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I've a great deal of time spent talking to people and getting their opinions on the whole "What is wrong with this website?" question that comes up so often. I've been doing this for years, really. I make it my job here to encourage newer users and talk to disenchanted noders. That is what I do here.

I'm going to make a few statements. You need to think about these statements rather than having knee-jerk or defensive reactions.

People want entertainment during their leisure hours.

People aren't paid to write for this site or to contribute to it in any way.

People generally come here during leisure time. They could be doing any number of other things during leisure time, from playing video games to watching movies, walking in the park or having sex with prostitutes.

Everything2 competes for people's leisure time.

People don't generally want to be told they need to work during leisure time. They want to enjoy their leisure time.

Many people enjoy writing during leisure time, whether it is something they are serious about or regard it as just a hobby or whim.

Everything2 generally competes for the leisure time of people who enjoy writing in one way or another.

People generally want to be in some way entertained by this website. That entertainment comes from both reading what is written by others and contributing their own writing.

One of the biggest complaints I get, as well as one of the primary explanations from "fled noders" is that this website was once entertaining but no longer is. There were more personalities here at one time who contributed writing that was both informative and entertaining. That personality seems to be missing from a lot of what is written these days.

Newer users tend to feel that near perfection is expected out of them with their contributions here and some who have stuck around have worked to hone their writeups until they are "good enough." They end up feeling like it wasn't much fun to be part of this website.

Fled users seem to feel they are/were no longer appreciated and it was no longer fun to be a part of the site.

Established users seem to feel much is expected of their writeups and contribute less because where they once would submit something quirky and strange for the heck of it, they feel it is better to hold out until they have something award winning to submit before they post.

These are, of course, not universal feelings. They are taken from random samplings of people I have talked to.

Why is the website no longer fun and entertaining? Why are many leaving to simply post blogs elsewhere or to have sex with prostitutes? I think the fault lies both with the administration and editors as well as the user base.

We tend to act like elitist snobs and crucify newer users for writeups we wouldn't crucify established users for. We're hard on ourselves, demanding near perfection (which we never get close to anyway - but convince ourselves that we do). We've moved the entertainment factor to the catbox and noder gatherings and left the core element of the website, the writeups, to all but rot.

Bells and whistles won't save the site. A new logo won't save the site. Video links won't save the site. Pictures in writeups won't save the site.

The core element is what will save the site. Writeups will save the site. Writeups are Everything2. We need more of them. We need more of them written by a more diverse group of writers. We need to go back to what this website is all about.

We need to go back to what we once did, which was attract new writers to the site because it is an entertaining and fun place to read and write during your leisure time. People need to enjoy posting here instead of living in fear of the downvotes and nukes. This website needs to be attracting a population of people who enjoy writing and would rather be involved in something other than just writing blogs, people who write stories, people who write about their favorite movies and actors, people who write weird shit, and people who write poetry. We need to make them feel welcome, not just with blanket statements like "Hi, and welcome to Everything2, go read the fucking FAQ," but by welcoming their writeups. By encouraging them to be part of this website.

Because every damned last one of us who cares about the future of this website needs to do this. Not just content editors. Not just administrators. All of you. Do you want to be a website of two dozen people who each post a writeup once a month? Or do you want to be part of a website where New Writeups moves along at a clip where you have to log in three times a day just to keep up, like we used to do?

I've seen new users crucified by the user base very often over the past two or three years. They get downvoted to hell and back. Editors delete the writeups with nuke messages that are impersonal and offer little encouragement or direction. "Not up to our standards" is a fucking piss poor nuke message, and I don't care who you are. To me it is not acceptable.

I tell this story too often, but I will tell it again. When I first came here, I was working nights in an office and didn't have a lot to do other than wait for emergency orders and handle situations that came up at night. I had a lot of free time on my hands. I found this website and I decided to post some crazy stuff I pulled out of my ass. For about a week my stuff was upvoted and cooled. I enjoyed myself. Then I was nuked with penalty (something that used to be done and thankfully isn't any longer) and told I was a troll and was not welcome here.

How many trolls like me have we driven off in the past few years?

I don't function like most people. My reaction was to say, "Fuck you, I'll own you sons of bitches in a year or two." I came up with a strategy. I submitted a lot of short, to the point, factuals (mostly on historical figures) and threw my weird shit in between. A year later I was a Content Editor. Less than a year after that I was a "god." Truth be told, I'm still a troll. I never do rewrites here. I never really spellcheck my writeups. Sometimes I go back and delete things I thought turned out to be crap, but I used to post a writeup once every day or every two days. A lot more time passes between my writeups now.

You know why? Because it just isn't as much fun any longer, and that's the problem so many other people tell me about. So I understand.

And the question to y'all is, what are you going to do about it? The future of this website is in all of our hands. You all matter here. So what are you going to do about it?


Comments and responses:

Three noders brought up the subject of not having as much time as they once did to write here. This is something I am aware of, as I am in the same boat. People's situations change all the time. This is another reason to encourage and bring on board new writers.

One noder talked about taking an oath to avoid downvoting obviously clueless newbies. Editors should not need downvotes to show them something needs to be removed, and someone who shows potential but isn't grasping the formatting and links doesn't need to be downvoted. They need us to show them the ropes and help them out.

Another noder talked about how we are in a recovery period from events that happened several years ago, and I agree that we are, but we need to move that recovery period along a lot faster.

