ObConfess: I have sent many /msgs, deleted numerous old and mouldy writeups, filled several title change requests, read Webster 1913's inbox to him, handled some of Klaproth's correspondence, and otherwise swept the corners of the database. I also killed a few dormant user accounts in violation of long standing admin policy, just because dormant accounts (with names someone new might wish to use) tick me off. The Boss either tolerates this or hasn't noticed. But that's not why I'm writing a Log1.

I've been dealing recently with some new users who have messaged Klaproth. Each says that he or she is an experienced user of Wikipedia. One expressed particular surprise that E2 was 'so much like' Wikipedia, contrary to his or her expectations.

I've been thinking about the difference between the two sites lately. I am not a contributor to Wikipedia, though I am an admirer. I am also a sometime user, as I consult Wikipedia when verifying factual content of E2 writeups as I wander our database. Wikipedia gives me an excellent fact base, usually comprehensive and as reliable as anything on the internet can be.

E2's entries are sometimes (though not always) less comprehensive, often (though not always) less accurate, and certainly much more varied than Wikipedia's are. The content validation and editing process on E2 is very different than the collaborative model of Wikipedia. As admins we hear about the supposed deficiencies of this model rather more than the benefits, but I think I've discovered the key difference that this creates for me.

We have long been admonished to avoid highly subjective writeups2. Yet the essence of many good E2 writeups is that they are subjective, in a balanced way. The personal perspective that each E2 writer can bring to a topic, as an individual, is quite different from the collective approach of Wikipedia. E2's format allows authors to use their individual voice and style to personify a topic. It allows us to find favourite noders and follow their work much as we might a favourite magazine columnist. It allows each noder to express their thoughts and feelings, and share their direct experience. E2 makes a confounding and untrustworthy reference guide, but it's a damn good read, and a source of many unexpected gems.

That does mean that quality of content is as important on E2 as on Wikipedia. If users come here hoping to get more "freedom" than Wikipedia gives, they may or may not find it. There is freedom to have a distinctive voice, and perhaps to be more creative. There is not, however, freedom to suck. The admin team and the E2 community see to that. New users need to achieve a delicate balance, to learn when a subjective voice adds perspective but not noise. New users (in fact, all users) need to add compelling content and not falling into the "getting to know you" trap.

E2, its writeups, and its users compel me to discover tangents to my original thought in a way that Wikipedia does not. I don't browse Wikipedia -- I mine the topic at hand and then move on. Yet I can browse E2 for hours. E2 is part dictionary, part blog, part chatroom, and part magazine. It is part fact, part fiction, and part Weekly World News. It is all good. Well, most of it.

E2 is not Wikipedia. It's neither better nor worse, but it is very different. New users who find them alike could be shown this by example. If you agree, I'd be interested in knowing what writeups you'd put on a short list of writeups that really capture the essence of E2. If I get enough compelling submissions, I will post them in next month's editor log. Arguments about why this is a really dumb-ass idea may be posted too, if they're well argued3. Keep it short, please -- my Message Inbox is busy enough as it is.

OK, back to the M----- writeup.


  1. Really I'm avoiding completion of a personal writeup that I really need to post. If the next writeup title you see from me doesn't start with the letter M, please kick my ass.
  2. Or at least to confine them to the Everything Daylogs.
  3. Arguments that boil down to "you suck" will incur my unbridled wrath receive due consideration.

Strangely different, and yet the same.


On Becoming a Content Editor

There are two types of noder: Those who think that editorial policy here is too harsh, and those who think it isn't harsh enough. As a noder, I regularly come across writeups that I reckon don't belong here. I normally passed these on to editor-friends of mine for their opinions, and in general they concurred and did the killin'. Occasionally, they disagreed and the writeup in question would remain, and I'd be left thinking that the editors were too populist, or soft.

A few hours on the other side and suddenly those same writeups that I railed about before seem very different. I ask myself "Am I prepared to be personally responsible for removing this from the database" and the answer isn't always "yes". It is a delicate balance we all walk here, and it's a very different game on the sharp end.


