Part II · Part III

Hey, panamaus wrote a daylog! I bet it's another E2-referential love/hate thing. Oh crap.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the day I created my account on Everything2. Although I have been almost entirely inactive as a noder and an editor for the past two years, recent technical changes that have taken place here have inspired me to return for a look around. I have also been traveling in New Zealand and Australia for the past two weeks visiting noders, talking with them about E2's past and speculating about its future. Heisenberg even insisted on interviewing me for the new E2 Podcast, and this more than anything got me back to thinking about E2 again, and wondering about where I fit into the future of the site. To observe my anniversary, I thought I would compose some of those thoughts to share with those of you who cared to read them. I promise they are not all bad.

The negative stuff (or "It's alright Ma, I'm only bleeding")

On my fourth anniversary as a noder, I posted an Editor Log that was somewhat controversial. It might still be here for you to read today had it not attracted way more enthusiastic attention than I was comfortable with. In it I outlined all the wonderful things about E2 that attracted me to the site back in 2001, and I expressed my dismay that virtually all of those things are gone. I confessed to a deep sense of guilt for participating in an organized effort to impose order on the chaos that reigned on E2 in its youth, and articulated my belief that E2 had lost its soul through the systematic and often aggressive methods that were used to actively raise the bar. Further, I maintained that the ever increasing baseline standards of comprehensiveness and quality for writeups created a passive level of intimidation that had a chilling effect on the quantity of new content and its once carefree, wild, even rebellious qualities. Finally, I explained the nature of a personality conflict that I had with another administrator who had treated me in what I felt to be an egregiously disrespectful and insulting manner, and that this was what had led me to resign from e2gods three months earlier.

I wrote a much more detailed series of paragraphs about the last part, but I've cut them out because all that's in the past, and it really doesn't matter anymore. To anyone except me, that is.

The neutral stuff (or "With God on our side")

Back when I fell in love with E2, it was the community of people who inhabited this place that won my heart. I wanted to help make the site better, and most everybody agreed that the best way to do this was to improve the quality of writeups. I never really thought that this would have unexpected negative consequences, but as the number of disgruntled users reached a critical mass early in 2003, Community2 was born. It was a wonderful concept, and would have been the perfect solution for E2's growing pains, were it not for a couple of problems. First, it was initially a closed project while coders worked on its development. This phase basically never ended, so only a handful of folks ever got to see or participate in it. Second, as people were invited in to test the system, C2 quickly turned into a refuge for ex-noders who had been banned from E2 or who had left because of negative interactions with staff. When I asked dann to create me an account so I could check it out, I found the "community" within to be little more than a vitriolic hatefest directed at Everything2 and everyone in it. Such hostility, coming not just from people with legitimate axes to grind but also a few individuals who'd done little on E2 besides rattling cages and pissing off as many people as possible, was nothing I wanted anything to do with. This was sad because I really respect dann and most of the people who volunteered countless hours of work on the code base.

I'm not sure what became of Community2. It has been gone from the web for quite a while.

The positive stuff (or "Don't look back in anger")

Trying to be positive about the future of E2 these days takes a lot of effort for me. If you thought the responses I gave to my E2 Podcast interview questions were a little "philosophical", well, I guess maybe I was trying to put an abstract smiley face on my mixed apathy and pessimism. I could go on at great length identifying and elaborating on everything I see wrong with Everything2, but I shan't bother. Bitching about E2 is such an old pastime that it has long since fallen out of fashion amongst most fled noders. I continue to maintain regular contact with at least a hundred of them as best I can manage, what with them scattered out around the globe. Godly egos aside, there is nothing wrong with E2 that could not be fixed with simple policy and personnel changes. What I would like to see most is for E2 to regain some if not much of the appeal it once held for many of us who have moved on. There are naturally several different ways I believe we could make that happen, and I'd like to explore a few of them here.

One of the things that I would hate to see occur at any point is to lose all of the hard work that so many people have done (including yours truly) to encourage quality writing on E2 and to attract writers who are seriously interested in submitting their work for review and feedback. This desire should immediately appear to you to be at odds with my wish for restoring E2's feral, anarchic historical appeal. That's because it is, completely. I believe in my heart of hearts that it is impossible to have it both ways, and if I were to suggest that this could be accomplished I'd be whistling out of my arse. Since E2 continues to struggle with the shackles of its past (all those "quirky" writeups that still haven't been deleted), the best way I can see to give everybody what they want is for a whole new web site to spin off from E2, just like E2 did from E1 back on November 13, 1999.

Community2 was ahead of its time in this regard. For the longest time many of us believed C2 to be the testing ground for code changes in E2, but so far it has all come to naught. It would have been ideal if the Quality clique of E2 could have "started over" on a new site with a fresh new code base and an empty database. That way, they could have had a pristine site to develop content and incubate writers without all the rabble rousers and pirates and ninjas kicking up a fuss. Why destroy a perfectly good playground to build an office complex when there was already an infinite amount of available real estate next door? That's basically been the mission of E2 since things got "serious" - to destroy the old in order to create the new, but why did this have to be? All it's really been spectacularly successful in doing is sowing bitter seeds.

If I could close my eyes and make a wish for E2 and everyone who has ever been a part of it, it would be this:

Somehow, in the most basic and easy way possible, I'd like to split E2 in two. Run two web sites from the same SQL database; duplicate all the content and run the sites as clones on different hardware; set the sites up independently with scripts that can port data between databases on demand - something, ANYTHING that will work with the minimum amount of hassle. Both sites have to be completely open to the public. Post a news document announcing an official E2 schism, with one site (preferably the new one) on the path to The New E2 and the other one turned over to everything and everyone that has come before. Everyone would have their accounts automatically duplicated on each site, and could choose to participate in one or the other, or both.

This would preserve the noble mission that E2 has been working and striving for all these years, and yet give E2 back to everyone who loved it as a playground, an experiment, a place for EVERYTHING. Deleted writeups could be resurrected. New nonsense could not only survive but thrive. Pirates and ninjas and trolls could sail the high seas of E2 just as they did years ago, and maybe - just maybe, the magic could happen all over again. All those fled noders are still out there in the ether, for the most part. Word spreads fast on the Internet - they'd come around just to see if it was true. We could have it all back again, and the "writer's site for writers" could continue to create itself in whatever image it wanted without any interference, resistance or resentment. How perfect is that?

They say if you can dream it, you can make it happen. But it's not up to me. It's up to you.

Make the dream real.

Some clarity, for those who may be inclined to take me too seriously and develop constipation: This is just a pipe dream. I don't actually expect this to happen and am highly doubtful that it would work even if it did. Web 2.0 has replaced much of what people used E2 for back in the wild west days. Giving it all back to the trolls, so to speak, would most likely result in a giant collective yawn. People leave E2 and move on with their lives - they don't sit around pining about the good old days. That's reserved pretty much for noder gatherings involving alcohol. Nostalgia has it's place, and I figured that place was the daylogs.