Composed for your edutainment in the time honored dialogue format.
Certified 100% free of frozen dessert information.
(Updated February 20, 2003)

Q: What's the deal with Butterfinger McFlurry? Why does it have so many C!s?

A: That could take quite some while to explain...

Q: Can't you give me the short version?

A: As you wish. Briefly, donfreenut's Butterfinger McFlurry writeup (BMcF, for short) became a symbolic battlefield between some of the old guard from E1, and some newer noders with differing visions of what raising the bar should mean. Many people seemed to feel their votes or C!s on BMcF would show their support for their particular vision of what E2 ought to be.

Q: Thanks. That wasn't so difficult, was it?

A: You're welcome.

Q: Hey, wait a minute! That answer doesn't tell me much at all. What are you trying to hide?

A: If you want to know more, I can try to explain more.

Q: Hmph. That's better. First, what's that writeup supposed to mean? I can see it's some kind of joke, but I don't get it. Can you explain the joke to me?

A: I'm sorry, friend. I'm afraid I can't do that. It is impossible to explain humor without destroying it. Butterfinger McFlurry is not mine to destroy.

Some readers sincerely find it to be very funny. As with many other forms of humor, you either get it, or you don't.

Q: Why bother to write this if you can't answer all of my questions?

A: Because FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions, not Frequently Answered Questions. Let's move on to your other questions. I will answer all I can.

Q: Fine. What do you mean with this crap about "a symbolic battlefield?"

A: Now that you mention it, crap played a key role in creating the conflict.

Q: You're just messing with me now, aren't you? Don't make me angry...

A: I'm quite serious. Humor is subjective. Almost every attempt to write humor meets some readers who think it's crap, even when many others are enjoying a good laugh. The same risk is shared by poetry, fiction, and all other writing in which the author seeks to express more than verifiable facts.

Deciding how to evaluate such writing has always been one of the toughest challenges for the editors and E2gods here. In the early stages of devising editorial standards, dem bones coined the phrase "Earn Your Bullshit" and posted a writeup to explain what it meant.

This was a great improvement, after everyone had struggled to make decisions with no guidelines, but it was not a perfect solution. Over time, different people arrived at different ideas about what it really meant. Eventually, it caused more confusion than communica--

Q: What did "earn your bullshit" really mean?

A: That's not so important now. What matters is the conflict arising from--

Q: No, seriously. What did it mean?

A: As you wish, but all I can tell you is my own interpretation.

It seems to me that dem bones never wanted to defend the kind of writing everyone (or at least, most sane people) can recognize as worthless. Such material can be found in other places. There is no need to encourage it on E2. As I see it, his goal was exactly the opposite: to emphasize the value of solid factual material, which everyone (or at least, almost all reasonable people) can agree is useful.

At the same time, he was seeking criteria to evaluate writing that is not strictly factual. E2 does not aspire to assemble a vast collection of dry, dull facts, phrased only in language acceptable to committees. That job is already taken. E2 has room for well-written fiction, well-written poetry, and even humorous writing whose only real purpose is to entertain.

Art is more risky than factual writing, especially on E2, where some have a strong bias against anything non-factual. That risk can never be eliminated, but it can be reduced. Readers might be more inclined to give your creative endeavors close and sympathetic attention if you first demonstrate your ability and willingness to contribute solid, clear, and accurate factual writeups.

To my mind, that was always the main message of "earn your bullshit."

Q: Yeah, but what does any of this have to do with all those C!s on Butterfinger McFlurry?

A: I'll get to that soon.

The word choice of "bullshit" may have been unfortunate. Many overlooked the core emphasis on factual writing and high quality creative material. Instead, a different interpretation now dominates the subject, especially among newer users, although a good number of established users and authority figures also seem to share it.

In this view, "earn your bullshit" is seen as nothing more than an expression of privileges granted to veteran users and denied to new users. Supposedly, veteran users can "earn" the privilege to post "fun" or "useless" writeups such as obscure inside jokes. New users must post a number of "boring" factual writeups before they can "earn" the same privilege.

Of course, this interpretation has a number of problems. For example, it overlooks the subtleties mentioned before, such as the goal (frequently stated elsewhere in the E2 FAQ) of making factual writeups that are interesting, or even entertaining to read.

Unfortunately, few paused to examine the merits of the interpretation. Perhaps this is because it fits in so well with the daunting challenges new users face in learning how to succeed on E2, and the painful experiences of having one's first few writeups downvoted, deleted, or both.

