Note: This was originally posted as Editor Log: March 2007 but I needed that space for another long log, so this got moved to February.
Welcome back to the Editor Logs. I apologize for the gap since the last. I hope to be more consistent over the next while.
Admin team changes
In my last log I noted a number of folks who had stepped out of the admin group due to personal reasons. Since then, others including knifegirl, momomom, and rootbeer277 have also taken time away from e2. New CEs appointed in the last while included spiregrain, Heisenberg, Andrew Aguecheek, and Dimview. During March I hope to round up a few more candidates. As always, I am open to nominations, preferably accompanied by a bio like the one I first suggested back in Editor Log: December 2005. Note that Editors must be active users. I want to see potential CEs contributing regularly (averaging at least one well-received writeup per month), helping others, and generally showing interest in both the site and its users.
The server move and upgrade took place about a month ago, and the difference in site performance has been striking. Three cheers for nate, and also for the several anonymous hardware donors who contributed to our new server setup. (I'd say more, but that's about all I know.)
I do know that it's now possible for me to do more admin work in less time, and still have time to send feedback to users. Hooray! We should also start to see some site improvements as the code-and-test-and-fix cycle has become manageable too. This means that we can review a backlog of user suggestions both large (such as where, when and how we might allow images on E2) and small (such as bestowing some 'fun' level powers).
And so to the heart(wood) of today's log.
Part I: In with the new
In 2007 we've already had a number of dustups over content. Many favourite skeletons tumbled out of the closet: old content versus new, new users versus old, suppression of the brilliant by the mundane, and so on. Do we have a double standard? Should or shouldn't we? Why are we inconsistent in applying our rules, if indeed there are rules at all? Why do we like Noder X but dislike Noder Y? Why do I keep Editor Z on staff, when that editor was rude to your friend's friend? And so on.
I addressed some of these issues in Editor Log: April 2006. I'll refer you there rather than repeat myself. (pause) Last year we dealt with the 'writeups that died before they could live' problem by giving the Content Editors the ability to hide new writeups from the New Writeups nodelet until the author could be contacted. In the main this has worked well, preventing deletions of things that could be improved. 'Inappropriate' deletions went away for some time as a lead issue, though it has crept back lately. I don't think there's a crisis here, just a need to refocus. The admin team has been reminded to use more patience - more carrot and less stick.
The "site celebrities" issue from Editor Log: April 2006 came back in two ways. Firstly there was a suggestion that e2's history should be captured in some way. This was a polarizing idea for the admin team: some strongly favoured it, while others expected it to be an exercise in navel-gazing (or worse) that would marginalize newer users (and admins). We didn't reach agreement, and in the end the admin team agreed not to sponsor a quest for organized history. However individual users who might like to delve into the topic for nodes or Podcast material are of course welcome to do so.
Secondly, still with "site celebrities" and polarization, an old noder returned to us in new guise, and posted some content. One of these posts was mistaken for a 'clueless newbie' post, and as such the writeup was marked for deletion. Significant protest arose, the mark of Cain was removed, and the writeup lives on. This is not an unusual sequence in itself, but in this case, the initial debate included comments of the form "This user is a far better writer than you slobs will ever be, how dare you to judge him?" In short, judging content is the Content Editors job, and they do it pretty well. Sometimes mistakes are made, as here with the which-user confusion. Those mistakes are easily reversed. The 'e2gods', including myself, are the court of appeal, and we try to be reasonable. Remember, it's just bits, and they go to Node Heaven as long as the infrastructure's working, so we can get them back.
Does this "patron saint of writing" as he's been called deserve to be untouchable? No. He deserves to be treated with respect, as indeed all of our users do. Yet he himself should and likely does understand that even the best writers get rejection slips when their content doesn't fit the needs of their intended market. That's bound to happen here from time to time. I expect the Content Editors to be polite and explain their reasons. I expect users to try and take those reasons in good faith, and let me know if either the politeness or the reasons are lacking, in which case I will undertake to fix the problem as best I can. Even a saint should expect no more.
