Memory Alpha (often abbreviated to MA) is a wiki that is an encyclopedic reference for topics related to the Star Trek fictional universe. Conceived by Harry Doddema and Dan Carlson in September 2003 and officially launched on December 5 of that year, it uses the wiki model and is hosted by Wikia, Inc. on the MediaWiki software. As of March 2008, Memory Alpha contains over 27,500 articles in its English edition alone, making it one of the largest wiki projects. The site is also available in Chinese, Czech, Dutch, Esperanto, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish and Swedish. There is also a "Mirror Universe" Memory Alpha.
The contents of Memory Alpha are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial license. Because this license does not allow commercial reuse, it is incompatible with the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), and material from the site cannot be copied into projects that use the GFDL. This distinction makes Memory Alpha a "sister project" of the GFDL-based Wikia project.
History[edit | edit source]
Memory Alpha aims to create a comprehensive database for all fans, but was not conceived as a wiki. Two concerns spurred its creation: many Star Trek references of the time were incomplete, and the most promising would shut down regularly, like the site TrekPulse, which closed inexplicably in late 2005 to be reborn the next year as TrekCore. Doddema and Carlson christened their project Memory Alpha, after the Federation's largest information archive, from the original series episode "The Lights of Zetar".
The two decided on a wiki format, which allowed for more freedom, flexibility and extensibility than other formats available. As Carlson said in the Charlotte Observer, "The idea I latched onto with the wiki concept is you can spread the work around. Everyone can pitch in and go in on their own special interest." After experimenting with TikiWiki software, they switched to the MediaWiki platform, finding it less cumbersome. The platform of choice for Wikimedia proved to be, in their opinion, more stable and efficient, and a they brought a testsite online on November 11 2003. Memory Alpha officially launched on December 5 that year.
The site gained momentum in the following months, aided by a mention on the Star Trek fan site "TrekNation" on December 23. Memory Alpha reached 1,000 articles by January 12 2004, but on March 23, the site's database was accidentally erased during an upgrade of the MediaWiki software. Although this caused six weeks of work to be lost, the project expanded to include Dutch and German versions on April 10 and May 14 respectively. It remained stable until the following year, when the fees associated with hosting the site became more than the founders could afford.
In February 2005, Memory Alpha switched hosting servers and joined Wikia, a free for-profit wiki-hosting company started by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales and Wikimedia Foundation Board member Angela Beesley. The site remained stable on Wikia, opening a Swedish site on May 5 and a French one on November 5. It also received several distinctions that year, such as the Ex Astris Excellentia award from Ex Astris Scientia, a Star Trek reference site, in September 2005, and it was featured as the SciFi Channel's Site of the Week in a newsletter dated October 10. Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise writer/producer Mike Sussman joined the community that year as well.
Technical issues led the MediaWiki software to believe Memory Alpha was started on November 23, 2004, and despite the inaccuracy, this date was adopted ex post facto as Memory Alpha's "birthday". To celebrate the occasion, Uncyclopedia (which is also hosted by Wikia) altered its main page to be a parody of Memory Alpha on November 23, 2005. The spoof page was retained under the namespace "tlh:", for tlhIngan Hol (the Klingon name for the Klingon language), modeled after the way wikis link to pages in other languages.
The latter part of 2005 and early 2006 saw several new features added to the site. Among these was a peer review process, implemented on September 21, 2005 in response to questions about the process by which articles become featured (see below for more information). On November 20 of that year, Memory Alpha began a "Babel" program, inspired by and modeled after that of the Wikimedia Commons, to help users who speak the same language. Other recent innovations include an area for user projects, sometimes referred to as WikiProjects on other wikis, and coverage of fan films.
The site has remained popular since its inception, although its growth has slowed in recent times. For instance, it was the largest project on Wikia until October of 2005, when its article count was surpassed by Wookieepedia and Uncyclopedia. Today, it has approximately 1300 registered users (80 of whom are active) and upwards of 17 million page views since its move to Wikia. As of February 2006, it receives about half as many visitors and page views per day as the official Star Trek website according to Alexa.
