Brand-Interested SCP Authors Shill in Novel Ways, For Great Justice!
ANALYSIS/OPINION — “Hot damn look at that! A perfect, new cover for our desire to self-shill!”
SCP articles lacking signatures or author-names atop of them is weird, but when you realize the original inspiration — internet creepypasta — and how it was typically uncredited, appearing as if from the very ether, only to vanish just as swiftly — it kinda makes sense?
— The Great Hippo (source)
For over a decade, the author of an SCP article was tucked away in the “History” section of the page. That, or you could go to the comments and the first comment was usually reserved by the author to voice some crit credits, image sources, and general article commentary. But in recent months, the SCP Wiki has seen an increase in visible author signatures. These typically come at the opening of an article, often just beneath the article’s score. Here’s a mundane example:
Very bold, shill-forward authors will modify this method to where the signature is — Lord forbid it — above even the rating module. That this has been allowed, given the rating module’s esteemed and elevated placement as the perpetually most important cultural component of an article, I admit, is a bit of shock… but it does happen:
This relatively new trend has a definitive point of arrival; around August 2021.
At that time, the internet meme culture was having a rendezvous with SCP Wiki material, this time in the form of SCP-2316’s memetic hook phrase “You do not recognize the bodies in the water”. This arguably began in July of 2021, when a TikTok account called “SCP Realised” released a short video covering this SCP and its catchphrase. The video went viral due to its vague and unsettling imperative, as well as the exploding memetic fertility of TikTok as a newer sharing platform. Within a month, this post received over 9 million views, 2 million likes, and metric tons of other engagement. Mainstream social media influencers — completely ignorant of the law and their source material at large — jumped on the bandwagoning fun and exacerbated the attention and legal wrong; soon there was a take by Markiplier, then the online magazine articles (1, 2, 3, 4), even an entry on Know Your Meme.
Typical of derivative accounts on social media platforms, neither the “original” video nor any of the tertiary coverage attributed any credit to the author of the material, djkaktus. This was a legal misstep; the rules of the SCP Wiki (CC BY-SA 3.0) demand it. However, a lie is halfway around the world before the truth can put its socks on, with some sources attributing the phrase to Markilpier. Eventually, the Know Your Meme and Newsweek coverage heard the outcry from djkaktus and the rest of the community, and these entries at least have been modified to give kaktus some belated credit. But in truth, the bird had flown; there was zero possibility that proper attribution would be given, and if it was, it wasn’t going to catch up to the exposure.
So at that time, prominent authors and community members advocated for a cultural shift; that SCP Wiki authors should all sign their work, and prominently.
Long-time and popular author qntm declared this the culmination of a chronic problem at the SCP Wiki. And so, it was so.
We are going to analyze the motives and arguments for this activism and its resulting trend in higher resolution, because upon such examination, the supposed moral and legal concerns for the situation break down. We are left with the inescapable conclusion that the SCP-2316 virality offered the SCP Wiki and its historically self-marketing authors a perfect alibi to shill more visibly and obnoxiously than ever.
First, let me protect myself against idiots: yes, there is a legal argument here that cannot be avoided. Attribution for any and all SCP works is a matter of copyright law, and there is no defensible position stating that it shouldn’t have happened. Djkaktus deserves all the credit for the memetic success of SCP-2316, and he was wronged by those who didn’t take the time, effort, or care to properly source the material that got them so much attention.
But the point here is not that no wrong occurred; it’s that the SCP Wiki’s diagnosis of what went wrong and how it might be fixed is deeply wrong-headed.
The argument made by qntm and the general SCP Wiki that author signatures are the solution to this “chronic attribution problem” falls embarrassingly short of truth. There is one, lone observation that is enough to expose qntm’s argument as a failure: the sort of individual who is uninterested in properly attributing an SCP author is also not the sort that will be convinced by the addition of the author’s name at the top of the page. Such a person does not have the motive or incentive to attribute, period; no matter where it is or isn’t on the Wiki page.
In short, this is not a visibility problem, as qntm argues; it is a shitty person problem. SCP authors cannot fix shitty people by shouting their brand names louder at the outset of their articles.
