A Year on E2
Reflections on a mis-spent year
On December 12, 2001, I signed up for an Everything2 account. This is written exactly a year later. What have we learned here? What have we learned?
First, this is a highly addictive experience. This anniversary doesn’t feel so much like a birthday as it does an admission of addiction. It’s not like sitting in front of a birthday cake, at a big table with all of your friends Tommy, Jimmy, Joey, the kid who beat you up yesterday, Jilly the girl you’ve got a big crush on, Tammy, Laura the girl you kinda had to invite, Keith who keeps trading sandwiches with you and his sandwiches are always terrible, Bobby the guy with the foxy mom, Denny, Danny, Dave, Jim, and Juju, wearing a pointy hat, eating cake and drinking red sugary stuff out of paper cups and then having a magician show up to do funny tricks. It’s like sitting in a crack house, looking at spoon and needle, and realizing with a jolt that it’s been a year since your friend Eddie hooked you up, and now you think back on the year and realize you’ve wasted more time and energy more quickly than you would have thought it humanly possible to do.
Second, some of the funniest people on the planet seem to hang out here. I wish I could hate you all. It would make it so easy to leave. But I don’t. You’re all such interesting people (well, most of you), with quirky habits, hobbies, accents, and language patterns, that you just suck me in. TheFez starts off the day with his GOOD MORNING SPACE MONKEYS announcement. Witchiepoo flies around the catbox with boobies akimbo. At least she did. Now she’s gainfully employed. Shit, why do I know this? Why should I care? But I do. OcelotBob’s irksome tendencies to leap up on a girl’s lap and purr. Or something like that. Using gender-ambiguous pronouns like hie and hir. This used to vex me. Now I’ve given up being vexed, and see that he’s just a gentle soul in need of a little lovin’. Roninspoon's hilariously funny tortured editorials. (Everytime I see the word "teh", I will always think of Roninspoon.) RalphyK’s shite. CowOfDoom’s capslock pronunciations. Yossarian’s enigmatic phrases. When the chatterbox is good, it is very very good.
Third, there’s at least one story behind every one of you. TheBooBooKitty loves video games, but can’t seem to hit it off with women. Arcanamundi is in graduate school at a midwestern university. She’s part of the Ninjagirls collective. She’s one of the few women who is unafraid to mix it up with the guys here. NotFabio is a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, deep in the bowels of the military machine. Templeton has a staple in her head. Or is that just a hair clip? Borgo has a very nice young daughter. He’s a good daddy, who goes to her plays at school. She’s fascinated by Everything2. He likes football. IceOwl is working in Antarctica. He daylogs almost every day on life on the ice. He gives you a great feeling of living and working in close proximity with researchers in the most uninhabitable area of the world. Riverrun’s a Vietnam War veteran. That man can write. Sweet Jesus. Ascorbic lives in the U.K., as does Hexter. I think they’re both at university. Nocte lives in my old hometown, where my parents and brother are buried. CbustaPeck’s tall. Everyone seems to like JessicaPierce, or at least be in awe of her sensibilities. Halspal lives in Minnesota. He just wrote a book. One of his stories, Why the willow weeps, is one of the most highly referenced nodes within Everything2. It will make you cry. Guaranteed. The old ones, the ones who’ve been here a long time, their home nodes mention Sensei, Wharfinger, and a few old noders who are no longer here, by choice or by other reasons. Some have passed away. Their nodes survive them. Their nodes are their legacy to this group. I shouldn’t know this. I shouldn’t want to know this. I shouldn’t care. But I do.
Before I joined Everything2, I was reading Slashdot.com for the occasional interesting technical article on the latest Pentium processor, or something that NASA had done, or what some MIT professor did to quantum particles. It mentioned a companion site for writers. The exact reference has long been forgotten. But a URL to Everything2 was only a mouseclick away. NO. Move the cursor over the URL field. DON’T. Watch the finger click the left mouse button. STOP.
