Last Log

Note: The log originally posted here was moved to February so I could post this now.

Home node images

As reported in the monthly news item, home node images are now available at Level 5.

Respecting panamaus' concerns

We've had a few high-level users leave us recently, and a lot of discussion took place about site policy and operation. The huge improvement in site speed has brought back some fled users, who look around at the e2 of today and perceive that all is not as it could be. In particular, I've been reading panamaus' March 15, 2007 and the response to it as well as his March 16, 2007 and later items with growing concern as well as frustration. If you haven't read those yet, please do, and try to do so receptively.

I went back and read maus' editor logs. Editor Log: August 2001 and Editor Log: October 2001, to cite two examples, are not so different then what I did at that time, and they're not so different than what I do now. 'maus helpfully included his Klaproth msgs, and they do not look vastly different than what I see in Security Monitor today. So I think that the 'maus of then was in a not dissimilar mode to where we are today.

The point seems to be that the panamaus of today, acting as a voluntary spokesperson for e2's disenfranchised noder and ex-noder community, feels differently today. I can't quite reduce his argument into something actionable for me as Editor-in-Chief because it's not intended to be that. The measures he proposes are sweeping, and as such are not aimed at me, and are not within my power to accomplish here, even if I so chose. That's frustrating — I can only do incremental change, and he's not asking for that. Yet, I do think that incremental change can address some of our issues.

I see the argument for a "professional" e2 where we could hold higher standards and all that. To my mind that was the "new e2" path, with writeups held back until an editor 'published' them to ensure that only 'quality' came forward. Honestly, I never liked that path, as I thought that would lead us down the 'unattainable bar' road. We didn't get (and won't get) to that vision of a new e2 — that project has closed. But in treading the middle road towards that vision, have we gone too far down the path anyway?

I am a believer that e2 is people/community as much as it is a "writer's web site". If we're driving people away and fracturing that community, we're doing the wrong thing. If that's happening on my watch, then I've been a bad steward.

So, the admin team chewed this over, and agreed to try a few things. Here are some of them:

  1. First, we will take our hands away from the deletion controls. I've asked before that editors use the 'Hide writeup' power and talk to noders, especially new noders, and let the community vote poor content down. This has been happening, but hasn't been entirely effective, so now I am stating this even more strongly. We should and will stop deleting anything new that's not a clear violation of our content rules unless and until it gets to a stable reputation of -5 or lower. We still will not tolerate commercial posts, hate speech, abuse of other users, and copyright violation. But if somebody wants to post a stupid two liner, we'll let them. If the e2 community decides that it loves it, fine. We'll let it stand. (This presumes that the content is at least vaguely on topic. I don't think that anyone would seriously argue that content like "I am teh drunkest." needs to be nurtured in hopes of improvement.) We'll try this for a week or two and see what happens. If it turns out badly, we can sweep up any residue at month end.

  2. Second, any admin who's using anonymous Klaproth msgs regularly should stop doing that now. There are special situations that may require it, but in general, if we can't put our names to an explanation of a deletion, we should not make it. As users, if you get a Klaproth message that's inappropriate (rude, anonymous, blank, unclear) then please tell an admin about it so that can be addressed.

  3. Thirdly, if admins are in any doubt at all, we will ask the group if anyone else agrees. In our admin discussion inbox, we already see many requests for editor concurrence before a deletion. That's good. We can afford a delay on removing most things (except for what I listed above). Some have proposed a mechanism for "I nominate these for deletion" and "I second the motion." We may not need that, but simply to make better use of the tools we have today (which I'll explain below).

The consensus of all this debate seems to be "let the community edit the database" which is (or was) actually the e2 mission. "Written and edited by the world". That works for me. I trust the users. And if it fails, then it fails nobly.

I'd love to end there, all stirring and whatnot, but I need to make a further point. This depends on all of you, the e2 community, for success. It means that you're responsible for voting on new content to guide the admin decisions. For our users make the call, the core community needs a strong voice. As such, we will hopefully increase the votes per level in the mid range.

As well, each of you as users needs to send feedback to authors about their new writeups. Everything from "I really like this" to "have you thought about X" to "Your formatting makes me weep, try using paragraphs." Tell each other how you feel. "Written and edited by the world" makes us all responsible for e2's content.

Changes to site operation

Now that the site speed is up, work is already underway. Our volunteer coders are attacking some of the look and feel issues first, but fear not, we're going to see the site infrastructure change and improve throughout 2007!

I have lots of ideas for structural changes to e2 that might help, all incremental of course. I made a proposal on Friday to the admin team that was roundly disliked, which just goes to show that sometimes I get it wrong! However, as part of it I suggested that Log, Prose, and Poetry writeup types be added. Lo and behold! The good code fairies have already granted this wish, along with a few other new writeup types. Exactly what we'll do with this sudden bounty remains to be seen. (Ideas welcome.)

How e2 admins work

I've probably covered some of this before, but before I get into How writeup deletions work below, I'd like to cover some of the other options and controls that we have, lest I perpetuate the idea that we just stagger drunkenly through the nodegel cleaving people's beloved works in twain. I'll give you an overview of some of the site controls that admins have and what those do by giving you an idea of what I do when I first log into e2. I'll be mentioning some tools and documents that are restricted to site admins, and as such I won't fully name or link them.

The first order of business is to scan New Writeups looking to anything of immediate interest, by which I mean trouble a-brewin'. Unless something there screams for my attention, I then look at the current catbox thread and at the same time see some of my current private messages. Usually there are too many private messages for the catbox nodelet to display, so I go right to my personal Message Inbox. I run quickly through it and try to address any crises that have developed since I last logged in. Some things I may simply archive to return to later. Which sometimes I forget to do....

