I have a question about original world design (for my fantasy novel) and making a wiki. I’ve been working on the books, as well as building the world, for at least 10 years. I have been wanting to make a wiki for the world for ages, but have been concerned about copyright stuff (namely, things being stolen from me before I can publish my book). Is this a valid concern, and is there a way to make a wiki/wikia AND protect my creation? Thank you! 🙂
Mmm… two issues here.
Regarding the wiki, first of all: if you’re doing this as a way to keep your worldbuilding details in order, I definitely recommend it. It’s useful. …Though to tell the truth I find that newer and more focused tools are turning out to be more useful, at least for me. I’m a lot more likely to put a sudden idea into Evernote, these days or the Sticky app on my iPad, and later paste it into Scrivener, which has a very flexible note-keeping concept and allows you to keep all the notes associated with the project inside it.
Using the MediaWiki software for notes, though, does require that you have no trouble getting to grips with its markup language. There came a point where whenever I wanted to make a straightforward note about something, there was the damn markup to fiddle with again, and it started making me roll my eyes. At that point, at least as regarded the YW universe, such notes stopped routinely finding their way into the ErrantryWiki.
Now then. As regards confidentiality: if you’re interested in keeping your material private, then you want to avoid Wikia, as (to the best of my knowledge) it’s public by default. (Though you can download the software and use it independently, I believe.) For totally private wikis there are at least a couple of possibilities…
(1) You build your own wiki at a web location you control, using MediaWiki, and password-protect the entire installation using an .htaccess file in the root directory. Without the password no one can see anything that’s going on in there, or get the pages to load, or otherwise crawl / scrape them.
(2) You get your hands on one of the flexible wiki-like tools like TiddlyWiki (which I also use for some things). A tiddly can be carried on a thumb drive or operated in the cloud — you just install it into Dropbox or Google Drive and afterwards use it from whatever platform you please (meaning platforms that will also support the Java it needs to run correctly). Good points: Tiddly’s markup language is simpler. Privacy is simple here too, as either the whole installation’s in your pocket, or locked in the cloud behind your Dropbox / Google passwords. And having an installation like this lodged safely in the cloud, where even if your hard drive crashes or some other calamity befalls you know you haven’t lost your notes, can be incredibly reassuring.
However: what I get from your message is that you’d like to have a public wiki but are concerned about material from it falling into unfriendly hands. So it would seem (if I have this right) that a good solution would be to create a public wiki and install various levels of controls on who can read what.
Here the complications begin, though. MediaWiki was designed not to be very granular in this regard, on the philosophical grounds that a wiki is meant to be openly readable and openly editable by most if not all comers. (Even the ErrantryWiki bends this philosophical position out of shape, as I’m well aware.)
MediaWiki itself warns in its docs that it’s not really built for this kind of control, and that third-party apps will be needed to enforce it, and may well be buggy and fail at the job. They do, however, recommend a few other wiki platforms that are built for this kind of granular control: MoinMoin, TikiWiki, and Twiki. So you may want to look into these.
So, assuming you get your hands on one of these and like it enough to set it up, what you then do is set up various levels of access to your published material:
- One level for you, who obviously can see / know everything in the wiki — a sort of “access-all-areas” pass:
- One level for friends who you trust enough to let into a less-limited-access group, who see some things but not others (and there could be several, even many of these groups, keyed to different kinds of content — plot information, technical data, etc):
- One level for anonymous people on whom you have no data on whether they’re trustworthy.
Then, each time you create a page or add a new piece of info, you set that page’s or scrap’s viewing-permission level according to who you feel comfortable allowing to see it.
This will be workable enough as long as you are scrupulously careful to tag each new piece of data correctly every time. This by itself is going to invoke a certain amount of continuous tension — if you slip and something sensitive is exposed, at least you’ll know whose fault that was — but if you feel you can put up with that, good.
…But let’s turn aside now to the core issue. I can understand that it’s hard to be torn between the urge to show people what you’re up to and the fear of whether they’re going to rip it off. But at the end of the day, the reality/seriousness of this situation is yours to assess.
You have to ask yourself (a) whether the material you’ve devised is really that groundbreaking or unique that anyone would be impelled to steal it, (b) what the odds are that any thief would either understand what to do with such material or be willing to spend the considerable creative time and effort necessary to actually build something out of what they stole, and (c) how they would even know that you’d put this stuff online. (Are you famous? Are you even a little bit famous? I think I can safely say that [after thirty years plus of doing this work] I’m a Little Bit Famous, and you would be simply astonished about how people do not know anything about my online presence or how much of it there is or where any of it’s even located. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen the phrase “I didn’t even know she [was on Twitter / had a blog / was on Facebook / had a Tumblr!”]… well, I’d have a lot of nickels. )
Be careful not to misunderstand me here. I’m not saying that it’s silly to think you might be stolen from. But you have to be realistic about evaluating the odds. My assessment is that if you are a brand new writer who hardly anybody has ever heard of, then your odds of being stolen from are very, very low. You are protected by your unknown quality. Very, very few people are going to be interested in stealing from someone who they’ve never even heard of (and here you’re protected as well by the form of Sturgeon’s Law that applies to the Internet, in which the 90% of everything that’s deemed proactively to be crap is extended to something like 99.99999999999%. Most people’s assumption will be that you’re just more of the same). Once you’re published, yes, then perhaps the number of would-be thieves goes up very slightly. Once you’re published and well-known, probably it’d be fair to say it goes up very slightly again.
And once you’re famous? Maybe then you’ll have something to worry about. But by then you won’t be maintaining your own wiki. Or putting material in it that you’re even slightly concerned might be stolen. And anyway, when you’re famous, you’ll have lawyers. 🙂
Now, one final word — and please, don’t for a moment think I’m being cavalier here. Even if someone does steal your stuff — you know what? Just laugh. Because even if they had every single word of your material, all the background work, a complete outline of all the books you plan to write complete with spoilers, they will never be able to write the books you would write. Even if they had endless time and money and intention to spend.
There are two reasons for this. One is a simple matter of science. They cannot occupy the position in spacetime that you do. They cannot be the person you’ve become by being where and when and who you are. Only you can possibly have the intensive, indeed intense, relationship with your material that you have after piecing it together over so many years.
And the second is a simple matter of tone. They don’t live inside your head. They don’t know how you feel about the characters. They don’t care about that world the way you do. Their book would be immeasurably inferior… assuming they ever bothered to take the time to write it: another issue on which the odds are way more on your side than they are on theirs. Put your books beside their books, and the good will unquestionably drive out the bad. (Not least because a universe knows its maker.)
…All I can say at this point is: make your wiki. Store your stuff. Once stored, share what’s safe, and then either hide or simply never commit to electrons what you feel is sensitive (because what’s not online can never be scraped…).
And write the damn books. Ten years of research? God, no wonder you’re so urgent to share something. Get busy!
…Hoping this has been of help. 🙂