Part I · Part III

I want to say a few more things about the subjects I covered in yesterday's daylog, and to explain why it is that I keep coming back here and posting these musings on my anniversary. If your mindset is such that you feel you would be upset or irritated by reading what follows, I would respectfully ask that you not read it.

First, it should be fairly evident that I still care about Everything2. In spite of the reasons I might have not to, this web site has changed my life immeasurably as have the hundreds of people I have met through it. In some ways, I view myself in terms of who I was before I found E2 and who I became after. If I genuinely hated this place and everything about it, I would not bother ever writing anything here ever again, and more than likely, I'd just never log back in. Somehow though, I just can't help it. I can't stop caring. I can't become a "fled noder", no matter how I sometimes want to. It would be like disowning my own child, just because she turned out differently than I expected - I just don't have the heart to do it.

Second, if you are relatively new to E2, in that you have been around for a year or two, then you have probably never heard of me before, had any interaction with me, or read any of my writeups. You have no idea what kind of history I have with this place, or why anybody would give a damn what I had to say about anything. That is probably not a valid reason to dismiss what I have to say simply because you don't particularly like what I'm saying. I don't particularly like some of the perceptions I express about E2. And in truth, this probably bothers me a lot more than it bothers you.

Third, I have no personal axe to grind with this site or anybody here. Two years ago, I did. The only recourse I had in dealing with that situation was to resign my position in protest, and hope that it sent the right message to the right people. Turns out, the guy in charge at the time really didn't seem to care. That was probably more hurtful to me than the situation that provoked it. But time passed and I got over it. When the guy in charge retired not long thereafter, I was invited to come back, which I did for a while until I sort of found myself in a really long sabbatical. I had things to do other than fight the server lag and watch the "Other Users" list get shorter and shorter, so I got busy doing them. Imagine a short film of a calendar flipping pages. It was kind of like that.

Fourth, the reason I take the occasional trouble to painfully articulate the negative things about E2 that I do is pretty simple. Since 2001, I have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of noders, face to face, live and in person. When I meet them, we talk. Sometimes it's at gatherings, sometimes at airport lounges or restaurant bars. On occasion they visit as guests in my home. Often I'm traveling and they are providing accommodation in their homes out of the goodness of their hearts. And frequently, I return to visit them as often as I can. They get to know me and share with me their experiences on E2, and as the years have passed many of them have told me the reasons why they chose to no longer participate on the site. And I've listened.

I listen and I hear the same stories. Online altercations with this noder or that. Incidents involving the editors and gods, their writeups, other people's writeups, message exchanges and chatterbox discussions. Fears and doubts and anxieties. Expectations and self-esteem issues and the whole emotional side of the noding process and "being" a noder. They tell me everything, especially once they've had a few. And the more personal stories I've heard, the more I've kept hearing the same perceptions and problems identified by different people in their own words.

In the beginning it was easy to dismiss people's bad experiences as isolated incidents or unique to them in some way. I mean, I was a true believer in E2's mission and had been fighting the good fight for years. I was popular and had a high profile, and my E2 experiences had always been positive. But after a certain point, it became clear to me that my outlook as a long-time admin was rose colored. Things looked totally different on the inside than they did to so many of my friends. Eventually I came around to believing that the way we were making the omelette of E2 was breaking a lot more than just eggs.

But news like that tends to fall on deaf ears. Just looking at the responses to yesterday's rather timid elaboration on my pipe dream, I got a healthy dose of contempt and head scratching from some folks who don't understand what I'm really on about, I got some well-meant reasons for why my idea probably wouldn't work from StrawberryFrog, I got some feel-good vibes from my old buddy borgo, and an erudite "official response" from the admirable kthejoker that I probably would have been happy to write myself about three years ago. Had it been anyone other than me writing what I had to say, they would probably have been ignored as "just another disgruntled noder" and invited via message to not let the door hit them in the ass on the way out.

