A great number of people on E2 are students. Some are university or college students, others are in high school. Some of us finished schooling long ago.

So here's the thing. Why suffer from node-block when you probably have pages of perfectly nodeworthy material on your hard disk?

You wrote a review of Red Badge of Courage or Wuthering Heights three years ago? Clean it up, put in the HTML and node it. You're studying for a chemistry test and you just know you're going to forget this thing or that? Node it. Your PhD thesis on the corrosion of tin-foil at sub-zero temperatures when molded into hats worn by paranoid bob-sledders is 300 pages long. There must be something interesting in it.

Look at jandradt. He noded an essay on Virginia Woolf from senior high school called Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death! and won big prizes! A place on the Page of Cool, a ching, and double-digit votes! You could be a winner too!

Seriously, I am sure you have material just lying around that would be useful and worthwhile. Or you are studying maths or film-making or cooking and making copious notes.

E2 wants to assimilate it.

<TenMinJoe> I used to really hate writing essays and now I come here and do it for fun.

This is a great idea! By typing up your lecture notes, you get to review them, and another chance to assimilate them. You get to share the knowledge with everythingites. When someone says, "uh, can I borrow your lecture notes?", you can say "no need!" and give them the URL.

And, if someone reads them and notices something you've misunderstood or got wrong, you'll get a /msg or an additional writeup to put you right.

It's noding for the ages, it's noding what you know, it rocks.

Roll on the new term!

Ok, I like the idea, but I have some questions that I think need to be addressed. I realize this is a psuedo discussion but I think we need to figure this out first in the interest of avoiding future problems. So here are the issues I have...

What do I own?

I don't know, I am not a copyright expert. For original assignments, does the university own the assignment? Are the problems in a textbook protected by a copyright? Is stating the problem in our own words fair use? What about my homework, if I do it for a class and turn it in, do I retain ownership of my work or does the university then own it? If they hand it back who owns it? I don't know these things, I am just trying to think of all the problems I can...

What is ethical?

Let's say I node the solutions to all the problems I have in a class. What am I doing this for? Now, I like to have example problems to study from, but is giving away solutions really helping someone? I mean, for many topics many universities use the same book, so your homework can quite possibly be someone else's homework as well, and you could basically be doing their homework for them. While this is nice, are they really learning to solve problems by copying your work?

Whose solutions anyway?

In most of my courses, the instructors hand out solutions after the assignment. I would assume that is not my property to freely distribute without permission. So should I node my solutions, which may be incorrect? Can I reword the correct solutions legally?

How do I node it?

Most of my homework involves many symbols and formatting that can't be done in html or text easily. So how do I node it? E2 has not evolved to the point where I can attatch PDF's or anything to nodes. I can do the best I can with calculator syntax but that can be tedious to enter. I could do it in TeX, but even most of my peers have no clue what TeX is. I could do it in MathML, but no browsers support it yet and E2 doesn't allow MathML tags anyway. I could post the raw postscript for the document, but that would be rather large and unreadible. For an english paper this is not a problem, but for us engineering/math types this is a big obstacle.

How can I control it?

While I like sharing, and I do have one of my essays on here already, I don't like the idea of people potentially using my papers for their classes. Sure, I could put a statement up there saying that it cannot be reproduced without permission, but who is that really going to stop?

So these are my concerns with this idea...

Before you start joyously noding your lecture notes, be aware that many universities have policies barring their students from sharing these notes in open forums and specifically on the internet.

A year or so ago, a website put up fliers all over my campus proclaiming that it would compensate students for contributing their lecture notes to an online database. Within a day or so the entire student body received an email stating that this was explicitly against university policy, and that any sharing of this information whether compensated or not would be grounds for serious disciplinary measures.

It probably has nothing to do with copyright laws and everything to do with amount of money they charge us per course as well as their own future online education moneymaking dreams. The point is that whether or not it is legal for me to post my notes from class, I still must follow the regulations of my university or risk expulsion.

Just something to bear in mind.

As the recent development of my addiction to Everything and its many allures has coincided almost perfectly with finals week this quarter, this question has become quite pressing. In fact, as the fateful deadline approaches when I must answer for 45 percent of my grade in a 30 minute oral final, I am becoming desperate. However, I think I have discovered the answer, thank God:

Node your study questions.

Yes, it's as simple as that. In the midst of some hardcore procrastination as well as hardcore nodeblock, I sought inspiration amongst the guidance of the aged. I found Node your homework. My solution is a relatively straightforward spinoff of this concept. Instead of simply studying, I have began noding some of the most important principles of the literature, philosophy and history I have to know for final exams. Every time I run across something in my notes I don't completely understand, I start work on a node for it until my understanding is complete.

The benefits of this theory are numerous and juicy. Concern for my academic ass prompts me to be (at least relatively) conscientious and thorough in my writeups, resulting in higher quality: Good for Everything. Good writeups (at least generally) result in more XP: good for me. High quality nodes with relevant information makes studying finals for other users easier and less time-consuming: good for everybody else.