On What Everything2 Is

Most of the conflict in this place is caused by different understandings of what E2 is. Everything2 doesn't have a mission statement, but individual noders have missions and these can contradict each other.

E1 - and the early E2 - were anarchic places. The site was a blank canvas, a nodegel onto which structure could be imposed through nodes and links. Noders took up the challenge and created a pattern, like a crystalline lattice that cools quickly. There was no purpose as such, just having fun and jumping up Everything's Best Users by creating as many nodes as possible. E1 and early E2 were internal pieces, replete with in-jokes, rants and obscure humour.

When a firmer editorial policy began to emerge, so did a number of different views on what E2 was. The most visionary of these was of E2 as an encyclopaedia of sorts, that covered not just objects and concepts but ideas and common experiences. This was what drew me here in the first place.

Now, an encyclopaedia needs a readership. This view of E2 was essentially outward-looking, and motivated a lot of the changes here. Avoid highly subjective writeups, Don't make shit up, choose titles carefully and the like emerged from this mindset. The Content Rescue Team and the focus on factnoding and The Database also fit into this paradigm. For my first year as a noder, I couldn't understand the point of non-factual writeups.

This paradigm is no longer the dominant one, for a few reasons. The lack of a full text search and sporadic Google indexing limits E2's usefulness to the outside world. Also, the internal culture of E2 has shifted away from that model, particularly the recognition of our subjectivity as Lord Brawl highlights above. It's not a dead vision, but it is on hold.

A contemporary model was of E2 as a Community. This model of E2 is interesting and compelling. It presents the website as first and foremost a tool for helping the community form and giving its members an understanding of one another. Advocates pointed to the hundreds of successful nodermeets, the marriages, an the friendships formed here.

Of course, this view of E2 sometimes led to a feeling that asking for objectivity and removing in-jokes were in some senses working against the community. Like in Foundation, a tension emerged between the Encyclopaedists and the community advocates.

The community model, though, is also in decline. E2 isn't a community, E2 has a community. The difference is subtle but important. Remove the communal elements of E2 and it would still go on, albeit in a very dry and boring way. Remove E2 and there would be no community. The realisation of this led to other, more community-centred places being created. However, the community is almost an evolutionary function of E2, it would be foolish dismiss its usefulness at making this place interesting, valuable and compelling.

So E2 is redefining itself; maybe it already has. When bones announced the copyright changes I was pleased with the policy, but the reference to a "writers' site for writers" made me uncomfortable. It took me some time to realise that this was another model of E2. This model values good fiction as equal to good factual writing, focuses on the writeup as the basic unit of E2, and sees one of the roles of Everything2 as to encourage excellence by individual writers for the development of the one and the enjoyment of all.


Whither?

The acknowledgment that subjectivity in writeups was a Good Thing is what sets E2 apart from the angels. No 'disputed neutrality' mark here, for all writeups are indisputably non-neutral. This almost post-modernist understanding leads to a very different E2 as a Po-Mo encyclopaedia of sorts. Truth and accuracy would become less important than style and form. A few recent writeups, all worth reading, demonstrate this trend.

Where will we end up? I don't know. What you must remember, though, is that E2 changes, and so do we. Some users here have never really given up on the E1 they loved. Many have left E2 for good; some of those have returned. But if you find yourself arguing with another noder, or with an admin, about whether a writeup belongs on E2, or what a certain policy is for, remember that you might both understand Everything2 as something very different to each other. And write on, gentle noders.

There is an art to feedback.

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" - Matthew 7:12


Feedback. There's an art to giving it, and an art to receiving it. So why am I discussing this? Because of the principle that kind words beat upvotes and C!s every day, that's why.

So you just read someone's work, and you upvoted it. That's nice, and I dare say there are few people who don't appreciate watching a positive rep grow over time. You have been on the receiving end of upvotes hundreds, maybe thousands of times, and you have doled out goodness knows how many votes on deserving work, and gained XP as a direct result. In so doing, you participate in a form of feedback which helps improve the database, by providing encouragement that things are going well.

