Three point eight years ago I was visiting one of my dearest friends, the local deity some of you know as Lucy-S. She told me about a website I might like, one full of people who liked to write. I probably don't need to mention the place. I logged on and started reading.

II you're new here, the best place to start is by reading. I have broken bread with a fair number of writers, including a few of the famous variety. They all read. Every last one of them has a book in their hand much of the time they aren't staring at the screen of their word processor. Connie Willis once told me that she found the research far more enjoyable than the novel that would follow. Sit down among a group of writers and you"ll soon be talking about books, and not just in the area they happen to write in. Writers are born as readers who then decide to form their own voice.

So be like Nancy Kress and Gene Wolfe. Start out by reading.

That's what I did. I found a node title that interested me and read it. Read another and another. I started clicking on some of the phrases at the bottom of the page. Soon I was following a string of links, which on e2 can take from the ridiculous to the sublime. Finally I stumbled on a nodeshell entitled air to air combat. A three or four line writeup sat there, written by someone with only a marginal knowledge of the topic. I decided that I could do better, and so sat down to write. That first writeup is still here. The brief one I sought to outdo is long gone.

I think perhaps that before anyone starts to write here though ought to have it in their mind that they can do better than what's there already. Writing is at its heart an act of egotism: you have an idea you think others will appreciate and so you put it out there. However humble you may seem in person, you have to believe in your words to expose them. Which implies that writers shouldn't put anything out there they aren't prepared to stand behind.

Which leads us to the issue of formatting. When I first started Opus One, I had been a user for two point something hours. I hadn't read the FAQs, and more importantly I had no idea what html tags are. Many new users come from bulletin boards or blog sites where the only formatting you have to do is hit the return key. I expect that most expect the composition window in E2 is just like all the others. Given the way most of the net works it's a wonder that any first writeups come properly formatted.

Mine wasn't. But my first editor was patient. He or she read the text and recognized thought. I was messaged about paragraph breaks and I think I replied that I put them in but didn't understand why I couldn't see them my editor understood. Paragraph commands and a sample link were installed with the command to "do it like this". The light bulb went off.

Formatting is a pain in the ass. But it offers writers a measure of control they would never have in a more user friendly format. Experienced users format automatically, and experienced users are used to seeing formatted work. New writeups without links often drew a slew of quick downvotes. Among the administration many feel that unformatted writeups need a quick axing because they'll draw immediate downvotes which may prove even more discouraging than a message from the Grim One.

If it's their first time, be gentle. You don't have to be a admin to note how long this writer has been a user. Editors are instructed to cut new users some extra slack. But any user can pitch in. If a new writeup appears that lacks links or paragraph breaks try reading it. If the work is a troll or the ranting of a lunatic by all means downvote. But If the writer has something to say try messaging them. You don't have to vote right now. Keep that vote in your pocket until they fix what they need to fix. Then vote. After all, you only get one vote per writeup, and you don't get to take them back once cast. Make new users earn your vote.

If we're slow to downvote and quick to message we'll do a better job of keeping new users, and developing them into polished writers. Growing writers is part of what we do here at e2. Imagine what a newbie will do when they fix those typos and add links and suddenly the upvotes arrive. That is the very essence of positive reinforcement.

We do good work here. We grow writers. We express ourselves. We provide data and laughs. And we are read. The New York Times recently cited a daylog by kaytay in a recent article, and mentioned E2 by name. The Times put our names around the world. We show up in Google searches. People read us, and not just other noders. You don't have to be an admin to make this place better. You just have to pitch in.

On Node Titles

Recently a noder suggested to me that we add something to the Everything FAQ explaining why node titles which begin with "How to ..." are deprecated. This issue is mentioned in passing in the FAQ, "Pick titles carefully", but not given much attention. I put it up for discussion among the editors, and it became apparent to me that there was no consensus allowing me to write a clear FAQ.

The general idea is that a verb form, such as "fooing a bar", is preferred over "How to Foo a Bar". Sometimes, however, "How to ..." is acceptable. ("HOWTO" is never acceptable because it is reserved for code documentation, and because it makes you sound like a total geek). If, though, you ask me how to determine when "How to ..." is acceptable, I have no easy answer. A preference for brevity and elegance explains why "Making tea" is better than "Making a decent cup of tea" or better than "How to make a decent cup of tea", but this explanation only takes us so far. We don't insist that everything go under "tea":

Oolong says A decent cup of tea could easily warrant a writeup or two about the cultural and psychological importance of a decent cup of tea. Most nodes housing instructions, I agree, are better without the 'how to'; but there are exceptions.

