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.