I've been watching conversations about the value of factual nodes and what constitutes bullshit, and thinking... We all know we should node for the ages, but what exactly does that mean? What does E2 have to offer future generations that nobody else has?

Last year I read some of the original letters of James Watt and other luminaries of the Industrial Revolution. They are fantastically useful historical resources not just because they contain lots of factual detail about early industrial technology (although they do that), but because these people wrote down everything : weather reports, comments on the state of their health or the roads in Cornwall, dinner menus, fashion tips, malicious gossip, rumour, business plans, complaints about their workers, experimental results, expense accounts, jokes, birthday greetings, patent drafts, operating instructions, declarations of love and friendship. Taken all together the papers offer far more than facts: they're a rich glimpse into other lives and other times. Some of it made me smile, some of it was shocking, some of it was stupid, some of it filled me with wonder, some of it made me want to travel through time and kiss people (Have you ever fancied another noder just by reading their home node?). I came away with an idea, just a hint, of what it was like to be those people, living where and when they did; that was worth more than a thousand encyclopedias.

So, while factual nodes are A Good Thing, I see little point in noding something I could look up just as quickly via Google or which already exists in durable, accessible form elsewhere. A writeup, on the other hand, which takes a disparate collection of facts and refracts them through the lens of one individual's experience into a form calculated to be valuable to the denizens of this space -- that's valuable, as much for what it says about the noder and E2 as for its overt content.

The inclusion of personal detail and comment reveals not just what things are, but what they mean. This can only be good. I love knowing what it was like for sockpuppet to experience the World Trade Center Bombing, or how dannye heard Moon River as a kid or even, forgive me, what stories people tell about trains. I love watching the explosive results of injudicious use of the words "liberal" and "conservative". I love it when people lose their cool. This place may be a mess, but it's a glorious mess.

Maybe the day logs will turn out to be the most important thing here, or future anthropologists will find treasure in our trash -- who knows? (This is not to say we shouldn't edit, but that we should applaud the editors for taking the extra trouble to log their interventions.) We have no way of knowing what future generations will want to know of us, and so it's right and proper that we node, well, everything. We can afford a little untidiness.

donfreenut, I'm not arguing against factual nodes; I'm just saying I think it's particularly lekker when they're vivid and a little bit personal. Maybe we can't do it all the time, but it's a nice goal to have.

If we're not noding facts, why are we here?

Certainly not to duplicate the laudable efforts of the likes of the Gutenberg Project or Mark Harden's Artchive.

I node whole novels onto E2, but I don't do it so that they're on the net - they're already on many different places on the net. I node them here because I want to use the power of the community as a lever to get people to read books I like.

Pretty much any collection of people, on or off line, is a community - some are more tight-knit, some are less so. I'd say that E2 is somewhere in the middle that way (compared to another online community I know, which boasts the dubious distinction of having given rise to 4 weddings and a funeral in 1999 alone...).

I don't think any of us here node for the pure disinterested pleasure of spouting information to the masses. We node things we care about, and because we are part of a community, people who care about us might be moved to care about them in turn. We exert peer influence on each other, culturally speaking.

To say that one should node more facts in order to attract more users who will then node more facts to attract more users is recursive and vague - what is the ultimate purpouse of this hoarding of information? Well researched factual nodes which reflect the noder's own beliefs and opinions are priceless, but not for that part of them which can be looked up in any half decent library - for that part of them which encapsulates an age's point of view, a generation's concerns, a society's values.

Even the purest science doesn't concern itself with facts for the sake of facts alone - it is the broader spectrum of conclusion, the possibilities opened by an analysis of the facts, that is the ultimate goal of science. And as with science, so with E2.

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