Since many of us take the time to help new users and because Reactions from Clampe's students is still fresh I thought a conversation with the noderbase might be useful in helping all of us define what works, what doesn't and maybe why. So in that spirit I would like to ask those who are interested in participating to answer a similar survey. The objective it to look at this from as many perspectives as we can with the idea in mind that we would truly like to see this site improve for everyone.

  1. Did you message a new noder in the past 10 days? If so, how well do you think you introduced them to the site?
  2. Did you receive any replies or messages from new users of the site? How many? What were they generally about? What was your reaction to getting contacted by these users?
  3. How did you do with communicating in general? What were your reactions their comments?
  4. What kinds of things did you do to learn about helping new users out? How much content of theirs did you read before messaging them and what impression did you form about them?
  5. What did you think about new users and how well they fit into the concept of E2 ?
  6. Why do you think they come to this site?
  7. Why do you think they leave?
  8. Where do you want E2 to go?

Please post your replies as a day log thanks!

NB: This will be moved to the everyone account as soon as I can figure out how to do that. It's important to me to let you know who posted the survey and it's also important to me that you know I am detached from it personally so that people feel free to respond in whatever way they think is important to them.--lo

Survey Response

It causes me physical pain to break from my long series of factuals, particularly for GTKY, but I cannot let this go by.

  1. Yes. I told him he showed promise, that I hoped he would stick around, and offered to gift him with a C! the next time I saw him active.

  2. No, the user from the previous question has yet to reply, and I almost never get messages from new noders even when I initiate the conversation, except "Thank you for your feedback" or the like. Hell, I had a mentee once upon a time that wouldn't reply to messages either. The only people who ever contact me out of the blue are fellow old fogeys.

  3. N/A

  4. In the case of new users, I tend to read everything of theirs before contacting them.

  5. New users are essential to the future of E2. All places where people congregate on the internet have churn, and if that churn is not replaced with fresh blood, these places stagnate and die, or might as well be dead with the three remaining people who've all been there for ten years sitting around talking about the old days.

  6. There are likely as many or more reasons for new users to arrive as there are kinds of noders, and that's quite a lot. I can really only speak from my own experience on this. I came to E2 for the XP (granted, a long time ago). Over time my reasons became: to write, to teach, to learn, and to better myself. But really, my initial draw was "writing with XP!" Although my first writeup did survive, I spent a good bit of my early time here noding for numbers, as anyone who can see my node heaven will attest. I strove to win Everything2 The RPG, but eventually, I started emulating noders I admired, and started writing only things I knew a lot about--or was interested in researching--and I settled into my niche with some degree of success. Finding that niche, for those of us who have a niche, can take a long time.
  7. Here's where the meaty part of this response begins:

    • Cumbersome Documentation

      I believe the documentation on this site to be less than useful to new users. There is also nothing telling them what is expected when they create their accounts. There is a lot of information in the various documentation metanodes, but it's spread all over the place and is hard to access. Some of it is out of date, some is just lacking, but mostly it's hard to find. The documentation needs a serious overhaul, as likely does the new user registration. It's easy to tell new users "your first writeup will be nuked," but wouldn't it be better to be proactive so that maybe it won't be? I know that this is a large and complicated site with complicated rules and a more complicated userbase. Yet, with some effort, I think the documentation could be made more accessible.

    • Double Standards

      While someone nuked the earn your bullshit writeup, probably during one of the "raise the bar" eras, it's as true today as it was on the day I arrived here nearly seven years ago. Popular people can sometimes node utter crap and get multichinged by their friends, while new users who try to emulate that behavior get their writeups deleted and told that that sort of thing is inappropriate. Seriously, would you stay after that? It presently takes a somewhat thick skin to get past the newbie phase. Perhaps we should also nuke E2 is unfriendly to new noders and strive to make it untrue.

