As many of you may have read, heard, and discussed, there are a number of changes and new developments in the works for Everything2. I had an opportunity recently to meet with Jack, clampe, and many of the staff in person and online, and discussed these developments for our community and our site. We've made good progress over the past many months addressing the implementation, scalability, legal, and staffing concerns. We believe we can make these things happen over the next few months with our coder staff. The new hardware is on its way, and with our newfound help, these features should be implemented by mid-October, 2007.
Ownership disclosure: So we're all on the same page, Everything2 is fully owned by Blockstackers Intergalactic, which consists of Nathan Oostendorp, Jeff Bates, Kurt DeMaagd, and Rob Malda. Our hosting provider is Michigan State University's College of Communication Arts and Science, which is coordinated by Cliff Lampe. Dann Stayskal directs the day-to-day operations, overall vision, and administrative staff of Everything2. Jack Thompson is the Editor-in-Chief, in charge of the Content Editors, and all editorial decisions.
Copyright of submissions: Our policy isn't changing: users who submit content to the site retain full copyright to that material. We will, however, be branching out our options to make certain open licenses available, such as Creative Commons and Public Domain. These will be configurable when submitting new writeups or editing current ones, and a facility will exist to re-license your writeups en-masse.
Behavioral standards: We're in the process of drafting behavioral standards for users and staff. We're not trying to codify common sense, but we feel we need more than our current two words to relay the behavior we expect of ourselves as users, editors, and administrators. Please send any input on these to me.
Donation box: Because of our generous hosting contract with MSU, we're going to be closing down the donation box. The money given to it has been used to buy new hardware, or more frequently upgrade existing hardware. With our MSU budget for hardware, we need to avoid conflict of interest and stop taking donations. Thank you for the financial support you've given us over the past many years - it helped keep the servers online and ticking.
Staff interaction: We may be allowing noders with symbols to hide them in the Other Users nodelet, and adding a link to a general contact and help page, listing which members of staff are online, and who to contact with various topical, technical, and editorial questions. Likewise, we're also looking at giving the code gods their own usergroup separate from the main pantheon.
Relationships with other sites: We've historically been an isolated site, and we're looking to change that. Many of the new features in the works integrate with social bookmarking, networking, and multimedia sites such as flickr, del.icio.us, Digg, reddit, and Facebook. We're also improving our capabilities for linking to content on other sites.
New servers: We're pulling in some new hardware, care of the MSU College of Communication Arts and Sciences. We all saw a boost in speed and stability with the current crop of servers, which will improve many times over with the next group. Keeping our current farm around as backup support, we're ordering a rack of hardware to allow us to plan, develop, and deploy updates to the site in an orderly and tested fashion, with minimum downtime.
Community2 and "The New E2": Community2 was a testing ground for features we wanted to see on Everything2, as well as a place to explore new ways for noders to contribute to the nodegel. "The New E2" was a group of features we looked at to steer us towards a print journal. Community2 is now offline, and many of its features are in place here, many more on their way. Some features of "The New E2" are still in the works, but with substantial changes. These features are discussed below.
We're changing the way we look at source control and collaboration here. By the end of this month, or as soon as the development hardware is ready to go, we're going to call a code freeze on developments to the production codebase of Everything2. One of the new servers coming in will be used as a developmental mirror to facilitate orderly planning, development, documentation, and testing of the new codebase before deploying the featureset to the production hardware. This server will be open to our coder staff, edev, and to a group of beta testers.
Many of these features have been in the works for years, and are coming to be implemented soon. To be certain, this isn't a list of "what will happen" - it's a discussion of the goals towards which we're working on the back-end. Many of these will come to pass, some will wait until the next development cycle. It will all depend on how much code, documentation, and testing help we get.
Usergroups: We'd like to begin allowing the option of open usergroups, allowing users to join and leave without having to contact an owner. Likewise, those groups which prefer to remain controlled should be able to send invitations for users to join. Finally, noders level six and above should be able to create their own groups.
User control of their own content: Noders will soon be able to remove their own writeups from the database, and move their writeups to new nodeshells. This frees our editorial and administrative staff to concentrate on improving writeups, rather than filling nuke requests and title changes. Nuke and title change requests will still be around, though, for requests on others' work. A new facility should be created for our staff to review changes to writeups, and for users to flag writeup changes as "significant", or to be reviewed.
New themes: We're finishing our XHTML and CSS-driven "Zen" theme, which will allow us to modernize the look and feel of the site. We're planning a contest, with a cash reward for the best new theme for the public face of Everything2. This will also allow us to modernize our printing capabilities, and increase interoperability with mobile users and those who rely on screen readers. Details on that will be posted as soon as the contest rules and XHTML semantic backplane of the site are ready to distribute.
Multimedia writeups: We will finally be allowing multimedia content on Everything2. This will include images, audio, and video, with creation tied to the voting / experience system. Images and video will work somewhat analogously, in that they will be integrated into writeups. The way it will work is this: A superdoc will be available to upload images (hosted locally) or YouTube links. Once the content is received, you'll be given a token such as <e2image id="527387610"> to drop into the texts of your writeups. This will integrate the content where you placed the token without having image and video content as standalone nodes. There will be image and video repositories, though, to find images which others have uploaded which you'd want to include in your own writeups. Audio will be managed slightly differently - it'll be integrated with writeups. When posting a writeup, you'll be able to submit an MP3 with that writeup of supporting audio. This is geared toards being a spoken word rendition of the writeup: an audio nodetype.
