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.