Now however, you read something you don't like, and maybe you're one of those who downvotes it. After all, the power is yours if you're a Level Two noder onward, and it's part of your freedom here. And yes, you gain a small reward in that you gain XP over time, in the same way as an upvote. Is there anything wrong with downvoting? No, else the power would not be given you.

One of the most frequent wails from newbie noders is that they don't understand why something has been downvoted. So they get in the catbox and ask why. Then they get deluged with commentary. We've all seen it, and we've also seen responses along the lines of "Shit happens, deal with it - downvotes are part of the process". Of course that is right, but doesn't always necessarily help. Is downvoting wrong? Of course not.

So voting is good. Now what?

Think back. Think back to your first few nodes. Did they get nothing but upvotes? You're the lucky one. Was there a mix, positive and negative? More than likely. Consider your thoughts now though, if you're on the receiving end. "Upvote? Great! I must be doing something good. I'll carry on doing just that, because it gets my writeups a good reputation". That's good to a degree. People will often upvote because they learned something, or laughed, or cried or thought as a result of what you wrote. But it didn't mean it was perfect, did it? Then, if you had lots of downvotes, it was "Downvote? Ack! WTF did I do wrong? It's lovely, is this, why are people downvoting it?"

As writers, whether factual, funny, creative or thoughtful, we are left to interpret the votes based on an imperfect understanding of what the reader felt or thought when voting. I think of one of my earlier efforts, which was a sparse paragraph on a factual topic. It received several upvotes, which I enjoyed. It also attracted a downvote, which I didn't. In my innocence, I didn't understand, and sent a newbie's plea to the catbox. I received another downvote, and a /msg to say effectively "Don't do that again!". Nothing about why it was downvoted.

Some months later, someone gave me a node audit, and this was one of those which came under scrutiny. I was advised that it was good as far as it went, and that the topic could probably use some research and expansion. I went away, did some work on it and presented it for comment. I got the upvote and a message to say "Well done, much better". The ensuing conversation did much to strengthen my resolve to work harder at the level of content.

On another occasion, one of the gods sent a /msg, praising me for my balance of research, presentation and personal comment. The feeling I had from that one personal comment did more to warm me to E2 and strengthen my resolve to improve, than anything else. In short, it made me feel like a king, and to this day, I cite that as one of the main reasons I stayed on E2, and worked to develop my writing skills.

Okay, what's the point?

Back in the day, there were three ways of feeding back. The voting system I have discussed. You could send a /msg, which took a little effort. You could add a softlink - and many did. You'll see countless insulting softlinks throughout the database, and doubtless the anonymous cowards felt that they were doing their bit.

When the blab box was added in November 2001, I rejoiced. You see, I'd gotten into the habit of writing to people and telling them what I liked. I told them if they'd made typos, told them if I disagreed with something. I told them why I disliked something, too. I never was a fan of the softlink feedback, and the blab box made it so easy - a brief comment, click the appropriate vote button, and away!

Yes, I tell people why I don't like something, why I downvoted it, if you like. Not that I always did - frequently, I'd withold my vote until I had a response from the author. A "thank you, I corrected that" made me feel very different from a "sod you, I don't need you telling me what to do, or how to write". I began to get pleasure knowing that I was doing my bit to help the database become a better place. Newbies were grateful, the old lags were grateful, everybody won. The number of messages of thanks always outweighed the others, and I rarely got any negative comeback, nor the rash of downvotes some people seem to expect.

As an editor, I know that the Klaproth message¹ is important, when removing below-par work from the database. Now I will be the first to admit that I have occasionally slipped in my resolve, and sent scathing or sarcastic messages. Just one or two, and I was picked up and slapped soundly for one, and quite rightly. Nowadays, all my Klaproths are signed. My name appears on each and every one if I wield the axe on something. I try and provide enough information to help the noder understand why I did it, and frequently (especially with a new noder) offer to discuss it.