I think I need to change my jeans.

Here's the thing: A lot of homework is inane. I'm not talking about factual stuff; if you did a biography on somebody or are explaining some science or math, you are doing this place a great service by noding your homework. I'm talking about that time your English teacher asked you to write a report on the similarities in the symbolism of To Have and Have Not and Far from the Madding Crowd. You wrote it in 10 minutes, and you got an 'A' because your teacher didn't actually read it. Should you node it? Maybe not.

In order for the reader to understand your writeup, they have to have read both of those books. We have many smart and well-read people on this site, and I'm sure that more than a few of you have read To Have and Have Not and Far from the Madding Crowd. But the majority have not. Far more people would benefit from separate (non-spoiler) writeups on the books themselves. (As of 1/1/03 both of the nodes could use decent writeups in them.)

I've been using English reports as my example here. English isn't the only subject that I'm talking about, though. Philosophy, anthropology, whatever, you'll be helping out a lot more people here if you attempt to teach us the basics, rather than just adding some HTML to your boring essay.

If you truly believe that you are making some profound points in this interesting, well-written report of yours, nobody is going to stop you from putting it up on the site, even if only three people alive can understand it.

But before you decide to add your homework to the database, ask yourself:

While the idea of noding homework is laudable, the idea that all homework can successfully be noded as is is less so.

Too often, the homework that is noded on E2 is dry, boring, and largely unreadable. Remember, you are writing for a wider audience here. Check Sensei's original piece right up there at the top: Clean it up, put in the HTML and node it.

How, then, can the humble homeworker turn that B+ grade piece of homework into an E2 node worthy of multiple chings and many upvotes?

Content aside, the first thing is to loosen up. Academic text is often written in the passive voice:

  • The story was written.
  • The experiment was done.
  • War was declared.

Science teachers tend to encourage this style of writing, because they like to perpetuate the myth that science is devoid of personal influence. That's total crap, of course, but the myth persists.

Journalists quickly learn to avoid the passive voice. If you want to keep your readers interested, then write in the active voice.

  • I wrote the story.
  • Ross did the experiment.
  • Bush declared war.

See how dramatically the flavour and spirit of those three simple sentences change when you switch from passive to active voice.

Second is to cut the sentence length. Another drawback of traditional academic writing is that the less able (or more pretentious) writers appear to think that long, complex sentences with many sub-clauses containing rarified language and esoteric words, present an image of intellectual superiority and thus enhance the reputation and image of the author among his or her peer group.

Let me re-phrase that. It is easy to grasp a complicated idea when it is presented in three or four short sentences. And more difficult to grasp the idea when it is presented in a single, multi-clause sentence.

If you have access to a grammar check utility*, then look at the average sentence length. Try to get the sentences down to an average length of 15 or 20 words. More than that and it gets hard to read. Fewer than that and the text can be disjointed. Also, try to vary the length of your sentences.

*Microsoft Word has a useful readability checker which can tell you how many words per sentence and characters per word, as well as giving a readability score. This whole WU scores as 14.9 words per sentence, and 4.5 letters per word, giving a readability score of 7.6. That means a 13-year-old should be able to read and understand it. To access this utility, go to "spelling and grammar"—"options" and check the box which says "show readability statistics".

On a similar note, look at average word length. Short words are better than excessively long ones. A good target is an average of 5 to 6 letters per word.

Third is to use footnotes and other techniques* to sustain the pace and direction of your argument. While it is good to explain and define your terms, many of your readers will want to follow your argument to its conclusion first, only later going back to clarify any side issues they may have misunderstood.

*Alternatively, since we are in HTML, use a hyperlink to offer the reader an explanation without forcing them to read it in the main flow of the argument.

Fourth, try to eliminate unnecessary verbiage. Cut it to the bone. Hack away at the piece and remove all unnecessary duplication. I can almost guarantee to cut out 30 to 50 percent of any article which crosses my desk, without affecting the meaning. This editing always makes the piece easier to read and more entertaining.

All these points are the basics of good writing. In most academic courses, editing your text to follow these guidelines will improve your grades.

Go the extra mile

If you want to get good rep scores on E2, then you need to do a little more. Among the most important is to do a series of searches on E2 to find most of the existing nodes relevant to your subject. Often checking the two (1 and 2) check boxes near the search field is a good idea. There will usually be two or three items which look as though they may be the ideal title for your writeup. Check these out, and look at the softlinks at the bottom as well.

Once you have an idea of the quality, size and titles of all the nodes relevant to your topic, you can decide the ones to which you want to make hardlinks. Also, you can choose which of the existing nodes is the best place for your new addition. If, and only if, there is no suitable existing node, then you can create your own node, but follow the advice in the perfect node and pick titles carefully.

Finally, use pipe links and hard links where appropriate. I believe that most E2 writeups do better if they use more pipelinks than hard links. It's a personal point, but well worth remembering.

Node your homework, but edit it first.

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