I keep coming back and facing this kind of reaction from people because I believe in E2 and what the community of people who helped build it has told me. People who were cool, valued, talented contributors to this site. People that I know and trust and love like brothers and sisters. People that I consider to be like family. They have a difficult message to share, and they shared it with me. I'm probably the only person that could come in here and say these kinds of things about E2, and be taken even a little bit seriously by the admins and editors. And that is because I am probably the last person that they would expect to say these kinds of things. I'm one of them, and have been since early days. I have never been anything but straightforward with everyone, and I served the database with pride, and if I am telling you these things, it's because I believe them to be true.

What do I want to happen? Well, what I don't want is to upset everybody needlessly, but there doesn't seem to be any way around that. Telling someone their perfect toy is alienating people doesn't win you smiles and pats on the back. Obviously, I would like to be taken seriously. I would like you to believe me when I tell you "If you continue down this path, making standards higher, treating people with firmness and even rudeness (you think that's not happening anymore? think again), deleting the 'crap' until it's all finally gone, it will eventually render E2 an instrument used exclusively by professional writers and those who have strong business aspirations to become professional writers." This would delight some of you to no end - I mean, it's THE MISSION, but it results in leaving pretty much everyone else out in the cold.

And that's what I fear most. We've already lost so many good people who just don't think they can cut it here. Once everyone else drifts away that comes to the sinking realization that they are tired of struggling to meet E2's standards, what does that leave us with? Nothing of what we started with; nothing but bemused detachment. Nothing but the top 10%. And Nathan, I think that's unacceptable.

This is why I dream of splitting E2 in half and letting the past and the future each have their piece. It's just a dream, but it's the only way I can see to preserve the 90% of Everything that's crap. I know it's crap, but it's crap I like. It's funny and it's historical and it's a reminder of good times (and bad times) that have past. It's a lower standard that's about having fun and not having to work so damned hard. E2's history is rich and strange, and as it gets slowly wiped away, I forget. And goddammit, I don't want to forget - I want to remember. I know how the administration thinks - I've been there, and I know that this is the last thing they would want to see happen. It would be like trying to sell the idea of Balkanization to the US Government. "The country is too large and poses a threat to world peace. Let's split it up into about four chunks, mkay?" Not gonna happen. I'm wasting my fingertips even typing it out.

So why do I keep doing it? If you loved something so much, and you knew you were losing it, wouldn't you try to save it? Even if you knew you couldn't do a damn thing? You'd try anyway, wouldn't you?

I am in the land of Deliverance; the land that English grammar and dental hygiene forgot. If it's still not clear, I'm in the South, more specifically Atlanta. Right off the bat, let me say I'm thankful for being located in a cosmopolitan city, a beacon of light amidst the.... well, you get the idea. Really, I have no right to be so critical since I don't have direct experience of that which I'm disparaging. But much like France, the South is both easy and fun to make fun of. Try not to read too much into it.

I've been inundated with baby's breath lately, and lest you picture tiny flowers, I'm talking about the rank-with-formula kind. God I hope it's formula. I do love my kids, as I like to refer to them, even if they are my sisters' children, all of barely three, one, and six-months. I'm happy to say that in coming here I've overcome the whole proximity problem in being a part of their lives. Happy day.

But of course man does not live on baby's breath alone, and it is with this in mind that I announce my new job as (surprise, surprise) a web developer. Nice, small company where I think I will be able to make an important contribution. Getting a job where you can make money isn't too difficult if you're single and unattached, so finding a job with a young, motivated (yet still laid back) work-force is foremost in the gratitude-centers of my brain.

Praise be to... wait, that gets me thinking. I could insert any god's name after "to," except for one (hint: it rhymes with Ah ha!) unless I want to be black-balled in some way. I could've almost spelled out the end of E2 as we know it! Whew, tragedy narrowly averted. Yes, I'm being dramatic, but only with the memory of a Persian comic's email conversation.