    • Lack of Power Structure Behavioral Standards

      I don't know what the current editorial requirements are on e2, but I do know that in the past, very inappropriate people have been given the nod for no reason other than that they're friendly with others in the power structure. I also know that a good friend of mine logged in one day a couple of years ago to see a $ next to his name. That was how he was picked. Fortunately, he turned out to be one of the good guys. However, arbitrarily assigning power over the database and users is a good way to chase people off. Just because they're good noders and clever in the catbox doesn't mean they'll be good at private communications with noders, and, really, that is an essential requirement. I was fortunate enough to have had a couple of very kind messages from jessicapierce and dannye when I was new and those messages are likely why I am still here today. I have also, since then, albeit infrequently and not recently, received very rude and inappropriate messages from members of the power structure. I hope to Caissa that they don't talk to new users that way. I have stayed, through all sorts of craziness, because I have a vested interest in this site. New users have none. Perhaps this particular problem is no longer relevant under the new management, but it needed to be said.

    These are the primary things I see scaring away or pissing off new users.

  8. I'm not sure why everyone seems to think E2 needs to go somewhere. E2 is what it is. It's a BBS, a forum, a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a chat client, a writer's community, and I'm really just scratching the surface here. What more do we really need? It has problems, and those problems should be addressed, but I think E2 should go where it has always gone.

Le Survey 

1. Did you message a new noder in the past 10 days? If so, how well do you think you introduced them to the site?

I'd say I've messaged around 100 or so new noders in the past 10 days. I gave them a nice welcome, pointed them to the Faq and told them where they could find help if they needed it. I have no idea how well I did, I've not heard back from anyone yet.

 2. Did you receive any replies or messages from new users of the site? How many? What were they generally about? What was your reaction to getting contacted by these users?

As I said, I have not heard from anyone yet. But I might. In the past (prior to 10 days ago) I've had new users thank me for advice concerning why their recently posted node will most likely be nuked and what they can do to fix it for a repost. I like knowing I've been helpful so I like getting replies I guess.

3. How did you do with communicating in general? What were your reactions their comments?

 How should I know how well I did with communicating? I spoke, they either listened or didn't. I have no way of knowing if I was/am an ass or am coming across as kind hearted and helpful.

4. What kinds of things did you do to learn about helping new users out? How much content of theirs did you read before messaging them and what impression did you form about them?

I didn't do anything, I used my own experience as a new user and my knowledge of how irate some users can be towards new users to extend help where I thought it might be needed.

I have tended to contact new users at their first post, or first few posts in a row. I try to give them a quick heads up before they get nuked, or give them encouraging words before what I know is inevitable so they won't get discouraged. Now, though, I am trying to get to them prior to that point. If I can show a friendly face before they get to that moment of discouragement when the downvotes appear and Klaproth visits, maybe one more person will stick it out long enough to get the hang of things. I don't really form impressions about new users, though I suppose if they reply I get the sense they are trying harder.

5. What did you think about new users and how well they fit into the concept of E2 ?

New users are new users. What's to think about? Some of them have been lurking and know what to do faster than others. They should be treated kindly and given a chance to fix their writeup before it is deleted at the all too quickly achieved -5.

6. Why do you think they come to this site?

 Because they've heard about it from someone else. Or because an E2 joke has left the building, as it were. Because Everything2 is finally starting to spread past its own pages and bleed into the internet on YouTube, Flickr, LJ and other widespread internet community sites. Because E2 is funny and interesting and everyone wants to be part of something funny and interesting.

7. Why do you think they leave?

 Because there are too many things to read in the Everything Faq. Because you have to devote too much time to learn the ropes here when it should be as simple as "write something with proper grammar - or be wild and break the rules on purpose. link your work to the work of others. and, never steal someone else's material."

8. Where do you want E2 to go?

I don't know. I've liked the several transformations I've been present for, can't speak about where it was before I got here 5 years ago, and have no idea if I'll fit in with where it will be in the next 5 years. I like how it is transforming from the internet into paper and into sound. I like that some users have taken up for good causes outside of the immediate community, though definitely linked to our community, and I'm hoping to take that a step further in the future. I love love LOVE that gatherings seem to be on the return, at least here in the U.S. 

As Julie, your cruise director (as far as I know this is my official title here, no one has ever corrected me), I would like to offer some response to these questions as posted above, as it I generally consider it my duty to do what I can with new noders, confused noders and assorted people with emotional issues. Moving on...

