"...your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" - Acts 2:17
In the beginning was Chaos. And Lo, Nate spake unto his brother, saying "There shall be stars, and planets, and those inhabiting them, and they shall want to share geeky stuff", and CmdrTaco replied unto him, "Yes, and we shall create for them a thing of slashes and dots, and there will be much rejoicing". And it was good. Then they spake up afterward, saying "let us make a database of linked information and sundrie writings" and it was so. And they again spake, saying "Let there be gods and demigods, and demons, to rule over the nodegel", and it became as he said. And his brethren said unto him "We should create users, in our image, and they can write everything", and thus were created the noders. And so, in the beginning was Everything made, and it would contain everything.
Everything in the old days
Of course, in these enlightened times, no-one believes that. We know now that the original Everything didn't have nodes as such, each user would carve a writeup onto a rock, and carry it to the "server", which consisted of nate and a bunch of trained apemen, who would organise them in serried ranks, connected by soft links of chewed animal hide and such.
<sterling> "Trained". Hah!
<wertperch> There weren't softlinks, you connected stuff with tendons, and blood trails.
<mordel> wertperch, i think you're being a bit generous calling them "trained apemen"...
<wertperch> They were bloody well trained. dannye was their taskmaster, and ooo, he was a tough one.
<wertperch> dem bones started out as just that, a pile of bones, He was a golem, y'know.
<wertperch> I'm not sure whether this is declassified yet, so don't read it all.
<wertperch> Title edits were a bit of a bugger though.
indigoe is rather intimidated by the idea of a supervising dannye with an improvised Cat o' nine tails.
<wertperch> There was nothing improvised about it. He made it himself out of noder's old cats. They had a whip-round.
<wertperch> The donation box was bloody messy, but the remains did make EDB grow into such a strapping borg.
As time went on, paper replaced the unwieldy rocks, and string replaced the messy animal parts, and of course, the rest is history. As opposed to prehistory, of course.
The first "Everything" differed in many ways from what we have come to know. Each node could contain but two writeups, each with a maximum of 512 characters - noders had to be economical with their words, generally producing one of three effects. Some were great, concise writers who could encapsulate thoughts with brilliant brevity; secondly, some wrote like old-fashioned telegrams; some spread information over a number of nodes, rather like a serial story. For comparison, this paragraph has 512 characters.
There were an unlimited number of softlinks displayed - this led to creations like The Node Linked to Everything, and immensely long lists of links under the writeup. There was no chatterbox, no EDB, no Klaproth, no blab!. There wasn't even an Other Users list, instead there was Everything Finger. It was crude, but it was scintilatting. There was a degree of anarchy, but there was brilliance too - poets surfaced, factnoders filled the endless gaps - sometimes brilliantly, sometimes not.
In time, as The E2 Backstory tells us, there was a desire to change, to improve. To make money. What we now as Everything2 was born.
A New Hope
November 13, 1999 was the date. No more the 512 limit. No more the endless lists of softlinks - the number of links shown was limited. There were however many other improvements, and they grew and they grew. The Chatterbox, and to help keep it under control, the Everything Death Borg. For a while, there were paid staff, in the hopes that E2 would become the new Slashdot. What grew instead was a community that wrote, read, played and met together. In time, other enhancements would follow - Klaproth would tell you if one of your writeups was "nuked", and why. The bar was raised some - the one-liners that at one time were acceptable, were now considered too weak. The Content Rescue Team was founded to improve the quality and range of factual information, other writers took the lead in extending assistance to others, others led by example.
There have been so many changes, some technical, some social - the site doesn't go down for updates and maintenance every morning as it used to; no more Word Galaxy for up to an hour. The site is faster, we get multiple C! on writeups, whereas there used to be just one. The editorial staff became more communicative, and nowadays the whole userbase seems to be giving more feedback (something that is dear to me), but there were problems that remained unresolved in some people's minds. Issues relating to copyright and the "raising of the bar" were among those. The Honor Roll was briefly a contentious issue, giving faster advancement to "better" writers, but for all the benefits, it's still seen as overcomplicated by many.
Now, we are faced with new challenges. User numbers are down, well down on their peak, when you could see eighty or a hundred online at any time. The number of new writeups has declined, and some days we have a net loss of writeups. Some high-profile users have fled, in many cases taking their writing with them. Many suggestions have been made, and the E2 we see today is generally gentler and better than the E2 of 6-odd years ago, when I joined up. It's not perfect, it may never be. Many people have come forward with their criticisms, new ideas and "quick fixes" - there have been polls, forums and debates among us all, and some have accused the admin team of being indecisive and doing nothing.
Recently, many of you will have noticed that Dann, having filled his legendary notebook with noder's comments, has posted an E2 Community Development Newsletter, setting out realistic goals for E2, which include the long-awaited image support, the ability to remove one's own work, or to post it as Public Domain and the like, allowing others to use noder's material outside of E2.
I'm not going to cover all that ground again - for one thing, Dann expressed it far better than I could. What I am going to say is that this represents the combined ideas of possibly hundreds of people who are committed to making E2 grow, not just in terms of numbers, but in community, enjoyment and the craft of writing.
That's what has been keeping me here for so long - something built by a few, steered by many, headed for the stars. You may not believe that anything will improve; after all, haven't we heard similar promises before and seen them come to naught? Am I being overly optimistic? Maybe, but it has to be better than banging rocks together.
Footnote: To the Future
<Simulacron3> Transcendental E2 (enhanced) will allow more social cohesion and collaboration. /anvil will be replaced by /grouphug. All you narcistic selfists are gonna feel so like fish out of water.
<wertperch> I will draw the line at having subdermal implants though, even if it denies me access to the 3d options.
<Simulacron3> We will have guerrilla advertising. You will see E2 pop up in unexpected places. You will have email from Nigeria and promises of more and/or bigger penises.
<Simulacron3> There will be a staff of counselors to help you through the transition.
<wertperch> /egg will be superseded too, but we don;t know by what.
Apatrix says Clearly, /egg must be superseded by /chicken. No question as to which came first.
Many thanks to RoguePoet for highly valuable feedback.