Making all this even more complicated, the people who shared this interpretation vehemently disagreed on whether it was a good idea. Many veteran users understandably felt they had worked hard helping to make E2 what it is today, and had earned the right to have a little fun with it. Many new users, equally understandably, felt this was an unfair double standard. Why should they be forced to write all the "boring factual nodes" just because they arrived a little later?

Q: Speaking of boredom, are you trying to bore me to tears?

A: I told you this could take quite some time.

Q: But when are you going to say something about Butterfinger McFlurry? Remember? That writeup with more C!s than I can count on all my fingers and toes?

A: Oh, yes, thank you for reminding me. There is another part of the background information I almost forgot to include--

Q: Can't you just skip that and answer the question I asked in the first place?

A: Don't worry, we're almost there.

Butterfinger McFlurry entered the picture while all of these issues were still gradually coming to a boil. Donfreenut's writeup remained somewhat obscure after it was first posted. It catapulted into infamy only after the E2 administration changed the system to allow multiple C!s on the same writeup. (This occurred on July 30, 2001.)

The change in BMcF's notoriety started slowly, so it's difficult to pin down exactly when it happened. It occurred at some point after donfreenut made some improvements to the writeup, including better formatting with assistance from Crux. Presumably, this was an effort to apply the standards expressed in raising the bar to his own work.

To my knowledge, there was no organized effort to promote it. Gradually, many veteran users who felt they had fulfilled the requirement to "earn your bullshit" seemed to draw an unconscious link between their hopes for E2's future and the fortunes of a humorous writeup about a McDonald's food-like product.

In their minds, this one writeup came to symbolize E2 as a community that values fun along with facts. Many feel E2 is in constant danger of losing the qualities that make it enjoyable, that it may be drifting closer to the dull, dry encyclopedism they have always wanted to avoid. Giving their C!s to this writeup became one way of showing they did not want that to happen.

Q: You really think that explains all those C!s?

A: No, not all of them, but it seems this sentiment was the core that "got the ball rolling," so to speak.

After it started to accumulate C!s, Butterfinger McFlurry became the subject of frequent, heated arguments in the Chatterbox. Most people seem to either love it or hate it, with very few in between. Some highly vocal users hate it so fiercely they want to see it terminated with extreme prejudice, and are never shy about saying so in public. Others are equally fierce in defending its existence.

The two sides could not reach any mutual understanding or compromise. At the height of the controversy, opponents accused the E2 administration of favoritism for refusing to delete the writeup. Defenders threatened various reprisals if the writeup is ever deleted. Both sides accused each other of stupidity for failing to agree with the "obviously right" position. After many months of this, only exhaustion made the controversy fade, and it can still flare up in the Chatterbox from time to time.

As with any other political issue, people have a wide variety of reasons for taking a stand. Any number of different motivations for C!s on Butterfinger McFlurry could exist. Here are a few possible examples:

  • "I get the joke. It's funny! Laugh!"
  • "I don't think it's funny, but if you do, enjoy."
  • "Don't delete humor for being politically incorrect."
  • "I'm showing support for donfreenut for having the courage to post this."
  • "I want to annoy the humorless drones who downvoted it."
  • "It's fun to watch people get angry about this."
  • "With so many C!s it must be cool. I want to be cool too."
  • "I admire the E2gods for having the courage to keep this."
  • "E2 would lose its charm if it got rid of all its silliness."
  • "Don't you have more important things to worry about?"

This is only a partial list, and of course, any one person may have multiple reasons.

Q: Maybe you've convinced yourself, but how do you explain why so many people downvoted it, with so many different reasons to C! it?

A: Only some of the users see Butterfinger McFlurry in this way. Most of them have never taken the time to articulate it to themselves, much less explain it or defend it to those who disagree. To many newer users, BMcF symbolizes several problems they perceive in E2.

Some suspect it is too easy for the veteran users to relax their discipline and stop caring about quality in their writing. Among other things, they fear this could worsen what has been called the Everything credibility problem.

Some also perceive a tendency for E2 to degenerate into a vast collection of obscure inside jokes, heavily interlaced with juvenile sexual references and other things most of us would probably find difficult to explain to our bosses, to our mothers, or to our grandchildren.

Many who don't "get" the humor of BMcF feel it should be deleted so new users will not attempt to emulate it. Even some who do "get it" share this view, partly because attempts to emulate it have invariably been painful experiences for both authors and readers.

At one point, some even paid real money for the chance to see it get deleted, although that effort ended up falling short of the requirements the administration had set for it.

Q: So that's it? That's all you can tell me?

A: Yes, at least at the present time. Please let me know if you think of any questions I haven't covered. Of course I can't promise answers for them, but I'm always willing to try.