This Might Be A Wiki:History

From This Might Be A Wiki

The Beginning[edit]

Way back in mid-2002, Scott Redd and Brad Will, two employees of an online corporation, started putting together lists of themes that various TMBG songs shared. Brad would email Scott a list of TMBG songs that had "bicycles" as a main theme, for example, and Scott would add to the list. This would eventually become the basis for the Song Themes pages. After a while, Scott suggested that these lists be published, and allow others to add to the lists as they saw fit. Being familiar with wikis, Scott suggested to Brad to use UseMod to publish these lists. After putting together the songs lists, the next obvious step was to add in song pages, so that we could link to the song themes. After several months of filling out the basic framework of the site, Scott and Brad finally had to decide on what to call this thing, before publishing it to the whole world. Brad suggested "Wiki Little Critta", but Scott (perhaps wisely) suggested "This Might Be A Wiki", which conveniently shortened to In early 2003, the site was ready to be opened to the public, and Brad published the URL to on February 25, 2003.[1] The rest is history, as they say...


In The Beginning[edit]

In the beginning, several people helped to flesh out the site, which was quite sparse. One notable contributor, Jolene, added great details to several pages, and added photos and bios for John and John, before she mysteriously disappeared, never to be heard from again.


Brad Will and Scott Redd, the founders of the wiki, managed this site on their own in the early years. It wasn't until November of 2004, that Brad promoted MooseBlaster to admin. As a result of massive spam and vandal attacks in late 2005, Brad promoted Ecks in January of 2006, quickly followed by CapitalQ in March.


To help Brad automate various tedious tasks, ThisMightBeABot was born three days before Christmas, December 22nd 2004. Rather than using existing MediaWiki bots that ran on Perl or Python, Brad created ThisMightBeABot completely from scratch, using PHP. He's very customizable, and serves many functions today, such as adding missing navigation or categorization, archiving news on the front page, and other boring jobs. As of December 2013, he has made more than 35,000 edits!

Important Additions[edit]

File Uploads[edit]

While it is taken for granted, this site was originally one of few wikis to allow file uploads. This functionality was not supported by the original UseMod code. Scott found a perl script that allowed users to upload files to the wiki, before MediaWiki. Once we moved to MediaWiki, this custom modification was no longer necessary.

Importing Of Shows From[edit]

In April 2005, based upon Bryce's suggestion, Brad created a script to import shows from the now-defunct site. These old shows were captured from the site's archives of the old pages. Several people helped clean up the several hundred shows that were imported, helping to ensure that a piece of TMBG history be preserved.

Song Ratings[edit]

In September 2004, Brad created a song rating system that let wikians rate songs on a score of 1-10. Originally, all votes were tracked by IP Address, due to the way that UseMod was written. After moving to MediaWiki, it was very easy for Brad to modify the code to track votes by userid. Various enhancements have been made over time, such as including the current ranking in an iframe on each song's page, and also filtering out songs that have less than 5 votes, so as to not skew the rankings. In late 2006, these iframes were converted to proper MediaWiki extensions.

Show Attendance[edit]

In January 2006, Brad created a little snippet of code that allows registered users to mark which shows they have attended. The idea is to foster a sense of community, and allow people to get in touch with others that have been to the same show they have attended.

Custom Skins[edit]

Showing the true spirit of collaboration that is critical to making a wiki a success, Gena Wenli created three custom skins for TMBW.Net in 2006 and 2007, without anyone asking her to do so. Her first skin, "ChoppingBlock", which was released on September 12 2006, is a fun take on The Chopping Block's designs for TMBG. Later in 2006, after the new was unveiled, she created a custom skin, Blanko, that mimics the design of that site, for us. In early 2007, Brad and Jon worked with Gena on her design that would eventually become the new default skin for TMBW.Net, Azure. Gena tweaked the skin for several weeks, while Jon and Brad helped her identify and fix issues. Azure was finally officially revealed to the public and replaced Monobook as the default on March 17, 2007.


A considerable portion of the discographical details found here on TMBW.Net come directly from the now-defunct discography, originally compiled by John Relph. In early 2009, many release details were imported from with the assistance of Brad, in preparation for the closure of that site's discography page. With all this new information now integrated into the wiki, Brad also built a custom "Collections" extension. This extension allows wikians to tag which TMBG albums they own, and to display them as a "Collection" on their userpage.

