It's getting late, she said, and we ought to be headed back.

But that isn't what you wanted and so you held your ground, firm, for just one more minute. Just to see if she'd yield. Just this once, you thought, give in and let's not go back.

She turns, though, and heads down that darkened road and you follow - you will always follow. Even if you thought you had the dimmest, faintest glimmer of a chance of choice, you would follow. What else is there to do but follow her? She cannot be matched, evened, squared against the world. Her light is the sun and the moon and all that dances around.

She's pulling leaves off trees as she flits along. They scream to you, silently, stop her. Stop her. We need those now in these days than ever and she is taking them. Before their time, she is removing all that we have left before the Cold comes. Or maybe the trees say nothing and you just want to believe that everything she touches is touched by her touch.

Maybe you are touched.

They said, when you were born, that your first words were not in your native tongue. Not in any tongue, that anyone present knew and not just the words that baby's use because they are babies and they can get away with that sort of buncombe. No, these words were words and everyone knew it. There was intent and purpose in every syllable and note. Touched, they said. This child is touched.

And now, there she goes. The one who reached you. And she's calling back to hurry, hurry, the stars won't wait forever for us. And you know that you will, if the stars won't.

If I Were King of Everything2

I've been an E2 member for almost 10 years. While I love the site and its community, there are several things I would change if I were in charge. Below is my E2 Manifesto...

These are just my thoughts and opinions, and while I am a member of coders, this should not be considered official in any way. Also, I also didn't necessarily come up with every idea below on my own, but most of them have been bouncing around in my head for years.

Terminology

I would stop using E2-specific terminology for a lot of things. We need to think about our audience and our new users and stop confusing them. Why say "homenode" when you can say "profile". The whole concept of "node" is a computer science term which doesn't make a lot of sense to new site users. In fact, I bet many regular old-time users don't even know that there are 75 different types of nodes on E2. If I say "node", am I referring to a writeup, a nodeshell, a homenode, a superdoc, or something else? Am I referring to a page (which isn't even a nodetype)? It's ambiguous.

I'm not saying we need to get rid of all of our jargon. What other word would you use for softlink or pipelink? Communities need things to set them apart, but they also need to think about the outside world if they want to attract new talent and not just scare them off.

User Options and Preferences

I would get rid of 90% of the existing user options and preferences. There would be common sense defaults put in place. New users would never know the difference because things would just work as expected, and old-timers could complain all they wanted. AJAX: on. GP System: on. Theme: zen. Social Bookmarks: on. Unnecessary options lead to confusion for users and staff. If things were designed properly, you wouldn't even think of being able to change them.

Some of the few options I would keep:

  • Reputation- and status-based writeup filter
  • ability to hide ads for logged in users (which might be a level power in my system)
  • what notifications you receive (some are manditory)
  • user timezone

Login / Registration

We are well into the Internet Age - there is no reason to force people through an annoying registration and email verification process any more. We would support OpenID and/or OAuth for logging in. For that .001% of the online population who does not have an existing account with an OpenID/OAuth provider such as Google, Yahoo!, Hotmail, WordPress, AOL, LiveJournal, Blogger, Verisign, MyOpenID, Twitter, or any of the thousands of others, we could still allow the old-fashioned registration process, but we certainly wouldn't encourage it.

I promise this simple act would bring in more users. Granted, not all users are good users, so we need some quality control...

Publishing and Writeup Statuses

Disclaimer: These ideas are not new (at least from the E2 coders standpoint), but may not be well known in the E2 community at large.

Get rid of Node Heaven, Node Row, and Scratch Pads. Instead allow users to create drafts right in the e2node/nodeshell itself. These drafts will be hidden until the author explicitly publishes them. There will be additional publishing statuses for new users and editorial/administrative functionality. Visibility and publish status will also be handled by user options, moderation, and level/experience system (more on those issues below). Editors will no longer delete writeups (with exceptions for spam, hate speech, etc.). Users can delete their own writeups any time they want. Once deleted, they are gone forever (remember no Node Heaven). On second thought, maybe we'll set the status to "deleted" and tell the user they have 48 hours to change their mind (or allow our editors to convince them to change their mind) after which it's gone forever.