Part II: Out with the old
We had a recent issue with removal of short, old writeups as they were superseded by large new ones. Some users prefer to read a short synopsis at the top of a node to reading a large writeup. Some of the old writeups fit this purpose to a 'T'. Yet if they were the 3rd or 4th writeup in the list, we'd doubtless junk them as 'superseded'. What to do?
In an effort to address this, we created a 'lede' writeup type, which would be that synopsis. I'd like to see lede creation be a level power ... this idea's not fully baked yet, but now that the site's fast enough we'll try to work this out. In the meantime some old content may be converted to 'lede' rather than simply deleted.
We also had an issue with a high reputation, multiply cooled but frankly substandard writeup that was not removed. Here, too, the situation calls for a lede, but in this case the extant writeup fails to meet the minimum standard. I wrote to the author (who has not been active on the site in a while) but received no reply. As such I'll likely make a lede and then remove the old writeup, despite its reputation.
But it again raises the issue of e2's "legacy content". As one user wrote to me:
We're talking about leaving dozens and dozens of terrible examples for new users to find and try to make sense of, and it's presented each and every time of "Oh, we're just making an exception for this one because it's special." It's not special .... If it's crap today, it was crap when it was posted it four years ago.
Fair enough. If there are things we've chosen to keep for reasons that aren't apparent to the user base, we need either a lede or an Editor's Note to explain that. If we can't explain it, then why are we keeping it?
The user noted that there's no trouble finding examples of old bad content, and indeed it's true. At time of writing, THE LOUD NODE as one example is a gold mine of soft links to puzzling old crap that's been venerated for reasons lost to time. In the main, I think that leaving this content lie fallow does no harm. There are many users who appreciate the "eccentric corners of E2" as IWhoSawTheFace once called them. Maybe the concern isn't only that so much that "old crap exists" but that we've lost the sense of fun that would enable "new crap" to get posted. I really don't know how to handle this problem. I struggle with finding the right metaphor for e2. It's at once a 'current' publication taken as a whole and a series of "back issues" by posting date, reflective of different standards and goals at the time.
This takes us back to the "history of e2" idea again. My correspondent suggested "If it's that important, create a museum section where people can read classics that don't make the grade today." That might take coding effort that we'd best spend elsewhere, but maybe someone could put together a "best, worst, and weirdest" of e1/early e2, with all the little gems linked in. We could then annotate the selected writeups to indicate that they were grandfathered and thus not judged under current content rules. (I've always wanted us to do something akin to this monthly, an "e2 the magazine" page with (say) the top twenty writeups. Yet another lofty ambition that needs coding support before it can happen.)
My correspondent suggests "No one respects an administration that affords arbitrary exceptions to the same rules they enforce on everyone else, *especially* in those cases where the exceptions are being afforded to each other." That's fair. We elders probably do unconsciously cut each other slack that we shouldn't, that's human nature. But when users call 'bullshit' on us we need to take it with good grace and do the right thing. Often, the best way to call 'bullshit' is simply to make a better writeup. But if the very concept of the writeup is bad, then a deletion request is in order. The admin staff needs to consider those fully and be prepared to justify keeping things that appear to fall short of our standards.
It should be noted that most admins want to set a good example, and engage in self-pruning of their nodeshare. (Old Noah excluded). I myself still have lots of 1999/2000 content and will happily reward someone who supersedes it with better content—I lost most of my US Civil War content that way, to much better material.
Even though I wasn't editor logging, I did a lot of regular admin stuff: I welcomed new users, I reviewed logs, I answered messages, I read Noah's mail, and I sent out lots of msgs about typos. I even deleted a few things! All the little stuff that all the admins do, that makes the site work. As usual the drama's about 2% of what goes on. The rest enables us to have stuff like this, which is one of the reasons we're here. Please go out and read, write, vote, and enjoy e2.