  1. Did you message a new noder in the past 10 days? If so, how well do you think you introduced them to the site?
    Yes.
  2. Did you receive any replies or messages from new users of the site? How many? What were they generally about? What was your reaction to getting contacted by these users?
    Well, this is generally the issue. I've learned that a majority of new users cannot figure out the /msg system here and how to respond. Some bugger off without speaking and never return. Others post confusing writeups and may believe they exist in a vacuum. Others may be tigers. It is my understanding that tigers don't talk much.
  3. How did you do with communicating in general? What were your reactions their comments?
    I've often said that communication on E2 is very similar to communication between two people who drank a lot the night before, fell into bed together, had sexual relations and now find themselves looking for a bagel.
  4. What kinds of things did you do to learn about helping new users out? How much content of theirs did you read before messaging them and what impression did you form about them?
    About one in twenty new users makes some sort of sense when I talk to them. The others, as I have said, may be tigers.
  5. What did you think about new users and how well they fit into the concept of E2 ?
    I don't think we need tigers on the site. I'm not a racist. Also, I'm by no means anti-semitic, regardless of the content of my last three writeups.
  6. Why do you think they come to this site?
    If you build it, they will come.
  7. Why do you think they leave?
    They cannot figure out how to communicate. Frustration. Confusion. I'm convinced many can't figure out the /msg system. The rest are likely tigers. No tigers.
  8. Where do you want E2 to go?
    Forward. Never get off the goddamned boat. Damned straight.

Since I polluted these pristine waters, I thought I'd answer these Qs.

1. Did you message a new noder in the past 10 days? If so, how well do you think you introduced them to the site?
Oh no. It's been probably 5 years since I've messaged a new noder. At least.

2. Did you receive any replies or messages from new users of the site? How many? What were they generally about? What was your reaction to getting contacted by these users?
Nope, nothing for me. Thankfully. I'm not sure I would know what to say. Sorry?

3. How did you do with communicating in general? What were your reactions their comments?
N/A

4. What kinds of things did you do to learn about helping new users out? How much content of theirs did you read before messaging them and what impression did you form about them?
N/A

5. What did you think about new users and how well they fit into the concept of E2 ?
Goddamned new users pollute the sanctity of E2!

6. Why do you think they come to this site?
Accident

7. Why do you think they leave?
Everything2 is unfriendly to new noders

8. Where do you want E2 to go?
Woof, here's the million dollar question. My main goal for E2 is survival. My own viewpoint is that new users are essential to that. As others have eloquently mentioned, any online community has churn, as old users move on to other projects, or get pissed, or whatever. It's essential to attract new users to replace those who leave, at least if a goal is to have the site survive.

It's easy to discount the lessons of this class exercise. The students weren't given enough time to really learn about E2. But how many users are really going to take that time? The students were forced into participation. But how much more likely will it be for users who aren't forced to flee the site? We only want good writers here anyway. As in all periods of human history, great writers are rather thin on the ground. Isn't there any way to include users who aren't great writers?

The main thing this class exercise tells me, speaking ex cathedra, is that new users hate it when you dump on their stuff. No duh. But how do we balance that with the usual flood of mediocre content contributed by new users? Here's what I believe. Downvotes are harmful, at least to new users. Nate came up with them on a whim based on his MUD experiences, they're not the word of God. Downvotes are mostly there for decision support. Don't bother to read this WU because those who have said it sucks balls. Another effect of rating is to provde feedback about the value of your contribution. Unfortunately, the kids in my class had a hard time interpreting downvotes. Part of human nature is to assign blame exogenously. So if a user receives a negative rating, without knowing why, they assume it's because the raters are elitest or exclusionary, as opposed to thinking their write up sucks.

I think a model to consider is where first level users are treated very differently. Rather than delete their write ups, have all first levels start off in a sandbox where they can write whatever the fuck they want, but other users vote on it to send it to the main database. Postive feedback is more enforcing than negative feedback, at least according to B.F. Skinner. Then you still get control, new users get the instant gratification they are seeking, and all is cool. That's just me thinking aloud though.

Ok, I am not going to answer the survey, because I don't particularly message a lot of new noders, when I do I rarely get a reply, and if I do they are usually fairly confused. Honestly I think we might be messaging new noders a little bit too much. Fresh new noder comes to write something, probably pops off a paragraph, and in return will get many times his original word count in criticism, constructive or not, it is too much.

