Note: Although I have editorial privs on this site, the following is purely my opinion and not 'official site policy' or even anything I've run past anyone else.
To whomever gave this 'assignment' to defenseless uni students, a few comments.
This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Well, okay, I live in the United States and survived the Bush administration, so no, not the most ridiculous, but still. Let's see, you're trying to be a lazy shit by offloading grading work onto the collective judgement of a bunch of anonymous people on the Internet? Great thinking, Sherlock. Furthermore, it's incredibly insulting to us as a community. We (we would like to think) have some basic standards required for content and writing that is submitted to Everything2. We act to discourage the submission of materials that don't make the grade, or at the very least to encourage the revision and reworking of said materials until they pass muster. What we don't do is operate according to a predictable or even concisely explainable indicator of 'quality.' We're more like an eccentric magazine - you can submit to us, but what we'll think of your work may be random, and may not be to your liking.
So you've just told your students that in order to get decent grades, they have to please not a professor or TA with whom they can clearly discuss grading standards, but a weird headless death cult of writer apostles somewhere in the Wired. That's sure to make them happy with you.
From our point of view, why would you do this? We're always happy to get new users. We're very, very happy to see students encouraged to log on, poke around, and join our community. What will be a net loss for everyone, however, is if those students are held to an unrealistic standard for their interactions here, causing them to become frustrated and bitter - and if those students are told they must submit content into our sometimes-brutal mill, causing them to become frustrated and bitter with us. Look, not everyone is a writer. People lurk here happily for years. Others become valued members of the community through the site's interactive features alone. Some of our best writers lurked for years before starting to node. But you're telling them they have to jump into the deep end, with time pressure, and submit themselves up to the cauldron - and win, in essence, to pass your course. You're sending us new users - and we love that - but you're doing it in a way guaranteed to provide at least half of them (according to the user above) will end up bitter and angry about it, and possibly blaming our community. Listen, making people bitter and angry is something we already know how to do; we don't need you stacking the game.
Finally, did you even bother researching what you were asking them to do? As the poor student above me notes, Cools are not precisely normal indicators of quality. They are intended to be reserved for postings that the userbase considers to be of exceptional quality, even for E2. In order to encourage that, we make them a scarce resource for users; even the highest-level users here get no more than two cools per day to spend, total. It would be bad enough if you asked them to achieve a particular writeup reputation, but to demand Cools? That's so stupid I don't even know what else to say.
Students: You might get some 'pity' Cools. That's because despite the general appearance to the contrary, there are lots of generally nice people on E2, of which I am not one. You might also get genuine Cools, indicating that users here really do like your work and consider it worthy of special notice. The problem is that you won't be able to tell the difference without asking, which reduces our site's 'special spotlight' to nothing more than a game mechanic. This will tend to piss off the more bitter and angry users (like me). Don't take this personally. It's not your fault. This writeup is intended to assure you that while you may run into bitter and angry users here, some of us are coming up with this vitriol for whoever assigned this - and may simply be undisciplined enough to pour some on you for being handy.
I will ask the following, in a heartfelt tone. When you think of E2, try to separate the fairly irrelevant game that you've been set to play from the actual mechanics of the site. Lurk if you'd prefer. Read, always; read as much as you can. Ask for help - there are places to go and people to ask, even if that might not work within your grading timeframe.
But don't judge our website by how we react to the task to which you've been set. We think people should contribute content because they want to, not because they've been told to.
To whoever had this wonderful idea: Treat E2 as a source of data; treat it as a sample community, treat it as an experiment. All those are perfectly sensible uses for the website. But please, don't treat us as a clockwork maze you can set your students to in order to 'measure performance.' That's unfair to them, unfair to us, and just plain lazy.
I want to assume that you were just enthusiastic about getting an actual web community or publication into your course, and I also want you to know that despite my rant here I am flattered that E2 was the one chosen. I also want you to know that I submit rants like this to long-time site members (who I like) all the time; in this case, though, because I don't know your identity I am forced to use this venue.
I should also consider the possibility that the above was, in reality, just an expert trolling. If so, then bravo! Well done.