In my most recent ed log I said that was going to return in January and devote more of this space to technical developments and feature improvements. These were not meant to be last month, though. We're not really behind schedule since we don't have a firm development schedule but we have accomplished less in that department than I was hoping for as, it seems, most us caught the no-time bug in January. Such is life. So you get to hear me prattle about noding philosophy again. Aren't you lucky?
I also figure it might make more sense to post near the beginning of the month in order to make this corner with the soap box more readily accessible rather than have it buried in the Logs of Yesteryear within a few days.
On noding about noding
Over the last year or so we've seen more contributions in the noding about noding genre than we did before. I'm all for introspection and self-examination. I think that they are useful and necessary on a site that has had questions about its identity since its conception. Let's remember, too, that introspection easily degenerates into depressed navel-gazing or esoteric rambling (like what I do in these logs). So what should you do if you get the itchies for noding about noding?
Noding about noding is not just introspection. It is a form of expression as much as any other. The better contributions will live and provide a record of what trends and paradigms existed at a point in time. Some are accurate and helpful to the point where they are integrated into the documentation. Others are valuable as reflections on the Meaning of Noding. I won't go much into the subgenres of noding about noding but I want it to be clear that, as a matter of policy, I do not intend to discourage noding about noding.
This being a peculiar type of contribution, I will ask that those who would node about noding it set their sights a bit higher than they would for ordinary writeups. Reflections upon your own presence here should probably be put in the daylogs. Debates on contentious topics ought to limit themselves to one well-written point and one well-written counterpoint. Noding about noding should be for the ages at least as much as any other content.
More on the Meaning of Noding
Every one of us is a writer. Despite the diversity of styles and quality, by posting our writing here--or indeed anywhere on-line-- we are making a statement that we mean to share it with the world. Perhaps some of the professional writers who hang around here would be best qualified to ask the questions that follow but it shall fall to me.
E2 has, as I have surely said elsewhere, always had a sort of insular character to it. This manifests itself most strongly, I think, in the lack of direct linking to the outside world. This state of affairs is under review and may change before the ink dries on this log. E2's peculiar character and its almost continuous presence over close to ten years make it one of the most long-lived niche cultures of the web. Concerns have been voiced over the last few years that it is becoming an inbred culture that revolves around a whole lot of mutual backpatting. This will probably be a topic for discussion again in the future. But more to the related point...
There recently was a brief discussion in the staff groups about the importance of one's work gaining upvotes. There was no consensus but it did set in motion a train of thought that once again meandered between London and Vladivostok for a month and some impressions of which I shall share.
Upvotes or any other votes come only from those members of the audience who sign in and vote. We may consider each other peers in this sense and think that we are writing for our peers. What does the approval of these peers mean to us, and how does it contrast to the many and anonymous visitors who might appreciate our writing even more?
Who are we writing for? What is, as individuals, our audience? If our motivation for writing is communicating something to people, who are these people? If we are looking at a general audience, why do we expose ourselves to the oddities, politics, and personal involvement of this site? This is something that each of us has to answer separately. I'll just encourage our members to ponder it and see if answering it honestly can make a difference to the way in which we express ourselves.
I'll answer this only for myself. My audience is the world. My intent, successful or not, is to create writing that's worth reading. The rewards are really not much if I look at it in terms of chings and upvotes. I'm a quarter of the way through translating a book of ethnic folklore that does not exist in the public domain in English. If we apply the Project Gutenberg method, the work that I am publishing for free on E2 is potentially worth tens of thousands of real dollars to its readership. Not that I don't appreciate the love but ten upvotes and a ching don't quite measure up that.
One of my works in progress is an encyclopaedic treatment of a beverage. The writeup's success will not be measured in votes and C!s. I get the same number of those for stuff that takes me ten minutes to write. I do 30 hours of writing and research for the love of the subject. The satisfaction has to be in doing it. I am competing for an audience with a 300-page book dedicated to the same subject. I cannot beat the book's volume. The book cannot beat my price. I intend to condense the substance of what I think should be in such a book into a single writeup. This is not in order to deprive the book authors of their deserved income (I have not read their book) but because I believe that it can be done and that I can do it right. It belongs on E2 because no other place is half as happy to host the mishmash of fact, opinion, and narrative that my treatment of the subject entails, and no other site will even try to critically appraise and hold my writing to a standard at the same time.
I haven't always been strictly an amateur writer. I respond to extrinsic motivators in the form of pay cheques as well as the next guy with a keyboard. But much of the writing that I see here gives me the impression that the motivation involved is strongly intrinsic. There is a lot of beautiful writing here, and only here, and being shared with, among many others, me. This encourages me to continue. When the number of new faces and new writeups declines, I am disappointed as a writer even more than I am as a site admin.
Perhaps I love this sort of exchange because I'm an old-timer who still subscribes to the ideal of the internet's gift culture and the more the merrier. I don't know. I just want y'all to think about it and see what answers you come up with for yourselves. Who knows, I may have answered some of your own questions right here.
Say hello to...
...Tem42, who has rejoined the staff after a long time off. I hear he's mighty handy with a feather duster so he will be doing the sort of general tidying up that we've been slacking on lately. We've also given him Gorgonzola's old French Maid outfit.
See how much substance you can cram into 300 words and sign up for the BrevityQuest. This writeup is not an entry. It could probably be condensed into 300 words but that takes more time that I have right now.