We don't treat old noders like that. Believe me, we don't. I am lucky if one person is willing to let me know when I post a turd (thanks artman). Mostly I don't even bother writing anymore because there aren't even many people around to read the stuff anymore.

One of Clampe's students made an observation that is a lot more true than we might want to realize.

"Once upon a time, a group of bullied English majors got together with one goal in mind. That goal was to enforce their degrees and hatred of people who got useful degrees upon everyone who strayed, or was forced by school, upon their internet path. They would spring their trap by creating something that looked interesting, but was basically an internet mouse trap. The first meeting must have gone something like this: Lets take an interesting concept, convolute it so badly, make it difficult to participate in and then on top of that once someone tries to we can decide we don't like what they had to say or how they said it, so we will delete it! And so everything2 was born."

This echoes a similar sentiment that was written seven years ago. "Hey great, big fucking word dexter, have a fuckingly fat roll of diploma wonderwank!"

To make things blunt, our standards are too high, the learning curve too steep, and the "game" portion of the website is rigged to reward inactivity. After the Honor Roll went into effect people stopped writing and started removing writeups. We have less writeups now then we did 4 months after the site was launched. Let that sink in, less writeups now then we had in April of 2000. We have maintained a net daily loss of writeups since the Honor Roll was conceived.

The honor roll also failed in its effort to help promote better content at E2. Oh sure, the average wordcount is up, but the actual amount of good content is way down. A year ago today there were 24 writeups submitted. There are still 316 surviving writeups that were posted 7 years ago today. After 7 years of raising the bar, node deletions and other downsizing we still got more good content on the average day 7 years ago.

I have a few suggestions, and some of them are rollbacks.

  1. Make being able to see the total vote number thing a level power, even if it is just second level. Turn off XP loss for downvotes. We all know that this is a teeny tiny number that doesn't even have any real bearing on the game portion of the website, but it can certainly drive the newbies away.
  2. Don't delete anything until it has been up at least 24 hours (aside from obvious spamming and trolling). It isn't like that flood of bad writeups is affecting the 27 hours that the average nodes sit in new writeups these days.
  3. Get rid of the honor roll. Make it go away. People gamed E2 before the honor roll and that produced content. People now game the honor roll, except winning that game is more a matter of not writing. Also, the honor roll highly favors noders that have been around since 2000-2001.
  4. Make the level system go on forever and reduce the total number of writeups needed at the higher levels to something reasonable. Maybe 100 per level, not 1000. Even if all the highest levels do is give an extra 10 votes for every level past X, people will still shoot for them.
  5. Another consideration, just get rid of downvotes altogether, or make it where a writeup simply cannot have a negative reputation. The editors are more than competent to handle the tiny daily node traffic. The ability to watch a node plummet in reputation just drives people away before they ever get a chance at getting the positive feedback of one that gains in reputation.

Really, just code some of this stuff and try it. It isn't like things are going to somehow get worse. We can always just go back to the current setup and continue to hemorrhage nodes and users and the last one out can turn off the light.

I didn't spellcheck this node.

So I read Reactions from Clampe's students.

How novel. How revolutionary. How I want to respond so badly every fiber of my being is vibrating in unison.

1. Did you message a new noder in the past 10 days? If so, how well do you think you introduced them to the site?

Yes. I messaged someone informing them that their writing style made me want to stab myself in the eye with my own dick. I also told said user that if they wanted to entertain someone with a deluge of mentally-masturbatorial psychobabble, that perhaps Wikipedia was more up their alley. Or their ass. Then again, their ass, their face, their alley, what’s the difference?

I think that this was perhaps the most brilliant prose constructed by humanity in the last ten thousand years. (With the exception of certain works by Hunter S. Thompson and some columns written by Brock Yates for Car and Driver in the late 1980's. Maybe Oedipus, too. No wait, that other butthole, Ovid.)

I am clearly a fucking genius.

2. Did you receive any replies or messages from new users of the site? How many? What were they generally about? What was your reaction to getting contacted by these users?

No. I think the sheer weight of my acerbic wit combined with my clear aptitude in the field of Extreme Profanity for Advanced Fucking Users may have intimidated the person. I did get one other message from someone else informing me that my three-year-old hunch that their username is a French synonym for “orgasm” was, in fact, correct.

Again, more evidence of my general smartiness.

