This is a very long and thorough post. I encourage you to read my thoughts beforehand but if you are not particularly interested in them or do not have the time, you can just skip them and directly answer the questions at the bottom of the post. Even if you cannot read my entire post, your feedback to the questions will be very much appreciated.
Release History is Important
I think we can all agree that it is very important for the Animal Jam Classic Wiki to provide an accurate and comprehensive release history for every single item on AJ Classic, including when each item becomes available and unavailable. Many AJ Classic-based item worth wikis, such as the AJ Item Worth Wiki and AJ Uncommon Item Worth Wiki, depend on release information provided by our wiki in order to help item traders develop a more educated and accurate opinion on item worth. Therefore, it is in our best interest to streamline item release information as much as possible.
Problems with Status Quo
Just a notice that this section is not meant to target or single out any particular user on the wiki. These are all problems that the wiki has collectively perpetuated throughout the years. Every editor has probably been guilty of contributing to the problem, me included.
The wiki does a great job of recording when items are initially released, but a serious problem is that a significant amount of item articles simply leave out specific dates for when the item became unavailable and when it returned to stores or became available again. Over the years, editors have been keeping up to date with item availability by adding/removing the Available and Unavailable categories to item pages, but they tend not to add in specific return or removal dates. Arguably, knowing these dates is just as important as knowing the initial release date because they indicate the duration in which the item was available, which is crucial to know when assessing an item’s value.
But really, the lack of specific return and removal information is especially an issue with articles about seasonal items. Often, these articles only include a statement claiming that the item returns to stores annually at a given time of year, and editors never bother to include specific dates for when the item was in stores. At first glance, this seems like a very convenient thing to do, but if an item no longer returns annually or if it stays in stores out of season, these specific nuances are not always recorded on the article, and it may take months or even years before editors start to notice that the item is no longer following its typical release pattern. By this point, many readers will have already been misinformed about the item’s availability.
One such example of this problem is the World Animal Day Banner. In 2018, the item stopped returning to stores, yet the article continued to claim that the item returned to stores annually. The statement was not revised until 2020. Similarly, despite the fact that the Trick or Treat Bucket had not returned since 2016, the page claimed that the item was still an annual seasonal item. It took until 2021 for that statement to be revised. These two examples prove how misleading the “this item returns annually” statement can be if editors do not keep a careful watch on seasonal item pages. In the several years it took for the two articles to be revised, hundreds if not thousands of readers viewed the articles and came to falsely believe that the two items still returned annually, which would have likely caused readers to underestimate the items’ worth. In fact, there are probably dozens, maybe hundreds of pages like the two examples that need updating because they no longer return to stores annually.
The truth is, the wiki cannot always assume an item is always going to return at regular intervals. Instead of using a blanket “this item returns annually” statement, it is better to record the specific days the item returns each year to reduce misinformation. The specific dates will signal to the reader if the item has been available out of season and the last entry date will signal to the reader when the item stopped returning regularly. Not only will this be more accurate, but it will also save editors the time and hassle in the long run because they will not have to dig up every single seasonal item page every year and check if the “this item returns annually” statement still applies. This is arguably the best way to “future proof” articles.
Why These Issues Arise
Part of the aforementioned problems with not including specific return or removal dates is the fact that item pages do not have a uniform, standard format to convey this kind of release information. Currently, most pages put release information in the introductory paragraph, but this often makes it extremely long and difficult to navigate, particularly if the item has a very long release history. Because there is no such release history standard, editors may be discouraged from including specific release or removal dates. I’ve even seen instances of editors removing specific dates from articles because of this reason.
New “History” Section
In the previous discussion about formatting item release history, all the respondents agreed that it would be best to have a subsection in the Trivia dedicated to that sort of information. However, I am proposing that we instead have an entire new “History” section for item release information rather than just a trivia subsection. This is because many items have a very long release history that is large enough to warrant its own section and because a significant amount of AJ Classic players, especially traders, regard release history to be more than just “trivia.” With a completely new section (rather than a trivia subsection), readers would not have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to view it. Beyond item pages, the “History” section will also be very useful on pet, animal, den, and seasonal adventure pages as well as other pages about gameplay elements that have a history of periodically returning to the game.
However, it will take at least several months to implement such a section onto the thousands of pages already on the wiki. Despite that, I am convinced that the effort will be worth it. By adding a dedicated “history” section, the wiki will finally have a formatting standard for release information, which benefits both readers and editors alike; readers can more easily find information on an item’s release history if it is consistent among all pages and editors will be more likely to add specific release/removal dates if there is already a defined procedure or structure in place to add them. Ultimately, this will help make the wiki more comprehensive and accurate.
Questions for You
A large scale reform like this will need very careful planning, so your feedback to the following questions will be greatly appreciated.
1) Should we implement a new “History” section?
(note: this is just for implementing the section onto pages using the release data already found on articles; this does not include researching the web for more specific release/removal dates that may be missing)
1A. Yes - the wiki would benefit from having a History section on applicable pages (item, animal, pet, den pages, etc)
1B. No - it would be too much work and effort to add this section onto articles
1C. Mixed opinion (explain below)
2) What format should the History section use?
2A. Bullet points for each time the item is released that detail specific release and removal dates
Pros: As much information as necessary can be fit for each bullet point, which will provide room for nuance and specific details. Bullet points are also more compact than tables, which would save room on the page.
Cons: Bullet points can be wordy and repetitive if they keep having to say “this item was released/re-released on...and left on...” Unlike tables, bullet points cannot be sorted.
2B. Table with “Location”, “Release”, and “Removal” headers (similar to the ones on the Play Wild Wiki)
Pros: Tables reduce wordiness and are very clear and easy to understand. There would be a more clear expectation to put specific release and removal information. Plus, they can also be sorted by columns and collapsed.
Cons: It could potentially take up more space than bullet points would. Because the information in the table would have to be very succinct, the format is less flexible. Any information that cannot be fit on the tables would need to go in either footnotes or the trivia.
2C. Something else (suggest below)
3) Where should the History section be placed on an article?
3A. Directly after the introductory paragraph - Currently, release information is typically put in the intro paragraph, which is convenient because readers do not have to scroll down much to see it. Making the History section the first on the page will also reduce the amount of time users spend scrolling down.
3B. Right before the Trivia section - It may be more logical to explain the appearance or functionality first before going into the history.
3C. Something else (suggest below)
Other suggestions - provided we implement a new History section, please tell me your opinions on the following templates (whether you support, oppose, or are mixed):
4) “Incomplete History” template (suggested by ZZeph) - This will be placed in the History section whenever some information about the release history is missing from the article. It can also be placed if editors are not sure whether the release history is actually complete or not. Having such a template will be helpful for readers, especially item traders, if they know that the information on the wiki article is not definitive or completely accurate.
5) “Diamond Shop pet/animal” template - This is a notice to the reader mentioning that if a player has already purchased a diamond shop pet/animal, they can still purchase that particular animal/pet for gems even if it is no longer sold at the Diamond Shop. I feel like this information isn’t really acknowledged on most diamond shop pet/animal pages and having this template in the History section will be useful for the reader.
If you have any other relevant suggestions, please feel free to share them.
I have asked the Play Wild Wiki for relevant feedback on the table format and potential upsides/downsides. They have been using it for about 6 years, so they will have the relevant experience to judge whether it is a good format or not. So far, all of the respondents have shown a preference for the table format over bullet points.
If enough people express their desire to create a new History section, I will create another discussion to finalize specific formatting for the section before creating a vote for the entire proposal.