It's April and spring is in the air in most parts of the northern hemisphere. It might not make me overly frisky but it does make me talkative. Or maybe that's just because we have a fair amount of stuff this month.

April Fools

This year's April Fool's Day went pretty well, though a portion of users did feel left out because of its short duration. What can I say, I was raised in the tradition that an April Fool is one who tries to be funny past noon and that jokes made later in the day will backfire. I don't think anyone has devised a good way of stretching such an event to accommodate all time zones without it getting old for a lot of people. I think next year we'll go by US/Eastern instead of server time and please a different crowd. The whole affair this year was coordinated by Swap and myself and I will take the blame or credit for the following:

  • Everyone was given a fake identity
  • All node titles were spelled backwards
  • Levels, XP and GP counts were presented in binary
  • There was a 1/25 chance that any message would be turned into pig latin

The intent was to have something amusing but fairly tame because, well, I was not involved in any of the previous AFD tomfoolery and did not intend to have my first one blow up in my face. It was also done on very short notice because we didn't get a whole lot of ideas in the run-up. I think we were fairly successful as I got only one angry message, which questioned (in no uncertain terms) the wisdom of changing the writeup authors to match everyone's fictitious identity. No, Benito Mussolini is not a noder and did probably not write anyone's magnum opus in the database. I think the public had no such impression. Besides, it's over.

All names, save for one exception were dead, most of them long gone, and all of them had as a basic requirement that they do not match any existing user account (which cost us a few good ones). Names were assigned based on node_id modulo 84, which was the length of the list. Most of the list was compiled by me, with some additions by Swap. Needless to say, the short list of names made for many duplicates. Honourable mention goes to WaldemarExkul and anabana for their marvellous duel of Blackbeards. The grand prize is awarded to Aerobe for her ace representation of Ned Kelly. A random prize goes to the randomosity of the process that set up an ex-Mormon as Brigham Young, Noung as Guy Fawkes, and Swap himself as a eunuch. I got landed with a Caribbean dictator. Some people might find that fitting.

I am a nasty euphemism for female genitalia (the final act of the Butterfinger McFlurry saga)

The famous, infamous, or iconic, depending on what your personal take is, writeup in Butterfinger McFlurry was nuke requested by its author. The reason, I understand, is that a few months ago and after a brief consultation with the coding staff, I had its fake "marked for destruction" tag removed. (Psst! I did not delete the writeup or order it deleted, okay?)

The writeup's author and I clearly have a differing view of the purpose of the "fakenuke." As I understand it, he regarded it as a part of the writeup equivalent to content and as such protected from administrative meddling. I saw it as special treatment for a single writeup that required an extra check in the code for every writeup loaded by anyone, anytime. Yeah, I get the irony inherent in the massive C! count, abysmal rep differential, and MFD. I'm not stupid, I "got it" the day it was put there. I'm not saying that the server was hurting under ordinary conditions but part of our mission lately has been to go after superfluous code.

I was on the staff at the time the fakenuke was set up (I could tell you who coded it without having to peek) and remember taking part in the discussion, possibly late in 2001 or early in 2002. It was in some way a nod to the hostility that the writeup generated among a portion of the staff and users, in another way a statement that the administration had no intention of actually deleting it. For all I know that compromise may have been my idea, though the only thing that I can say for sure is that I accepted it whether I thought it up or not. I don't remember, maybe bones does. (Update: Newer information suggests that it may have been karma debt or grundoon, who were not on the staff at the time. Also likely.) It was debated and coded in a day or less. Hardly a well thought-out approach that should never be revisited.

If this is about code, the code belongs to the site, not to any writeup or author, and an assumption of entitlement to special treatment in perpetuity is a bit presumptuous unless your name is Nate. Had I been aware that the author was under the impression that it did belong to him personally and that he was so attached to a seven-year-old inside joke, I could have provided the retrospectively requested courtesy of notification.

What do I think of BFMcF the writeup? You know, it doesn't matter terribly. The truth is that I am rather neutral on it and have been for years and on a personal level really couldn't care less whether it comes, goes, or spins on its head singing Glory Glory Hallelujah. After a certain time on the staff, you get used to some things and learn to deal with memes and inside jokes whether you appreciate them or not. Back then and for the record, I thought the writeup and the hype surrounding it were utterly stupid and would have filled the donation box if they let me nuke it. I got over it. I gather that some people did not.

I think the writeup did not age well after causing a sensation in its time. It became a fixture like the beer sign from your dorm room that you keep in the basement because your college buddies would give you shit about getting old if you took it down. The fakenuke was an inside joke about an inside joke with a reference to a pretty ordinary consumer product that was discontinued years ago. A lot of its mystique and appeal was already gone and a large portion of the userbase has no idea what the big deal is but maybe sees C!ing it as some sort of rite of passage. I suppose with the fakenuke gone, it's not meaningful enough for the author to keep. If a writeup, any writeup, needs its crutch in order to be relevant, why should the staff make a particular effort to preserve it?

At any rate, I don't have a whole lot more to say about it. My efforts to explain it in private must have been both clumsy and offensive seeing that my reward for them was possibly the rudest message I have ever received on E2 with a surprisingly detailed enumeration of my personal failings (in triplicate, to my message inbox and two email addresses lest I not Get The Message). I suppose my position suggests I should come up with some sort of measured, civil response but, eh, fuck it, I am not worthy to reply to that sort of wit. I'm sure there will be some informal talk but the administration as such does not feel strongly about the writeup's removal, has complied with the order to delete it, and would now like to hear no more of Butterfinger McFlurry, and even less from its author.

...but I did not shoot the deputy

Several months ago, I removed the position of editor-in-chief. Since then I have revisited the subject of staff structure, and have decided that it's in the interest of the site that there be a deputy position to mine. This would be a true deputy director, not some parallel post like the EiC used to be, one that can function and be consistent with the presence of someone in the driver's seat rather than have overlapping and conflicting spheres of authority. The intent is to provide continuity, consistency, and avoid awkward transitions and voids of leadership.

With clampe's blessing, grundoon will be my number two. This means that, should I absent myself, she will be Teh Boss, with the trappings, titles, six-digit salary, and cabana boys that come with the office. It means that any issues that you would bring to me can be taken to her and her word will be as final as mine. Grundy and I are followed by (department heads) Oolong and The Debutante in the "line of succession." Not that we expect a nuclear war to take out the Cabinet but it's useful to have an understanding of the hierarchy. While I was at it, the document formerly known as The Power Structure of Everything2 has been renamed to the less intimidating and pretentious E2 staff. Links to the former title will still work.

News from the frontend (server)

The coders, as the root log suggests, have been fairly busy even when not doing April Fool jokes. Much time was devoted to a bit of a security overhaul, though a few features are in the works. The latest is automatic notification when a writeup is edited, though this will be on a trial basis and may or may not be kept. No terribly exciting developments are forecast for the rest of the month.