We can look to slightly comparable situations in recent drama to confirm that the same influencers who felt as though author signatures were the ticket here, are also fully aware that putting your name prominently on your article won’t solve any problems. Take for example some good takes when WikiDot banned all of Russia and Belarus for the actions of one white hat hacker, who enacted the WikiDot Blackout of 2022. In response to this injustice, SCP Wiki individuals broadcast their outrage on Twitter, making great points, and saying that the ban only further impedes those who are by definition not interested in or capable of hacking WikiDot.
In other words, while a VPN could be of help for those otherwise blocked from accessing the SCP Wiki in Russia and Belarus, it is preaching to a choir; it’s only is an option to those who already know enough to work around the geoblock… including hackers. In this way, WikiDot’s solution does not increase the difficulty for hackers, but does make it exponentially more difficult for law-abiding and innocent people.
Here’s another variant of the same argument, using gun control measures:
The point here is simple; gun control is only applicable to people willing to follow the rules in the first place. As they say, no one loves gun control more than criminals. The same is true for criminals who do not attribute SCP authors. No digital gesture, no cultural measure, no parking cone, is going to be effective in deterring such a person from their carelessness. They simply already don’t care. As with most well-intended regulation, the flies are caught in the net while the wasps still go free.
Interestingly, there are statements at play in this WikiDot-Russia conflict that could be lifted wholesale, placed in response to the un-attribution problem, and be just as unfortunately correct:
“It’s a symbolic act at best… I get symbolic gestures but they often end up being more about you and your feelings rather than accomplishing anything of meaning.” (source)
This same individual was pro the activistic push to put more author signatures atop SCP articles. And yet, doing so is equally a symbolic gesture as geobanning Russia and Belarus, and one that doesn’t fix the problem. Where is the consistency in the logic? It is not there, because the argument that says author signatures are a meaningful solution is an emotional appeal; it doesn’t have any good reasoning behind it.
There’s your first hint that there is something else, something more moving than logic, behind the now-common practice.
Your second hint is that, were the problem of non-attribution truly being targeted by SCP Wiki authors, there could be and already is a much more effective and direct approach to solving it. Think about it: the issue is that some people out there grab content from the SCP Wiki and just take it, right? There is no evident price tag or barcode to set off any alarms. The way the SCP Wiki is set up can incorrectly and unintentionally give the impression that the content is free for the taking; no attribution necessary.
So, instead of repositioning ignored information (the signature) that criminals aren’t going to honor anyway, wouldn’t a better solution be the inclusion of a licensing box or citation notice at the top of every page?
This can’t seem farfetched, in that such a licensing box does exist; it’s just placed at the bottom of every article:
If wider internet non-attribution is such a chronic issue as to demand a re-haul of the site’s cultural posture regarding authors’ self-advertisement, a novel way to shill magically now front-and-center because good moral and legal rigor demands it, wouldn’t this legal notice that instructs how to correctly attribute instead be best at the top of the page? Maybe, the place where the author signature somehow ended up? Why is the signature instead taken to be a more convincing move than literally spelling out the legal notice explicitly? Why has the author signature floated to the tip-top while the attribution instructions remain as tucked away as the author name ever was at the bottom?
I believe the answer is obvious by now.
Bottom-of-page info is called the logistical shortcoming of the Wiki’s page design by pro-shillers even, and yet, the same don’t apply that same argument to the literal licensing box. To add insult to injury, it is default collapsed! You have to know it is a collapsible and click it to reveal the licensing info! (Unlike the author signature, uncollapsed.) Maybe an aesthetic argument exists here, a very rare argument from immersion by modern SCP authors, that would say the licensing box makes less sense in-universe than an author signature… there are presumably individuals writing documents in-universe after all. But the SCP Wiki has denied themselves this argument, wholly, gleefully, and long ago. There is no argument-from-immersion available to these selfsame SCP authors to deny the licensing box at the top (or against any other exogenous inclusion for that matter); they have definitively and repeatedly belittled that argument when it comes into collision with LGBTQ+ Pride displays:
We can also see this in practice in a previously presented exhibit:
We can see in a telling retrospective regarding the SCP-2316 event, kept from the honesty of those at the SCP Wiki, that more upsetting than any legal injustice was that the collective ego of the SCP Wiki’s cultural vanity completely missed out on an opportunity to cash in some wider internet notoriety (by way of their representative upvote patron saint, in this case). This might sound like a harsh thing to say, but anyone who knows the SCP Wiki knows that authors like djkaktus have displayed an unambiguous motive for self-service. Such a person also knows that deep down, this was likely more bothersome to the pride of SCP — both collectively, and vicariously — than any strict legal matter. (The history of the SCP Wiki’s collective inconsistencies in honoring or not honoring strict legal interpretations of their situations is a convoluted one, and a story for another time... but it comes down to convenience.) The whole SCP Wiki erupted in feigned legal expertise, it masking a secret wish that next time, they might get their due celebrity when their SCP goes viral.