Level/Experience System and Voting

I would keep the basic concepts of the leveling experience system, but would actually use the information more instead of letting these numbers sit in the background and be meaningless. Most importantly, I would go back to the days where you could actually lose XP, because if you can't lose it then it is also meaningless. Get a downvote? Ack! You lost 1XP! Oh, also, everyone would use the same system - no "grandfathered" exceptions.

New and "Bad" Users

All users with a level of 0 could post writeups, but they would be hidden by default. By hidden, I don't just mean they wouldn't be displayed in New Writeups, I mean they actually would not be displayed (by default) even if you visited the node they were posted in. For a new writeup to be published and visible, it would have to be moderated by an editor or get a certain threshold of votes from members of the new "Moderators" usergroup (which would be an opt-in level power). This system would automatically handle spam and "bad" users (do I need to name names?) as well by not clogging up the site with poor quality writeups. When a user reached level 1, their writeups would be visible by default once published.

Filters

In addition, one of the few options each user could set is their reputation cut-off filter which would hide writeups that fell below a specified threshold. (This is not a new feature, but would be much more useful if we had many more active users - some of which would not be great, or even good, writers.) Remember above where I said no more Node Heaven? Now we don't have to delete a writeup when it gets a rep of -5, we just hide it. If you still want to see it, there will be an option to show hidden writeups.

In addition to reputation-based filters, there would also be other filtering options such as by user, by type (i.e., hide all poetry from me), and potentially other options as needed.

Somewhat related to filters, I would stop ordering writeups by date. Instead we should put our best foot forward (not our oldest) and order writeups through a system combining/considering: reputation, "newness", C!s, and popularity (see Tracking and Trending below).

Voting and Vote Weights

While not truly a level "power", one of the new features of the level system would be that your vote value would increase with your level. In other words, a vote from a level 10 user would be worth more than a vote from a level 1 user, and the author receiving the vote would get the XP equal to your vote. I would allow newbies to vote on their first day - their votes would be worth less without being worthless, and they would feel like part of the community quicker.

In addition to this change, I would also allow voting (and C!s) on any node type. Want to C! a user? How about downvote a superdoc? In my E2, this would be possible.

Badges, we don't need no stinking badges! On second thought, yeah, let's have some stinking badges.

Similar to My Achievements, but more visual and featured on each user's homenode. Some would promote the goals of E2 (submitting writeups, voting, etc.), and some would just be for fun.

Browse

One Page to rule them all,
One Page to find them,
One Page to bring them all and in the nodegel bind them.

I would create One Browse Page to Rule Them All. This page would combine user search, new writeups, ENN, writeups by type, log archive, cool archive and any other related superdocs. This page would be an all-purpose sortable, filterable, pageable node lister/browser.

Tracking and Trending

A huge feature this site is missing is utilizing tracking and trending. E2 does use Google Anayltics, but I don't think we actually use ths information. Much more important than simple analytics is trending. At any given moment, our home page should be listing what is popular on E2 in the last hour, day, week, or month. What pages are getting the most incoming links, what pages are getting shared the most on social bookmarking tools, or what pages are getting the most hits or votes? Not all-time, but right NOW. Actually trending is more about what pages are getting an unusual amount of traffic as compared to normal. E2 Zeitgeist doesn't cut it. Sure, How to become a better anorexic is popular every day, but why is writeup X popular right now? Is there something going on in the news? Did a node get on Reddit's home page? Did someone's writeup just go viral on Twitter?

Supplemental Content

We should really start allowing images, video, and audio. I'm not suggesting we pimp the site out with multimedia for its own sake. It would certainly be a level power and would REQUIRE a minimum amount of words in the writeup before the user could attach an image. After all, E2 is a writing site. How nice would it be if a movie/video game review had a video of the trailer, or a book review had an image of the book cover, a biography had a headshot of the person? How about pictures from nodermeets right on E2?

In addition to multimedia, we would also allow comments on almost every node. Comments could be voted on like other nodes and could therefore be filtered like other nodes. They would not be displayed by default on e2nodes, but would be displayed if you visited an individual writeup. To help the editors moderate comments, I would allow noders to spend GP to remove comments from their own writeups and homenodes.