Lastly, let's not forget positive feedback. I often read something that moves me, intrigues or informs me. In such cases, I often drop a note to say "Thank you", or "I like this" or "You made me feel better/laugh/weep with you". If I read a lot of good things by one noder, I like to tell them. Largely I do this because if they're doing something good, I want them to carry on.

So how do I do it?

Simple. First, ask yourself one question - "if I am getting feedback, how do I want it?" The answer to that is the most important thing to understand. Compare these messages:

"You mis-spelled 'parameter', you moron!"
"Typo ALert: 'parametet' -> 'parameter' in para 3"

"Why not do some more research, pinhead?"
"Good as far as it goes, but could use some expansion"

Now, ask yourself which you'd rather get. Yes, I know there's a slight exaggeration, but the point is this. "Typo ALert" suggests something altogether different than "spelling mistake". It suggests that the writer acknowledges human error and frailty. I know, I'm possibly the King of Tyops, I'm renowned for it, and no matter how many times I run a spellchecker (I can spell quite well) or proofread, I frequently miss things. So in my feedback, I err on the safe side. This softens the message and still gets the point over, everyone wins.

Even if I'm being critical of content or style, I see no point in being harsh. Frequently I come across writeups whose content is lacking. So I tell the author, or refer them to an FAQ. Frequently they write back, sometimes after months, and say "Thanks, I did something about it", and I go and look and lo! it is better. Often the improvements are sufficient that I reward the author - along with a suitably blab!bed message, of course.

I intend my feedback to be constructive, to offer something to the recipient. I like it when I get comments back, it proves that I'm doing my job right. As members of a community of writers, we all appreciate feedback. I'd like to see more people doing it, and doing it well. A recent comment from one of the gods made a valid point: "I consider all of the users editors." In one sense we are each responsible for the improving standards on E2, each of us is a content editor, in the sense that we can impact the content through our feedback to others.

Always, I end my messages with a friendly offer of further help, along the lines of "Feel free to approach me with any questions or comments!" This has enough positive effect that I do get a response in about one-third of cases, and on occasion hat turns into quite a friendly relationship developing.

Receiving Feedback

On the rare occasions I'd had a negative response to feedback, it's had an equally negative effect on me. When I trained call handlers in customer service skills, one of the buzzphrases used was "Behaviour Breeds Behaviour". They get angry and shouty, it inclines me that way. They whinge and whine and attempt to justify themselves, it makes me despise them. You see the point?

Feedback is just information. It's just data. It's meant to help you. There are those who say that the only acceptable response to feedback is "Thank you". You are free to use the information, or not. If you disagree, by all means say so, but appreciate that it was given in a kindly spirit, and treat it as such.

A hostile or defensive response is not going to endear you to anyone. One reply I kept from years ago: "i never asked for your advice nor do i need it. i also find this whole experience leaving a bad taste in my mouth...stick it up your ass". A wonderful response that made me want to track down their every poorly-written piece of junk and nuke it to hell. It only amused me, and did the writer no good at all.

A sweeter response might have opened a dialogue which might have resulted in the growth of that noder. They might have stayed on, produced something fine and worthy, and improved E2 into the bargain. As it was, they left, taking their anger with them, and learning nothing. I feel pity for all such poor souls.

I'd like to suggest March as the month we all try harder in this endeavour. "Feedback Month" would be a great way to start the Spring. I think it goes without saying that I'd appreciate your comments. 18 people, 1 great suggestion, 8 typos alerted (1 is deliberate!), 3 anonymous downvoters/cowards


¹ Klaproth was a bot-generated message that the editor sent explaining why a writeup was deleted. At one time there was no such facility. This was a big step forward, and how different editors used it demonstrated their accountability and integrity.

I've now been an editor for nearly two months.

