been extremely positive. We have seen increases in the number of pages viewed per visit, the number of new editors, the number of edits started which are then saved, and many other metrics we have been tracking. And yes, Monaco also has an impact on advertising revenues, which are what allow us to provide free unlimited hosting, bandwidth, tech support, and more.
We've laid out the reasons for our need for advertising elsewhere; we do feel there's value in becoming a strong, stable, self-sustaining business that can still provide free wikis to projects large and small, since paid or private hosting isn't an option for everyone. I am sorry that our advertising needs have come into conflict with your particular community's wishes, and would be very sorry to see you leave -- I still hope that we can find ways to solve your concerns with advertising and with Monaco so that won't be necessary.
Please remember that we do not display advertising to our logged-in users, and you may feel free to encourage people to sign in and not see ads. This includes the ads we are currently testing on outgoing links. We've heard very few objections to these so far so feedback like yours is helpful, Vampess and ElasticMuffin -- we continue to experiment to find successful ad types that are not irritating to our users. We don't announce every test (I think that would get irritating too!) but I'm sorry that you didn't receive advance notice on this.
Malkin, we are happy to adjust the timing of the changeover as necessary if we are working towards a good accessibility solution.
And yes, changes to the correct MediaWiki interface messages would be visible to all visitors, including logged-out ones. You can begin by experimenting at User:Malkin/Monaco-sidebar, which will change the menu only for you. The code can then be copied to MediaWiki:Monaco-sidebar to be visible to everyone. If all menu items are top-level, with single asterisks, then there will be no flyouts -- you just need to decide which items are most important, and what you want the item's landing page to be; it doesn't have to be a category page if you have something better. You can also add CSS code to MediaWiki:Monaco.css to affect the styling of the menus; we can provide more details on this if needed.
Please let me know if there's anything else I can help with! — Catherine (talk) 17:53, September 16, 2009 (UTC)
Hi Catherine, I had rather gotten the impression that Wikia would be doing the CSS coding to make Monaco accessible, and I would be testing the site, as an end-user. I originally let Wikia know of my accessibility concerns not long after the move to Monaco was unveiled - a year ago, and at that point there was no hint that I should have to make the adjustments to Monaco myself. As I have no experience with CSS and little with Monaco, I cannot make head nor tail of the CSS help, and I do not expect to be able to alter Monaco myself to suit my needs and the needs of others in the Creatures Community if I have to learn CSS first. As Wikia are imposing Monaco onto us, I believe the onus is on Wikia to make Monaco useable. I find your unthinking response deeply upsetting, and I am shocked that this is how Wikia approaches making their websites accessible for people with disabilities - "Do It Yourself", when Wikia has the necessary expertise and Wikia pays its staff. If this is how Wikia treats people, I don't want to be part of Wikia. --Malkin 21:58, September 16, 2009 (UTC)
Hi Malkin, I'm very sorry that I implied you needed to "do it yourself" -- it wasn't my intent at all.
Based on comments we've gotten from you and others, we have been working on other changes behind the scenes to make Monaco more accessible to screen readers and other adaptive technology. The lessons we learn from helping your community will also be incorporated into other wikis and into our future planning process.
I'll be more than happy to work on making changes myself and allowing you to test them -- I'm just not as familiar with the wiki's content, the desired outcome, and the specific accessibility challenges you wish to solve, so I made an (apparently poor) assumption that you would wish to experiment with the menu content yourself. Instead, I'll ask for your community's input in choosing which items should appear on the menu. MediaWiki talk:Monaco-sidebar is probably the best place for that discussion -- please join me there if you have suggestions.
I was also hoping to find out how much you knew about CSS -- some admins welcome someone to do it for them, some only want pointers, and others don't want us to touch a thing. If we can talk about what changes to the menu would make it easier for your users, I can make it happen.
Again, I apologize that I didn't convey my message well -- I really do want to help! — Catherine (talk) 23:29, September 16, 2009 (UTC)

2nd response

I am absolutely aware of Wikia's rationale and equally aware that they are unwilling to budge on it. It is unfortunate, and Wikia's hard line on this is pretty discouraging to say the least. I am aware that logged-in users see less ads, but the majority of our traffic is from people who wish to view the content we currently have quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Our content is now primarily static and less frequently-changing as you see in other communities. Our users come in, they find what they are looking for, and they leave. Logging in is an annoying extra step just to avoid ads when all you need is a block of information.
Don't get me wrong - I absolutely understand the reasons behind Wikia's business decisions as of late. A company has to make money. But these decisions are resulting in vast drops in the quality of service to their users, and when that happens it is sad to see these decisions forced through regardless.
Previous grievances also remain - Wikia has never admitted that their claim of the domain was anything less than a completely justifiable decision, despite offers from myself and GreenReaper (who as you well know is a trustworthy individual) to manage the domain responsibly on behalf of the community. It was a preemptive trademark grab, and nothing more, as far as I can tell. I really wish Wikia would just admit that (or at least that doing it was a mistake) and apologize so that we could move on from it. But their continued avoidance and dancing around the issue continues to irritate me greatly.
As a sidenote, I am honestly shocked that you have had so few complaints regarding the outgoing links issue. It is quite amazing to see something so obtrusive placed on outgoing links to third-party content. This is not the late 1990s when this kind of thing was common. For one thing, multiple links on our pages go to direct file downloads of various addons, and users have told me already that the links are "broken" by these new ads. It is also annoying to see Wikia taking advantage of links to third-party content in this way.
ElasticMuffin 00:39, September 17, 2009 (UTC)


I had hoped that I wouldn't have to react here again, but alas. I'm wondering when this experimenting nonsense will end. Also, the statistics you are showing aren't impressive in the least, as you mention that those are based off the wikis that have changed to Monaco skin, but don't mention the wikis that have left, or that you have to take kicking and screaming - like us.