Persian Comic's Friend and General Smart-Ass: So Maz, where is the next terrorist strike going to be?

Persian Comic: "Hey man, I've been talking to al-Qaida and, uh, the next terrorist hit is going down in the lower east side of Iceland. Ha ha."

Of course the next time Jobrani tried to check his email he was denied access. What to do but try to contact Hotmail directly?

MJ: "I put 'ha ha!' Al-Qaida doesn't put 'Americans must die. Ha ha.' They don't do that!"

/me b-lines back from tangent...

So here I am now doing my thing, with job secured, and the responsibility of sending out social-feelers becoming more pressing. All in due time.

(I am of the opinion that most daylogs of the past couple years are too long. Hello, I'm the pot, you must be the kettle, and my, isn't it dark out.)

Yay, fighting!

No, seriously, discussion is good.

I meant to post my opinions yesterday, but it's probably better that we got panamaus' and golFUR's further opinions. They help define the opposition, clarify the conflict.

The reason I didn't post yesterday is... actually relevant to this. I was writing a livejournal post. See, there's this "5 questions" interview meme going around over there. One of us rambles on about whatever personal issues or pop culture junk a friend wants to quiz us about, and then their friends quiz them. It's been going on for a few weeks and it's surprisingly fun.

What I'm saying is, it's as GTKY as you can get and around here it would definitely be shunted into the daylogs. It's not "important" to the web as a whole. It's only interesting to strangers if strangers decide they find it interesting. But we find it compelling and we're gonna keep doing it.

The relevance is, over 90% of my livejournal friends are people I met through E2, and that's about sixty people. In most cases, people I've traveled to see multiple times and get drunk and smoke bowls with, but there's some I know just through mutual respect of writing.

So, there's a great deal of people who simply no longer feel welcome here. We'll get into why a little later.

First, everybody needs to gain some proper perspective.

Why do I consider myself the Mr. Hotshit McGod's-Gift-to-E2 who's entitled to provide it?

  1. I'm one of the few 2001 people who still checks in.
  2. I still come here EVERY DAY and read and vote (well, every weekday), not just every few months.
  3. I've never been an editor or a god. I don't even know how to code.
  4. I've met more noders than everyone, I believe, except for dann and panamaus.
  5. I run the gathering node - because I did the research and took the responsibility (because I cared about it like crazy) - so I've seen that phenomenon rise and fall.

Okay? All right? Good, yes? Ready to learn things?

The problem with panamaus' daylog is he doesn't want to offend anybody.

Now let's take a little trip back in time to March 2005, when panamaus posted his editor log that got all the attention.

Those of you who have joined in the past couple years might be wondering, "Oh, so that's around when the problems started?" No, that's when the systemic problems which were apparent in early 2003 had UNDENIABLY SOLIDIFIED. And/or, when I was traveling around the country in 2002 shaking hands and crashing on floors, most of my new friends had ALREADY given up contributing on a regular basis, because they did not find the slightest merit (see what I did there?) in the idea of quality over quantity. Work over fun.

(Now, obviously it's a sliding scale, and most of the people I'm still really close with wrote a lot of things I think are awesome and which they themselves are proud of, but:)

The cumulative effect from disenchanted noders upon seeing a respected member of the administration calmly explain, "I honestly believe this ship is sinking and I fear we may need to stop using all our buckets as percussion instruments," was a dogpile of praise not seen since September 11th. If I remember correctly, it achieved 70 upvotes and 19 C!s in under an hour. Some people broke a fled status of many months just to ching it. The IRC channel went bananas (not that it's a far trip), and you could tell that behind the scenes there was a flood of emails, IMs, even people literally turning around and yelling to their roommates, "Hey, check this out! FINALLY!!!"

