1. What is your name?
Glowing Fish. Matthew Harris.
2. Tell us something about you, your background, and what you've been up to lately?
Wow...where do I start? I have 1290 writeups describing the things that interest me, and how they have shaped my life, and I still have dozens and dozens of other parts of my past to mine. So where do I start describing myself here? Well, I guess the basics are that I am 31, which means I grew up right on the cusp of when computers and communication were not omnipresent in life, but when they were well on the horizon. This is important when we talk about E2. Even before I had access to the internet, I took it for granted when playing with my Lego men (who, according to a metanarrative I had designed, were living in the year 3092) had access to a network through their computers that could instantly look up any piece of information. I guess it was an obvious leap to make, being that I grew up on Star Trek.
Ah! Well, that is important. I grew up as a geek, and as an early reader and writer. My family were not, as a kid, well-to-do. For some periods, we were in a bit of poverty. Reading and writing became my way of escaping the world, which I suppose is cliche. Not to say that I was automatic at anything, or a child prodigy, since my favorite things to read were comic books, books about dinosaurs and astronomy, and Choose Your Own Adventure. Well, I better skip some background information, because I have only taken myself up to the age of eight or so, and we have to skip ahead to what I have been doing lately.
As of late, since July 2009, I live in Montana. I have finished Graduate School. I am unemployed. I spend my days riding my bicycle, tutoring, and reading books. I have a state of I think healthy apathy towards the world as a whole.
3. How did you discover Everything, and how did you become a noder?
There are a couple of stories of how I discovered Everything, which I did, of 4 times. Interesting that you say "Everything", because like many (but like few today), that is where I started. I probably first saw Everything as a link off of Slashdot. Oh wait--- now we are up to five stories.
I was working at Stream International in tech support in late 1999, when I had some downtime in a 4-man cubicle when I was alone. A supervisor came along--- not a supervisor supervisor, but a co-working supervisor. He suggested that I read a site called "Slashdot" if I was bored. After explaining the URL to me several times, I finally got it and started reading Slashdot regularly. After some time, I started posting as well. This was in 1999, when I was just starting to learn about Linux and thinking I was pretty hardcore for doing so. And this was also in 1999, when Slashdot was the closest thing we had to a social networking site. And now we flashback again, to me being a poor kid obsessed with words in the mid-1980s: at some point, we had an old manual typewriter, and when I got my hands on that as an elementary school student, I was amazed. My words...were...in ink...on...a page! I was just amazed in 1999, I could type something and it would show up on a web page! Just doing it was amazing.
So now we are at Everything. I saw Everything off of Slashdot. I don't remember my first impressions. I do remember that it was sometime about ten years ago, that I first got an account on E1. It was during a cold Montana winter, when I was living in a one room converted milk shed. I had actually gotten a job with a mom and pop local ISP, a job that lasted exactly three weeks. Wanting to educate me in the ways of the internet, they gave me a magazine filled with "news of the internet", one of which described this wacky "Everything" site. So having seen it, and then learned about it, I signed up. I think I had one or two writeups on Everything, which are now lost to antiquity. But I find it ironic that after ten years, I find myself alone in a Montana winter, typing away on Everything...
It was later that winter that I signed up for my Everything2 account. My first writeups were not very good, and I remember getting some messages from Dem Bones telling me that I needed to add more information. I kind of gave up. Then, some months later, when I was back in Portland, I overheard a friend of mine... Chattering Magpie, although I didn't know that at the time...talk about her latest internet obsession, which turned out to be E2. I was again, amazed. This is the year 2001, and to me at the time, there was still a sharp line between the adolescent world, which included the internet, and the adult world, which didn't. Tracy was part of the adult world, so I was amazed that she could be part of the underworld so to speak. And E2, in 2001, was also much more adolescent than it is today. It might be my hindsight, but there was way more writeups describing minutiae of video games and science fiction than there is now. It seemed that the typical noder was a 21 year old computer science student.
Anyway, after Chattering Magpie reintroduced me, I became fantatical. I think we all remember how it was to see something we wrote appear in public, and to get that little IV drip of positive feedback. I wrote hundreds of writeups in the summer of 2001. I based my life around gaining levels.
4. What are your favorite writeups -- both your own and from other noders?
This might seem like a dodge, but the beauty of E2 is not in writeups. You can get writing anywhere. The beauty of E2 is in the connection between thoughts and facts and ideas. I honestly don't think many of my single writeups are as good as they could be. I get an idea and hastily sketch it out. I envy someone like noung who actually turns out nodes that look like research papers with footnotes and everything! But I more use my writeups and other writeups to stitch together ideas, sometimes over years. I think of e2 as an intellectual relay race.