Daylogs and Homenodes

I want to state this first: I would not get rid of daylogs. I would, however, stop pigeonholing them into a MONTH DD, YYYY format. Instead, I would allow any new writeup, with any title, to be marked as a "daylog" (actually I probably wouldn't use that term - See Terminology above). Any writeup marked as a daylog would be featured on a user's homenode. You would be able to navigate through a user's daylogs using 'Next' or 'Prev' links or by using a calendar. Considering that I've already suggested that each node would allow comments, this functionality might sound familiar to you. That's because I'm suggesting that each homenode become a personal blog. Writeups would still be located in their respective e2nodes, but would also be displayable on each writer's homenode allowing a more personal experience for readers enjoying the writings of certain noders. Turning homenodes into blogs would also allow us to use such features as trackbacks and pingbacks which would help promote E2 and connect us with other sites.

Money

I've tried to show above (and there's more below too) that my main concern is improving E2, but if I was the King, I'd have to consider practical issues as well, and that includes paying the bills. If our traffic and userbase increased significantly (I am after all, such a great and benevolent King that it certainly would!), we would need hardware upgrades and/or professional hosting (possibly even a paid staff member or two) to keep the site running. A big part of this would be re-thinking how we show ads and/or make money to keep the site afloat. I'm not suggesting that we fill the pages with ads, but we would need to do more than slap a banner at the top of the page. I know nothing about E2's current finances, but based on my experience with the web, I know if I had a site with as much traffic as E2 already has that it would be making some decent money.

I know this is probably controversial (and I haven't even made up my own mind), but I might consider an opt-in revenue sharing system. Some might think that this will attract all kinds of losers and riff-raff just trying to make a quick buck, but remember that in my system, all submissions by new users would be hidden by default, so most people would quickly learn that they are wasting their time. Those that made it successfully past the initiation and wanted to make a little money through writing... is that really so bad? Isn't that what all your favorite authors do?

Technology

Another controversial topic (at least from the founders/coders point of view) is my belief that Perl should not be used for anything more extensive than a few administrative scripts - certainly not a large scale web site like E2. I mean no offense to past and present coders, but I would start from scratch. E2 can apply band-aids and patches, or add a few new features here and there from now through eternity, but I don't think the existing code base can ever take E2 to what it should evolve into - it's just not what Perl was made to do.

So what do I suggest? We'll I have my preferences, but E2 should be built as an n-tier web application. Any modern, structured, organized object oriented programming language would work. Some may say, "But in10se, you can write OO code in Perl!", but they would be wrong. (If you really believe this, then you have a very different idea of 'object oriented' then I do. Feel free to talk to me about any point in this writeup unless you trying to defend Perl - you cannot convert me.) E2 could be coded in Ruby, .NET, or Java (there are, of course several other options) to be more robust, faster, and easier to maintain, and this could be done with less code that was easier to read and understand. We would not need cron jobs or other hacky things in the background to keep things like nodelets up to date, or do nightly calculations for things to work either.

Oh, and let's add another load-balanced database server to speed everything up.

Misc.

  • Create a Terms of Service and mission statement (GASP! You mean say out loud what our expectations and goals are for the site?)
  • Allow writeups to be posted under a certain license such as Creative Commons, public domain, all rights reserved (default)
  • Incorporate several of the features from my E2 Explorer and E2 Annex into the site
  • Have a real navigation bar at the top of the page which included such links as Home, Browse, Create, Chat, About Us, etc.
  • Track the edit time(s) on all nodes and who made the edit.
  • In addition to allowing votes and C!s on any node, I would also allow softlinking to any node, and from almost any public node. There would be a softlink table on homenodes and superdocs. To limit insulting softlinks on homenodes, I would allow users to spend their daily votes to remove softlinks they didn't want featured in their profiles.
  • Use avatars (basically an icon-sized homenode image) anywhere a username is featured (on writeups and in the catbox) to help user identities follow them around the site.
  • Allow users to add and remove themselves from (certain) usergroups
  • Make Google the default search with the option to do a title-only search if desired
  • Re-work the underlying HTML so that better stylesheets could be created.
  • Review the HTML tags and HTML attributes allowed in writeups
  • Utilize registries more and get rid of things like EMAR, EIMR, all the Everything People Registries, and Who to send presents to, and when.

