I put spiked collars on them, slip a piece of raw meat between their neck and the strap, keep 'em up and hungry for a few days, then send 'em in to the pit together. Chances are, they're hungry enough they're not gonna stop when they get to the end of the meat.

Do this twenty, thirty times and you end up distilling the nastiest, most bloodthirsty motherfucking node imaginable.

This part is the real toughie: get the two biggest badasses to breed without killing each other (at least, without killing the female - the stud's job's done when he blows his load), get the female to bring a litter to term and quickly scoop up the node pups before she eats them alive, blind and mewling.

Then, I take over as their teacher, their trainer, the thing they fear more than death because I can always pass 'em back to the bloody howling mess what brought them into this world. When that Mister Borg comes knocking at my door, I'm a-gonna be ready for 'im.

This seems less applicable under the current XP system, but I will keep it for historical interest, and because there's still some value in what it has to say.

There’s a better solution than any of these. It’s what I use, and it improves both the apparent and actual quality of your noding. What is it, you say?

Don’t keep your bad writeups.

I’ve requested more writeup deletions on this account than I care to admit. If a node of mine stays below +5 reputation after it’s shuffled off the New Writeups coil, I take it as a sign that there’s something wrong with it (although this may vary — see the addendum). Because really, if your writeup stays at an unusually low reputation, it probably means one of a couple things:

  • It’s contentless.

    Back before I was Major General Panic, I had another login. I didn’t understand Everything. I saw the nodes written from before the length limitation was lifted, didn’t notice that they all had the same date on them, and assumed that they were OK. In one day, I posted about 3-5 stupid, pointless 2-sentence writeups because I assumed that Everything was a place for short whimsical nonsense in addition to actual content.

    I was wrong.

    If we’re ever going to beat the Wiki-Hivemind, we need to prove wrong what they say about us. That we’re capable of delivering real, researched, dependable content when it counts, and that we can also give the world poetry, humor, recipes, and all of that other stuff — but it has to be useful content too. Don’t hang on to your lame contentless writeups. That’s what Livejournal is for.

  • It’s an opinion piece that adds nothing.

    This is never going to get any upvotes, except from people who agree with you strongly enough that they want to see their opinion get exposure. So they’ll upvote it just to keep it alive. These are dangerous people. Everybody else is going to walk into the node and ask, “Why is this here?” Rants are fine. But researched rants, funny rants, useful rants are the ones that should stay. Loud writeups that do nothing more than let people know where you stand should be on your homenode. Believe you me, if you stick around here, people are going to read your homenode.

  • You haven’t earned your bullshit.

    I’ve written a fair amount of bullshit here. Some of it has stuck, some of it hasn’t. It hurts my heart for a bit when I have to get the really steaming bullshit deleted, but when I visit Node Heaven six months later, I’ll be nothing but embarassed to see the crap that I thought was worthy.

    There are two kinds of bullshit. There’s good bullshit and bad bullshit. Good bullshit might be funny, it might be deep, it might be whimsical. Good bullshit makes people happy when they read it. But then there’s the kind that’s just confusing for confusing’s sake. Take this example. I once wrote a how-to node on making frivolous how-to nodes. It’s a great concept, but making it into something worth reading was beyond me. I suspect, actually, that it’s something that will have a much better life as a concept than as content. So I let it go.

  • There’s something you don’t know.

    I don’t think that this has happened to my writeups, but it does happen to people, albeit not too frequently. Say you’ve written a long factual node, made it look pretty, checked your links, and posted it. And the reputation crashes and burns. What went wrong was — you. You were wrong. Dead wrong. You got your facts backwards, misquoted things that are easily found online, and what’s more, you chose the day that all of Everything’s experts on ancient advanced African underwater basket weaving were online. If your node’s reputation is dropping, and you don’t know why, do a bit more research and see if the answer turns up.

  • It's poorly written.

    Remember: in theory, this is an encyclopedia. People are going to go and read your node and try to learn something, or at least be amused. Nobody likes sifting through poorly-phrased, mispelled, ungrammatical mush that has a comma every three words (or not at all). There’s a lot of leeway in what you can get away with artistically, but writing badly when you’re contributing to something that is in many ways a celebration of writing isn’t art — it’s just unhelpful.

    There are lots and lots and lots and lots of resources for cleaning up and improving your writing. Read a grammar book; ask a friend about writing issues; get a mentor; put it in your scratchpad and let the catbox go wild. Hell, if you want to, you can send it to me, and I’ll proofread and help you correct it. I enjoy doing that sort of stuff, if you can believe it.

    I’ll repeat here one of the most intelligent things I’ve been told recently. It was meant to help with public speaking, but it applies here just as nicely. People don’t enjoy seeing you fail. Think about it. Reading good writing is pleasant, enlightening, and all sorts of other good modifiers. I don’t know about you, but when I read bad writing, I don’t delight in it: I just feel embarassed for the writer. They’re going to catch six kinds of crap, and in some inexplicable little way, I feel responsible. I’m part of the critiquing system, after all.

There are other possible explanations, but I’ll leave them for you to sort out. The point is this: if a writeup of yours has a really low reputation, don’t feel bad about having it nuked, rewriting it, and resubmitting it. You’ll feel better about your writing, your merit will rise, and people will respond better to you.

As for what constitutes a really low reputation: you’ll find it for yourself. The majority of my early writeups went through this revision cycle at some point, as my standards for my writing rose. There was a point where having a writeup be negative made me ask for it to be deleted, then below 5, then below 10. I have only two writeups now below ten (other than individual writeups from my Bowie project — but a 15-node project is a different kettle of reputation fish entirely), and they’re both that low not because of any problem with them, but because the subject matter is exactly the sort of obscure that will prevent people from reading them in the first place. I’ve looked back and seen if I could rewrite them: I couldn’t, or at least, it wouldn’t have added anything. So I let them stay.

What’s the moral of all of this talk? Simply this: writing is an ongoing process. Don’t think of your writeups as being done when they get submitted. You owe it to us — but even more so to yourself! — to go back and reread them, and then rewrite them.

Happy noding!


Addendum: It's occurred to me that (a) +5 is a fine reputation for writeups in the right contexts (my personal standards are a little nutty) and (b) right after a writeup exits New Writeups isn't necessarily the time to start judging. All of these suggestions have to be adapted to fit your noding style. But the fact remains that a writeup that's been sitting at a significantly low reputation for a while could probably use a rewrite.

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