However, the next day panamaus removed the editor log because of hurt feelings. (He and I have talked about this at length; please don't think I'm guessing at his motives.) I believe this was unwise. Had it remained, it could have represented a watershed moment in our history. Assuming each one of those upvotes symbolizes not just "I believe this is a valid lucid viewpoint which belongs here" but "I wholeheartedly agree", we seemed to have crystal clear evidence that the vast majority of our userbase was of the consensus that we had taken a fatal wrong turn. A sea of raised middle fingers.

Now, did those seventy people organize collectively and do anything creative with their angst? Did they run over to C2 and cajole dann into coding in blackjack and hookers? Did they take over this place with their sheer numbers and shiny charisma?

No, they didn't. Why? Well, there are a lot of personal reasons, but the big one I see is: When a band you love sells out or changes their style or mellows in their old age, you don't keep going to the shows and booing the whole time. You just ignore what they're doing and seethe every time somebody mentions their name. Because you FUCKING HATE them so much now you can't even think straight.

These people make fun of us all the time, did you know that? They think we're ridiculous. When I tell people I still log in every day, I get the same looks as when I say I saw The Phantom Menace seven times in the theater. No one's even allowed to mention the name of this site in #everything, which is supposed to be our official IRC channel. That's how big of a sore spot it is, this perceived betrayal.

"Fled" noders is a misleading term. They didn't run screaming out of fear of research. Call them "angered" or "saddened" or "perplexed" or, best I think, "disgusted".

Moving on:

The problem with golFUR's daylog is he has no idea what he's talking about.

He's "sick of this shit"? Excellent! I welcome him to the E2 I remember, where people argued constantly and passionately!

Respectfully, he's ignorant.

Seriously, respectfully. It's not his fault. His first login date is October 2004. Everything had been settled long before that. What is he supposed to do, get in a time machine? Most people reading this simply don't know what it used to be like here.

I use golFUR as a spokesman because he posted, but I've seen this same viewpoint from many fine contributors here like TheDeadGuy and paraclete and kthejoker and even Lord Brawl: They say "This site is about the writing, it was ALWAYS about the writing, anyone who doesn't get that is a lazy whiner, I really don't see what the problem is blah blah blah this is how I fulfill my 3000 word minimum." The problem is, it WASN'T always about the quality or the length. We had way more class clowns than overachievers, and even the overachievers wanted to prove they were cool.

I'm tempted to make a long list of specific personalities that I miss, but for right now, why don't you just go to my homenode after you're done here and click on a random link from the top of the Trapezoid of Friendship. Actually, you know what, so many people had all their stuff nuked (out of spite!) when they left that this tip is only ideal for editors who can peer into Node Heavens.

I need to convey an impression. Not just of the old writeups, but of the environment which gave birth to them. The way the catbox used to be, the way editorial policy used to be, the way daylogs used to be, the way nodeshells used to be, the way softlinks used to be. All of these nurtured (or negatively reinforced) the process, inspiring in different ways, but the system has fallen apart.

To properly convey this impression will take much time and care, and this writeup is already too long.

If you've read this far, especially if you have no idea who I am, I thank you. I promise I don't hate you and I'm not angry at you. I stick around, like panamaus, because I believe there's hope for the future (but also because I haven't finished digging through everything from the past). You deserve to know the ugly truth.

I want to leave you with two quick interrelated thoughts.

ALL GREAT NODERS SUCKED WHEN THEY STARTED.

One of the things I do, because I'm bizarrely OCD, is I vote tag, meaning I pick a person and read EVERYTHING that person has written. No one knocks anyone's socks off at first. The desire to improve and impress is a gradual impulse that takes time to blossom.

ONE CANNOT SEPARATE WHEAT FROM CHAFF WITHOUT CHAFF.

When we tightened submission standards, all we did was alienate our strongest enthusiasts. Every single piece in New Writeups isn't meant to be outstanding. Duh, that's what C!ed Writeups is for.


I really hope I was not too hard on you guys, but I want this topic to remain open to debate and I'd rather ruffle too many feathers than none.

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