Some of you may have noticed that I don't seem to be around as much now. This is true: I don't hang out in the catbox for several hours a day anymore, and I may take a few days to answer /msgs. This does not mean I've somehow gone to the dark side -- it means I've been very, very busy. It also means that rather than engaging in a lot of action, I've been doing a lot of observing.

Every True Believer knows that superpowers are not something to be taken lightly. I may be able to walk through walls, but not without leaving a finger behind once in a while.

This side of the fence lends a very different feel to the E2 experience. Now when I log on, I feel much more accountable for my actions, and for the example I set. When I first got here I remember looking very carefully at what the editors and gods were doing -- not to be a kissass or a copycat, but to get an idea of what was acceptable, and what exactly was involved in keeping E2 vital (besides noding, of course). I wanted to know what sorts of people had both the desire and the ability to help maintain Everything2 as well as add new content.

I learned that the administration here is just as diverse as the user base itself. Writing style, editorial philosophy, pet subjects, and frequency of noding vary widely -- yet those who persist in their positions tend to share one very general characteristic: they care about E2, and they want to make it better somehow. Even the really cynical ones care -- otherwise they wouldn't be here at all.

How do I plan to make E2 better?

Well, I am still developing an editorial philosophy, but the bare bones of it are as follows:

  • Assist new noders in understanding E2, and make them feel welcome here.
  • Correct typographical errors in writeups from fled users (especially incorrect use of "it's"!), as well as minor errors in writeups by current users (such as unclosed hardlinks).
  • Continue to add new content of my own to the database. Make sure that the content I post is a good example to others (in terms of appropriate subject matter, spelling, punctuation, and formatting).
  • Delete writeups that do not fit my vision of what belongs on E2. "Nuking" is hands-down the most controversial editorial power, because deciding what stays and what goes is subjective to some degree.

Because writeup deletion is such a hot button issue for so many, I think it merits further discussion here. How do I, as a newbie editor, decide what to delete? Well, sometimes it's obvious. "Empty" writeups (meaning the user removed the writeup's text but did not properly submit a nuke request) need to go. Copyrighted material posted without the permission of the original author will be deleted unless it can be made to conform to copyright guidelines. If I find copyrighted material posted by a user that hasn't been here in several months, the writeup will be immediately deleted. Non-punctuated response writeups will be deleted -- this is not Slashdot, and nodes are not meant to be used like the threaded discussions on many message boards. I will also nuke really angsty poetry -- this is probably the most controversial thing I do, because some might argue that I shouldn't judge people's "art" in this manner. I like poetry -- good poetry. If you write something like,

my life's blood drips down the dark drain
of despair:
i call out to death with
dream-tinged breath
the raven cries
as i count the scars
that mark each day
you've been away

it's gonna die. Think of it as a mercy killing.

So overall, I'm still adjusting to this new way of interacting with E2. Work has been keeping me extremely busy recently, and I've also felt the need lately to spend less time in front of a monitor and more time in the real world. I'm in something of a grok period at the moment regarding my role here. I may be a bit quieter than before, but I'm certainly not going anywhere.

Originally I'd had the idea that I'd follow in the hallowed footsteps of friends and compatriots: preface the changes listed below with an abstruse, overtly-literate block of prose, referring, however abstractly, to my monkey-swinging throughout the nodegel.

When I regained some sense, I scrapped two ample, full-bodied paragraphs of a wild, loincloth-wearing editor, swinging about the nodegel, bashing soft nodes with my janitorial mace of doom. After I cried for a good ten minutes--it always hurts to murder your darlings--I decided on a meaningful, pointed block of text regarding my own views on E2 policy. It was good, even, filled unto bursting with poignant thoughts about where we are, where we were and, wait for it, even where we're going. But then, I read arieh's and wertperch's pieces above and quickly decided, well, I just can't top that.

Besides, you are E2, you are its views, and you are its policy. We're all changing. Maybe we're even growing.

