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What do I do with this? --XiongChangnian

That is incredible! Technically, that type of barn star is used in building a barn. If the barn uses a long steel rod as part of its structure, the barnstar holds the barn in place. Kind of like a nut. I don't really know the term. Where did you get that? -- SunirShah

Yes Sir, I know precisely what it is. My mother had a starred brick townhouse in Detroit; the mortar was crumbling and the stars were holding it together. --But that's another story.-- You see an exact match for the barnstar photographed by Design Culture Network for their prank/experiment -- that very same which you Photoshopped down to the standard wiki barnstar, as shown on this very page.

I failed to contact anyone at all at DCN, let alone the original photographer, so I went out and *bought* the barnstar you see here. Although barnstars of all sizes are common, this particular design is rare. At some point, I'm sure, I should take some very nice photos of it.

I posted the barnstar-in-a-box on WikiPedia, on my talk page and on the pump, asking the same question: "What do I do with this?" No suggestion, no interest even. I suppose this is as good a place as any to say I am fed up with WP; the corpus itself is okay, built up over long years by earnest workers; but the community has degenerated. I tried a lot of things to arouse interest in reform, without success. I thought an actual barnstar might excite some interest, perhaps wake some OldHeads? from slumber. Nothing. If the community was new, then I could understand it -- a barnstar is not "really important", it's just a symbol. But at this stage of maturity, I think the lack of interest shows merely that the community is not awake and aware.

My original plan was to put the barnstar on a teeshirt. I may still do that. Back when I still cared what happened to WP, I thought money could be raised for the project by raffling off the real metal barnstar itself. I would like to recover my investment; I shudder to think what I spent on it. But I really don't know what to do with it. I thought, "If anybody knows what to do with it, SunirShah is the one." So here we are. --XiongChangnian


Okay, well, absent greater interest in anything else, I mean to take a nice photo of it and hook it up to CafePress?, at which point anyone with the cash and the desire can order teeshirts, coffee mugs, and similar ephemera. I don't see it as a big profit center, but perhaps I'll recover part of my hefty investment. --XiongChangnian

[CafePress Barnstar paraphernalia].


Maybe this could be put into a frame and given as a present to a very special person, central to the wiki community, in Oktober at WikiSym, as a symbolic present, the first BarnStarPrize?. You could donate it or we could buy it, as you like. -- HelmutLeitner

That's a neat idea; every year it would get awarded to someone new (who gets their name engraved on the little brass plate on the frame, natch). -- EarleMartin

So... How about using it as a trophy at WikiSym? -- SunirShah

Yes, how to go about it? -- HelmutLeitner

Notes below. I've bolded the "hard" parts. -- SunirShah

Building the trophy

  1. We would need to get Xiong's attention. cf. http://www.barcamp.org/index.cgi?XiongChangnian
  2. Gain the barn star.
  3. Mount it.
  4. Etch the title brass plate
  5. Etch the winner.

Choosing the awardee

  1. Decide on a decision process (ooh, meta.)
  2. Call for nominations
  3. Apply decision process

Awarding the trophy

  1. Allocate time & space at WikiSym
  2. Choose presenters and format
  3. Give trophy
  4. Ensure there is a way to retrieve the trophy next year.

Decision process discussion

It would be somewhat unwiki to have a secret cabal decide on the winner. Also, VotingIsEvil. A deliberative process would be nice. However, since time is short, that would require fast deliberation. Also, if the deliberative process was public, it would result in a) sorry feelings, b) no surprise for the winner. So, maybe voting is appropriate after all. -- SunirShah

For getting I think we should Xiong ask whether he wants to give the barnstar for free (for e. g. being mentioned as a donor on the plate) or whether he wants to sell it. I think the barnstar should be owned by the meatball community represented by you. I doubt that we will be able to assign a first winner and get it around (find an artist who frames it and brushes it up). -- HelmutLeitner

BarnstarTeeshirt s

I'm sure some will find me a bit pigheaded on this subject, for which I apologize. I bought a Barnstar with one, simple, very definite notion: To convert it into an unlimited number of BarnstarTeeshirts?. I did not plan to become wealthy peddling them, but I hoped to make a small profit, or at worst to offset my expenses. At best, I'd hoped to clear enough to get an XXL for myself, maybe even to send one to such luminaries as SunirShah and JimmyWales.

Well, I've had the teeshirts and other ephemera up on CafePress? for a month now, and haven't sold one yet. Hindsight is always so clear -- wikiholics expect everything to be free -- free speech and free beer. Well, that only holds for cyberspace and maybe for beer -- everything else costs CashMoney. And I'm just a bit grumpy.

