Strangely different, and yet the same.

On Becoming a Content Editor

There are two types of noder: Those who think that editorial policy here is too harsh, and those who think it isn't harsh enough. As a noder, I regularly come across writeups that I reckon don't belong here. I normally passed these on to editor-friends of mine for their opinions, and in general they concurred and did the killin'. Occasionally, they disagreed and the writeup in question would remain, and I'd be left thinking that the editors were too populist, or soft.

A few hours on the other side and suddenly those same writeups that I railed about before seem very different. I ask myself "Am I prepared to be personally responsible for removing this from the database" and the answer isn't always "yes". It is a delicate balance we all walk here, and it's a very different game on the sharp end.

On What Everything2 Is

Most of the conflict in this place is caused by different understandings of what E2 is. Everything2 doesn't have a mission statement, but individual noders have missions and these can contradict each other.

E1 - and the early E2 - were anarchic places. The site was a blank canvas, a nodegel onto which structure could be imposed through nodes and links. Noders took up the challenge and created a pattern, like a crystalline lattice that cools quickly. There was no purpose as such, just having fun and jumping up Everything's Best Users by creating as many nodes as possible. E1 and early E2 were internal pieces, replete with in-jokes, rants and obscure humour.

When a firmer editorial policy began to emerge, so did a number of different views on what E2 was. The most visionary of these was of E2 as an encyclopaedia of sorts, that covered not just objects and concepts but ideas and common experiences. This was what drew me here in the first place.

Now, an encyclopaedia needs a readership. This view of E2 was essentially outward-looking, and motivated a lot of the changes here. Avoid highly subjective writeups, Don't make shit up, choose titles carefully and the like emerged from this mindset. The Content Rescue Team and the focus on factnoding and The Database also fit into this paradigm. For my first year as a noder, I couldn't understand the point of non-factual writeups.

This paradigm is no longer the dominant one, for a few reasons. The lack of a full text search and sporadic Google indexing limits E2's usefulness to the outside world. Also, the internal culture of E2 has shifted away from that model, particularly the recognition of our subjectivity as Lord Brawl highlights above. It's not a dead vision, but it is on hold.

A contemporary model was of E2 as a Community. This model of E2 is interesting and compelling. It presents the website as first and foremost a tool for helping the community form and giving its members an understanding of one another. Advocates pointed to the hundreds of successful nodermeets, the marriages, an the friendships formed here.

Of course, this view of E2 sometimes led to a feeling that asking for objectivity and removing in-jokes were in some senses working against the community. Like in Foundation, a tension emerged between the Encyclopaedists and the community advocates.

The community model, though, is also in decline. E2 isn't a community, E2 has a community. The difference is subtle but important. Remove the communal elements of E2 and it would still go on, albeit in a very dry and boring way. Remove E2 and there would be no community. The realisation of this led to other, more community-centred places being created. However, the community is almost an evolutionary function of E2, it would be foolish dismiss its usefulness at making this place interesting, valuable and compelling.

So E2 is redefining itself; maybe it already has. When bones announced the copyright changes I was pleased with the policy, but the reference to a "writers' site for writers" made me uncomfortable. It took me some time to realise that this was another model of E2. This model values good fiction as equal to good factual writing, focuses on the writeup as the basic unit of E2, and sees one of the roles of Everything2 as to encourage excellence by individual writers for the development of the one and the enjoyment of all.


The acknowledgment that subjectivity in writeups was a Good Thing is what sets E2 apart from the angels. No 'disputed neutrality' mark here, for all writeups are indisputably non-neutral. This almost post-modernist understanding leads to a very different E2 as a Po-Mo encyclopaedia of sorts. Truth and accuracy would become less important than style and form. A few recent writeups, all worth reading, demonstrate this trend.

Where will we end up? I don't know. What you must remember, though, is that E2 changes, and so do we. Some users here have never really given up on the E1 they loved. Many have left E2 for good; some of those have returned. But if you find yourself arguing with another noder, or with an admin, about whether a writeup belongs on E2, or what a certain policy is for, remember that you might both understand Everything2 as something very different to each other. And write on, gentle noders.