Slain:

Quarantined:

Added biological and technological distinctiveness to:

Nine, nine, nine for a Lost God.
And, ten, ten, ten, ten for everything, everything, everything, everything, EVERYTHING.
 
 
    With Klaproth as my envoy
  • Having a Microsoft husband by stylee and blaaf E2 is not a BBS
  • cerenkov radiation by GorillaPhysicist superseded
  • Boeing 767 by eric+ simple lists of airplane crashes do not make great nodes and are easily superseded
  • Amaretto Sour by moJoe superseded
  • Amaretto Sour by burnboy incorrect
  • cat kung fu styles by arcterex, Grayscale, and Wazzer and I ate their cats too
  • Torturing your Sims by uwhugo “This isn't tested, but I'm pretty sure I've seen it happen”
  • Flint Fireforge by Krandoth no one wants to read a node about every character in a fantasy book series
  • all prophesy is self-fulfilling by a new noder who was further instructed in what sort of content is appreciated
  • Forging by Roger Ramjet this Jan 2000 WU was more than superseded, and only had survived so long due to ignorance on the part of noderdom
  • Meat Wagon by DogRat superseded
  • Warcraft III: Night Elves Analysis by DogRat dated
  • dairy challenge by The Hegemon sufficiently detailed as the gallon of milk in an hour bet
  • Blue Line by Smilin Zack superseded
  • photorefractive keratectomy by NotFabio at the noder’s request
  • Chicago Style Hot Dog by rogerb superseded
  • Cliff Clavin by Gorgonzola at the noder's request
  • Crab Rangoon by rivet superseded
  • Chestplate of the Constant and Golden Efreeti Boots by kamalian no one wants to read a description of every item in EverQuest
  • Otherworld by TanisNikana at the noder's request
  • Punkin by snoibert "Punkin was the pet name i used for my ex girlfreind. [sic]"
  • Limozeen by artoodeetoo because no one cares about every last character or organization in a web-based cartoon
  • Jackson's Law by kojaxs "You can break ANYTHING with a big enough hammer"
  • b/c by kojaks at the noder's request
  • Carolyn Dawn Johnson by kojaxs at the noder's request
  • Nuggets of Wisdom and What really happens in the hospital kitchen daddy? by GiantDragon I am serving up and weildering triple secret fat ass flaming wisdoms, shit aint availing you, lamers of Edom!
  • Kung Fu movie ingredients by Wolfram writeup does not mean reply
  • Why good news is bad for ratings by rickmccrack never send a newbie to do a noder's job
  • King's Sword of Haste and Archangel's Staff of Apocalypse by jkfghldagv no one wants to read a node on every last piece of equipment in a computer game
  • Midichlorians by Grayscale anecdote about mishearing dialog in a crowded movie theater
  • Seventh Son by mrklaw superseded
  • A Prayer for the Twenty-First Century by muse142 a "book review" consisting of a bit of description of the form of the book and a reader's review from amazon.com
  • DeLorean by a new noder referred to what are the differences between e2 and slashdot?
  • The last bowl of Lucky Charms by KrazyIvan writeup does not mean reply
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids by wharfinger rant
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids by MissCreant superseded
  • second chance by drozzdt poorly formatted extremely cliché
  • neocron by Mr_44 a not-so-MMORG
  • gutter punk by broken77 superseded by firmlink
  • What ever happened to all the fun in the world by Senso and Frank Zappa it's got its own little piece of heaven now
  • Planetary by ChaosMonkey superseded
  • In-N-Out Burger by Shankster and Inyo In-N-Out, In-N-Out, that's what a hamburger is aallll about!
  • mayonnaise by Dante the Sheep transcriptions of a comedy sketch rarely (okay, never) makes good material for a node
  • The Riddle by dischord lyrics
  • Madame Guillotine and The Seek Him Here by Benabik they seek them here, they seek them there, those Editors seek lyrics everywhere
  • Chinese Cooking by DMan superseded by the Cookery project
  • Nina by alex.tan superseded
  • Mc Frontalot by Capn superseded

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