True Confessions of a Content Editor




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Note to newbies: if you haven't read E2 FAQ: What NOT to do, go read that now.

Adventures in Metanoding

War on Iraq 2003 recently became my first writeup to go over 100 reputation. I feel somewhat conflicted about this. I would prefer that my highest rep writeup be something else, but there it is. Since metanodes are often poorly done, incomplete, or not maintained well, they belong to a disreputable class of writeups, like daylogs. When I got into the metanode game in 2002 --see War on Iraq 2002-- it was just a joke. In the Chatterbox, somebody remarked on the number of writeups on Iraq: "Any minute now someone will post the War on Iraq Metanode." So I did it. Immediately, however, administrators jumped on it and suggested a name change. It lost the redundant "metanode" and acquired the year, 2002, to distinguish it from the first Gulf War, and several writeups on the topic were moved under my banner so they could be compared and contrasted. I did my best to maintain it and decorate it with formatting and a pertinent little quotation from Mark Twain. As it became increasingly clear that we actually were going to invade, I started a fresh metanode with the arbitrary cut off date of January 1, 2003. This became a central reference point for the swirling mass of writeups that flooded in. Tempers flared, rants were posted, deleted and resurrected. I would get a message to post a link, post it, and then log on an hour later to see a message advising me that the writeup was gone. I tried to "annotate" the relevant daylogs (because the subject of a daylog does not appear in its title) but when the invasion actually began, there were more daylogs than I could catalog.

Is it worth it? I think so. I'm not sure I think it is necessary to cut-and-paste historic documents (like UN Security Council Resolutions) which are readily available elsewhere, but if we are going to allow them, they ought to be metanoded. A "current events" metanode lets the noders see what has already been written, avoid duplication and contribute something new. It highlights the gaps in E2 coverage and thus suggests topics to research and writeup. If it's maintained objectively, at least daily, it becomes almost as useful as a news website, and given the writing talent in this community, a heck of lot more entertaining.

On Metanodes

E2 doesn't facilitate debate, dialogue, and conversation. Conversation and verbal contests are potentially infinite (but usually ephemeral) events, not stand-alone constructs or artifacts. E2's site software lacks the appropriate structure, and the site philosophy favors a finished written "product" over language "events". The Chatterbox is a side-show and deliberately de-emphasized. Of course, some writing products have a dialectic form: The Dialogues of Plato, dialogue in a novel or play. Unlike informal chat and formal debate, however, such dialogue is frozen in time and fragmentary.

The primary E2 metaphor is spatial --an area or expanse-- not temporal. It's a territory or real estate, if you will, mostly vacant, upon which a city is being constructed. Yes, there are old sections of town and new, but the age of writeups is secondary to the topoi, the loci or the "place" they occupy.

It should therefore come as no surprise that noders find the urge to make maps irresistible. We call such a map a "metanode". Follow that last link to knifegirl's comments on the matter. Here are the high points:

  • Every node is a metanode.
  • Metanodes require regular maintenance.
  • No one owns a metanode.

I have to agree that properly linked writeups do, in some sense, constitute a "metanode", but I'm using the term to describe writeups which try to give you an up-to-date satellite photo of the nodegel. Also, several usergroups, like e2religion, e2science and recipes, maintain some lists or indices which could be called "metanodes", but I think individual noders should set their sights higher. The very best metanodes go beyond merely listing and somehow present or comment about other nodes in a way that adds meaning.

Since the landscape of E2 is constantly changing, a "metanode" worthy of the name has to be maintained regularly. For a metanode on current events, that means checking for new writeups daily at minimum, and ideally every hour. If you don't, someone else may supercede it with a more complete set of links, and yours should be deleted.

Metanode Do's and Don'ts

  • DON'T use the word "metanode" in the title.
    The Metanode Destruction Team has not got around to superceding all the writeups with the word "metanode" in the title, so you can still find some. Rest assured, however, that any new titles submitted containing the word "metanode" will be swiftly intercepted and deleted or modified by the Powers That Be. If you tried to submit The Webster 1913 Sounding Like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure Metanode today, the e2gods would probably insist you call it something like Webster 1913 Sounding Like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  • DON'T even THINK about the Metanode Metanode.
  • DO link every relevant writeup, good or bad
    Your list of "only the very best nodes about Model Railroading" goes on your homenode. (If I find a "best of" collection dressed up as a metanode, I will nuke it.) It's quasi-fraudulent and bad form to leave relevant writeups out of a metanode. If it was good enough to survive as an E2 writeup, it belongs in your map of E2. This is especially true when the topic is politics. Take a look at War on Iraq 2003 and imagine the fuss if I had decided that all the anti-war writeups were not "good enough" to be listed.
  • DO think twice before starting a metanode.
    Do your homework first, and collect a lot of links.

DAMN it feels good to be a metanode

Don't just slap unordered list tags on your list of hardlinks: annotate.

You can even write your metanode as prose with embedded links. George W. Bush Metanode, for example. Another example of prose with embedded links is Zombie by Xamot ("A Zombified Meta Node"). These are clever. On the downside, these prose metanodes look really difficult to maintain, and are unlikely to be useful as a current map or satellite photo of the state of the nodegel.

Some exemplary "annotated" metanodes (when lists of links just aren't enough):

  • Songs with Subjunctive Abuse: Sometimes the affront to grammar is in the title (What if God was One of Us?) but sometimes it is buried in the lyrics, like the Door's Light My Fire: ("If I was to say to you girl we couldn't get much higher"). Either way, this metanode prominently displays the offending title or lyric.
  • Lessons Learned the Hard Way: here the comments aren't absolutely necessary, but they are entertaining. This one is hardly comprehensive, as the softlinks demonstrate, but it's still pretty good.
  • United States Military Ranks: This isn't really a metanode, but a good example of how a list can be organized to convey data. Note how pylon organizes his lists of ranks by pay grade, which allows you to compare the ranks used in different branches of the armed services, e.g. an army "Colonel" is the equivalent of a Navy "Captain", whereas an Army "Captain" is the equivalent of a Navy "Lieutenant".