Memory Alpha has influenced the design of other wikicities dedicated to information about television franchises, including The X-Files Wiki  and the 24 Wiki . It is a resource used by mainstream journalists for information on Star Trek related issues.
Structure[edit | edit source]
Several aspects of Memory Alpha set it apart from other reference works, such as its method of citing sources. All information must be cited from a valid source (see Canon section below), but rather than a "Works Cited" or "References" list, Memory Alpha prefers stand-alone inline citations, which are placed in parentheses after the sentence or section in question. For television episodes, this consists of an abbreviation for the series from which the information came (e.g. DS9 for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), followed by the name of the episode in double quotation marks. So, in order to cite information from the Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) pilot "Encounter at Farpoint", one would add: (TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint"). The same rule applies for films, sans the series prefix and with italics in place of quotation marks. The same method of notation is also used in the printed Star Trek Encyclopedia, which is unrelated to the Memory Alpha wiki.
Articles on Memory Alpha are written from two points of view: "in-universe", which are written as if the reader is a part of the Star Trek universe, and "production", which speak from a real-world perspective. For "in-universe" articles, behind-the-scenes information is not included in the main body of the article; rather, it is placed in a separate background section or included indented and italicized to separate it from the in-universe perspective. The latter method is used in cases where either the information is particularly important (such as conflicting information from two canon sources) or there is not enough background to justify a separate section. In most cases, the background method is preferred and italics are used sparingly.
Like many wikis, Memory Alpha has a section for "featured articles", those believed to represent the best the community has to offer. The criteria for this distinction are that an article must be well-written, comprehensive (which includes citing sources), accurate and undisputed – criteria any article could hypothetically fulfill. This has caused some conflict over the criteria involved (see Current issues section). To be featured, an article must be nominated by a user and unanimously supported by at least five other users; any objections must be fixable and may be invalidated if deemed irrational or unreasonable. Each week, one of the site's featured articles becomes the "Article of the Week" to be displayed on the project home page.
Several methods of communication are available beyond conventional talk pages. The "community portal" section of the website is named after Ten Forward, a locale frequented by characters on The Next Generation. Issues discussed there range from disputes between users to new ideas on how to improve the site to upcoming projects. A separate area, the reference desk, exists for discussions and questions related to what is considered canon, discrepancies between sources, and other such topics. However, "meta-Trek" topics (a term used for Star Trek-related topics that do not pertain in any way to Memory Alpha) are not discussed on the wiki; a separate IRC chatroom exists for these discussions.
Canon policy[edit | edit source]
The question of Star Trek canon is a complex one and has plagued fans since Star Trek began in 1966. The general policy of Paramount Pictures is that anything outside live-action television episodes and movies is apocryphal, or non-canon. However, grey areas in this policy, especially in relation to the canonical status of Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS), further complicate the matter and have led to many debates among fans. In light of this, Memory Alpha crafted its own unique definition of canon in relation to what may be used as a "valid resource". The Animated Series is included as valid, or canonical, for a number of reasons, such as the fact that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and most of the cast of the original series were involved with it and the existence of several references to TAS events in later series.
Information taken from the Star Trek Encyclopedia and Star Trek Chronology is mostly accepted on Memory Alpha as well, to the extent that it does not break from established on-screen facts. Content from these sources is an acknowledged grey area of Memory Alpha's canon policy and is disregarded if deemed speculative or contradictory. Thus, in some ways they hold the same weight as novels and other publications do for Star Wars canon: a "second tier" of canonicity, which is subservient to primary (on-screen) sources.
Other sources such as books and computer games are not included as canon, but are covered by Memory Alpha in a way which sets it apart from other Trek resources: books, comics, and other products are included as articles about the products (i.e. from a "production point of view"), but "in-universe" information unique or new to them is covered on the product page. For example, in the Star Trek: New Frontier line of books, a new host of characters is introduced to the Trek universe, and their vessel is known as the USS Excalibur. The characters, ships and information from New Frontier books do not receive pages of their own, but they are covered on the pages about the books. In this way, Memory Alpha remains all-inclusive while attempting to distinguish canon from apocrypha.
