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What should I node?
A lot of this FAQ is about how to node: the technicalities of E2, style and quality guidelines, and suchlike. A more fundamental question, though, is what to node. This is equally important for a newbie, hesitating before her first writeup, and for an experienced user, searching for worthwhile directions to expand the database.
The declared scope of Everything is, well, everything. There is little or nothing that you may not node, unless you have violated someone else's copyright (or otherwise endangered Everything's legal position). What follows is a collection of maxims which might point you in a healthy direction when you want to node, but are stumped for ideas. They also make good categories to think about your noding; think which one most closely matches what you're currently noding, and plan your research, style, and emphasis accordingly. To make things harder, the following suggestions try their best to contradict each other; this is not a Zen thing, but a reflection of different noding styles. Pick whichever you prefer, or alternate!
Node what you know
This is perhaps the most basic noding style. Everything is an accumulation of knowledge, first and foremost. And the way that knowledge gets there is people like you node it. It's how we got where we are, and it's how we'll go much further. And unlike the rest of the web, Everything is a rated accumulation of knowledge, so truly knowledgeable nodes and noders are preferred, assuring us all of higher quality information. The more you know about a topic, the better your writeup will be: you'll have all the facts and explanations right, and your links will integrate the node right where it belongs in the nodegel. If you know something, share that knowledge!
What are you an expert on? In case you're asking yourself "what could I possibly know?", here are some ideas.
- Academic knowledge. If you've just studied something at
school or university, you already probably know more about it
than most Everythingians!
- Node some interesting class or lecture notes. If you have time and inclination, node the whole course (in separate chapters and concepts, of course). If you don't, node whatever's topmost in your mind.
- Just node an amazing fact from class. If it's something you told your friends and family about, it's worth retelling on Everything.
- Node your homework: If you've got proofs, essays, papers, notes for the exam, theses, they're all things you've written, and things you know.
- Any true original academic work is highly welcome! E2 is obviously not an academic journal, but any research you can publish or summarise here will truly expand the available knowledge, while preserving all your rights to it.
- Professional knowledge. Ever had to explain something at work to a co-worker? (Or just had it explained to you?) Well, that's something you know which is worth noding. Whether you're a steel-welder, a programmer, an advertising executive, or a grocer, there's bound to be plenty of know-how and knowledge, terms and terminology, facts and factoids, which you pick up on the job (or in preparation for the job). Node them.
- Hobbies and pastimes. Look around you. No, really, turn
away from the monitor and look around. See anything worth
noding? Whatever you spend your time on can probably prompt a whole list
of worthwhile nodes. These are just some random samples.
- The album on the coffee table, the one you've been listening to all day. Is it noded? Perhaps the liner notes could be assimilated into E2? Are you a fan (expert) of the band/singer/composer? Your insights, reviews, and -- yes -- opinions, are important to the Evrything database. You know it, so node it already.
- Tickets from yesterday's night at the opera? Or movie? Or concert? OK, so perhaps you're not the world's leading expert on last night's show (how many millions watched that movie in the first two weeks?), but it's still something you know about. You can write a review, or a summary. If you know your stuff, you can write about the director, or the actors, or perhaps about genres, lighting, costumes...
- That book you're reading, or the one you've already read, and is doubling as a writing pad and coaster: What's it about? What's it like? What did you learn, feel, or think when you read it? Can you write a literary review? A quick blurb/comment? A summary (but always warn before spoilers)? Do you know about the book, the author? Those all make for great writeups.
- Do you keep a journal? Or have you been meaning to start one? You are probably the topic you're the greatest expert on. What you do, feel, and think, is something you know best. The Everything Day Logs are ideal for keeping (and publishing) your journal.
- Play any games (board games, RPGs, computer games, card games...)? Share what you know and like with other gamers, or introduce us to new and different games.
- Last night's dishes still piled up by the sink? What did you cook? Everythingians love recipes, and the cookery index is always hungry for more!
- Trivia. There must be any number of things you know because you "just picked them up". You may have run into them surfing the web, reading the papers, looking for something else in the encyclopedia, or as a side effect of specialising in your own professional niche. Or any other way, really. As long as you're not just passing on a myth, rumour, or hoax, this is something (small) you know, and it plugs another tiny gap in the nodegel. Noding simple factual definitions you happen to have well-phrased in your head is an example of less astounding, but possibly more generally useful, trivia noding.
Node what you don't know
If you don't know the exact definition of a word, or you realise you know less than you'd like to about a certain subject, and the Everything search box is no help at all, look it up, and then node it. Use E2 to motivate yourself to do a little research into some of those topics you've always been a little fuzzy on, or which you've just encountered. Chances are, your writeups will enlighten quite a few others, when they try the search box... and find your node. Whatever it is you don't know, there are millions of others out there who know even less about it. (And isn't that a comforting thought?) This does not mean you should create question nodes, or nodes telling us what you don't know; these will contain little or no worthwhile information, and any replies belong in a separate node anyway. Instead, use the things you come up with as pointers to important omissions in Everything, and start correcting them. Don't worry if you can't write a complete analysis or definition: if you lay some solid groundwork, other noders will help (eventually).
How do you know what you don't know? Or, rather, how do you notice these things so you can node them?
- Make a note when you run into a phrase or word you know, but can't give a proper definition of.
- Try to fill in missing content. If an interesting writeup has broken links, or links to an interesting-looking nodeshell, perhaps with a little research you can node something relevant. And it's already linked and integrated!
- Just recall whatever you've been meaning to study, read up on, or ask someone. If your previous curiosity or incentive weren't enough, maybe E2 can provide the necessary extra push.