Gorgonzola says So why doesn't it all go under "tea"? You can always put "How to make a decent cup of tea" at the top of a writeup in large letters.

Oolong says Well, why *should* it all go under tea? Should we also move history of tea and grading tea, maybe also Things to Put in Tea and tea ceremony in there as well?

anthropod says I'm with Oolong on this one. The relentless drive to consolidate strikes me as unnecessary.

Nonetheless, we object to "how to" node titles, and other wordy constructions, because they limit what writeups might appear under that node. A scrambled eggs node could include a "how to", a vignette involving eggs, a band named "The Scrambled Eggs", and more. A shorter, less wordy node title is conceptually a more general title: it can contain a wider variety of writeups. The juxtaposition of this variety makes Everything2 greater than the sum of its parts. Keep in mind: The node title is not the title of your writeup. A node can contain many writeups, and the best node titles are those which allow for additional writeups.

Coming from me, this is "do as I say, not as I do" advice. User Search will reveal I am fond of excessively long node titles. For example, the writeup under The Civil War Monument in Santa Fe which used to refer to "savages" probably should be –and maybe by the time you read this will be– noded under the title of savage. (In fact, I'm pretty sure when I originally posted this as a wet-behind-the-ears noder, I probably posted it as The Civil War Monument in Santa Fe that Used to Refer to "Savages", and dannye stripped out the unnecessary capitals. I had a very hard time in the beginning getting used to the idea that a "node title" wasn't like the title of an article, which would normally be capitalized.) A node title like savages has a lot of possibilities. The Civil War Monument ... etc. does not. I can argue all day that my title is exactly what my writeup is about, but it's going to remain a rather lonely writeup, if I keep that title.

Shorter titles are more likely to be found by searches and more likely to be linked in someone else's writeup. (Just try searching for a node title that begins with "How to...". Go on, try it. I leave this as an exercise for the reader). You can easily include a link to tea in the structure of a sentence, but it's much harder to smoothly incorporate "How to make a decent cup of tea", and nearly impossible to incorporate something as specific as "The Civil War monument ...etc." without a pipelink. In the end, though, node titles are an art, not an exact science. Sometimes, a long interesting title is better. This is especially true when posting factual nodes about obscure stuff. Among my own writeups, my favorite example is United States v. Lucite Ball Containing Lunar Material. I could have put it under "in rem" or "forfeiture". That's what the writeup is about. But would anyone read it? Forfeiture law is a part of my law practice, but the Lucite Ball case is not one of the leading precedents, and I doubt I would have read it if it didn't have such an absurd title.

Until someone presents me with a FAQ which strikes a delicate balance among all these competing considerations (and probably more considerations I'm not thinking of now) let this Editor Log suffice.

It seems to be a rite of passage for a new editor to write an entry into the fabled Editor Log as soon as he gets his buttons, so I shall do what all of you have done. I'll tell you a little bit about my background and then finish with a list of intentions I have for Everything2.

I have a master's degree in electrical engineering. I was the oldest student in the history of the electrical engineering department to begin an ScD at the George Washington University. Classes weren't much of a problem, but holding full time jobs in the go-go era of the dot com boom years of the 1990s was, so I never did finish that. Would have loved to have gotten a doctorate to teach somewhere part time.

I am a science geek. Always have been. There is an austere beauty to mathematics and physics that had me in its grip since high school days. This love for science is not a casual thing. I have read textbooks on mathematics and physics just for fun since college days, and continue to do so. I love the texture of equations, of proofs, of beautiful unifying themes that appear like giant bridges connecting widely disparate branches of science.

I have seen science's progress. In the 1970s the powerful theory of quarks dominated the thinking and funding of high energy physics research. Later, the wave of string theories and superstrings made their beachhead. In the 1990s it was chaos theory, the theory of complex dynamic systems, and how order grows out of chaos. This very key theory will have a huge influence in the theories of biology, where the 'genesis' questions remain huge mysteries: how did amino acids self assemble into primitive collections of proteins and acids? This property of emergent behaviors of complex systems is just the thing that evolutionary biology needs to answer the intelligent design critics.