I've been told (by those who ought to know) that I'm going about this all wrong. I should have taken more money out of my pocket to start, bought 20 shirts and given them away to everyone I could think of -- worn mine at BarCamp? -- and photo'ed many topheavy ladies wearing same. I dunno; that makes sense -- but I hardly have a pot to piss in right now; I estimate I have about 30 days before my landlord's patience is exhausted and I find myself sleeping in my car.

I met a fellow who told me I had a negative attitude. Well, maybe. I'm a terrible salesman. I'm a brilliant technician, and I seem to be the only person in all of history to actually unearth a real iron barnstar, photograph it nicely, and set up BarnstarTeeshirt s for sale. Do I have to do everything? Can I do anything? Somebody shoot me, please, and get it over with. --XiongChangnian

I'm afraid I'm officially skint at the moment. I've added the CafePress? link above - you didn't tell us you'd actually put the page up! Hopefully someone with money will buy something. -- ChrisPurcell

I'm sorry you're feeling discouraged, Xiong. However, to be frank, you're not being very fair by saying "wikiholics expect everything to be free". Before you put a lot of money into a project, you need to gauge the interest. Personally, I'm not interested in barnstar t-shirts, but not because they cost money. You really don't need an actual barnstar to make them, as it is just as easy to use a picture you find on the web.

The realy interesting thing to me is the physical barnstar itself, and I think there are much more exciting things you can do with it. How do you feel about the trophy idea? I'm confident we can get enough donations to cover the cost of the barnstar, and you would still be able to sell your t-shirts. -- StephenGilbert

I agree with Stephen. I also didn't know that there was a t-shirt to buy. You should perhaps create a BarnStarTeeShirt? page. It seems like you would sell the real barnstar. Is this correct? How much would it cost us to buy it? -- HelmutLeitner

The tees are pretty much all $16.99 -- that includes the "made in USA". --XiongChangnian

This page is getting a bit long, and I'm about to make it worse. I wouldn't have any objection to SomeBody? lopping off the oldest part of it, perhaps retaining the image and my initial bewilderment. What's the procedure around here for overgrown pages?

Thanks, Chris. Helmut, I will create the page as BarnstarTeeshirt; I'll invite interested parties to discuss related products there, and keep this thread on topic -- the topic being vague, perhaps, but more closely related to WikiCommunity values and RealBarnStar? s. --XiongChangnian

Using the RealBarnStar? Itself

The trouble with selling the actual object itself is: Who gets it? MeatballWiki enjoys a certain central position within the WikiCommunity; and I'll grant that nothing in the recent trends I observe in WikiPedia inclines me to show that community any special favor. If MeatballWiki had a brick storefront somewhere, it might make sense to put the BarnStar there. As people went in and out, they could see it, touch it; it would properly be available to the WikiCommunity as a whole.

But of course that's not the case, and it looks to me as though no matter who I shipped it to (at some expense), it would wind up right where it is now: in an individual's home, seen by occasional visitors only. I hope I'm understood when I say that it would probably disappear after two or three exchanges -- no comment on any individual's honesty or community commitment -- just a realistic appraisal of human nature. We live in a turbulent society, and it's shocking how often people move and are never heard from again. Hell, I can't even find my socks some mornings -- I may already have lost this BarnStarInABox in the sea of rubble that is my home.

I'm not sure how workable it would be to mount the thing on a plaque. It's already large and heavy; a fitting slab of wood would double the weight, making it even less able to be shipped.

I'd like to know what people think can be done with such a thing, besides mounting it on a plaque and trying to ship it around the world every month. (There are far too many deserving people to award it only once a year.) For me, I think, any application should keep the ball in play -- keep the object moving, or at any rate, visible to more than just a few individuals.

If we were all hippies and had an old bus named FURTHER, then we could weld it to the bumper.

I'd like to say that I could not be induced to sell it for CashMoney to any person at any price, but realistically, I'm human, and I guess I could be bought. I just wish we could think of a way to keep it CommunityProperty?.


Speaking of which, please don't sell it to any of the "wiki" enterprises. Watching bloggers buy the wiki community makes me very sad. -- SunirShah

I think I'm likely to agree with you -- to a point. I think it's cool to build a business that exploits wiki technology by adding new value; I think it sucks to ride along and, well, suck out value from the wiki community without putting anything in. I don't actually know anybody who's hiring, or I'd be first in line.