Ok, I'll bite.

TDG is of course absolutely right in 95% of his statements. Being a part of the vocal 'why the heck do we need pictures?' fraternity on E2 I agree with most statements. Nevertheless I do think that 99% of content editors are more of the nurturing type, e.g. trying to help new users instead of nuking them to hell and back.

What do I do when I see an unlinked, badly formatted, but promising w/u? I hide it to protect it from down votes and ask the user to make the necessary changes to make it shine. If nothing happens within the next 48 hours I will delete it, msg the user to try again and maybe have someone have a look at the w/u before posting it again.

There is a lot of crap in the New Writeups nodelet at times. And by 'crap' I don't mean a 300 word essay about a lost boyfriend and the deep hurt associated with it (these get politely moved to the daylogs). No, I mean 2 word spam, html, flippant replies and such. I msg the user politely and yes, these get deleted immediately.

This is E2. It's not a BBS or some php forum for trolls. I will nurture and support your talent as well as I can. But if you deface something I care deeply about, I have to ask you to pick up your game or leave.

We've been busy. Unfortunately we've often been busy with Real Life. A bunch of volunteers, no matter how committed, can do only so much at a time.

It's customary to post ed logs hidden like day logs. This is more of an informational post than a record of past (mis)deeds so I'm taking it public in lieu of a front page newsletter. Here's some stuff that's going on these days:

Voting/XP reform

I talked about reforming the voting/XP system in my last two ed logs. No need to revisit the why and what. What we have done in the last two months is basically wait for the boss to come down from the mountain of thesis-writing and lead us to Canaan. Where we will find lots of good people and kill them because God promised us this land. Or something.

The news on this front is that katherine has signed off on our proposal. We now need to establish exactly how it will be implemented and who will do the legwork. Then we'll deal with the unforeseen but certain snags that will crop up while implementing it. There's no shortage of ideas in this place, and I think that we put them to good use, but coding time is scarce and accordingly precious. One of our main guys is now deep in thesis-land himself. Volunteers and all that.

The archives of our deliberations regarding the voting/XP system are now public. Discussion is encouraged, particularly if you spot fatal flaws in the final proposal. Which brings us to where you can view the archive...

The E2 forum (or E2 now is a BBS)

With the end of the semester, I found time to upgrade the message board to something more powerful and useful than we had before. In fact it now has features that I dearly wish we had on E2 itself. With the blessing and cooperation of Katherine and Nate (pbuh), the Forum is now officially part of the E2 continuum. A link to it has made it into your sidebar in the Vitals nodelet: http://forum.everything2.com/

I started the forum in November '05 as a private attempt to offer a means of communication that went beyond the catbox, usergroups, and messaging, all of which are a bit clumsy and/or time-sensitive. The big change from my point of view is that it will get more in line with E2 policies, such as they are, and that its management will include E2 staffers, which was not the case before. If it goes well and takes off again like it did the first time around, we will look into integrating it more with E2 itself.

We're offering a reward of eternal gratitude (sans sexual favours) for a phpBB 3.0 theme to go with E2. We might also need a Few Good Noders, ideally with BBS experience, to do the minimal job of acting as mods. Which, according to the board's standing policy, involves mostly enabling the flow of ideas by not acting at all. Mods will probably have Scribe as their chief of staff and head janitor. Over 350 of you already have accounts on the board. If you have any trouble logging in or creating new accounts, message me here. If you have suggestions for topics, need a dedicated area for a closed group, or think that the structure can be improved, let me know on the board or post your suggestion in public. I'll be supervising the board's operations until everything is running smoothly, after which day to day ops will probably go to someone else.

Being friendly to old|new|tender|baby noders

If you've been listening to TheDeadGuy (after reading and ignoring the message from the Surgeon-General about listening to TheDeadGuy), we've been talking about improving the way in which new and old users alike are supported by the staff and by the site as a whole. He's leading a faction of heretics who are resisting the dogma that E2 being unfriendly to old noders or to new noders is a necessary part of its character. Please burn them on sight. They have been heard raising impertinent questions such as "why the hell does E2 have to be unfriendly to anyone?"

What this proposed improvement means is something that I'm sure you have been and will be hearing from him. What's certain is that it reaches a long way past why I love Everything2. OK, so I find the title as cheesy as you do but it's direct and to the point. I also see that node as an opportunity to collect positive attitudes about E2 and understand where we're succeeding. We need to understand what it is that we do here that works and become more consistent and conscious about doing these things that work. We know that there are many non-staffers out there who work small miracles behind the scenes. We tend to concentrate on E2's failures and are pretty good at listening to complaints very sympathetically. That is not all there is to feedback.

The bottom line is that there's a reason why this site is doggedly hanging on in 2008 despite its 1998 styling and interface. We have no shortage of people ready to point out what's wrong with the site when the management is in fact already keenly aware of its shortcomings. Perhaps it's time for some feel-good navel-gazing and the kind of testimonials that we haven't really had or solicited since the days of E2 is a community and E2 is a family. I don't think that E2 has ceased to be either for those who believe in it as such.

I come full circle, I guess, back to volunteers. We'd really just like to help people have fun on the site and create good writing for the world to enjoy. But I'm asking you anyway to raise your hand if there's something that you know you can help out with. Work with us.

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