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Part I - in which our heroic editor confronts the demons of strife and conflict

On the virtues of IGNORE

Some time in the 1990s, Internet Relay Chat was the rage. On a wild, wild internet it was the wild, wild west. Still is to some people. The catbox was loosely modelled on an IRC channel, to which it bears some significant similarities but with which it also has substantial differences. But that's for another day or node. The fundamental principles of the chatterbox actually resemble very early IRC more than they resemble contemporary IRC. You have one server and one or more clients. Unless you use one of the dedicated clients, E2 handles all of the client functions for you. Let's talk about one of the most important functions of a client.

"Without ignore the client is not within the Tao of Chatting."

Thus spake gnarfer (Ove Ruben R Olsen) in the "Tao of IRC" (1994), a document well worth reading for anyone developing or managing chat applications of any sort. The need for an ignore function was detected very early on, probably as soon as IRC became less of an ad-hoc proof of concept and more of an organised, free to use social environment.

The catbox does not exist outside the Tao of Chat. The yin and yang flow and mingle as freely as they did anywhere and anytime. The yang wants to know everything and not miss a beat. The yin is assured that all is well and that what is missed is missed for a reason. Even the catbox archive is just yin in the service of yang. It absorbs and does not act but exists for those too wired to miss a beat.

Due to my position I can /ignore less than I would like to /ignore because I need to be on top of things and that includes being aware of some of the more distasteful goings-on. However, I highly recommend it for the userbase in general. What you don't see can't bug you. We've had an IGNORE function for as long as I can remember. We have a grand total of 475 active ignores. This includes fled users ignoring, fled users being ignored, and usergroups being ignored, which leaves precious few for active users to be using on active users. It's enough to make one conclude that some people would rather pick a fight than ignore people whose presence or opinion irks them. Even the infamous amnesiac had very few ignores against him despite all the rage that he generated and fostered. It's obvious that /ignore is woefully underused.

Let me take gnarfer's words and adapt them:

"Without ignore the luser* is not within the Tao of Chatting."

E2 provides the functionality. All it takes is your will. Use /ignore.

*No reflection on the userbase; the term is in character with the text of the Tao


Part II - in which our heroic editor confronts (his own inner) daemons of the software kind

On automata

Create good automata, and the IRC will hail you and you will gain fame and fortune. Create bad automata and people will start to hate you, and finally you will be /KILLed to eternal damnation" --The Tao of IRC

I should know. I killed myriads in my day armed with a lethal array of O: lines and bandoliers full of K: lines (and waaaaay too much time on my hands). I know my chat bots. If anyone remembers bot-writer Robey Pointer from those days on IRC, he was a martyr in the service of automation and I was a pharisee. Poor guy. Anyway. I no longer have a beef with chatbot writers but it takes a bit more than a Mechanical Turk to impress me.

E2 is no stranger to the world of automation. We used to have automaus, who was a legend in his day. We still have Cool Man Eddie. Donginger seems to be all the rage these days and is a more traditional IRC-like bot. Nota and I used to run one that talked a bit like him on IRC circa 1996 in my secret life as a (com)bot-running hypocrite. Do I like him? I'm not sure. I think I'm still wired to go into destroy mode when something looks like an eggdrop.

Donginger has been compared to CowbotNeal, who, for those whose memory or presence on E2 doesn't stretch far back enough, is an IRC bot on #e. The comparison is unavoidable since all chatbots look alike to the casual observer but the similarities end there. A few months ago I removed the remaining nodes with the insider lore of CowbotNeal because deletions had fragmented it over time, most of it was poorly written, and the divorce of E2 and #e has been complete and total for years. May he have many happy days automating on Slashnet but he is no longer relevant to E2 so a node with his eggdrop-standard set of commands as they existed in 2000 is pointless.

The administration's official position on the use of bots in the catbox is one of neutrality. Unless we feel a pressing need to establish a policy on the subject (which will probably be the first time some twit decides to test our limits), there will be none. Personally I think that one bot at a time is quite enough so, as long as there is some sort of automaton prowling the catbox, I'd suggest that anyone wishing to write or run one wait their turn and/or coordinate with others who share their interest. Not that I perceive a need for user-run automata in the first place. Bots will be held to at least the same standard as any other client as far as their catbox activity goes.