And another thing:

"So what's wrong with the front page blurb, anyway?"

Everything2 is a collection of user-submitted writings about, well, pretty much everything. Use the search box or follow the links to explore, or click here to learn how you can contribute.

Why are we saying "well"? It's as if we paused. This is a piece of written text. Why would we insert a verbal pause in there? Are we uncertain about what we're trying to say? Haven't we thought about it? Have we no conviction?

Everything2 is a collection of user-submitted writings about pretty much everything. Use the search box or follow the links to explore, or click here to learn how you can contribute.

"Pretty much". Is Everything2 about everything or isn't it? Are there subject matter restrictions? No, there aren't. So let's stop wasting the reader's time with space-filling words and get to the point.

Everything2 is a collection of user-submitted writings about everything. Use the search box or follow the links to explore, or click here to learn how you can contribute.

"Follow the links". We're telling readers to follow links to explore a website. This is the zarking internet. It's 2010. People know what links are for. They know how to navigate a site.

Everything2 is a collection of user-submitted writings about everything. Use the search box to explore, or click here to learn how you can contribute.

People also know how to use a search box.

Everything2 is a collection of user-submitted writings about everything. Click here to learn how you can contribute.

They also know that a hyperlink is a thing that you click on. Okay, moving on.

Everything2 is a collection of user-submitted writings about everything. Learn how you can contribute.

The fact that this piece of front page blurb, which appears directly below the Everything2 logo, means that it is extremely obvious that the blurb refers to Everything2. We don't need to say that explicitly.

A collection of user-submitted writings about everything. Learn how you can contribute.

In fact, 'everything' doesn't even need to be stated. It's right there in the name of the site.

A collection of user-submitted writings. Learn how you can contribute.

Nearly there. Now, the link "Learn how you can contribute" currently goes to Everything2 Help. Maybe it should go to a more specific page, one which actually tells readers how to contribute, such as How do I submit a writeup of my own?.

A collection of user-submitted writings. Learn how you can contribute.

To be honest, the fact that we have to include a help document in the front page blurb is a damning commentary on the usability of Everything2. In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to do this because the interface would be pretty much self-explanatory. If nothing else, "Learn how you can contribute" is not a description of the site and shouldn't really constitute part of the blurb at all. The blurb is the blurb. The help docs are what people read after the blurb and the rest of the front page have drawn them in and convinced them that they want to contribute.

A collection of user-submitted writings.

Much better. This is finally brief enough to qualify as a subtitle to Everything2 while being 100% accurate. The fact that the writings are user-submitted almost, but not quite, goes without saying. It would also be nice if the fact that E2 is a collection of writings was self-evident from the content of the front page. Finally, while technically accurate, this piece of blurb lacks kick. It's still a little dry and straight. Personally, I've suggested the following:

the world's coolest text

Read. Write.

I like to think that these are brief while being highly informative and accurate and (at least a little) stylish. Others are suggesting equally clever things.

We are writers. We love to create huge paragraphs of text on our favourite subjects. We are also readers-- we are perfectly happy to devour vast quantities of text in our leisure time. But despite half a dozen Brevity Quests we still haven't figured out how to be brief. This is the internet of Fahrenheit 451 and people want to get information quickly. Write to your audience!

Don't worry that too many of "the wrong sort" of people will sign up. Firstly, 99.9% of E2's users are passive unregistered readers (note: this number pulled out of thin air) and you will almost certainly never interact with them. Secondly, we have a vast network of editors and chanops whose sole purpose of existence is to maintain a high level of quality in both writing and chatterboxing. Thirdly, seriously? E2's been dropping in popularity since 2007 and you're worried we'll get too many users? Hell, it would be nice to have the option.

I'm aware of the irony of spending 900 words explaining how and why to be brief

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