I don't go along with all that FreeBeer stuff anymore, not at my age. I like to pay for what I get, when I can afford it; and I like to get paid for what I do, at least some of the time. I've racked up a big fat edit count in the last several months; I know about as much about the user-level of a wiki as anyone, and I'm one of the few people I know personally who can write a 5000 word essay daily, 5 days a week. It pains me deeply that I can only do so on topics I think of some worth, which does not include salable pieces such as ShoppingInHongKong? or FishingForTrout?. Instead, I wrote for years to a highly appreciative, but non-paying audience on an obscure side of the MiddleKingdom?; and now I fritter away my UnFreeTime? writing about wikis. Pah!

Still nobody buys a damn BarnstarTeeshirt -- unless CafePress? is cheating me?

Still, you're right, I don't really plan to pimp the RealBarnStar? to, say, SocialText -- nice guys though they may be. Well, the plastic cushion fell off my back bumper; maybe I'll weld it on there. (Yeh, and another on the front, and run a steel rod through -- maybe that'll hold it together another year!) --XiongChangnian

Best Things in Life are Free

Stephen's made several comments in just a few lines:

1. I spoke unfairly to say WikiHolics? expect everything to be free.

2. I should have done some market research before investing in a RealBarnStar?.

3. I could have offered BarnstarTeeshirt s made from photos already existing on the web.

I appreciate the comments -- really, I'm not blowing smoke; any involvement is better than disinterest. I hope you'll not be offended if I answer these points.

1. The issue of "free stuff" and WikiCommunity attitude is massive and of great concern to me, apart from BarnStar s. I think, for sanity's sake, I'd like to break that out into TaanStafl? (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch). This is all about free beer, not free speech.

2. You're probably right; I'm a very unbalanced person. I keep waiting for SomeBody? to pluck me out of the gutter and install me in a GoldenCage?. I think I should be good for SomeThing?, but my exceptional skills in a number of technical fields are not balanced by social or business skills. I have spent most of my life making unsound business decisions and failing to maintain a basic standard of living. This is despite years of study and improvement. Some people simply cannot comprehend AnalyticGeometry?, but they seem to be able to comb money out of the air. The former topic is trivial to me, not even a separate discipline but one of the basic ways I see the world; but as much technical knowledge of business as I acquire, I seem unable to apply it.

3. Existing BarnStar images cannot be used to generate BarnstarTeeshirt s of any acceptable level of quality. The issue is resolution -- or, if you view all images at the standard screen resolution, image size. The largest image shown on MeatballWiki is the one SunirShah copied from BarnstarSubterfuge?; it is 233 x 222 pixels. That may seem large; at nominal screen, it will display at about 3 inches square. Those of us with higher-resolution monitors see it smaller, of course.

Teeshirts are printed by silkscreening, an inherently low-resolution technology; a 72ppi image might very well be sufficient, although even here I would prefer 150ppi. (CafePress? recommends 100-200ppi.) But even at the lower resolution, the image above would only be barely sufficient for printing on a pocket, not on a whole teeshirt. Blowing the image up to the 10 inch square size CafePress? specifies for the front (or back) of a regular teeshirt would result in a resolution of about 23 ppi. This would not merely look bad; it would look crappy. Half my customers would return the product, in anger.

All this is obvious to a graphic designer; I'm sorry if my explanation seems condescending. As I said above, all technical skills, none social.

My entire motive for hunting down a RealBarnStar? was so I could photograph it at high resolution. The source image for the Old #1 Wiki Barnstar products available <plug> at [CafePress] </plug> is 1440 pixels wide; the uncompressed Photoshop workfile is 2.2 Mb. Here's just a piece of that image:

It annoys me no end that editors at WikiPedia crank out endless variations on the BarnStar award, all working off the same degraded image. I understand SunirShah's motive in making a smaller version, more suitable for display on a user page -- I don't agree with his decision to apply fake rust, but I can understand that, too. But I really don't see why one ur-barnstar after another should be developed without reference to the actual object.

That's as much as I have to say about my technical rationale for BarnStarInABox. For my take on the economics, please see FreeBeer.


I recently (2009) purchased six barn stars in Bandera, Texas for $10 USD. One large one for $5 and 5 small ones for $1 each, so I withdraw any interest in this matter. -- SunirShah

You seem to have had an easier time of it than I did. Now that the supply of barnstars is greater than one, does it make sense to produce awards that can be given away without worrying about eventual return? -- XiongChangnian


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