I've been intrigued by the discussion in recent daylogs about the current state of the union (and doubly so by the administration's decision to acknowledge it publicly and seriously). Walter
came close, but no one has quite said what I think needs saying -- what I feel, and what many of my close, E2-ex-patriate buddies feel, about the site.
Some of us just got bored.
It wasn't that it was too hard. (E2's interface has always been unnecessarily complicated. And its insistence on remaining an island, unconnected to and hidden from the rest of the Internet, was, in retrospect, fucking stupid.) It wasn't that the editors were big jerks. Most aren't and weren't, and while I've dealt with my share of douchebags here, there are plenty of douchebag editors out there in the real, live publishing industry. (The fact that I am compensated to deal with them does make a big difference, however.) It wasn't that raising the bar made it more difficult to excel on the site -- quite the contrary, in my not-so-humble opinion. It simply established a formula. A mediocre, but adequately linked, writeup that's at least 1,000 words in length (but let's face it, the longer the better) does just fine here, even if it's trite, lifeless, or just mind-numbingly boring. And yeah, that might be part of the reason a lot of old-schoolers' (I may be the oldest-school noder to sound off on this matter yet) attention has wandered.
But there's more than that.
Recently I've been spending a bit more time with old friends from college, and realizing that their lives have developed in ways very different from mine. Some I feel more connected to than I expected I would at this point in my life. Some I struggle to relate to. Perhaps not coincidentally, the crowd of kids at issue is the same crowd of kids I ran with IRL in the years when most of my virtual time was happily pissed away on this thing we call The Everything2. I am a substantially, and proudly, different person from the girl I was five, six and seven years ago. It is unsurprising that I choose to spend the bulk of my time with different people, and in different ways. It does not mean the people and things that used to matter to me no longer matter. It simply means that things are different now.
But, credit where credit is due: I'm a different person in part (in large part, actually) because the of folks this site has brought to my life. These days, much of my RL social circle is made up of folks I would not have crossed paths with if it weren't for E2. I was never a true believer in E2 as a community, and I never would have thought this was possible. I'm also a professional writer who'd prefer to focus her writing energy (and further warp her injured wrists) finding paid writing work, or contributing to longer-term projects like my novel. My ability to land certain paid gigs has been a direct factor of my experience with this little Web-2.0-before-it-was-Web.-2.0 you see before you. As has been pointed out elsewhere, E2 has been superseded. At least, its role in my life has been superseded. (Its role on the Web has also largely been superseded, but that's a discussion for another time, and I'm trying to keep things nice and subjective.)
The thing that saddens me (OK, let me revisit my once-infamous bluntness and say it fucking disgusts me) is the hypersensitivity with which many E2 true believers react to criticism. And all my anecdotal rambling has led up to this:
It's OK to get bored. It's OK to move on.
I'm of the unpopular opinion that Yoko Ono did the Beatles more good than harm. If the Beatles hadn't broken up, we eventually would have had to be embarrased for them through myriad MTV Unplugged appearances and Superbowl half-time shows, instead of just being embarassed for Paul, and grieving John and George. (Ringo, I guess, is always Ringo.) Look no further than the Rolling Stones for proof of concept. Social and creative experiments have a limited lifespan.
Do I think this place could be a lot more exciting and dynamic? Do I think it could be a lot less, uh, 1999-looking? Do I think it could be more user-friendly? Do I even think it could have made heaps of fucking money, had it played its cards right? Yes, yes, yes and yes. (To revisit the metaphor from last paragraph, we didn't have to be the Beatles; we could have been Sonic Youth.) Maybe that's still possible. Maybe we can inspire the next generation of coders to work it like a job and get cracking on the new E2 -- and the next generation of writers and editors to market it properly.
Or, maybe those of us who really dug the site in its heyday can take the lessons we learned here and apply them to our solo careers. I know that I'm likely in the latter camp -- though of course, I would like to see E2 truly evolve after having refused to do so for so long. I don't think I'm the person to make it happen, though. And I'm OK with that. And anyone tempted to jump down my throat, or down the throat of anyone else who wants to write E2's eulogy, should probably consider that it's normal to outgrow things and get over it.
You, after all, are likely to outgrow E2 too, someday. (My lone constructive suggestion, borrowed from Ouroboros, is that we include a sentence to that effect in the FAQ.) It may happen in the form of an angry falling-out with an editor or another user. It may happen in the form of our broken heart. Or maybe Real Life will intercede, and finally supersede, whatever function E2 holds for you now. And that's OK.