As far as getting contacted by those users is concerned, I felt pretty good because it meant I learned something from watching all that foreign porn on IFC while on duty late at night.

3. How did you do with communication in general? What were your reactions to their comments?

I think I managed to convey my thoughts very effectively. After all, a significant amount of time and taxpayer dollars have been expended to train me in the fine art of constructing a grammatically correct sentence consisting entirely of invectives, obscenity, and particles.

My reaction to what comments? Chickenshit never sent me a message back, so I consigned the entire interaction to the giant shitcan in the back of my brain.

Some other things that have gone into the shitcan, in case you’re interested:

  • The reason why Howard Dean exploded on the launch pad.
  • The McGriddle
  • Your Mom
  • Sobriety
  • The collected works of John Steinbeck
  • Why it is that I cannot shoot a precision approach in a P-3C into NAS North Island in FS2004 without overshooting the radial by about half a mile every time.
  • Drama concerning how editorships are handed out, and drama concerning politics on our little slice of heaven, and drama concerning the drama over some drama drama. Whatever. If your life is so shallow that you get your panties in a twist over a website to the point where you’re ready to punch your own ticket, buy a dog.
  • Did you see that bird? It was fucking HUEG like XBOX!
  • I need more coffee.

4. What kinds of things did you learn about helping new users out? How much content of theirs did you read before messaging them and what impression did you form about them?

I found out that if you’re going to expect a reply back from people, perhaps…

“Fucking let me fucking tell you fucking something fucking what about fucking noding, you fucking fuck.”

…is not the most effective and pleasant way of introducing yourself to the incoming noder. Or some such thing as that.

As for the second part of this question, I skimmed through the titles. They made me want to start watching Tyra Banks while eating Ding Dongs and whining about the mole on my calf. And by that I mean I can’t train the thing to stay in the little saddle for more than ten minutes at a stretch, and how am I going to win at America’s Funniest Home Videos otherwise? Pray tell.

5. What did you think about new users and how they fit into the concept of E2?

Wait, what?

6. Why do you think they come to this site?

I have no fucking clue. Like, really. Are you wearing shoes? Why or why not? What are shoes, anyway? Did you know that I spelled ‘crux’ during a game of Scrabble on my cell phone the other day on a triple word score for 63 MOTHERFUCKING POINTS? CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT SHIT? SEE HOW I BARE MY SOUL TO YOU E2? I’M SO HUMAN AYN RAND GOES THROUGH MY GARBAGE TO SEE WHAT MY CATS ARE EATING.

Could you repeat the question? I went to public school.

7. Why do you think they leave?

Because the calculus around here oscillates between being driven by Russian Roulette and natural selection.

In all seriousness, E2 is as fucked up as a football bat. The documentation sucks somewhat, but that is part of the experience. It isn’t easy because it isn’t meant to be easy. So we appear to be a site full of cantankerous and pretentious pedant English majors. So fucking what?

I’m not an English major, and as a matter of fact no one I know (personally) on this site is, either.

We are however, human. We have a personality, with likes and dislikes.

Everyone is different, Everything2 is different. If everyone on this planet was the same we’d be an episode of Star Trek or something. My point here is you don’t make friends with everyone. Just like Josef Stalin, George W. Bush, Al Gore, and Mr. Rogers all have people that go all gooey at the very mention of their names, there is another set that is lining up to piss on their graves.

Deal with it, bitches.

8. Where do you want E2 to go?

Denny’s and then The Morrigan’s in the honch in Yokosuka. I’m fucking starving, and we can be loaded in two hours if Ami-chan is working.

She’ll give us the free beer. She digs us, you know.


Edit:
To the fucks downvoting this: Enter yourself in a sausage swallowing contest. I made Level 5 off this cow. Ho. Ho. Ho. I've got all the XP in the world to burn.


Edit 2:
To the individuals who got this far: Parody.

Screw all the questions above. I love the poster but not the post.

Lower. The. Fucking. BAR.

I don't mean so low that we are back in the gutters or anything, but come ON people. It takes way too long for gratification here. Back in the day the leveling structure made sense. Back when, you know, everything was actually about everything.

