Every so often I try to let everyone know what I'm doing. Generally, I'm not doing anything too exciting, and certainly not anything new. Last time I mentioned that I had been reordering writeups within nodes -- something that I do at least a couple of times a month, and sometimes more frequently. This may not exactly qualify as exciting, but I did receive a lot of messages about this, both from people who thought this was a good thing and those who thought it was a bad thing. I don't believe that anyone was confused about why I was doing this, but because it is a bit of a controversial topic, I thought I would address it briefly.

Editors have the ability to reorder wirteups within a node. There are no absolute guidelines as to what we should or shouldn't mess with -- the assumption is that we have enough common sense to figure these things out on our own. It is also easy enough to reorder (or just reset) writeup order if someone does something dumb.

I cannot speak for other editors, but I tend to reorder thusly:

  • Short, informative writeups are often moved to the top of a node to act as ledes.
  • Writeups of more well-known subjects are often moved to the top of the node; for example, I recently reordered Calypso to move the chapter summary from James Joyce's Ulysses from the top of the node to the bottom.
  • Writeups that provide a good overview of a subject are moved above writeups that address a limited aspect of a subject.
  • Recently, a number of removed drafts were reposted; it was sometimes appropriate to move them from the bottom of the node back to the position they would have occupied before they were deleted. This is usually not an issue unless someone has made a reference to the (previously) deleted writeup in their writeup (which is one reason we ask noders not to do this).

Generally speaking, the most common reasons to reorder nodes are:

  • Because older writeups were removed, leaving later writeups hanging without the context they had originally relied on. If someone posts a good introduction/lede, I will generally move it to the top.
  • Because two or more nodes on the same subjects have been combined, often with one or more shorter (usually E1) writeups deleted.

The benefits should be obvious; a reader coming to a node without good knowledge of a subject should not have to flip back and forth to find a) basic definition b) general overview c) technical details. Likewise, while defunct bands, kanji characters, and Babylon Five episode summaries are all very interesting, if most readers will be coming to the node to read about a more common subject, it is nice to let them know right off the bat that they have come to the right place.

The downsides are mostly apparent only to those who post the writeups. The author has an awareness of where in the node their post will appear, and may adjust their content based on this. There is no automatic notification that a writeup has been reordered, and it is uncommon for an editor to /msg all of the authors in a node that has been reordered (I rarely msg in these cases, particularly since most of the users involved are either fled or have just had their writeup moved from another title, making the reordering incidental).

And of course, there is the possibility that noders may well be unaware that writeup order can be changed, making the whole thing a (possibly unpleasant) surprise. And that is the primary reason that I am (finally) writing this editor log.

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