Part III - in which a Hero even more heroic than our heroic editor appears on a white unicorn to banish the demons and lead us to Reason amidst the sound of fanfares and marimbas

E2contact has been in the works for a few months now. TheDeadGuy has been given a mandate from High Above, though what that will do to a guy recovering from a messiah complex I do not know. His group will take charge of the issues that he describes. They will be the go-to people for "people" problems and will have the authority to do the needful as the need arises without being second-guessed by other staffers or users. The rationale behind this is that we've been lacking a proper support structure for users and staff alike outside the narrow confines of noding technique. The plan is to put the staff with the best track record and training in handling discord and personal problems in charge of precisely what they're good at dealing with, and what many of us are not. If you've met my bedside manner, you'll understand why I'm as pleased as anyone to be able to hand off some situations to a qualified and clearly defined group with a definite scope and purpose.

Read on for more...

E2 is people. Take care of the people
and the content will take care of itself.

For some time now we have been in the planning stages of a new editorial group on everything2 we are calling e2contact. The focus of this group will be on the people who contribute to this site. The individuals from the administration and editorial staff who have agreed to work in this group will turn their focus to the people of the site. They will be helping newbies find their way and deciding whether or not this site is where they want to be. They will be dealing with the issues of personality clashes and user interaction that becomes an issue for the site. They will be dealing with users whose behavior on the site becomes an issue for the site and for other users.

As an example of the broad statements given there, much of what I speak of relates to the chatterbox. Users insulting, attacking and baiting each other will be silenced and have their ability to use the chatterbox stopped for a period of time through what is commonly known around here as a borging. Users who use the chatterbox as a stage on which to exhibit self-destructive or suicidal intent will be contacted by a member of our team and asked to cease and desist in the chatterbox. They will be given telephone numbers and other contact information for organizations that are set up to help them in their time of crisis. If they continue to publicly demonstrate self-destructive or suicidal intent in the chatterbox they will be silenced while we privately direct them to where they can receive the kind of help they indicate a need for.

This might sound severe, but everything2 is not set up to counsel or deal with many of the expressions of suicidal intent and self-destructive behavior that has all too often been openly played out in the public chatterbox. We cannot risk the remote possibility that we would be held accountable for someone's "advice" encouraging a individual to take their own life.

I have, or will, ask all members of e2contact to consider themselves to be mandated reporters of any publicly or privately expression of suicidal intent or self-destructive behaviors. This will mean that once a member of e2contact privately messages an individual who expresses suicidal intent or self-destructive behavior with information on who to contact regarding what they are dealing with and they do not respond, and continue in the chatterbox, any and all efforts will be made to alert authorities as to the nature of what has been publicly expressed here.

That is mostly it for the harsh part of our program. A bigger part of our operation will be to foster relationships with users, to help new and established users feel like they are part of a community effort and that their contribution here is appreciated.

We will be taking the lead on welcoming new users. We will be changing the approach that has been used in the past by no longer inundating new users with links to FAQs and instructional pages. We will simply welcome them and let them know that if they need anything we are there for them. Over the years I have found that many new users are overwhelmed and intimidated by being asked to read pages and pages of instruction on the site. Most just want to kind of feel their way around and know there is help available when they need it and that they shouldn't feel stupid for asking questions.

e2contact will also be the group responsible for redirection your questions or concerns regarding any area of the website. If we cannot answer your question, we will either refer you to someone who can or pass your question or concern along to them.

E2Contact is still coming together. The members of the group are currently grundoon, Wiccanpiper, Augustine, Dimview, The Debutante, and karma debt with myself in the lead. I expect to be naming several new members to the group in the coming weeks. Interested applicants should contact me directly.


Some users have asked about parts of this editor log being a contradiction of Jack's statements on July 16, 2008. They are not contradictory. There is no official policy on E2 for dealing with suicidal exposition and intent. We cannot set up a system for dealing with emergencies relating to individuals who participate in the site. We cannot counsel or be liable for any official advice regarding someone's intent to cause harm to themselves or others. There is no internal policy. This policy is to direct the individual away from playing out such dramas here on the site and to direct them to seeking real, professional help. We cannot continue to have such dramas played out in the chatterbox with other users either egging the individual on or offering myriad forms of advice. Because we have no policy, we cannot be consistent and therefore must direct individuals expressing a desire to hurt themselves or others to places where they can receive consistent, professional guidance.