Now that we (I mean this in general terms) are all "picky" about what gets to stay and what gets to go, and ambiguous about even that much, it takes way too long for anyone to accomplish anything. Take a poll. How many users have been here a few YEARS and haven't felt a level change? It's too hard and we're losing a lot of potential people.

I know that the site is worth a person's time. After all I have been here for seven years. But welcome to the present, where you have a day, two at most, to really capture a "new user". I have more to say on this but I feel my breath is being wasted even trying.

We can't heal a broken arm with some pretty band-aids.

Disagree? Prove me wrong.

/rant off.

Hi there. I haven't posted in what? A year now? I was attracted to e2 because I wanted the gratification of having all these intelligent people say wonderful things about my writing. I had my first few writeups deleted but persevered; and it payed off. I'm somewhere near the top of the honor roll and at one point, yes, I wanted to game the honor roll. But then I grew up and put away childish things.

Why I'm no longer here? Well I'm sorry, but the noding populace is just this bunch of people. Collectively more able to form grammatically correct sentences than your average pool of typing monkeys and with some exceptionnally gifted individuals but quite frankly? The upvotes don't mean anything to me any longer. The C!s? Some of my very favourite writers have enjoyed and C!d my work - that makes me very happy - but on the other hand, I know they like what I do. And pretty much anything coherent gets a C! these days...

An other reason I'm not here is that I don't feel read: I never really felt part of any community - though I've made some good friends here. What about all the anonymous readers? Are they reading? Have they found my nodes useful? Have they even been able to find them? Writing for e2 feels like a job where you take a coffee break with your co-workers in the catbox but your actual work goes into some corporate vacuum that you can't measure the worth of. Give better feedback mechanisms, please! Rip of the youtube comment model! That's how it ought to be. A good node isn't a good node if it doesn't generate a good flame war.

Content Editors?!!!!! What happened to the editing? This question has been asked time and time again. I got deleted, but have almost never been edited. E2 made me teach myself to write but aside from that, nada. zilch. And others continue to spew the same crap (ie not as good as the blogs in my feed reader but better than a slashdot comment) year in, year out. /msg me for names.

Finally, I'm sorry to say this, I know it's expecting a lot, but I just grew disappointed that the power structure of e2 wasn't interested in me. I never felt that anyone had a clue who I was. Not when I was a noder who may or may not have made a good editor. Not with the various coding projects I had. I made e2 web2.0 ajaxy goodness before the word even existed! Of course, now, everyone does it - even e2. I made a feedback mechanism that was better than any I have seen so far. It's almost as good as the comment mechanism in Microsoft Word. Nobody has anything that good on the web. Period.

Attracting and keeping new noders is one thing. But why are people like me, LeoDV and Auduster basically fled? I think it may be that the bar is not so much high as shaped like a four year-old's drawing of a house. You like the challenge until you realise that children are succeeding with much less effort.

P.S. Should be noted that this node contains stuff that exemplifies the best and worst of e2. Thank heavens for people like TheDeadGuy!

Jury Duty Gives Me a Rash

I had jury duty this morning. Had to sit in a large room full of strangers and uncomfortable chairs for nearly four hours. Been reading Augustus by this historian guy who also wrote a book on Cicero named Anthony Everitt. It's good stuff, really rich writing style. I live 4 blocks from the courthouse to which I was assigned, had breakfast in a Greek diner down the street from my apartment.

There were three rounds of calling out three or four digit numbers to have people go submit to lawyerly perusal. Anonymous. Clean. UTTERLY FUCKING BORING OMG.

The way to spice up the jury duty system is to make it more involved and assign value to opinions! Each potential juror should be given a test before ever setting foot in the courtroom. The test should include questions regarding American justice, history, and the like, but shouldn't be limited to it. I think it'd be pretty cool to walk into court as a defendant and actually be judged by a jury of my peers. Looking around the room, I saw a collection of random people who didn't want to be there. That's where our similarities ended, I suppose. Maybe the test at the beginning should relate specifically to the knowledge and focus of the defendant. Yeah. Kick ass.

Bottom line, I guess maybe jury duty should feel less like a duty, and more like a fun game we can all play. It's only freedom, right? Sheesh.

Then I came home and read some writeups about how E2 is unfriendly to clampe's students.

Love,
wordnerd

Well, if everybody's weighing in on Reactions from Clampe's students, I might as well.