Oh dear God. What have I done?
The first month or two was very confusing. I blundered around the site without an account, clicking on nodes that talked about blowjobs, or sex in cemetaries, and accidentally landed on some well-written nodes. Whoa! (he does his best Keanu Reeves imitation.) These people can write!
The noders all seem to know each other. The cross-referencing of articles with other articles is extensive. This place seems all of a piece, a whole cloth, warping and woofing together in some pattern guided by an intelligence undiscernable to my primitive brain. Who’s the Wizard? Where’s the master plan? Could I break into this group? Do I want to break into this group? How? Is this like a spider web? If I step into it, will every single thread be sticky? Will the fly be caught and then cocooned by Ms. Black Widow?
What follows is an account, in roughly chronological order, of a newbie’s first year.
- Apply for an E2 account. Enter a nickname. Right off the bat, a tough choice. You don’t want your name to be too prosaic, like Harold16. You don’t want it too geeky, like MechEngrGenius. You don’t want it to be completely out in left field, like SchemataChroic. You don’t want to choose a name that won’t be understood in ten years, like PuddleOfMuddFan. A bit literary. A bit cryptic. Not too pretentious. So you open up your Norton Anthology of English Literature to your favorite play and there underneath your fingers it sits, your nickname. “FAUST. How comes it, then, that thou art out of hell? MEPH. Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it: Thinkst thou that I who saw the face of God/And tasted the eternal joys of heaven/Am not tormented with ten thousand hells/In being deprived of everlasting bliss?” So that’s how it came to be that my account name is EverlastingBliss.
- Immediately discovered the Chatterbox applet. Noders talking to other noders. The conversational snippets seemed to be changing every time you clicked on a new node title.
- Sex nodes
- War nodes
- Boy meets girl nodes
- GTKY nodes. Getting to Know You. Clever. They’ve thought of everything here. Literally. Every concept you could hope to have has a name, or has been noded. This has even been formalized.
- Home nodes! Some have pictures. Some do not. It’s interesing what people write about themselves. These homenodes are gold mines of information.
- Users have levels. Hmmm.
- I have a home node too! I can write any old crap about myself. And I do.
- What’s this? “Create a node” Click. I start writing. A paragraph. Some smarmy stuff. What’s this? “Submit” Click.
- Klaproth comes by for a visit. Like Miss Wright in ninth grade English composition class, who never met a male she liked, Klaproth seems to have a personal delight in taking away what I’ve written. Oh no, Mister Bill!
- I am such an idiot. Klaproth is a bot.
- Bots can be fooled. I write again. Submit. Click.
- This time Klaproth and several editors leave messages. Hotlink this! Softlink this! Pipeline this! Softpipelinkline this way! No, this! Plus, your grammar sucks.
- Write again. Sumbit. Editor lynch mob. Paragraphs! Use the less than sign (above the comma) and the greater than sign (above the period) and all sorts of other HTML tags. Don’t you read the E2 FAQ? What’s the E2 FAQ, I ask. Silence. My deficiencies are only now becoming apparent to them.
- I read the E2 FAQ. This isn’t writing. This is friggin’ HTML 101.
- Write again. A vote. Two votes.
- Siouxsie is the first person who /msgs me. Siouxsie is nice. She has pity on a poor newbie. Thank god for the soft hearts of women everywhere.
- I type a reply message into the chatterbox box to Siouxsie.
- I am such an idiot. This gets broadcast to the entire world.
- Siouxsie /msgs me back, shows me how to use the messaging service. This is for direct user to user messages.
- I think Siouxsie’s first message was like this: Your, um, first writeup is, um, good, well, it’s interesting. You could add a few more things here and there. And did you happen to glance at the E2 FAQ about good writeups? Stick with it! Things will get better! She’s so much nicer than John Felten or Roy Bunevich, who would grab my facemask and hold it real close to their faces when they were talking, for maximum eye contact.