5. What are your favorite and least favorite memories from E2's history?
My favorite memories are when the entire user base seems to crystalize in some type of collective unconscious...when people of very different ages and backgrounds on four different continents will spontaneously think the same thing. Its like jazz to the highest degree. It makes me feel like we are really living in the future.
I like the feeling that I am part of an international secret society. Everytime I walk by the ceramic crab that RACECAR made for me, that hangs in my hallway, I am reminded that I am not alone.
But since I have met at least 200 noders, I don't want to specify a favorite favorite memory---other than, of course, to you know who you are.
Although it might seem like just a number, making m-noder was great. I did so two weeks before I turned 30, and a month before I finished graduate school. It was kind of the capstone on the first decade of teh century, and on me being in my 20s. Those 1000 writeups are what I have to show myself that I was thinking and writing all those years.
As for bad memories...well, I don't want to go into details. Basically, growing up as a nerd who found it hard to relate to people who weren't as interested in learning and thinking different as me, when I came to e2, I was like Don Gately in the final scene of infinite jest, with a big pile of opiates. I gorged myself, thinking that I was now in a world where I wouldn't have to worry about social prejudices and politics and cliques and meanness. This turned out to not be the case... e2 certainly has had some less than inclusive attitudes.
6. What keeps you coming back?
Coming back to read and to socialize are because I really do feel this community is one of the more critical and insightful groups of people on the internet.com. Especially since most web discourse has fallen into animated gifs, which I will write more about in a second, it is nice to be around people who know what "All Your Radical Ideas Have Already Occurred to Others" means.
As for writing, a lot of what I write is really notes for myself...ways that I can get an idea that is forming down on paper. I use it as a pensieve of sorts, and sometimes I see how five years ago, I was starting to work on an idea that I later developed.
7. What do you hope for E2's future?
A lot of people have wondered why E2 has declined--- and it has declined in terms of numbers and interest. I think the reason for this is clear, and not something that we can do anything about, or want to do anything about. When E2 started, lots of people flocked to it because it was one of the few general forums on the web. User interaction was not a big thing in 2000---it didn't need to be, people were amazed at just pointing and clicking. Now, people have a lot more options. And, without going into rants about sheeple, most people don't think in text. Most people don't know how to, or want to, make an involved argument that ties different concepts together in an original but disciplined way. Most people want... animated gifs. This is what I wrote Lowering the Bar: Internet Discourse in the Age of Facebook about. Internet discourse and communication is now, to a great extent, about one or two sentences, about pictures and movies and one-liners. I have been using Livejournal since 2002, and even livejournal, which is hardly rocket science, has been abandoned in favor of twitter and facebook. And that is just as well, because I would rather have 100 people regularly reading e2 and paying attention than have 10,000 people scanning it and not paying attention.
So I don't think E2 is going to get big again, at least not for a while. But E2 will continue to attract the writers and readers who are actually going to use it for what it is meant to be.
That being said, there is an immense amount of material that is not covered, but should be. For example, this year I read You Can't Go Home Again, which is a pretty seminal work of American fiction, and there was nothing written on it here. There is hardly anything written about it on wikipedia, either. So I wrote a short and not very good writeup. But there are so many things that can only be written about subjectively--- I consult wikipedia to find out how many isotopes tin has, or how many square kilometers Vermont is. But there is a lot of things that can be written about both subjectively and factually. There are hundreds of books that need to be reviewed. There is a lot of geographic information that can be written of in a non-dry way. This year, after the 2010 Midterm Elections, I wrote up some writeups on the more important races...but there were what, over 500 races that were newsworthy this year? That is all the type of stuff that e2 could do very well at filling out. I don't think e2's future is just in poetry, fiction and personal stuff--- although some of that is good, and I've written some myself. But there is a lot of factual stuff that could be written, that is important not just for writing, but because the internet needs a place where people can write opinions, but write them in a disciplined way.
So that is what I hope for.
8. What does E2 mean to you?
9. Who are your favorite noders? Which ones do you miss the most?
My favorite writers and my favorite online and my favorite in person are not all the same. Again, after having met several hundred, and having had relationships with that many online, I don't want to pick favorites. There are a lot of people I miss, as well.
Oh, besides The Custodian obviously gets a mention as the only person who has been consistently writing from before when I started until now.
10. Who would play you in the Everything2 movie?
Jack Black. Or Stephen Furst.
11. Please fill in the blank: "E2 is to the Internet as ___ is to the world."
E2 is to the internet as the handful of nameless people in government and business who keep things running are to the world.
12. Any questions that I didn't ask that I should've?
Everything2 Decaversary Interviews
If you have questions or comments, please contact Glowing Fish or Jet-Poop.