Several users I admire have called for increased staff transparency (including asking me in private messages to post an exhaustive editor log). For my part, I have no problem with this, and as such I have for you a tediously long answer to the question: What the hell do you do here?
Forgive me ahead of time for being long-winded, but I think anyone interested in these things deserves an exhaustive answer. I became a Content Editor on June 1st, 2008 — so this is essentially disclosure of what I have done in the past three months. I should point out that I am only one editor (the least experienced among us, in fact) and that my activities do not necessarily reflect the activities of others. Some of us are more or less active than others, and many e2gods and Content Editors seem to settle into roles best suited to their own personalities.
Point is, don't take this as anything more than it is: a simple explanation of my activities here for the last three months.
Interactions with New Users:
Most of my time is spent attempting to help new users. I am a part of e2contact, so this is by design. (See TheDeadGuy's writeup above for specifics). Since June, I have welcomed 168 new users, most of them within minutes of their first login. This, in fact, was what I have been instructed to do, and my instructions have not yet changed, though they have been slightly expanded from time to time. In an effort to put a more human, less-confusing face on things, I simply drop new users a line that says something along the lines of: "Hey there, welcome to E2. Let me know if I can answer any questions or help out with anything." Then I explain how to respond to messages. That's it. No linking to FAQs (unless they ask for them), no long-winded introductions. There's time for all of that later if they take to conversation, but this place can be overwhelming enough for someone who just logs in without inundating them with even more to study. If you've signed up in the last three months, there's a pretty decent chance I've talked to you. Furthermore, I'm not the only person doing this. Several other e2gods and Content Editors go out of their way to do the same thing (though they may not have been asked explicitly to do so), which means that, in truth, nearly all new users get a greeting from someone who is qualified to help them figure things out, should that need be there.
Now, how does this work out? In regards to contact messages, new users fall into a few categories:
- Those that disappear. Many of them, of course, do not respond, and often check out never to log in again. This is only natural; plenty of people sign up for an account just for the hell of it, scope things out from the non-guest side for a few minutes, and then move on. In fact, it seems that the majority of new accounts are logged into only once, and then only for a few minutes.
- Those that have bizarre requests. A few recent ones: one that wanted to trade cornbread recipes, one that wanted help "signing up for The Sims", one that wanted someone to translate something for a tattoo he wanted, and one that wanted advice on getting started with anorexia.1
- Those that stick around. In most cases, if a brand spanking new user ends up submitting writeups, I'll usually get a response back to my welcome message, even if it's just "thanks for the welcome". This is a great thing. It's not unusual for a question to come up two weeks later, and hey, they've still got my username in their inbox, so they've got someone to get in touch with. Any user can do that, of course, but one of the advantages of helping out as a Content Editor is that, for instance, instead of just telling someone how a pipelink works and encouraging them to try it out, I can actually add it to the writeup for them, so they can see what it looks like right there in their writeup. For some users, this approach is more helpful.
If a new user speaks to an editor, a mentor, or the chatterbox at large before posting their first writeup, experience suggests that the chances of their first writeup surviving increase dramatically. If they accept our suggestions to post a draft to a Scratch Pad first and invite people to offer advice, those odds increase to nearly 100%. I suspect that most of us appreciate the effort, don't we? My observation is that the voting tends to be kinder, gentler, and overall more encouraging and supportive when someone has asked good questions in the chatterbox.
1 Of course, this one wasn't so funny and was taken quite seriously. This is not that rare, actually. Google turns up a result like How to become a better anorexic, the reader confuses E2 for a website devoted to promoting anorexia, and bam: we've got a new user who here's for all the wrong reasons. This is part of the reason that e2contact was created, as I understand it. Since we are not equipped to safely help such people, the user in question was directed towards health organizations specializing in such matters.
Typo Corrections, Etc:
Like plenty of other users, I read a lot. I read almost everything that comes through New Writeups and then some, if I get into The Zone. Of course, as we all do, I come across typos, blatant grammar mistakes, and HTML missteps. This is simple stuff. If the user is long fled, I typically just make the correction myself. If the user is active, I send them a heads-up message. People often don't like their writeups messed with unnecessarily, including myself. If you tell me (or any other editor) that you'd rather us just fix typos for you, chances are we'll do just that. But until I've been told otherwise, I will not touch a writeup on the basis of fixing a misspelled word.
This is the smallest part of my job, but unfortunately it is also the most visible. I have no way of going back and reviewing my own history in full, but I typically make notes of anything sent to Node Heaven that's more than just spam or something. I have no interest in posting the specific nodes and reasons for their removal in the old-school (rather harsh, in my opinion) fashion, but in the interests of transparency I'll give you a basic rundown of what my nukes have looked like:
- I axed approximately 8 writeups that confused E2 for a messageboard. These were generally unlinked 1-line responses to old nodes. Sometimes these were all-caps and pointlessly inflammatory, but generally they were well-meaning. One was in response to a recipe and said: "INSTEAD OF BUTTERMILK I LIKE TO PUT LEMON JUICE IN REGULAR MILK." One was a question for the fled noder that had penned the first writeup in the node. Two were flames. One guy created a node under his name and simply said hello. The others were things like, "I loved this movie as a kid!" or "WTF, this game sucks."
- I axed one "factual" writeup that was completely crippled with incorrect information and conspiracy theories. This writeup suggested, for instance, that taking anti-depressants or smoking marijuana can cause one's friends and relatives to spontaneously develop Crohn's Disease "through mind/body connection". Said writeup also suggests that this is the primary reason for school shootings.
- I axed one poem at -9 rep.
- I axed one writeup that was first hidden; details are in the next section.
There may be more that I forgot to make a note of, but I honestly doubt it. I don't remember any more than this, nor have I made notes of any more. I should also point out that each of these nukes was accompanied by a message stating that if they had any questions, then they should feel free to ask them, among other things. I invited the authors of the one-liners to expand their thoughts into full-length linked writeups as well. Invariably, these people do not log on again. They have come to post their comment to this strange forum called Everything2 and now that they've tossed in their two cents, they're out the door. Still, one day, who knows who might end up sticking around.
Actual content contributed that has problems is initially hidden rather than nuked. When I say "problems" I mean this in the most obvious of cases, typically writeups that are accumulating downvotes at an incredible rate. Why some of us jump at the chance to downvote a user's first attempt to a rep of -10 within 30 minutes (and softlink it to Witnessing the birth of new noders, How do I submit a writeup of my own?, and Try cock) when we all know it's not going to be left unlinked and unformatted on New Writeups is beyond me. It is not helpful. I think we've probably all seen writeups like this. The specific reasons for my hidings and the outcomes will be listed as before:
- 1 first-time writeup hidden for lack of any HTML. riverrun helped the user, and the writeup was unhidden. It survived the initial slew of downvotes. User has now submitted more writeups, all of which have been successful.
- 1 first-time writeup hidden for lack of links and screwy HTML issues. It was a piece of fiction that, in truth, I suspect would have been heavily downvoted either way. The user has not logged in since posting the writeup; it was left hidden for weeks before I finally axed it. Should they return, I will talk to them about re-posting a corrected version, but I doubt that will happen.
- 2 writeups hidden (same author) that contained truly bizarre and problematic HTML copy/pasted from some WYSIWYG editor or another. This in and of itself would have been only a small problem (since we can fix HTML for them if need be), but the writeups were also posted to the wrong node titles. User was glad to have help cleaning them up, and an e2god fixed the names. Writeups were unhidden and currently sit with positive reps.
- 1 writeup hidden that violated Fair Use rules for posting lyrics. This was an honest mistake by an older user who quickly brought it up to par. Writeup was unhidden.
The distinction with hiding seems to be between actual content and a lack thereof — users who post something worthwhile that have it hidden generally care enough to make the necessary changes and have it unhidden pretty easily, while users who toss up a weak two-sentence writeup generally do nothing about it, and eventually the writeup is removed.
In defiance of common sense, I have come to care about this site and its users. I'm happy to give back to the community and have no problems discussing with you whatever it is that might be rubbing you the wrong way. Always feel free to ask questions. If this ship goes down one day, part of me likes to think that I'll be one of the ones still here.