So I've been lurking around e2 on and off since high school. I haven't posted too many nodes. I remember around the time Wikipedia was just starting to make itself seen, and I always thought to myself, "Well, that's nice and all, but the writing there has no soul, and e2 is bigger anyway." And the softlinks! Softlinks let me get lost here for hours and hours.

Now, of course, Wikipedia is a rampaging juggernaut and e2 is about as big as it was back then. Maybe even smaller, if passport is to be believed. I'm not going to compare content between the two, because that would be stupid: Wikipedia likes to be soulless, that's the whole point, and e2 isn't just about facts. I'm just talking about growth.

Growth is what makes a site like this live. Indeed, growth and changing content is what makes any site based on user-submitted material flourish. And e2 has been stagnating while other sites are flourishing. Why is that?

Well, I don't know if e2 is truly unfriendly to new noders or what. I do know that when I tried to put a writeup in a node to keep it up to date, my writeup was promptly deleted and I was given a message to send a message to the person with the outdated writeup, instead, despite the fact that that user hadn't produced anything in months. Then, when I bothered to check the node again another user had posted a writeup with essentially the same information as mine, a writeup which exists to this day. But wait, he was a new user too! Maybe it isn't that established users get away with shit, maybe it's just that justice here is completely random, or something.

In any case, it's damn hard to keep any factual node up-to-date, just from the layout of the site, if the system is slanted such that new writeups of any kind are discouraged. The policy of E2 isn't unfriendly to new noders, it's just that you, personally, are a shitty writer is probably not particularly helpful in that regard. When your first writeup is nuked for a specific reason, it's understandable. When your first dozen writeups are not nuked, but downvoted and given snarky anonymous softlink comments, it's just the established group telling you to fuck off.

But hey, it's your site, not mine. Nowadays I just look up the occasional recipe. If you want this site to stay the same size it was six years ago, hey, more power to ya.

I've been around since well before the bar-raising days and honestly, when I first signed-up for an account seven years ago it wasn't quite so unfriendly to new noders. You could put up a node with some pretty decent information culled from personal experience, maybe an anecdote, or just some random thefez-style nonsense and it would probably go pretty far. At least, it likely wouldn't be downvoted into oblivion too quickly as long as someone found it funny.

Truth be told I miss many of those write-ups even though I was one to (still) rage against the infamous McFlurry. The problem is that humor is pretty damn subjective and one person's idea of a great time is someone else's massive waste of space polluting the precious database. Then again we raised the bar so high that putting in a new write-up requires either an amazingly specific area of knowledge that hasn't been covered and can be done in sufficient depth, or a good week doing research. That is, unless you go the route of recipes (please do!) or poetry (please, please don't!) or something else that stays subjective, but can usually be thought to include more value than, as I'm told the kids like to say these days "teh lolz".

Getting specific to the issues raised by the students though I see a few crucial things.

First, they know about Wikipedia and it influences their opinions rather heavily. E2 is not viewed in light of itself, but in how it relates. We give off the idea (especially from the name) that we accept literally everything and people get upset when told that their minor contribution isn't good enough. People see old E1 one-liners still hanging around and wonder why their new placeholder (which will, probably, be that way forever) one-liner is seen as shoddy work knocked-off without a modicum of effort. They see creative writing and poetry and assume that it's just a community for writers and take it personally when people don't like their work or others don't think it even belongs. They see our factuals and think that we aren't as encyclopedic as Wikipedia and that adding a contribution is a herculean effort and compared to Wikipedia it really is.

Second, they're lazy. Sorry, no other way to put it. Is documentation a pain in the ass here? You bet it is! The last time I tried to look something up I was at a loss to find it after plenty of searching until I just fiddled in my scratch pad or decided to forget about it. At the same time it seems like a lot of the students just wanted to jump in and start writing something after reading a quick intro. Well, I don't think E2 is like that. Then again, I'm the sort of person who never does anything without thoroughly reading the instructions first. I don't even play arcade games without reading the complete directions on the cabinet and when I put together my poorly-made, Swedish crap I read the directions all the way through twice and constantly refer to them while I do it. The information needs to be more accessible, but as I said, they're comparing it to Wikipedia where, despite massive volumes of information on doing it in the right style and tone (and let's not even get into their piddly issues of whether it's important enough or if you heaven-forbid decided to add trivia or otherwise violate their strict demands to beige-up everything) they make it damn easy to just hop in, edit some typos or add a line of text and go. If we're harder to use than that they'll bitch... and I can't say I entirely blame them.

