For the sake of history, let me try to document as accurately as I can
exactly what the story is, because Eco's writeup above, should it
survive, doesn't explain anything at all and just adds to the
confusion of future noding generations. I briefly consulted with donfreenut, the original author of Butterfinger McFlurry, who told me that I got much wrong in the story that follows, but felt no inclination to tell me about the nature of the errors. Let me also invite any member of the noding public who's more confident than I of the facts to help me document here exactly what happened.
Butterfinger McFlurry was a very old writeup on this site. It was
older than me. It's almost as old as the transition from e1 to e2,
from 2001, not even two years into e2 history. Admittedly two years is eons in internet time, but e2 is sexagenarian in the same time being close to 11 years old at the time of this noding. In e2's long history, Butterfinger McFlurry represented
something about the inherent contradictions in this website's system.
donfreenut's writeup at April 3, 2007 contains a brief version of
the story. In fact, it's told in that terse figure-me-out style that
was the hallmark of the early e2, full of self-referential jokes and
vague allusions to elements of pop culture that the reader is supposed
to figure out. Of course we still have writeups of that sort nowadays,
but they're the exception rather than the norm that they were back
The standards of quality for writing in e2 have varied over time. In
the beginning, back when it was e1, back when there were only 512
characters per writeup and two writeups per node, there weren't many
standards to speak of. Soon after that, in the very early e2, there
were ridiculous level requirements that were possible to achieve only
through noding many and many inane writeups. Node the phone book, node
the names of the streets in your town, node your breakfast... it
really was "everything" back then, but unfortunately endless
information also means endless nonsense. This kind of noding was known
as Noding for Numbers. We haven't had a case of that in probably at
least 5 years as of this noding, maybe longer. The original writeup by
donfreenut in this node was of that type.
It was a young nodegel, but it was also a young internet overall.
There was no Wikipedia; Google was but an obscure search engine that
looked promising; John Baez was probably the only person with a blog, back when they were still called "weblogs". E2 really was the first site to think of being
something like a repository of all information before anyone else
really tried it, and they really meant "all" back then.
As was inevitable, the signal-to-noise ratio eventually got too low,
and they realised that they really had to curb the nonsense a little
because otherwise it's just not easy to find the good stuff. One of
the first great purges of information was to get rid of the phone book
entries from e2. This is what donfreenut describes in his daylog
linked above. But somehow, changes are always difficult for everyone.
No matter what the change is, someone is going to dislike it, just as
back then at least a few (or all, according to donfreenut) people
thought that multiple chings was a terrible idea. donfreenut himself
didn't entirely like the idea of getting rid of all of his phonebook
entries, amongst which was the original version of Butterfinger
McFlurry, which was just the nutrition facts information that you
could read off the product label ("everything", remember?)
Thus begun the first rebellion.
In this quest to figure out what was worthwhile content, dem bones
came up with one of the very unofficial site policies: you could node
idiocy as long as you first noded some good stuff first. Picasso first create realistic paintings in the classical
style before doing cubism, and so noders should first create
content that can be appreciated by anyone, not just other denizens of
e2. There was also a similar current at about the same time of
raising the bar which meant that the overall quality of writing had
to improve. One of the suggested ways of making good writing was to
make it funny or zany or interesting or just plain weird.
But it's just bloody nutrition facts. How the hell can you make that
interesting or zany enough to warrant its existence?
donfreenut opted for the zany solution. With crux's help, he simply
filled the writeup with the most non-sequitur and weird things he
could think of. "Nasty euphemism for female genitalia", "long live my
dick", "head nigga of the McFlurry crew" and so on. In short, he
defaced his own writeup in the most sophomoric way possible.
That's it. That's the joke. For many years, from 2002 or so when I
joined the site until 2007 when donfreenut posted his
brief explanations, I had no idea what the joke was, and nobody could
explain it to me. When pressed, they said that if they explained it
they would destroy its magic, but now I am almost certain that it was
a case of the emperor's new clothes, and they didn't understand the
joke either. I didn't know that originally it was just the nutrition
facts. I could sort of guess that it was trying to make a statement
about the quality of writing in e2, but exactly what this
statement was, I never could figure out until that very same daylog in
Because changes always provoke unrest and the change of the day was
multiple chings, it seemed reasonable to proceed with the
rabble-rousing against earn your bullshit and raising the bar by
getting his friends to C! the writeup, perhaps to try to undermine
the symbolic value of C! or to make a point about how little new
features in e2 matter or something of the sort. But the ultimate goal
was that: rabble-rousing.