It is a glorious time to be alive. We're finally pushing back the darkness and finding out how life really did emerge here on earth. Cosmologists are, at the same time, making huge inroads into understanding how the universe itself came into being. These are puzzles being solved on the cosmic scale, and it is thrilling to watch scientists unleashed.

I have always been a huge fan of the economy of words and symbols that marks the works of the very best scientists. They can reveal things in just a phrase. Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac, de Broglie, Abraham Pais, Chandrasekhar in the realms of physics. Countless more in the field of mathematics. They are pithy, laconic. They reveal truths like Zen koans, and we are enlightened.

Somewhere along the line, I've come to appreciate economy as a defining part of the aesthetic of science. Somewhat surprisingly (to me), there is a similar sort of economy in the field of literature.

My education in the sciences was so all consuming that little time was left to study the great works of literature. In the mid 1980s I began reading Michael Dirda's columns in the Book Reviews section of the Sunday Washington Post Books magazine. He took me through worlds of literature that had gone untouched: Homer, Plato, Euclid, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Euripides, Thucydides, Julius Caesar, Plutarch, St. Augustine, the venerable Bede, Dante, Shakespeare, John Milton, Marlowe, Shelley, Keats, Nietsche, Mill, Spinoza, Locke, Kant, Voltaire, T.S. Eliot, on and on. Dirda's words were like wings. They took me flying over foreign landscapes I could only imagine, but had never read. I realized I would have to further my education in order to become acquainted with literature, and so I did, and began reading.

This required a structure. Fortunately, the Great Books colleges of St. John's in Annapolis, MD and Arizona, and the University of Chicago, had defined a basic canon. This looked like a list Michael Dirda would approve of. The promise was that the reading of these books would provide literary background a well-educated man ought to have if he is to understand the grand thoughts of the western world. I began reading. The books were boring. There was no feedback, no class, no instructors.

I brought this up with some colleagues at work at a company called Stanford Telecommunications, at the time one of the most enlightened engineering companies in the country. The founder, James Spilker, had been a professor at Stanford University and had helped create the basic signal structure of all GPS satellites used today. Our technical staff was heavily laden with PhDs and masters' level engineers. A very cerebral bunch, but quirky. They were all multiply talented. My colleague and officemate took his PhD from the University of Virginia in the area of neural networks. He was also a stage combat master and a bit player in summer stock Shakespeare plays the university sponsored yearly.

We decided to form a Great Books reading group to go through the list in a systematic way. A decade later, and we're still going strong. We've read close to sixty books on the list. I've finally read Milton's magnificent Paradise Lost. We've read French, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Latin American works. I think that - finally - I can call myself human. I am close to having hit the mark I set for myself so many years ago, of having acquainted myself with some of the greatest literary works humans have ever written.

The art of literature is not so different, at a bird's-eye level, from the art of mathematics or physics. The economy of words is there. Anyone who's read Borges recognizes the brilliance of his all too brief description of the infinite Library, and anyone who's read Mishima or Hesse knows their tremendous economy of words to describe great ideas. It is the same. Mathematicians have a name for likenesses between disparate disciplines in mathematics: isomorphisms. Using the language of mathematics, then, there are isomorphisms between great literature and great mathematics. You won't recognize them right away, not until you've read widely in both disciplines. But they're there.

Up to now, I've been describing knowledge as a static thing, a dead thing, something other people have done. I went into engineering precisely NOT to do that. I wanted to create things: circuits, radios, systems, small things and big things. I wanted to use science to make things, and I did. And I was yearning to do the same thing with writing.

My first exposure to Everything2 is recorded in a daylog. Here was a site which did not study writing - it created writing! It was like a laboratory for writers. I was acquainted with engineering laboratories, having worked in R&D labs for over a decade, and was familiar with the incubation and creation process of new product development in electrical engineering. I had assumed that writers were solitary creatures, however, so Everything2 came as a bit of a surprise. It seemed to make sense, though, that writers would have a communal playground where they could chat and discuss learned writerly stuff, just like we did in the engineering field.