- Images will probably be hosted locally, and integrated into writeups. If it turns out to be load or bandwidth-prohibitive, we may source this out to social photography sites such as Flickr or 23hq, but the link-token system will remain the same. Noders level three and above will be able to add new images to the database, and all users will be able to tie existing images into their writeups. Noders will also be able to size and align images using attributes to the token tag, e.g. <e2image id="527387610 " scale="40%" align="center">
- Audio will be available as a part of writeups, to complement the writeup itself, and to allow for podcasting. We anticipate hosting an RSS feed of the most recent writeup recordings to this end. These recordings will also be hosted on our servers, with no current plans on outsourcing. The current plan is to allow noders level two and above to post audio to their writeups. We may also be able to simultaneously support an alternative model for sound clips used to augment audio-related descriptions in a writeup, such as phonetics and music theory.
- Video will likely be integrated from YouTube, in the same manner by which images are integrated. These will be available to be integrated into writeups. Audio and images will take priority in implementation over videos, but chances are we'll get to all three. Noders level seven and above should be able to post videos.
The heart of Everything2 has always been writing and community, and shall always be writing and community. Images, audio, and video are the spice, not the meat. Multimedia content, at least in the beginning, will only be allowed in writeups, with the possible exception of images in comments.
Registries: GTKY content should soon have a home again on Everything2, by means of registries. Taken from Community2, these consist of a question and a series of answers given by users, with the option of displaying the answers on their homenode. The creation of registries will be available begininning with level four. Responses will be votable, but not C!-able, and able to be moderated by our editorial staff in the same manner as writeups. 2 XP will be given for each registry response, with our editorial staff still maintaining oversight.
Writeup tagging and searching: We plan on doing away with the "person", "place", "idea", and "thing" designations, in favor of tagging of writeups. This will also facilitate searching the content by metadata while we keep working on how to implement a full-text search as part of a later release. Users will be able to free-text tag their own writeups, and the writeups of others, and will be given 1 XP for doing so. Our editorial staff will be able to moderate submitted tags, and users will be able to tag their own writeups en-masse, in the same manner as assigning their writeups a license.
Writeup comments: We're implementing a system of threaded discussion on writeups which will enable users to contribute comments on a piece of writing without having to send a message. Comments will also be votable, but not C!-able. These will be moderated by the userbase on the whole, by means of "spam", "abuse", and "correction / corrected" button in the comment header. These buttons will enqueue the comment to a list to be presented to the editorial staff for review. Noders level three and above will be able to leave comments on writeups.
Other writeup features: Once a noder has reached level eight, he or she will be able to create writeups immune to votes and C!s if they so choose. This will be on a writeup-by-writeup basis. We will also begin allowing more than one writeup per user per node, for noders of any level who have as much to say about the city in Texas as the city in France. Writeups should also be able to connect in a series, with "next" and "previous" links in the footer. Finally, writeups will be able to carry their own lede / summary / abstract as a separate text block for quick review through integration into user and site search.
Fully semantic URLs: We're working on updating the URL structure of the site to reflect semantic web conventions. URLs such as http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=650043 , we'll soon be replaced by their semantic equivalents, http://www.everything2.com/users/dann . This allows the site, in combination with RDF metadata, to be shared wth people as easily as with machines.
Frontpage updates: We'd like to completely overhaul the front page, allowing users to see only the information they want, with dynamically controllable and orderable AJAX widgets. The widgets we'd like to implement first are:
- a site calendar for quests and gatherings
- lists of the most recent nodes, C!s, and editor cools
- recent site news
- daylog posts by friends, and
- new messages
- a daily tag cloud.
The frontpage as shown to users not logged in will be vastly simplified, with only news, recent nodes, C!s, a search box, and editor cools.
Social Network: We're adding the facility to link users by XFN relationship types, including friend, colleague, neighbor, and spouse. A full list of these relationship types is available at http://gmpg.org/xfn/11 . This may have an opt-out button for those who'd rather not participate. This data allows us to show users new content contributed by their friends, whether via daylog post aggregation, syndication feeds, or the nightly email.
Polls: Polls will now have the option to be available to level one users, and closed polls will show the results regardless of whether you've voted on it.
Nightly Email: Finally, we'll be bringing back the E2 Nightly Email. This will allow you to follow the nodes of those in your friends list, and optionaly a summary of all new writeups for the day.
There are a number of other site facilities we're looking at streamlining, such as Node Heaven, the Everything FAQ, Message Inbox, and Everything User Search. If you have any suggestions of minor features which can quickly (by your estimate) be added to the code-gel, drop me and message and we'll discuss it.
Coinciding with the above updates, Jack will be running a grassroots international advertising campaign, something in between a flyering effort and a quest. handbills will be made available to participants that they can print and xerox and post on bulletin boards or in coffee houses, record shops, rec rooms, and cafeterias to start. Our target ad-space is anywhere there's foot traffic where potential users could be hanging out or wandering past, the basic idea being to bring us some new talent. Quest participants will be encouraged to daylog their progress and to take pictures of their efforts for XP and C!-type rewards.
"How can I help?"
If you can volunteer some help, we'd love to speak with you:
- If you're wiling to help out as a beta tester for new E2 features, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the list.
- If you have input on the behavioral standards, or any administrative development, contact me.
- If you can help edit or moderate, contact Jack. We're taking applications.
- If you're a graphic designer who'd like to help out with the new theme, watch the frontpage for news on the contest.
Updates, July 29th, 2007
Based on feedback from noders and staff, we've decided to make a few changes to the plan:
- We decided to allow users with symbols to hide them in Other Users, rather than simply turn them off unilaterally. Staff membership will still show up on homenodes, however.
- I removed the bit about getting rid of the "Gods" title. We'll still plan to separate code gods from the the rest of the pantheon, mainly for security and stability concerns.