Upgrades And Moves[edit]

Upgrade From UseMod To MediaWiki[edit]

While UseMod was good for a wiki of a small size, we quickly outgrew it. Being perl-based, it could be quite slow, and would often take a long time to search. Our hosting provider, Surpass, contacted Scott, and asked him to stop running perl scripts on our site. After a couple weeks of investigation, we decided to install MediaWiki. (Coincidentally, ran into the same problem at the same time, and had decided to go to MediaWiki as well.) Scott found some scripts to convert UseMod to MediaWiki, and began converting the data. In addition, he built some custom scripts that weren't available.

Shortly after conversion, we discovered that links to sub-pages were not brought over properly. For example, a link to "Ana Ng/Lyrics" would show up as "/Lyrics". Brad went through by hand, and fixed the links, and moved the pages to namespaces, which was a feature that MediaWiki had, which UseMod was lacking. On December 17th 2004, the site was officially 100% categorized.


Over the years, TMBW.Net has been posted on several providers. For several years, we were co-hosted with, the Homestar Runner Wiki. At one point, we were actually approached by Wikia, and they offered to host our site for free. While we were quite honored by the request, Brad chose to keep the site privately hosted, which allows us greater control over our own site. We are currently hosted by vpslink, paid for purely by the proceeds received from affiliate commissions.


Two millionth view of the Main Page

Here are several key milestones for page views and registered users that TMBW.Net has reached over the years. (Note: the page view statistics were compiled using MediaWiki's internal page counting. These stats are deflated, based on the following factors: a) it doesn't account for 2 years on UseMod, b) deleted pages do not count in the page views, c) page caching may cause the true count to be lower, and d) page views of "special pages" are not counted.)

  • September 7, 2006 - 5 millionth page view
  • September 5, 2007 - 10 millionth page view
  • September 5, 2007 - 1 millionth page view on Main Page
  • September 5, 2007 - 2,000th registered user
  • May 22, 2009 - 20 millionth page view.
  • August 15, 2009 - 2 millionth page view on Main Page
  • April, 2010 - 3,000th registered user
  • May 18, 2010 - 10 millionth page view (According to Google Analytics)
  • May 24, 2010 - 1 millionth unique visitor (According to Google Analytics)

Tenth Anniversary[edit]

This Might Be a Wiki celebrated its tenth anniversary on February 25, 2013, heralded by various modifications to the site's most frequently used skins to reflect the achievement. They Might Be Giants wished TMBW a happy birthday in the mailing list update for that day with the following text:


The completely awesome and completely complete
TMBG wiki is celebrating its tenth birthday. We want to thank everyone
who has taken part in building it, and if you haven't checked it out--now is the time!

In its tenth year, TMBW hosts over 4,000 articles generated by collaboration among innumerable registered users. In total, nearly 300,000 edits have been made.


2007 site[edit]

This Might Be A Wiki was the top link in the "Other Links" section of the official They Might Be Giants website,, after the late June 2007 site redesign.

Current site[edit] is included fourth in the links section of (now titled "They Might Be Elsewhere"), and there is a brief plug for the wiki on the "About" page:

For a complete history of everything TMBG have ever done go to, the fan-created They Might Be Giants wiki.

In December 2012, was updated to include a link to TMBW as one of the main navigation tabs at the top of the site.

New York Newsday[edit]

THE FINE PRINT Web sites you edit


Would you like to help write an encyclopedia for the world? Thanks to the growing popularity of wikis, a type of Internet site, you can.

Wikis, which get their name from the Hawaiian word for "quick," let anyone change their content. They are sort of like blogs - visitors make posts - but they look like regular Internet sites.

Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of the Internet encyclopedia - one of the Internet's largest wikis - says wikis are creating a more interactive Internet.

The ultimate goal of is to create a free encyclopedia for every person in the world, and it's well on its way. The English version of the site is approaching half a million articles, covering everything from timber wolves to Paul Wolfowitz.

But wikis aren't only educational. Some are simply fun. Take "This Might Be a Wiki" (, which "seeks to classify and document everything related to the band" They Might Be Giants, a quirky New York rock duo.

"There are a zillion TMBG Web sites on the Internet, but we're pretty sure this is the only one that you (yes, you) can edit," the opening page reads. "Go crazy."

Fans have done just that, posting MP3s of rare songs, chronicling the release of the band's new album, "Here Come the ABCs," and linking to music videos.

Wales says the beauty of wikis is their ability to keep growing. Before, a TMBG fan might start a site, only to lose interest in it and stop making updates. But with wikis, a community supports the entire site, keeping it alive.

Granted, sometimes visitors make inappropriate postings, even errors. At Wikipedia, monitors quickly remove those posts, blocking the offender from the site.

"That's the problem of doing something in the open," Wales said. "There are always people with personality problems."

