Part I · Part III
I want to say a few more things about the subjects I covered in yesterday's daylog, and to explain why it is that I keep coming back here and posting these musings on my anniversary. If your mindset is such that you feel you would be upset or irritated by reading what follows, I would respectfully ask that you not read it.
First, it should be fairly evident that I still care about Everything2. In spite of the reasons I might have not to, this web site has changed my life immeasurably as have the hundreds of people I have met through it. In some ways, I view myself in terms of who I was before I found E2 and who I became after. If I genuinely hated this place and everything about it, I would not bother ever writing anything here ever again, and more than likely, I'd just never log back in. Somehow though, I just can't help it. I can't stop caring. I can't become a "fled noder", no matter how I sometimes want to. It would be like disowning my own child, just because she turned out differently than I expected - I just don't have the heart to do it.
Second, if you are relatively new to E2, in that you have been around for a year or two, then you have probably never heard of me before, had any interaction with me, or read any of my writeups. You have no idea what kind of history I have with this place, or why anybody would give a damn what I had to say about anything. That is probably not a valid reason to dismiss what I have to say simply because you don't particularly like what I'm saying. I don't particularly like some of the perceptions I express about E2. And in truth, this probably bothers me a lot more than it bothers you.
Third, I have no personal axe to grind with this site or anybody here. Two years ago, I did. The only recourse I had in dealing with that situation was to resign my position in protest, and hope that it sent the right message to the right people. Turns out, the guy in charge at the time really didn't seem to care. That was probably more hurtful to me than the situation that provoked it. But time passed and I got over it. When the guy in charge retired not long thereafter, I was invited to come back, which I did for a while until I sort of found myself in a really long sabbatical. I had things to do other than fight the server lag and watch the "Other Users" list get shorter and shorter, so I got busy doing them. Imagine a short film of a calendar flipping pages. It was kind of like that.
Fourth, the reason I take the occasional trouble to painfully articulate the negative things about E2 that I do is pretty simple. Since 2001, I have been fortunate enough to meet hundreds of noders, face to face, live and in person. When I meet them, we talk. Sometimes it's at gatherings, sometimes at airport lounges or restaurant bars. On occasion they visit as guests in my home. Often I'm traveling and they are providing accommodation in their homes out of the goodness of their hearts. And frequently, I return to visit them as often as I can. They get to know me and share with me their experiences on E2, and as the years have passed many of them have told me the reasons why they chose to no longer participate on the site. And I've listened.
I listen and I hear the same stories. Online altercations with this noder or that. Incidents involving the editors and gods, their writeups, other people's writeups, message exchanges and chatterbox discussions. Fears and doubts and anxieties. Expectations and self-esteem issues and the whole emotional side of the noding process and "being" a noder. They tell me everything, especially once they've had a few. And the more personal stories I've heard, the more I've kept hearing the same perceptions and problems identified by different people in their own words.
In the beginning it was easy to dismiss people's bad experiences as isolated incidents or unique to them in some way. I mean, I was a true believer in E2's mission and had been fighting the good fight for years. I was popular and had a high profile, and my E2 experiences had always been positive. But after a certain point, it became clear to me that my outlook as a long-time admin was rose colored. Things looked totally different on the inside than they did to so many of my friends. Eventually I came around to believing that the way we were making the omelette of E2 was breaking a lot more than just eggs.
But news like that tends to fall on deaf ears. Just looking at the responses to yesterday's rather timid elaboration on my pipe dream, I got a healthy dose of contempt and head scratching from some folks who don't understand what I'm really on about, I got some well-meant reasons for why my idea probably wouldn't work from StrawberryFrog, I got some feel-good vibes from my old buddy borgo, and an erudite "official response" from the admirable kthejoker that I probably would have been happy to write myself about three years ago. Had it been anyone other than me writing what I had to say, they would probably have been ignored as "just another disgruntled noder" and invited via message to not let the door hit them in the ass on the way out.
I keep coming back and facing this kind of reaction from people because I believe in E2 and what the community of people who helped build it has told me. People who were cool, valued, talented contributors to this site. People that I know and trust and love like brothers and sisters. People that I consider to be like family. They have a difficult message to share, and they shared it with me. I'm probably the only person that could come in here and say these kinds of things about E2, and be taken even a little bit seriously by the admins and editors. And that is because I am probably the last person that they would expect to say these kinds of things. I'm one of them, and have been since early days. I have never been anything but straightforward with everyone, and I served the database with pride, and if I am telling you these things, it's because I believe them to be true.
What do I want to happen? Well, what I don't want is to upset everybody needlessly, but there doesn't seem to be any way around that. Telling someone their perfect toy is alienating people doesn't win you smiles and pats on the back. Obviously, I would like to be taken seriously. I would like you to believe me when I tell you "If you continue down this path, making standards higher, treating people with firmness and even rudeness (you think that's not happening anymore? think again), deleting the 'crap' until it's all finally gone, it will eventually render E2 an instrument used exclusively by professional writers and those who have strong business aspirations to become professional writers." This would delight some of you to no end - I mean, it's THE MISSION, but it results in leaving pretty much everyone else out in the cold.
And that's what I fear most. We've already lost so many good people who just don't think they can cut it here. Once everyone else drifts away that comes to the sinking realization that they are tired of struggling to meet E2's standards, what does that leave us with? Nothing of what we started with; nothing but bemused detachment. Nothing but the top 10%. And Nathan, I think that's unacceptable.
This is why I dream of splitting E2 in half and letting the past and the future each have their piece. It's just a dream, but it's the only way I can see to preserve the 90% of Everything that's crap. I know it's crap, but it's crap I like. It's funny and it's historical and it's a reminder of good times (and bad times) that have past. It's a lower standard that's about having fun and not having to work so damned hard. E2's history is rich and strange, and as it gets slowly wiped away, I forget. And goddammit, I don't want to forget - I want to remember. I know how the administration thinks - I've been there, and I know that this is the last thing they would want to see happen. It would be like trying to sell the idea of Balkanization to the US Government. "The country is too large and poses a threat to world peace. Let's split it up into about four chunks, mkay?" Not gonna happen. I'm wasting my fingertips even typing it out.
So why do I keep doing it? If you loved something so much, and you knew you were losing it, wouldn't you try to save it? Even if you knew you couldn't do a damn thing? You'd try anyway, wouldn't you?