The Flurry lives on
And it was a goal that was marvellously achieved. For at least 5 or 6
years after its creation, Butterfinger McFlurry became a symbol of
e2, of the contradictions of e2's identity crisis, of being forever
torn between sense and nonsense. Many people chung the writeup
for many reasons: being in the bandwagon, making a point about the
silliness of the writeup that should exist in e2, or just for being
silly themselves, or even for a desire to add to the inherent
confusion of what this website is exactly about.
The writeup would come up in discussions frequently for many years. It
would start debates of what the content should be, of how great it was
that e2 changed, or how horrible the same change was. It really was
everything that donfreenut hoped for and more. It made people talk and
argue about content, quality, and standards for years.
Sometimes it also made people laugh.
As part of these contradictions, dem bones and N-Wing with
consultation with donfreenut put special code for the writeup into
the voteit htmlcode which displays the voting information and the
removal status of the writeup for all writeups. As a way to mirror the
unending controversy that Butterfinger McFlurry caused all the time,
it was simultaneously permanently marked for destruction without
actually ever being removed. It would still be voted and showed a
healthy number of both upvotes and downvotes in the hundreds each with
the total reputation never being too far relatively from zero, at one time as low as -100, but usually closer to -60. For a writeup with many hundreds of votes, it was close to being evenly split half in upvotes and half in downvotes.
An alternative version of the events as narrated by Oolong changes a bit the players in this episode. At one time, Butterfinger McFlurry was in fact really marked for destruction by C-Dawg, but dem bones intervened and said that it was up to the author to decide if it should go or not. As a great compromise, someone (who?) suggested that the writeup should have a permanent fake marked for destruction, signalling the forever controversial status of the writeup. N-Wing is undoubtedly the coder who implemented the Mark of Cain on the writeup, for I have seen the code that did it, and it's got N-Wing's signature all over. Coding styles are like fingerprints. A coder can tell what other coder did something.
The Flurry ages and dies
All things come to pass. By the time it was 2008 or so, seven years
after the initial publication of writeup, its controversy status had
almost completely faded away. It was forgotten. E2 had changed a lot
in many ways since then (and in many other ways, it hasn't). The
people who were here ten years ago were gone. New people had come to
replace them. Content has never stopped coming in at varying ratios of
quality/quantity. But the Flurry no longer had the importance it once
had. The people that had most cared about it seemed to be absent or
only very vaguely present around the site.
By this time, late 2008, alex and Oolong decided that it was time to retire the code from voteit that gave Butterfinger McFlurry special status, reasoning that the code was a bit of unnecessary extra overhead, since it had to be called on each and every writeup of the database to check to see if it was the Flurry or not. Furthermore, overall it didn't seem too relevant anymore. The people that had cared about that joke either didn't care anymore or weren't around too much, if ever at all. And for almost four months, the special status of the McFlurry was removed, and nobody even noticed. Perhaps a few passing comments were made about it in the catbox, but that was about it.
Until one day donfreenut himself noticed that it was gone. He
considered the nuked status implemented in the code to part of the
writeup itself and took great offense to it being removed without
being notified or consulted about it. He requested the Flurry to be
removed along with almost all of the content that he had ever
contributed to e2 (about 140 writeups). This revived a bit the
controversies that McFlurry has always created with the usual old-e2
vs new-e2 and the good ol' days with the brave new internet in which
e2 seems so small and insignificant.
Words were exchanged but tensions couldn't be soothed nor could
donfreenut be swayed to anything other than indignation over how he
had been treated in the site. A writer leaves the site and takes his
Butterfinger McFlurry with him, and a piece of e2 history and culture
Butterfinger McFlurry, March 12, 2001 — April 8,
Long live your dick, Butterfinger McFlurry. Long live.