Often my "private msg triage" is followed by a visit to the admin discussion boards. This is an area of the site where the admins have discussions and debates on the issues of the day. It can be pretty free-wheeling so this area is not visible to all users. A lot of good viewpoints and ideas come up here, some of which ends up in editor logs or in implemented changes to the site.

Once that's done it's time to check the e2 dashboards. In no particular order, I might:

  • ... check the list of new user accounts. I check to make sure that new accounts are appearing, that people seem to be logging in successfully, and that those that do are getting help. To anticipate some follow-on questions:

    • How many new users have signed up? Currently the summary line says "In the past week, 585 users enrolled.".
    • How many have actually logged in? (Currently 18 of the 50 accounts created in the last 15 hours have signed in at least once.)
  • ... check the Notes archive. Admins have a small, shared "notepad" area on each node where we can make note of any special circumstance: ongoing discussions with the author, recommended actions, etc. These are sort of like "post-it notes" on the node. We use this facility quite a bit to communicate with each other, to try and avoid overwhelming someone with well-intentioned help.
  • ... check the admin activity logs to see what Klaproth messages were sent, how many password reminders were requested (here), who gave out XP or votes, and many other fiddly things of that nature. Most days I just check to make sure Klaproth's being civil.
  • ... check on deletion, which I'll expand on in a moment.
  • ... check to see how much content has been written by the admin team in the last 30 days. I'm quite serious in my expectation that active admins, especially Content Editors, be strong contributors.
  • ... check the Message Inbox of the 'bots (Noah, Eddie, Klaproth, and EDB) in case anyone's confused and is asking them for help. (Very confused, in the case of EDB....)
  • ... check for Node Title Edit requests, Broken Writeup reports, Writeup Deletion requests, and Nodeshell Deletion requests. Normally the admin team handles all of these promptly so I rarely have to touch them myself, except to keep my hand in.

Whew! Once all of that is done, if I'm not already late for work, then I can actually go and read some of the new content and give the authors some feedback.

How writeup deletions work

Or, Death of a Writeup

Once an admin has decided that a writeup needs to be removed from the active database, he or she checks a box in the writeup header and optionally writes the Klaproth note. Then he or she presses a button at the bottom of the node, and is taken to a review page. Here the admin can review the list of writeup(s) selected and the Klaproth message(s) and confirm that they really want to mark these writeups for deletion. Once they confirm, the node page reloads and shows the selected writeups as "(marked for destruction)". Klaproth's message goes out (and is logged) but nothing has happened to these writeups yet! They are still in the node, but are no longer votable. They are also listed in a special document called Node Row. This document is visible to all users, although admins can see a bit more detail than regular users. (Note: In some rare instances, an admin may bypass the Node Row and instantly delete a writeup. This is seldom used, but exists for something so offensive that we don't want to leave it in the database for an instant longer.)

Once per day, a 'reaper' collects all of the inmates from Node Row and processes the deletions. (Thus, a writeup can be in Node Row for anywhere from a few moments to just under 24 hours.) Prior to this time, Admins can reverse the "(marked for destruction)" decision for anything in Node Row, and the writeup will be released unscathed. Once the reaper runs, though, all writeups are removed from their parent nodes, and move to a different document, called the Node Crypt. Any deleted nodes appear in the Node Crypt. Only admins can review this document, and writeups cannot be directly released from the Crypt. It's another security feature that lets us check each other's work by seeing all of the deletions in one spot.

After a day in the Crypt, writeups are dispatched to the individual Node Heaven repositories of each user. Normally they rest quietly here, though users can visit their departed writeups via a link on their Home Node. Admins can also access a user's Node Heaven if necessary.

In some circumstances, a user may want to bring back a writeup that was removed. Maybe the user left e2 and wants to return, or they had sold the story elsewhere and now the exclusive publishing window has lapsed. In these cases, a senior admin can "resurrect" the writeup. These writeups come back a bit addled - they have their old reputations, but none of the voting records, and sometimes have strange reputation figures like +2.5/-3.5. The admins need to reparent these writeups to an e2node to fully reintegrate them to the database. (BTW, this feature may be busted since the server move, we've had a report of trouble. Dr. nate needs to check the Tesla coils.)

That's pretty much it. Let me know if that wasn't clear and I'll try to fix it.

Locked user accounts

I promised to report these as they come up. By the request of each user, we locked the accounts of users AnnaPanna, IWhoSawTheFace, and danielmonger. OTOH, as you may have already discovered, amnesiac has returned to us.

Admin changes

Nothing has happened yet, but I may get to this before the end of March, in which case I'll update this section.

Profanity in the catbox

The recent use in the catbox of certain words which are commonly deemed offensive, for purposes that seemed entirely gratuitous, had perhaps gotten out of hand. I was getting complaints from multiple users. As such, I suggested today that a modicum of decorum would be appreciated, and failing that, that totally open conversations were welcome in other rooms. 'Outside' has special status as the default room.

This seems to have been interpreted as a ban on profanity. It's not. I'm merely asking for a bit of mutual respect and an understanding that some people are offended by recent behaviour, and asking that it be toned down or taken to a different chat room. It's not about content rules, or home nodes. It's about random chat outside and the impact that it might have on a new user's impressions of us. I would appreciate it if we tried not to actively drive folks away.

And no, there is no forbidden word list, even though there is one that Caused Unusual Noder Tension.

In any case, it has become rapidly apparent that I misjudged the mood of the user base, or that my well-meant suggestion was fraught with some intimation of shadowy censorship that was not intended. I shall refrain from making any such suggestions about catbox conduct in future.

E2 users in print

Please check Lucy-S's home node for news of her new book.

Thanks for listening, and thanks to all who contributed to the recent debate.

Next Month