Yesterday on a whim I logged in to e2. While chatting in the catbox with RedOmega and Zephronias, I ambled along the grounds of this place, poking my head into the empty offices of Noders Emerita such as accipiter and Lometa. It is easy to forget the truly massive scale of our site if one has become accustomed only to the occasional walk by the front gate. But yesterday I followed the empty corridors through the labyrinthine structure of everything2 that stretches down through time, beyond the present and the recent past, back to the oldest rooms. The clutter I found is significant.

In a small office with a south facing window, a beam of sunlight illuminated a bonsai tree. A trail of feline pawprints interrupted the settled dust, themselves filled with a barely lighter patina of time. Another room, this one interior and dark, held a shrouded mirror and a funeral ledger. Everywhere I wandered held signs of bygone activity, piles of lost luggage and dated itineraries, empty bottles and burned-out candles, all the markings of a time now past.

A bulletin board in one hallway still displayed an old calendar. In a kitchenette someone had plastered stickers over the refrigerator. Regardless of which room I quietly glided into, I always found books. Pages and pages of the written word crammed every available space, some in the form of academic texts, others the more personal journals of experienced life.

When I finally emerged back into the open air, a heaviness settled on my heart. This place of forgotten dreams seemed more fragile and more lonely than I had ever noticed before.


In July of 2001, if Site Trajectory 2 is accurate, over 10,000 writeups were submitted to e2. That comes out to over 322 writeups per day.

By comparison, July of 2016 saw only 270 writeups submitted for the entire month. What a difference 15 years can make. In a lifetime,15 years is a considerable amount. In the lifetime of the world wide web, it is relative millenia.

As I'm poking around in E2 Tools and Toys, Tem42 and I start chatting. I mention that I'm at the top of the user list in the Other Users nodelet, and I haven't submitted anything in months. Worse, the list includes some of the site's best writers, like iceowl, and I posit that if those users have ceased posting the situation seems even bleaker.

Tem42, one of the irrepressible admins still carrying e2 forward, points to Jay's site modernization efforts as a positive note. And it is, it really is. But as the saying goes, "This place needs more actual content." And for that, it needs more active users.


Many times the question of attracting new users has come up. We have posted writeups to Facebook, we have posted them to Reddit, and in some cases we have re-posted them on various forums. Occasionally one of us tries a guerrilla marketing approach, paying to have bumper stickers created that find their way onto light poles and street signs, or printing out Everything2 bookmarks and cramming them in random library books or throughout a bookstore. Who can say how effective each of these approaches has been?

Recently I've been thinking about this problem from a different angle. While e2 represents a continuous presence spanning back almost 2 decades, and I would wager is among the top 1% of the oldest still active web communities, it is not alone. I have mentioned elsewhere that I still play an online game that predates even e2. Ultima Online began circa 1998 and, much like everything2, boasted thousands of users and a seemingly unstoppable momentum for several years running. Again, in another similarity with us, its active user base has dropped precipitously. The few who remain are only rarely newly acquired younger users. More often they represent a cohort of people now in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s. And I have realized as I watch this group of friends get older, navigate the challenges of middle-age, and in too many cases, grow sick and die, that I'm less concerned about attracting new people and much more interested in maintaining the interest of current and past users.

E2 has a lot of past users. The majority of them participated here in their teens and twenties, and as they grew up often their writing matured and improved. Sometimes it didn't. But what would that look like now? What stories does someone who hasn't posted here in a decade now carry inside them? How has the story of their life collided or correlated with their past e2 friends, or enemies, or even acquaintances?


Driving home, the spring air rushing in the windows to drown out my current Pearl Jam album, I ask myself , What is the story of e2? If I were to write its history, how would I structure such a thing? Who are the protagonists, and where does the denouement occur? Does it even occur at all? As all of these memories begin churning in my head like the disturbed sediment of a rarely frequented swimming hole, I do the thing that I am genetically coded to do: I begin to see patterns. An outline of a narrative takes shape, the swirling memories hanging suspended in a Rorschach-like pattern only to vanish and be replaced by a different memory in the next moment. riverrun, dem bones, dannye, XP stoicism, letters from Suzanne, e2's personal terror on 9/11, thefez and yossarian, Pseudo_Intellectual, passport ne BBKF, fact noding, ninjagirls, nodermeets, nodegel, klaproth, Ack!, Michigan State University, Lometa, desiderata, bluebell, E2 Secret Santa, How Jenna Jameson Saved Christmas, Jet-Poop and Metro City Chronicles, sexy Canadian noders, the content rescue wars, raising the bar, trigger warnings, jaybonci, RedOmega, asamoth asamoth asamoth, moloch13, Jethro Bodine, Evil Catullus, Catullus 16, cbustapeck, jessicapierce, la petite mort, mixtapes, horrorquests, androjen, cthulhu, iceowl, sadness, November 5, 2005, and I have to stop myself because as I sink into the expanding cloud of detritus I lose the light and know I could go all the way back to riverrun and the sadness would overwhelm me.


So that won't work.

In a testament to the ravages of time on one's mental agility, it takes me a few hours to recognize the answer. I don't need to write a history of e2. I couldn't even if I had to, because what made this place work, what makes it even now interesting, is the matrices of personalities and places and moments of which it is formed. And maybe this is a way to reach out to the departed, at least to those that remain among us. If Jay called each of us right now and asked us to select one thing, just one thing, to be printed as part of a history of everything2, what would each of us choose? What highs and what lows, and what about those dead spaces in-between, the overwhelming majority of human life where there is no immediate victory or defeat, merely the slow, inexorable advance of time?

Think about this. Take your time, but think about it. And when you are ready, share your decision.

This place needs more actual content. Let's begin.

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