Of course you have heard very few objections to "tests" only visible to users that are not logged in. As most of your users never get to see these tests, and the people that have no account don't get to object. So yes, it seems quite obvious you don't get a lot of complaints.

And yes, I do understand that Wikia is a business (and we all know that hosting fees require all sort of ads in all possible places), but I would like to think that a business listens to the complaints voiced by its users. And with competitors on the rise, it seems rather strange that Wikia is on a one way track.

Vampess 02:15, September 24, 2009 (UTC)

ElasticMuffin, Vampess,
As I said, we sincerely regret that our business needs have come into conflict with the wishes of certain communities, and have been sad to see them leave. We listen to all complaints and while we've made many changes in response to feedback along the way, some changes have to be all-or-nothing and we understand that for some people that is not ever going to be acceptable.
We don't rely solely on user reports for ad feedback, but monitor and experiment constantly with ads and adjust anything that might interfere with positive wiki activity.
We are working to develop a simple, accessible custom Monaco skin that is similar to your Monobook display, and I hope that it will provide a good starting place for further discussion and adjustments.
I will ask our tech team if anything can be done to detect external links to file downloads rather than web pages, and change the outbound page behavior for them.
Please let me know what else I can do to help! — Catherine (talk) 00:06, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
Let's be honest here, Catherine, the communities leave but you guys are all too happy to hold on to their content and continue competing with them for search results and ad dollars (no need to cite examples here - as a Wikia employee I am sure you know what I'm talking about). But I'm guardedly happy to see you guys at least making the appearance of an effort to take user input into consideration at last.
We will await the appearance of this new theme you mention, and at that time I personally would be happy to tell you what I think of it. The download links issue, though, is a deal-breaker and needs to be fixed ASAP. I still maintain that it is a pretty iffy thing to do even to external links to other sites, not just files. I am hard pressed to think of any popular and respected sites that still do that sort of thing these days. Sitting around for that long to download a file, in particular, is ridiculous. ElasticMuffin 00:53, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
Edit: I also notice that you completely dodged my earlier mentioning of the domain issue. ElasticMuffin 00:57, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
I'm really sorry, the domain name issue is not one I have been involved with -- I can't really answer questions about that. I'm sure you know from previous discussions who to get in contact with.
I'm filing a tech ticket about the download links -- do you have a list of the file extensions used for Creatures downloads? .cos is one? are there others? Thanks! — Catherine (talk) 02:35, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
I know you weren't involved with it but you represent Wikia here at the moment. Hence it seemed reasonable that you might know who to ask, since all of my previous attempts at getting attention for that issue have failed miserably.
Other extensions besides .cos include .zip, .rar, .exe, .tar.gz, and .tar.bz2. There may be more. ElasticMuffin 04:01, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for the file list; they've said that disabling for downloads is a good idea and should be doable, but will take some time to code. Since we can't implement this suggestion immediately, we've gone ahead and turned off all outbound links for this wiki for now. Thanks! — Catherine (talk) 18:41, September 29, 2009 (UTC)
Aside from cos there are catalogue files, s16, c16, gen, mng & att. Then there's agent, agents, blueprint, family and creature. As for the previous games, there is sfc, and I think cob. But that's by no means a complete list, and I think someone with more knowledge of the previous games could help you out better.
Thank you for at least temporarily removing the ads. Personally, I don't like an ad in front of my paid for domain, but I'll agree that direct downloads are the main concern. Vampess 17:21, September 30, 2009 (UTC)

Monaco first draft

Draft of Monaco skin

Hi all,

I've completed a test run of customizing the colors and menus in Monaco to look more like what you've presented in Monobook, with background colors of neutral gray. The screenshot is large; please click the image here, then click on the one on the image description page to see it full size.

For now, I've just copied your Monobook menu to top level items on the Monaco menu:

  • Creatures Wiki Homepage
  • Category view
  • Recent changes
  • Random page
  • Wiki Guidelines
  • Help
  • Forum

"Recent Changes", "Random page" and "Help" are normally the first three items in the two-column "Toolbox" section under the main menu, and that's where anyone visiting from another Wikia wiki will expect to find them. I've left them there for the moment so you can judge for yourselves where you would like them to go, so they're currently duplicated on both menus.

Everything else from the Monobook toolbox has been copied to this toolbox as well, although some of the link titles are wrapping because they're a little long for this space; that can be obviously be improved once we know for sure what you want where. Note some of the less-commonly used toolbox items, like "what links here" and "related changes" are displayed at the bottom of the page in Monaco; you can choose how important it is to also have them on the sidebar.

If you'd like to give these modifications a test run, you can copy code from my userspace to yours, without the changes being displayed for other users:

As always, elements of the display are very malleable, so if there's a particular bit that's bugging you, let us know -- there's most likely a way to fix it.

Please let us know what you think! — Catherine (talk) 20:05, September 30, 2009 (UTC)

Hi all; since I haven't gotten any feedback on this I'm going to go ahead and make my best guess on what will work for the menu, and switch the skin later today. Please give Monaco a chance, and I'll be more than happy to continue to fix problems if you let me know what they are. Thank you! — Catherine (talk) 17:18, October 2, 2009 (UTC)
The change to the Monaco skin has been made -- please don't hesitate to let me know how it can be improved! — Catherine (talk) 13:04, October 5, 2009 (UTC)