I asked a new noder who had decided to quit "Why did you choose to post the writeups you've written so far?"

He msg'd back, "I posted them because I want to contribute to the database."

I smiled though I knew he couldn't see it, and msg'd back (now cleaned and polished):

Funny thing about contributing: much like "helping" someone, contibuting must be done in the manner inkeeping with the forum you're contributing to. As a new noder you can't vote or C! so there are only two ways for you to contribute: posting writeups or reading writeups and providing useful feedback.

Posting contributes to making E2 a site people like to read, but only if it is good. If your writeup is subpar, you're not contributing to the site, the site is contributing to you. However, the boundary conditions of what is acceptable are fluid and vague. Obviously, leet speak is definitely not okay, while in-depth, well-written write-ups (even if not comprehensive) are strongly encouraged. Anywhere in between, especially toward the middle, becomes a matter of taste and intuition. Butterfinger McFlurry is outside the "sanctioned" style, and yet it persists. But if someone else, especially a beginner, tries something like that, it'll be the exception if it survives.

Look at Watching you eat an apple. Aphrodite is well-known for the kind of writeup she posted there, and it has a certain quality so it remains. Allseeingeye is also well-known the kind of writeup he posted there, and the juxtaposition is entertaining to enough people, so it too stays. Neither are exmples of something which I would suggest a newbie try: they're risky and take a certain kind of skill to pull off. You have to know what you can get away with.

Offering feedback is no better. You're probably still new to the site, so what insight can you offer? Maybe you feel pretty confident about your writing abilities and you can communicate them well. Good, you can help others, but it won't gain you levels, or ability to vote or C!, which are the only measurable rewards you can get from participating.

I know you didn't ask, but let me give you the gist of my experiences here: don't worry about "contributing" to begin with. Think of it as a feedback loop that is training you how to write better, both for this site and in general. I suggest spending at least twice as much time reading as you do writing, but definitely do both. You don't even have to give feedback, just read what others have done, decide what you liked and didn't like, and then try emulating different styles. Learn.

Whatever you decide to do, don't do it for the database or the nodegel or whatever. Do it for yourself or for another person. Without the people who form the community here, the site is an artifact, an empty house, a record of past events. Much like any construct, it cannot care for you. XP and levels may be the measurable signs of your standing here, but they ultimately mean nothing. The only things you can take from participating here are the friends, the skills and the actual experiences of participating.

In some ways, this site is a little cul-de-sac off the information superhighway. It has some really nifty people and features, but it's also quite limited. If you can accept the limitations, it has a lot to offer. I haven't been here long and I've seen a number of noders, new and old, throw up their hands and say, "Don't waste your time!" or "That's censorship!" or "You all suck!" or "Raising the bar is the most brain-dead pile of feces ever!" And all I can say is, "I see. I'm sorry you didn't find what you were looking for. Fame, respect, whatever. I'm still getting what I want out being here: I'm learning to read and write more effectively every day, and I'm finding I don't have to do it alone."

I stopped. In months of noding, no one had asked me what I'd asked him. Sure, I filled in a mission drive on my homenode, but what does that really mean? And now without meaning to, he'd led me around to face my own question and answer it. I thanked him.