Fandom CEO Perkins Miller: Delusions of Corporate-Led Fan Passion

I listened to Decoder’s interview with Fandom CEO Perkins Miller, and it really enlightened things. Really showed me why his company is so awful.

It’s a good interview; I recommend listening or reading the transcript.

For about ten years, the quality of Wikia, later Fandom, has plummeted gradually until it’s become a site I actively avoid as much as possible. Slow, confusing layout, covered with ads, not well-maintained. When I search online and Fandom shows up as a top link, I scroll as much as I can to find something, anything I can click on that’s not Fandom.

There’s tons of independent wikis out there, and I always seek them out, but they rarely appear at the top of search results, and most independent wikis of any value are video game-centric; there’s not much out there for movies, TV, anime, etc. because they were all absorbed by Fandom. (Independent wikis are great though, like NIWA.)

The way the Fandom CEO talks about the company in this interview really shows how bad it’s gotten. He talks constantly about company growth and how special Fandom is, without ever acknowledging just how immensely negatively the platform is perceived. Instead, he acts like Fandom is the primary hub for, well, fandom, on the internet. It’s absolutely not.

I really like Nilay Patel as an interviewer, but I don’t think he dug in deep enough into this one. He’s usually really good at making his guests squirm a little at tough questions and punching past the trained corporate speak. But here, his choice of squirm was about JK Rowling and fandoms that grow to hate their creators? It was a really weird one, even though it made the Fandom CEO squirm and give a non-answer even so. That’s how brand-integrated the platform is now, though, so I understand his reluctance to bash the author behind one of their most lucrative partnerships. There’s also a lot of talk about AI, which is really relevant, but the CEO deflected so much it wasn’t a very productive topic.

But for someone who’s been in these nerd fandom communities for twenty years, I really wish this interview went harder. I mean, every one of you reading probably agrees–Fandom sucks. It’s terrible. Filled with autoplay video ads everywhere. Poorly written, unsourced stuff that’s rocketed to the top of every Google search you do because of really good SEO.

The interview with the Fandom CEO doesn’t even bring up the fact that thousands of unpaid volunteers make almost the entire content base, and these volunteers aren’t happy. The biggest franchises can make it work, sure, but so many communities are struggling. This is a huge, profitable company, not a nonprofit like Wikipedia, and the entire company relies on all this unpaid labor. Unapid AND unhappy.

I’ve been an avid fan wiki user (not editor) for as long as I remember. Wookiepedia became basically my home in middle school. The Mario Wiki was absolutely invaluable for my Bowsette story. The Homestuck Wiki was very good in jogging my memory when writing MSPA fan stories (despite the many, many errors). And countless other wikis have been very helpful–mostly independent ones, but sometimes Fandom ones as well.

But the Wikia/Fandom user experience has consistently been awful, and it’s only getting worse.

All throughout this interview, the Fandom CEO deflects any attempt to admit even potential minor failings. He doesn’t think there’s too many ads. Doesn’t regret all the journalist layoffs its buyouts caused. Doesn’t think there’s a problem with constant user complaints. Heck, when Patel brings up that several major wikis have left or are leaving the site soon, he just said basically, “Eh, it’s OK, they can do what they want. Our tools are so good that we can just leave all these communities be.”

If your tools were so good these communities wouldn’t be leaving to go independent…

It’s clear that the Fandom CEO isn’t actually engaged with the website, just the company. If he was actually using the site, he would easily be able to recognize what a poor experience it is. Instead he’s laser-focused on company growth, and how to funnel unpaid fan passion into brand sponsorships. Perkins Miller was a tech guy before being hired by Fandom. He doesn’t know how to run a platform that serves a community, much less hundreds of thousands of them.

Fandom was already bad, but this interview showed me why it’s that way. Finally gave a face and voice to it. The problems long predate the Fandom CEO, but he’s certainly not attempting to alleviate them.

I won’t boycott Fandom or anything silly. There are times when I begrudgingly am forced to click on it, because there’s simply no alternative for most communities. But gosh I wish there was a viable alternative for wiki hosting. Anything so that people can leave this wretched platform.

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