Fitting for a culture completely consumed by greed, djkaktus was not a rallying point for the SCP Wiki, but a pitied frontrunner whose fate all were motivated to avoid themselves. A group surge of author signatures atop SCP articles actually folds very seamlessly into the reputation of the SCP Wiki as a place to see and be seen, does it not? It is where authors flock to, not for any high standards of writing or inherent challenge, but because it is where any and all social spoils are to be had. Rather than be seen as an affront to the rating module’s cultural supremacy for the SCP Wiki then, the author signature when placed above it should instead be seen as an extension of that module; the signature, like the spoils of the rating module, exemplifies the desire to shill one’s self as garishly and visibly as possible.
To drive this home, you can actually witness the anger in djkaktus regarding his missed opportunity with SCP-2316:
This is not someone who is upset for the purposes of legal injustice, but a personal injustice. Rightfully so; but it highlights the FOMO, which is my point, and is the greater motivator for the SCP Wiki community.
Additionally, if we go back to the most prominent activistic Twitter post arguing for the change, we can now analyze the root of the supplied argumentation in new appreciation:
Notice that the argument boils down to: “We have a right to.” This is an argument to strict emotional and ego-centric appeal. It is about the right of the individual to self-promote. It is interesting that, in a landscape of deep issues, the most supported & high-profile activism in the SCP Wiki’s culture is about the right to shill more.
Here, the activist attributes the unexamined action of not previously signing your works atop to a philosophical laziness that simply and undesirably copies what others do, just because others do them. Yet is that not how author signatures atop articles operate today? This “activism” has thus merely exchanged one act of thoughtless mimicry with another one; and can’t you guess which act some author who is unaware of this greater context will prefer to copy, once it is seen? Isn’t it obvious as to why?
Furthermore, this author (who has been around long enough to know better) carefully avoids the real and obvious reason why SCP articles have never had author signatures atop; because it as a collective writing project has always prioritized a nameless collective over individual author ego. It is imperative, and always has been, that the Foundation convey a sense of realism as a shadowy government database. That initial ideal has slowly been destroyed by more and more ego-centric motives and cultural shifts; the author signature included. No secretive government database detailing direly covert paranormal activity is going to believably make room for their personnel to frolic in a flight-of-fancy moment meant to stroke their ego to their peers.
That’s why; it isn’t in character for the Foundation. Never has been. But qntm disingenuously pretends that such a reason is not right in front of him.
A bit more down the Tweet thread, and we finally see the argument’s true colors; “it’ll increase your profile”. That’s what the author signature is all about! It is not about solving anything to do with non-attribution. It can’t! This motive is a greed-filled and self-serving spirit of carnal indulgence that has been coiled and primed since the days of wiser and more spiritually mature figures leading the SCP Wiki by example. In those times, where the Administrator sockpuppeted in order to separate works from persona, no one questioned whether to put author signatures atop their pages… not because they were stupid, but because they knew what they were doing.
Those times are now over, and the SCP-2316 event was the perfect excuse for a self-aggrandizing gambit to pounce and make its move upon a spiritually weak and helpless group of vain authors. The characteristically uncritical and unthinking SCP Wiki body was more than happy to receive the pseudo-intellectual rationale & encouragement; all by a veteran author who surely is correct by virtue of his clout. If he is doing it, how ulterior can it be?
Lastly though, we can notice that the activist advocates for meshing the signature with the rating module, which demonstrates in perfect spiritual proximity and kinship that the act of signing your articles and the rating module occupy the same cultural space in the SCP Wiki. Like the rating module, which interestingly the author takes time to note is mandatory (as if to say “your author signature is safe and sound if it piggybacks on the almighty rating module”), the author signature has ascended to the heights of stealth concern that continuously moves the Wiki from a place focused on writing, to a place focused on celebrity breeding, where pro-shill sensibilities reign above staying in character.