If you got a flat tire on the highway and came to E2 asking us to help you change it, we'd tell you to call the auto service. We're not able to counsel people in emergency situations, whether it is a flat tire on the highway or a desire to jump off a ledge.

Several users I admire have called for increased staff transparency (including asking me in private messages to post an exhaustive editor log). For my part, I have no problem with this, and as such I have for you a tediously long answer to the question: What the hell do you do here?

Forgive me ahead of time for being long-winded, but I think anyone interested in these things deserves an exhaustive answer. I became a Content Editor on June 1st, 2008 — so this is essentially disclosure of what I have done in the past three months. I should point out that I am only one editor (the least experienced among us, in fact) and that my activities do not necessarily reflect the activities of others. Some of us are more or less active than others, and many e2gods and Content Editors seem to settle into roles best suited to their own personalities.

Point is, don't take this as anything more than it is: a simple explanation of my activities here for the last three months.

Interactions with New Users:

Most of my time is spent attempting to help new users. I am a part of e2contact, so this is by design. (See TheDeadGuy's writeup above for specifics). Since June, I have welcomed 168 new users, most of them within minutes of their first login. This, in fact, was what I have been instructed to do, and my instructions have not yet changed, though they have been slightly expanded from time to time. In an effort to put a more human, less-confusing face on things, I simply drop new users a line that says something along the lines of: "Hey there, welcome to E2. Let me know if I can answer any questions or help out with anything." Then I explain how to respond to messages. That's it. No linking to FAQs (unless they ask for them), no long-winded introductions. There's time for all of that later if they take to conversation, but this place can be overwhelming enough for someone who just logs in without inundating them with even more to study. If you've signed up in the last three months, there's a pretty decent chance I've talked to you. Furthermore, I'm not the only person doing this. Several other e2gods and Content Editors go out of their way to do the same thing (though they may not have been asked explicitly to do so), which means that, in truth, nearly all new users get a greeting from someone who is qualified to help them figure things out, should that need be there.

Now, how does this work out? In regards to contact messages, new users fall into a few categories:

  • Those that disappear. Many of them, of course, do not respond, and often check out never to log in again. This is only natural; plenty of people sign up for an account just for the hell of it, scope things out from the non-guest side for a few minutes, and then move on. In fact, it seems that the majority of new accounts are logged into only once, and then only for a few minutes.
  • Those that have bizarre requests. A few recent ones: one that wanted to trade cornbread recipes, one that wanted help "signing up for The Sims", one that wanted someone to translate something for a tattoo he wanted, and one that wanted advice on getting started with anorexia.1
  • Those that stick around. In most cases, if a brand spanking new user ends up submitting writeups, I'll usually get a response back to my welcome message, even if it's just "thanks for the welcome". This is a great thing. It's not unusual for a question to come up two weeks later, and hey, they've still got my username in their inbox, so they've got someone to get in touch with. Any user can do that, of course, but one of the advantages of helping out as a Content Editor is that, for instance, instead of just telling someone how a pipelink works and encouraging them to try it out, I can actually add it to the writeup for them, so they can see what it looks like right there in their writeup. For some users, this approach is more helpful.

If a new user speaks to an editor, a mentor, or the chatterbox at large before posting their first writeup, experience suggests that the chances of their first writeup surviving increase dramatically. If they accept our suggestions to post a draft to a Scratch Pad first and invite people to offer advice, those odds increase to nearly 100%. I suspect that most of us appreciate the effort, don't we? My observation is that the voting tends to be kinder, gentler, and overall more encouraging and supportive when someone has asked good questions in the chatterbox.

1 Of course, this one wasn't so funny and was taken quite seriously. This is not that rare, actually. Google turns up a result like How to become a better anorexic, the reader confuses E2 for a website devoted to promoting anorexia, and bam: we've got a new user who here's for all the wrong reasons. This is part of the reason that e2contact was created, as I understand it. Since we are not equipped to safely help such people, the user in question was directed towards health organizations specializing in such matters.