Current issues[edit | edit source]
Several issues face the Memory Alpha community, one of which is the question of which articles should be given "featured" status. Under Memory Alpha's current policies, both major and minor topics are eligible; however, the question has been raised of whether the criteria for featuring should be more subjective, i.e., if a topic is not significant enough, it should not be featured regardless of how comprehensive its article is. There is currently no consensus in the Memory Alpha community about the topic, although there has been no change in featuring policy.
The question of what content Memory Alpha should cover has plagued the project since its creation. On the project's home page, it describes itself as "a collaborative project to create the most definitive, accurate, and accessible encyclopedia and reference for everything related to Star Trek", but fans often have different interpretations of what "everything" means. In some cases, one or more users may add content about a subject – such as a website, fan club or parody – that does not fit existing pages, necessitating a community decision about whether to keep the content and, if so, what to do with it. Such incidents led to the creation of an article on Star Trek parodies after several questions were raised about where to put information related to, but not a part of, the Star Trek franchise. An example of the reverse case is "The Sunspots", a musical group consisting of Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton and Michael Dorn. Although the actors involved were all prominent parts of Star Trek: The Next Generation, several articles on the group have been deleted because the community deemed the topic not directly related to the franchise. As of 2006, information about The Sunspots can be found on the different actors' pages rather than a single, separate article.
Perhaps the most heated issue on Memory Alpha in recent months is the controversy surrounding their canon policy. Aside from issues of length and excessive use of legalese, this new policy has been put into question by several of the site's regular users because of its rule that articles and information which were not seen on-screen but were derived from official production sources are not considered canon on Memory Alpha. The site's archivists are divided as to exactly whether such information should be allowed as canon; some want only to allow what was seen on-screen while others wish to include that which was originally intended to be used on-screen but never made it, such as information from deleted scenes, early script drafts, etc. The latter archivists believe that such information can be included so long as it does not contradict what was seen on-screen and so long as it states where the source of the information comes from. As of July 2006, this debate has died down significantly, with most having accepted the terms of the new policy.
There is also some concern as to the canonicity of the in-development Star Trek movie, and how it will be represented on the site if the film is a reboot of the franchise (not set within the same fictional universe as the previous TV shows and movies), as it may well be.
See also[edit | edit source]
Notes[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Barnett, Cynthia (September 1, 2005). "Wiki mania". Florida Trend, Vol. 48, No. 5; Pg. 62; ISSN: 0015-4326. 
- Lee, Ellen (January 1, 2006). "The world's gone wild for everything wiki-wise". The Charlotte Observer, p. 4E.
[edit | edit source]
- Some (but not all) of Memory Alpha's distinctions can be found on Memory Alpha's announcements page. Among the announcements are links to the Ex Astris Excellentia award and SciFi newsletter. Mr. Sussman's identity on Memory Alpha has been verified as authentic; see his talk page for more details.
- "Happy Birthday, Memory Alpha!" page from the Uncyclopedia website.
- The issue at hand was originally raised by user AJHalliwell on July 15 of that year, and a subsequent discussion resulted in the creation of Memory Alpha's Peer Review section. According to the page history of the Peer Review page, it was created by user Cid Highwind at 22:53, 21 September 2005 UTC.
- Any user count on Memory Alpha should be treated as prone to error because Memory Alpha's users are pooled with those of other Wikia sites. A full list of editors can be found on Memory Alpha's maintenance page, but the estimate of 80 users is based on a voluntary listing of users (who call themselves "archivists"). Page views, which are easier to gauge, can be found on the statistics page. The Alexa claim is based on a page view comparison on February 6, 2005.
- Barron, James "It's an Auction, Jim, But Not as We Know It." New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Jul 6, 2006. pg. B.3
- Forum:MA Press Release - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki
- Startrek.com states in an FAQ dated 10 September 2003, "Story lines, characters, events, stardates, etc. that take place within the fictional novels, the Animated Adventures, and the various comic lines are not canon." However, even the FAQ acknowledges certain facts outside this rule have become canon. It should also be noted that the FAQ is meant as a rule of thumb and is not an official rule.
- Hippocrates Noah's archived nomination for featured status can be found on Memory Alpha. There was an unprecedented level of debate associated with the nomination.
- Memory Alpha:Canon policy - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki
- Memory Alpha talk:Canon policy - Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki