I know it's a bit late in the month but better late than not at all. Besides, I'm hoping to devote most of next month's log to feature improvements and such, so I'd like to share a few things that have been on my mind this month in the present space. I'd also like to make a habit out of coming up with one of these newsy-rambling sort of logs each month for y'all's edification, entertainment, or just to confirm your worst fears, whichever those might be.
First, I have to commend Dreamvirus and the takers and champions of THE IRON NODER CHALLENGE. The challenge prompted many of its participants to devote a lot of time and push themselves far beyond their usual noding limits. While the event was trying to make an impact on output, I don't think we compromised on quality since the idea was to post what we usually post, just more. The end result was a total writeup count for the month that the site has not seen in over four years. On a personal level, I failed miserably at the challenge itself but I posted more writeups in a month than I have since Jan 2003 and enjoyed writing them. I think the Challenge could become an annual event.
On deletions and "thresholds"
I want to put to rest the theories and speculations that suggest that there is some sort of magic reputation number at which a writeup is "fair game" for nukage. There is no such thing.
The past here is a bit different. There was a magic "-5" convention that many staffers used as a convenient reason for deleting stuff that was not going to survive anyway. I'm not innocent of it. Not many of us are. Such a cut-off was never formalised but we often used it with borderline stuff that we loosely tagged as junk but would be hard pressed to otherwise rationalise. But this is not 2002. This is a firm policy statement: We do not use reputation as the sole reason for deleting an item. Editors are expected to be able to understand and explain why something is at minus whatever. Given the experience of our current staff I don't expect that to be a problem. I'll take the almost total absence of challenges to editorial decisions in my inbox as good evidence for that being the case.
So where does that leave user-generated reputation? Is it another number bestowed by an anonymous stranger? Is the individual editor's opinion more qualified than that of the voting public? Yes and no, and both, and all and none of the above. Writeups are examined on a case by case basis. We don't actually go around looking for stuff to kill. We used to, oh hell yeah. Nowadays we're usually doing the same thing that everyone else is: reading stuff, voting on it, and sending comments to the authors. The difference is that, in addition to that, we're also supposed to be especially vigilant about technical issues like formatting and content faux pas, redundancy, title snafus, and all that.
This is even more pronounced with new writeups. Like everyone else so the staff, too, tends to read new writeups with a critical eye. We see the same flaws and virtues that everyone else sees. The staff is charged with weeding out that which for whatever reason is not viable as E2 content. Usually these writeups are successfully identified by the voting public and earn a number of downvotes that reassure (but do not exclusively guide) a staffer in his or her decision. Sometimes they're not. Recently I was asked for a second opinion about a writeup whose rep had reached the mid-20s yet, in one staff member's specialist opinion, was bunk. To which my answer is that bunk is bunk. I trust that it was handled fairly and reasonably by both parties.
A frequent complaint in the past was that it takes only one staffer to kill something. As the staff exercises much more restraint than in the past, I now consider that to be a design issue that has successfully been worked around with judicious application of policy. The whole thing works the opposite way, too. A single staff member has the power to prevent something from being deleted. Writeup insurance has been around since October 2001. It permits a staff member to mark a writeup as "insured." This is a declaration of taboo. For as long as a writeup is insured and the insurer is on the staff, the insurer must consent to the writeup's deletion. Insurance is most often used when a staffer is working with someone on fixing a newly posted writeup. Insurance is not visible to non-staff, and people are not encouraged to ask for stuff to be insured.
How does this work in the context of deleting or not deleting stuff? Here are a few examples of how I apply it: (1) There is an old, reputable writeup on a topic so controversial that at regular intervals someone asks for it to be deleted. Insurance makes sure that it remains because I deem it to be valid content whether I approve of its message or not. (2) There is a writeup that I think is brilliant but started sinking like a stone the moment it was posted. Last time I checked on it its rep was still profoundly negative but it had gained seven C!s during its reprieve. It stays. (3) A writeup of average merit reviews the writer's experience with a certain institution. Someone associated with that institution finds it inaccurate and offensive. It stays because it's an opinion and identifies itself as such. Bottom line is that we can and do exercise our power over life and death for "good" as well as for "evil."
Bitch, moan, whine
I had to say this twice in a day so it should probably go on the public record. Since I make little use of the catbox myself, I am not overly troubled or annoyed by the complaining that goes on in it. I'll just point out that complaining in the public forum reaches many ears and gets a lot of attention but doesn't produce much in terms of results. Unless your point is simply to vent, catbox bitching will at best get you half the way for twice the effort.
You cannot expect me to be hovering over the catbox looking for issues to resolve, or that your comments will somehow ascend to the heavens and waft around my divine auricles, where they will promptly and lovingly be attended to by my choirs of noderim. Some folks may think that the site can solve conflicts and progress by means of trickle-up complaints but I do not believe in government by osmosis. The catbox does not run E2 and does not make policy. My staff and I do. If you wish to contribute to or initiate a discussion about something that vexes you and that you think should be given administrative attention, please address me or any other staff member directly.
Say hello to...
...Wuukiee, who returned to E2 earlier this year and then allowed herself to be corralled into the editorial fold again. Her primary role will be with e2contact but she has plenty of experience on the job so feel free to hand her the hot potatoes.
...GhettoAardvark and Ancientsnow, who will be providing extra coverage specifically for the catbox in a quasi-staff role similar to IRC channel ops. We've had longer spells than usual with no admins on-line so I'm pleased to have two more pairs of hands that can handle little emergencies like spewers, spammers, and plain old gross stupidity.
And that's it for this month (and eventful calendar year). This writeup brought to you by the letter qoph and the number aleph-null. It is also testing Oolong's new HTML-busting toy. NOT A SINGLE <P> TAG! Brilliant.