TMBG Mailing List[edit]

On 5/5/2004, John Flansburgh officially (and briefly) mentioned the wiki in his regular Mailing List. "Check out the fascinating They Might Be Wiki, where they have archived this John and John interview." Although he got the name wrong (not known if it was intentional or unintentional), it was an important day as it showed that John and John were at least aware of the site.


On 3/24/2006, "eastwikkers" - a technology blog - picked TMBW.Net in a series focusing on best practices on wiki-based collaboration. Here's the article.

33 Wikis: #3 -- This Might Be a Wiki

This is the third installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration.  Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we can all learn from it.  If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know.  On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

What this wiki is for:  "This Might Be a Wiki"  -- a collaborative Web site for the rock band, They Might Be Giants -- might be the best fan site ever.  In fact, that's how we rewrote the tagline for this wonderful site, which anyone can edit (after all, this is a wiki).  The creators of the wiki, Scott Redd and Brad Will, have provided a place where fans from all over the world can share info, upload files, post guitar lines, publish show dates, and intrepret the complex, inventive lyrics that have won over so many fans since the 1980's.

Why we like it:   as the wiki creators note, "there are a zillion TMBG web sites on the internet, but we're pretty sure this is the only one that you (yes, you) can edit."  "This Might Be a Wiki" demonstrates that a wiki might in fact be the best platform for a fan site, whose readers are motivated to provide updates on the most minute levels of detail.  "This Might Be a Wiki" is also innovative on the technical side.  Check out ThisMightBeABot (left), a tool for automating various "tedious tasks" such as site navigation, categorization, and archiving.

What we can all learn from it:   This is "wisdom of crowds," pure and simple -- a super-motivated community that works hard to make the wiki complete and -- just as important -- to make it correct.  A great example of this is the revision history for TMBG co-founder John Sidney Linnell's bio -- dozens of edits from multiple authors, working together to get things right.  We can think of several types of communities that can learn from this experiment.  [Think, for example, of wiki communities for Democratic or Republican nominees -- party fans and faithfuls can collect and vet all sorts of information.]  But for now, this site should light a fire in the general marketing community.  I can think of no better way of connecting with customers than to let them in, let them participate in the great information machine, and let them make their own birdhouse in their soul.

Dick Carlson Interview[edit]

Dick Carlson, an instructional designer and program manager for Microsoft, interviewed Brad Will on 9/9/2006 about This Might Be A Wiki and maintaining wikis in general for his podcast.

Web Analytics for Dummies[edit]

In 2007, a book in the "For Dummies" series -- "Web Analytics For Dummies" -- made mention of TMBW.Net's Amusing Search Engine Keyphrases page in a section of the book called "My Visitors Are Searching For What?!".

When you review your search reports, you might discover that some surprising keyword and keyphrases are opening the door to your site. The Web site This Might Be a Wiki ( [sic] offers a list of amusing search engine keywords and keyphrases that took visitors to for one reason or another, including linky dinky, bicycle wrecks, how to become a robot, and help me match my clothes. Get the picture? Some keywords that your visitors use might give you a good chuckle; others may disgust you; and still others can offer you insights into products, services, content, and customer service answers you could be offering. Unfortunately, others could be wasting your Benjamins.

(To read a snippet of this book, check

Atlanta Music Guide Interview With John Linnell[edit]

In 2010, the Atlanta Music Guide asked John Linnell about TMBW.Net. Below is a snippet of that article:[2]
[AMG:] The band also has its own Wiki web page, a knowledge base choc-a-bloc with information, including setlists from shows 20 years ago. There’s a stunning amount of information there.

[JL:] We rely on that for a lot of information. We look at that for setlists of the town we’re in to see what we played the last time around.

[AMG:] That’s got to be very handy.

[JL:] It’s incredibly useful. Somebody is definitely keeping track, writing stuff down. It’s all available in one place; it’s great.

Ten ridiculous wikis to cure your boredom with just one click[edit]

In 2011, TMBW.Net had the distinctive honor of being selected #10 in the Denver Westword blog article Ten ridiculous wikis to cure your boredom with just one click:

10. This Might Be a Wiki: The They Might Be Giants knowledge base
Who doesn't love They Might Be Giants? Though This Might Be a Wiki may not convert you to a die-hard fan overnight, it will at least give you an appreciation for the Brooklyn band with an entry about every song, album, EP and piece of merchandise currently being auctioned off on eBay.

Killing time: If you still need something to keep you occupied after perusing all 631 entries -- featuring trivia, including a list of words and phrases the band members never allow each other to say, like "I threw up a little in my mouth" (who knew!) -- check out this video clip from an episode of Tiny Toons featuring "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," one of They Might Be Giants' more popular political-but-not-super-political songs.