Typo Corrections, Etc:

Like plenty of other users, I read a lot. I read almost everything that comes through New Writeups and then some, if I get into The Zone. Of course, as we all do, I come across typos, blatant grammar mistakes, and HTML missteps. This is simple stuff. If the user is long fled, I typically just make the correction myself. If the user is active, I send them a heads-up message. People often don't like their writeups messed with unnecessarily, including myself. If you tell me (or any other editor) that you'd rather us just fix typos for you, chances are we'll do just that. But until I've been told otherwise, I will not touch a writeup on the basis of fixing a misspelled word.

Writeup Removals:

This is the smallest part of my job, but unfortunately it is also the most visible. I have no way of going back and reviewing my own history in full, but I typically make notes of anything sent to Node Heaven that's more than just spam or something. I have no interest in posting the specific nodes and reasons for their removal in the old-school (rather harsh, in my opinion) fashion, but in the interests of transparency I'll give you a basic rundown of what my nukes have looked like:

  • I axed approximately 8 writeups that confused E2 for a messageboard. These were generally unlinked 1-line responses to old nodes. Sometimes these were all-caps and pointlessly inflammatory, but generally they were well-meaning. One was in response to a recipe and said: "INSTEAD OF BUTTERMILK I LIKE TO PUT LEMON JUICE IN REGULAR MILK." One was a question for the fled noder that had penned the first writeup in the node. Two were flames. One guy created a node under his name and simply said hello. The others were things like, "I loved this movie as a kid!" or "WTF, this game sucks."
  • I axed one "factual" writeup that was completely crippled with incorrect information and conspiracy theories. This writeup suggested, for instance, that taking anti-depressants or smoking marijuana can cause one's friends and relatives to spontaneously develop Crohn's Disease "through mind/body connection". Said writeup also suggests that this is the primary reason for school shootings.
  • I axed one poem at -9 rep.
  • I axed one writeup that was first hidden; details are in the next section.

There may be more that I forgot to make a note of, but I honestly doubt it. I don't remember any more than this, nor have I made notes of any more. I should also point out that each of these nukes was accompanied by a message stating that if they had any questions, then they should feel free to ask them, among other things. I invited the authors of the one-liners to expand their thoughts into full-length linked writeups as well. Invariably, these people do not log on again. They have come to post their comment to this strange forum called Everything2 and now that they've tossed in their two cents, they're out the door. Still, one day, who knows who might end up sticking around.

Hiding:

Actual content contributed that has problems is initially hidden rather than nuked. When I say "problems" I mean this in the most obvious of cases, typically writeups that are accumulating downvotes at an incredible rate. Why some of us jump at the chance to downvote a user's first attempt to a rep of -10 within 30 minutes (and softlink it to Witnessing the birth of new noders, How do I submit a writeup of my own?, and Try cock) when we all know it's not going to be left unlinked and unformatted on New Writeups is beyond me. It is not helpful. I think we've probably all seen writeups like this. The specific reasons for my hidings and the outcomes will be listed as before:

  • 1 first-time writeup hidden for lack of any HTML. riverrun helped the user, and the writeup was unhidden. It survived the initial slew of downvotes. User has now submitted more writeups, all of which have been successful.
  • 1 first-time writeup hidden for lack of links and screwy HTML issues. It was a piece of fiction that, in truth, I suspect would have been heavily downvoted either way. The user has not logged in since posting the writeup; it was left hidden for weeks before I finally axed it. Should they return, I will talk to them about re-posting a corrected version, but I doubt that will happen.
  • 2 writeups hidden (same author) that contained truly bizarre and problematic HTML copy/pasted from some WYSIWYG editor or another. This in and of itself would have been only a small problem (since we can fix HTML for them if need be), but the writeups were also posted to the wrong node titles. User was glad to have help cleaning them up, and an e2god fixed the names. Writeups were unhidden and currently sit with positive reps.
  • 1 writeup hidden that violated Fair Use rules for posting lyrics. This was an honest mistake by an older user who quickly brought it up to par. Writeup was unhidden.

The distinction with hiding seems to be between actual content and a lack thereof — users who post something worthwhile that have it hidden generally care enough to make the necessary changes and have it unhidden pretty easily, while users who toss up a weak two-sentence writeup generally do nothing about it, and eventually the writeup is removed.

Final Remarks:

In defiance of common sense, I have come to care about this site and its users. I'm happy to give back to the community and have no problems discussing with you whatever it is that might be rubbing you the wrong way. Always feel free to ask questions. If this ship goes down one day, part of me likes to think that I'll be one of the ones still here.

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