- Node what you google. E2 is not yet the best place to search for anything (although it is for many particular somethings). If you can't find something on Everything, or if you're about to node it or mention it in your writeup, chances are you'll google for it (or use some other search engine, if you're some kind of freaky misfit individualist). Eventually, we'll want Everything to be the place to search for pure info (this is in contrast to things like a company's contact-page, or people's photologs, or any other of a million webpage types which don't belong on E2). And the chances are, as unique as you might be, that millions of others will want to know about the exact same subject you just typed into the Google box. So if you node whatever it is you're searching for, you're helping E2 contain information which people are trying to get.
But if you don't know, how can you node? By doing your research!
- Search the web. Sure, in many areas E2 beats www for quality, but for sheer quantity and expanse, searching the entire Internet can't be beat. Use a good search engine. Increasingly, this means "use Google", for almost all purposes. Yahoo and other directories might be useful for certain limited cases. Take time to learn to use these searches properly, or you will quickly be inundated by rubbish, or just duplicate information. Sometimes, adding one or two less obvious words to your search can cut down an amazing amount of unwanted results. For some types of subject matter, it helps to have one or several more specific, authoritative web sites to rely on. Do not cut and paste. Just don't, unless you are very specifically permitted to, and there is some important added value in reproducing what you found verbatim. Collate what you find, create something new, and integrate it as best you can into the Everything database.
- Find a book. That's right. While the web is full of short, snappy, popular info-snippets, a lot of the more reliable, in-depth information made available today is still published primarily in hardcopy (exclusively). If you're going to node something complicated, or obscure, or a whole list of related nodes on some topic, and you don't know enough about the subject matter, it's a good idea to have a reliable book to learn (and quote from).
- Ask someone who knows. If you know someone who really knows, and you're both willing to spend the time to do this, this is one of the best ways.
- Cite your sources. Well, you should do that anyway, to acknowledge their help to you. But more importantly (from the point of view of potential readers), any references you include will let others start off on their own voyage of discovery.
Node what everyone likes -- be a populist
Some topics are very popular on Everything. Since E2 is written by everyone, rated by everyone, for everyone, it's a good idea to node what everyone likes. This does not mean "cheap popularity", nor should it encourage you to node (exclusively) for XP. Also, avoid GTKY nodes like the plague! However, if there's a real, substantial topic, which will interest a large body of Everythingians, by all means get noding. If you're noding something very technical or specialised, perhaps you can things simple enough for the layman to understand and enjoy?
Here are some ways to decide what interests (a large proportion of) everyone:
- Anything related to many nodes on Everything, or frequently linked to, but actually a nodeshell or one-liner.
- Zeitgeist. If it's what everyone's talking about, on E2, or at
work, or elsewhere on the web, or on the TV, it's a fair bet this is
interesting (to many of us). Google Zeitgeist and Google News
will let you know what people all over the
worldnet are searching for, although the topics there may suffer from 15 minutes of fame syndrome.
- Anything very common on the web. Frankly, I think E2 could do without the web's leading content, but that still leaves many topics beloved of many many netizens.
- Whatever you know is interesting. Let's face it: you probably know what people like. If many of your friends and family find something interesting, there's a high chance many noders will, too.
Node what you like -- be an elitist
Noding what other people like only goes so far. To really get into noding, try noding what you like best. Forget what other people like. If you're writing about your own pet subject, you probably either know, or can easily research, all the relevant details, and your opinions are bound to be interesting. Plus, you'll have fun writing. It's not always best to ignore the ignorant, but sometimes you'll find it just the thing to do.
You don't have to twist everything around so it's simple enough for everyone to follow, or so it ties in to things everyone is sure to relate to. If you dig advanced mathematics, or you're a jazz expert, and you want to node something truly stupendous (to your mind) don't dumb it down. Node it in all its glory. Other experts (or wannabes) will acknowledge your effort (perhaps not right away, but eventually), and you will have helped transform E2 into a truly in-depth reference. And don't worry: even a few non-cognoscenti will acknowledge (and upvote) your writeup, for style, for obviously important (even if complicated) content, even for the sheer elitism of it all.
Node what people will read
You obviously can't predict exactly who or how many of the E2 community will want to read your node, but always try to keep this important criterion in mind. Don't node anything so narrow in outlook, only you could care. Don't node something which can never be properly integrated (linked) into the database, and which is unlikely to be searched for (or how will anyone ever get to it?). If you're writing for yourself -- keep it in the sock drawer. If you're noding it on E2, you probably want others to read your stuff.
Of particular importance is the relevance of what you node, not just to today's noders (who, admittedly, will see it first on ENN and give it the first dozen or so votes either way), but to tomorrow's noders, too. Everything is recording knowledge and information, and these things should be preserved for posterity. If what you node today will be boring junk next week, or next year, then that's also the limit of your gain (and everyone's). But if it's still being read (and, yes, elaborated on) ten, twenty, or fifty years from now, you've made your own tiny mark on the body of knowledge that is Everything. Besides, taking the long view will often humble you just enough to put in that extra bit of effort researching, editing, or formulating a concise opinion. So node for the ages.
This does not mean you cannot node current events or fads. Au contraire, in a few years they'll all be history, and your insider's insigts might be all the more worthwhile. But only if you took care to explain what might be obvious to you today, but will eventually be the subject of much debate and research...
No, hang on there is no "contrariwise" to that. Just node what people will read.
haggai submitted this
This writeup is, among other things, an assimilation of two honoured and much-linked nodes: Node what you know and Node what you don't know, two good rules for noding coined (and elucidated) by dem bones. Also, to a lesser extent, some material was influenced by Node for the ages, and my own call to Node what you google (which had a mixed reception, probably because of the well-intentioned aversion to noding about noding). On the whole though, I've tried to convey some noding ideals which seem to be (or which should be) prevalent on E2. They are guidelines, not rules.