Finally, and somewhat of a related topic, is that they don't all seem to want to join a community and get to know it first. Lots of people reported reading a few nodes before starting. I can't say what everyone else did, but I was reading the site for about a month or so before I signed up for an account myself. I'm not as interested in putting up a ton of nodes (at seven years I've only averaged 5 nodes a year... and most of those were pre-bar) and I've never really been one to just dive right in and start writing. Maybe a sort of new-user sandbox is a great idea. Let them get to know the place first before they start to post. As a community we have a lot of unspoken rules and methods that can be damn hard to discern. How long will it take to teach people that Webster is a 'bot? Or that all those Nov. 13 1999 write-ups are holdovers that well, we've never been bothered to delete? That we tend to support things that show effort has been put into them, rather than just quick one-off hack jobs done to fill up some empty space? That we'd often rather have nothing than have it done badly? That sometimes we really can be a bunch of pricks and downvote something just because we disagree with it, or dislike it, or because it doesn't conform to the unspoken idea of what E2 should be that is different for us all?

E2 is a tough place and it probably needs to get better before too long. As far as factuals go even I've started checking Wikipedia rather than E2 a while back. The thing is, what Wikipedia will never have is what new users will give us. We can show greater voices. We can give variety, opinion, perspective, insider secrets, tradecraft, advice... all the stuff that Wikipedia won't dare touch for fear of it not being staid and neutral enough.

We need a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, but who else uses downvotes these days? Even if it does feel good to vote down that really, really, terrible write-up don't most similar sites generally rely on only using positive feedback (e.g. Digg IIRC) to separate out what gets noticed? Could we perhaps do that here as well? Let nodes run long with write-ups, but push up the higher voted ones? Could we set up a sandbox for new noders where under level one your nodes only appear to people who set their filters to read your posts as on Slashdot when you post AC?

Right now we're a site that isn't as popular, as big, or as notable as Wikipedia and because of that most new users won't find out about us or even care about us. When they find their way here they feel confused, assaulted, and degraded and then they just leave either out of boredom or anger. If we find a way to make things a bit more open it will hurt the signal to noise ratio we currently enjoy, but dammit, at least we'll have some more actual signal as well.

/me taps on the mike.

Ahem, is this thing on?

I've been around a while. To save you the trouble of looking at my homenode, I guess I first made an account here on Tue June 29, 1999 at 12:58:37 (8.4 years ago ). I was probably at work slacking off. Almost immediately, I began to write nodes and almost immediately, after spending what I felt was an appropriate amount of time in Everything University, I started getting hammered by the power structure. My writeups were nuked. When I was lucky, I received "Please, just don't" messages in the catbox. Usually, I just had to languish, wondering why my pearls of unfiltered genius had not been appreciated by the Power Structure. In short, it pissed me off so I fled.

Then I came back and wrote a ton of factual nodes. That went better.

For a time, I participated here, in the catbox, and on E2's IRC channel. I wasn't obsessive or online 24-7, but I had time to kill and wanted to help out here. I wanted to be part of the experience. I asked around to see whether or not I could become a content editor. I emailed and messaged Dem Bones. I did all the things I was told to do but the honors never came.

Eventually I grew tired of the hand-wringing of this place (something that's always been here), the cliquishness of the in-crowd, the multiple barriers to entry, and the unfriendliness of the place to new people. And, frankly, I got tired of essentially writing high school research papers for nothing but a few, let's face it, rather meaningless rewards.

So I fled.

Since fleeing, I have wafted in and out of this place, like a bad smell. I read a node or two, using this place like a hipster supplement to Wikipedia, rounding out my research with the snarkiness and wit that this place has always had. But it's been a long time since I had a desire to help, participate, or contribute. You can probably glean my reasons from this rather pointless daylog. If E2 disappeared tomorrow forever, I wouldn't miss it. For me, E2 is like that old girlfriend you google every couple of years to see whether she's done anything interesting, married and got fat, or died.

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