On the Value of Short Writeups

In creating connections and inspiration, short writeups are a critical part of E2, and should not be shunned. However, at present, they are most often deleted rapidly.

Fluidity and Nodegel

Nodeshells are almost always an improvement from not having a nodeshell for a given title. Nodeshells allow a noder to travel from one idea to another with a certain degree of already-formed connections. This promotes the addictive explosive page opening of tab upon tab. It also reduces the amount of "Findings:" pages which are often full of irrelevant items and are very expensive for CPU and time — most Findings pages take longer to serve than an average user will wait for a web page to load.

Beyond that, a noder may create more softlinks at a nodeshell, further connecting related ideas. This reinforces the strength of the database, a concept which seems less common in the E2 zeitgeist of today.

Short writeups are a vast improvement upon nodeshells because they provide guided links, and they make it much more likely a user will search from that page, creating softlinks. Further, a writeup often provide more context than a bare list of softlinks can. Finally, for users not entirely comfortable with E2's ideas of softlinks, short writeups are far more digestible than nodeshells.

Compelling Further Writing

One of the easiest ways to write is to keep writing. Allowing people to get their motors started with short writeups provides an entry point to a habit of contribution. BrevityQuest has embraced this idea for 5 years now (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010) and has been quite popular for it. Allowing well-written, but quickly-created, writeups allows casual contributors on their lunch break or between classes, creatures who E2 largely lacks right now.

Even bad writing, so long as it brings an idea to mind, will compel other authors to add their own take on the same subject. One of the best ways to get people involved in a subject is to present something they have a passion about in a fashion which makes them uneasy. Those who dislike short writeups will be compelled to add writeups which appease their completionist needs. Those who like short introductions will have a lede.

Laz also posted about the idea a while back under the name of citation needed, of which a reference is retained at July 17, 2009. His idea was that you intentionally create a writeup that is short and adds content, but begs for additions. This unifies the ideas of connectedness and compelling further writing. There was an old suggested guideline on Wikipedia which has mostly fallen by the wayside on that project, but which I still find quite attractive, regardless of venue: always leave something undone, so that someone else will want to take up the torch.

I realize that all it takes is one editor to nuke something and all it takes is one editor to insure something so that it does not get nuked. I pray I have made my case to at least one of each in the quest to make E2 a more fun and interesting place for readers and writers alike.

Letter From an Editor: June 2010


I too am a fan of the short writeup, for much the same reasons as those given by OldMiner above. I do not believe that a writeup needs to be a major undertaking, a work of art, or even interesting. (I frequently look up boring things on E2.)

However, even a short writeup should meet certain standards. It should give a clear and simple definition of the node's subject. It should never confuse the reader. It should have relevant hard links. It should use full sentences, good grammar, correct spelling, and pleasing formatting. And it should only be short because you can say what needs to be said briefly. If you cannot say what needs to be said briefly, make a long writeup instead.

We often see short writeups that do not meet these standards, and these writeups often get deleted. This does not necessarily mean that you should give up on short writeups. You should make sure you understand why your writeup was deleted. If you are uncertain about reposting a short writeup, you should ask an editor to review it before posting. It is probably wise to ask the same editor who deleted the original.

As I said, I like short writeups, and I have many of them. I have learned that if you do a short writeup justice, it usually won't be very short. I have also learned that short writeups are not a good way to level. My conclusion is that truly short writeups are rarities, and are likely to remain so.


Oh, don't forget to read lede.

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