We can additionally and for good measure observe defenses in argumentation to the inclusion of garish author signatures, and systematically deconstruct each one:
This is the second time we’ve seen what I’ll call “the argument from laziness”. In their defense of moving the author signature to the top of the page, both aismallard and qntm cite how “difficult” it is to find the author. There are two things wrong with this:
(1) Scrolling down the page and clicking on a button is not hard. As I’ve said numerous times, I read every single SCP Wiki article that comes out these days. I make videos ascribing 5 words to each, in a flippant and fun attempt to summarize them weekly. In doing so, I manually gather the author name for each, so that I can properly attribute them. Here’s what a typical week’s worth of work in this regard looks like:
This is a lot of author names to gather. It’s safe to say I look and find out who an author for a given SCP article is this more than anyone currently on or off the SCP Wiki, and I’m here to tell you; it isn’t hard! It isn’t a big deal. To even try to cast scrolling down to the bottom of a page to click on “History” as a friction-filled problem, or “not intuitive” to the point of issue, is making a mountain out of a molehill.
(2) The people who do not know where to look for an author so that they may attribute, will also not know that they are supposed to attribute in the first place. Aismallard and qntm’s argument attempts to leverage the sheer and utter ignorance of a morally strongmanned, attribution-bound content creator, and treats this ignorance as intractable. This is odd, again, in that the means by which their ignorance could be solved — that licensing box we looked at — is conveniently ignored by these arguments for the signature at the top of the page.
So, the above screencap’s argument is reduced to the last, most honest line: “Displaying attribution should be a platform native feature.” This is not an argument, but a position without an argument supporting it. And, again, an odd one to use as justification for author signatures, because such attribution is displayed, twice; first in the native “History” functionality, and again in the licensing box. In a tsunami of irony, it is individuals such as aismallard (an SCP Wiki administrator) who make extra effort to ignore this, and who collectively decide to keep their solution collapsed and buried at the bottom of the page. Why isn’t it at the top, and uncollapsed? Isn’t this a “chronic problem”? Why aren’t SCP Wiki authors implementing the solutions that make the most sense here?
It is not that no native attribution exists. It is that such attribution is not visible enough for the modern SCP Wiki ego.
There is a very good reason why the pro-author-signature position routinely doesn’t make any sense. The sustained practice of authors signing the top of their article is not sustained by a indefatigable, activistic inspiration to prevent an astronomically unlikely, bogeyman legal wrong from happening again. Rather, it is sustained for the self-serving aspects of the practice. We have seen that arguments in favor of the novel method of shilling are masked in false nobility, and that the authors have destroyed any appeal or escape from their own logic that would save them from looking utterly dishonest in this front.
But, even so, why argue against author signatures at the top of the articles? It seems like a pretty regressive and nearly cruel thing to do, right?
Because you can’t have it both ways; it is one or the other, and that exchange is partially how and why the SCP Wiki became successful enough in the first place for what is now an invasion of self-centered authors, an empire of weeds, to ravage the project for self-promotion. Authors at SCP want their cake and want to eat it too; they have civilizational diabetes, and enough social capital to buy whatever sweets they want. It is perhaps the one writing site on the entire Internet whose writing prompt demands a little extra author restraint when it comes to self-announcement, and yet, it is also the most popular and most lucrative of collaborative writing projects.
Knowing what we know about the SCP Wiki, which interest do you think wins in a fight to the death? If authors backstabbingly value the potential for efame & self-service that writing on the SCP Wiki can give them more than the project’s premise, then they need to find another writing project, one that isn’t so philosophically set up to deprioritize their egos. But the parasite does not soon let go of its accommodating host, and the SCP Wiki as a special thing is being ruined. It will be choked out if existence by those claiming to love it most. But as I’ve quoted elsewhere, these people do not love the SCP Wiki. If they did, they would be interested in preserving what has made it unique. Instead, they love themselves in the SCP Wiki.
The answer to how I can argue against author signatures up top can be seen in what are again observations from the same (very smart) SCP-based thinker as who we’ve been tracking this entire post:
The last line in the above Tweet says it all, and explains why the long-standing fidelity to being in-character for the Foundation has routinely collapsed at the first push… it never really was that important to maintain.
© Lack of Lepers