And so it was. A glance in the catbox of the time revealed that this was a highly literate, playful, and intelligent collection of writers. They came from all walks of life: college students (even high school students!), professional writers, film and stage professionals, housewives and househusbands, scientists, goof-offs, rich kids, poor kids, the whole waterfront of life, right here.

I loved the articles here. I even liked the linking to existing articles. There was a tangible sense of creation, of experimentation with words, with literary forms, that was so very appealing. This was the culmination of my studies in literature. I'd read enough -- well, that's not true, one can never read enough -- that I thought I'd give writing a go.

As you all know, I am an enthusiastic but not a skillful writer. My writing is workmanlike and mechanical. I don't have the flow or the dazzling technique that many of you have. However, I do have a spirit of encouragement and appreciation for good literature that many of you need. I am your biggest fan. I don't know how to make good pieces better, but I can tell you, "That's great! Keep going! Write more!" It may be a naive appreciation for your work, but the hope is that cheerful words will sustain you in your writing hobby. Other content editors are adept at the fine tuning of pieces. I am not. You know this.

I hope that I can provide this place a bit of social lubrication. There are many strong personalities here. Some are strong because they were born with strong personalities. I don't really care about them. I care about the strong personalities that come from being very talented writers, who care strongly and passionately about how this site is going to be sustained and evolve. You love this place, and you are not indifferent to policies that make this place run. You are the person I care about. I care that the collection of the very best and strongest writers will always work together to make this place be as wide open and caring as it can possibly be, to encourage new writers, to be attractive to writers who are not yet here, and to turn away people who are detrimental to the elusive goals of E2.

I have seen organizations rise and fall. There are many ways to fail. Success is a succession of the avoidance of many ways of failing, that's all. We can fail many ways here: we can allow one person or group of people to dominate too strongly. The opposite is also a failure: when no one leads, and we collapse due to apathy and indifference. We can fail by too-harsh criticism. We can fail by not permitting criticism. We can fail by listening to our own voices too much, and not listening - truly listening - what the other person is saying. We can fail because we are unwilling, as an organization, to adapt and change. We can fail by changing too much, too abruptly.

dem bones's true genius was that he was able to navigate this ship between the Scylla and the Charybdis of extremes. He was a skillful pilot who navigated E2 through tricky waters. He was both a masterful writer as well as a good tactician. Sometimes he acted as Pericles, and sometimes he wrote like Euripedes. I was amazed at how he was able to bring both about simultaneously.

Well, here we are, five years later, on the verge of a new epoch. I'll try to do my part to keep things going. I'll try to praise and encourage new users. I'll try to keep destructive users and philosophies out. I'll press for very high quality of writing.

And also have fun. Now let's see. What happens if I press this button here?

In keeping with what I hope becomes a habit of mine, here starts the wordnerd nukelog. Keeping myself accountable, and all that. Remember, if you find yourself in disagreement with any decisions I've made, please feel free to contact me regarding them, even if you're not the author, but know the writeup in question. I'm an open guy. I swear.

On a more personal note, I'd like to welcome IWhoSawTheFace to the ranks of editors here. I'm sure a good fit has been made.

Well, it’s all nice and cool (for the moment) here in dear old central Illinois. Summer, with its heat and miserable humidity, seems to have departed at last and the harvest season is upon us again. While I’m certainly enjoying the wind and rain, I find myself remembering the recent hurricanes, and how the weather can turn destructive and flat out nasty.

Wiccans know the Autumnal Equinox as a time of changes, and this year’s has been no exception here at E2. Dem Bones, having guided E2 so well for so long, has retired; Dann has returned to us and ably stepped into the top spot; we’ve welcomed Lord Brawl as our Editor-in-Chief and IwhoSawTheFace as our newest editor; and, last but certainly not least, panamaus has taken up the mantle of godhood again. I have a great deal of confidence in these folks and their ability to do right by E2.

I’m predicting a long spell of good weather for us.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s been a busy month here at this editing department as well:

Sent gently into that good night:

  • Staines station by mgriffithsuk – outdated slightly GTKY writeup, full of typos, by fled noder.
  • Five Weeks Before the Mast – at noder’s request.
  • Playboy Mommy, Wally, and campus preacher – at noder’s request.
  • Bach Cello Suites by violaman – not a writeup, but a book search advert.

Assistance graciously rendered:

From the auditing department:

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