- @ means editor
- $ means god (administrator).
- It could be the other way around. I’m not exactly sure. Both seem to have an enormous amount of clout around here.
- Ass kissing ensues. As a tactic, this is a miserable failure. They can tell when you kiss their asses. They will bitch slap you if it’s too overt. They will bitch slap you if it’s not. Either way, I learn: do not kiss asses.
- I learn this: Your value to E2 seems to be proportional to the number of votes on each node you write. Your level corresponds to both the sum total of all plus votes you get, as well as a certain number of node writeups.
- I learn this: Everyone here knows more than me. Some trajectories through this space are awesome. They climb fast and far.
- XP whoring. Don’t do it. XP means experience points.
- NFN means Noding for Numbers. Writing worthless little writeups just to increase your reputation. Don't do it. Instead, Node For The Ages. Write like it's going to be in a textbook with your name on it. Chee-yuh, right, you say. Okay, I'm just telling you. Heed my warning. Node For The Ages, Or Else.
- Factual noding. Lots of people seem to want me to do more of it.
- This is interesting. A noder offers to be my mentor. She seems to be wound up a bit too tightly. I ask a god for his opinion. Can I have two mentors? He says, get one or none at all. I go it alone. She seems pissed.
- I node a few more things. The easiest stories are the emotional ones. They seem to get a good response. In retrospect, some should have been put in daylogs or dream logs. Some are memories, moments in time, relevant only to me, but to no one else.
- Apollo in a high school locker room gets a C!. I don’t know what this is, but it’s worth more than a vote. It’s worth like three votes. Cool Man Eddie tells me that someone has voted a C! for my node. Cool Man Eddie is a nice man. I /msg him. Thanks, Cool Man Eddie! Thanks, noder who gave me the C!
- I am such an idiot. Cool Man Eddie is a bot.
- I am such an idiot. The noder who gave me the C! said, “Hey you don’t have to thank me for the C!” Apparently, what I’ve done is bad form.
- I write a few other nodes, get the lay of the land. Some work. Some don’t. This must be what it’s like to be a real writer. I suspect that real writers have it far harder.
- Writing Helping your kid brother die was a cathartic experience. It was written in one marathon session late at night.
- A lot of other people must have had similar experiences. At last count this node received 20 C!s and 257 XPs. Ten people downvoted it.
- Countless people sent very nice messages. I didn’t know so many people cared. Wow. This is really something. Perfect strangers.
- When others like your node, they’re inclined to want to read your other nodes. I notice that my other nodes get upvoted as well.
- A few nodes later, I try my hand at comedy.
- The E2 sports guys come out of the woodwork. The best messages are from Australians who play Aussie football. They liked the description of the inner game of American football, the playcalling. One Japanese noder even writes. He doesn’t understand American football, but he loved the story. Even chicks like it. Go figure.
- Noder meets. Dear god, they want to meet each other.
- Everything, Kansas. Dear god, they want to live together.
- Christmas presents. Dear god, they want to buy merchandise that says SOY SOY SOY. SOY MAKES YOU STRONG. STRENGTH CRUSHES ENEMIES. SOY so that they can wear it so that they can identify other Everythingians.
- I mail arcanamundi a book.
- I mail jessicapierce some keys.
- I’m getting sucked in.
- One year anniversary. I wake up at 2:30 a.m. because I am dreaming that I am writing this very writeup. Horrible. Toss and turn until 4:30 a.m. I curse the bizarre neural pathways of the brain that have caused this interruption of quality REM time, get up, shuffle down to the computer, turn it on and start typing.
I've given up trying to be a writer. Thinking this sandbox might have been useful in improving my writing skills – that was a wrong idea. The difference between the really good writers here, and me, well, it's a big difference. Now I downgrade my hopes to merely entertaining myself and perhaps a few readers here, meet a few cool people, and have a little fun along the way.
Happy anniversary. I love you all.