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I haven't done that much actual editing in my first month as an editor. Working and writing can lead to that.

But if you hang around here for a while, you notice that editorial styles vary quite a bit. Some folks like to follow Wikipedia's "be bold" principle and pounce on anything they find lacking. Others believe in a more passive, nurturing approach. Leave a note, hope things work themselves out. I wish the latter were always the case.

In my opinion, most of the problems we have with content on E2 stem from a complete lack of clear rules and policies. Part of it, from my political scientist perspective, is that E2 is structured like a police state. The committee making the rules is the same committee enforcing the rules. (In fact, many editors kind of refuse to acknowledge each other's presence; discussions come out sounding like various crazy people shouting into the ether half the time. It's an oligarchy of the bold editors; the passive editors end up having no influence.) If I could hack the core right now, here's what I would do:


  • Replace Content Editors with a "Content Committee" of about 50 noders with high experience (not necessarily in terms of XP). They would not have direct editorial powers, but would have access to special discussion fora and may vote on content issues and policies. Membership would be by invitation whenever a vacancy arises due to resignation or fledness, and members would only need to show up weekly or so to vote and participate in discussions.
  • Replace gods with a group of 10 to 20 E2 regulars, preferably in different time zones so they aren't all online at once. Gods would function essentially the same way as they do now, except (a) the Content Committee would select them and (b) the Content Committee could de-select them, i.e. through a vote for removal. (The site admins would be gods not subject to removal; it's their site, after all.)

Then I would write a crystal-clear Restatement of the Law of Noding. The rules of Everything2 are completely opaque, and there are competing versions of the law on record. What we need is one document of house rules, with some of the more complex titling conventions linked to it. And we need to remove ridiculous rules like "Each administrator has a responsibility to remove material that he or she thinks is not up to standard. There is no clear standard of what is acceptable and what is not."

I put together this Restatement of the current rules while I was waiting for my boss to get off the phone:


Restatement of Noding

INTRODUCTION

Everything2 is a website containing a wide range of original written material. The material is voluntarily contributed by people from all around the world.

The site is not-for-profit and is owned by The Everything Development Company. It is administered by two groups of users. "Content Editors" are empowered to edit and delete writeups and to perform other database housekeeping tasks. "Gods" have additional powers to delete entire nodes and move entire writeups.

Everything2 is a successor site to Everything. Any writeups dated Nov. 13 or Nov. 14, 1999 were imported from Everything. These writeups are often retained as placeholders, but may not meet current standards. In such a case, they will promptly be deleted if they are superseded by a compliant writeup.

  1. COPYRIGHT
    • Copyright to each writeup resides with its author.
    • Material written by others (like quotations, song lyrics or book chapters) may only be posted if properly cited, AND:
    • Anything which infringes copyright may be deleted without warning.
  2. LANGUAGE AND CONTENT
    • All writeups must be integrated into the database. This is accomplished by linking.
    • The official site language is English (of any dialect). Writeups may be posted in other languages.
    • Correct spelling and grammar are required, except in cases where poetic license applies.
    • Writeups must be factually correct if they are implied to be factual. Any writeup which contains factual inaccuracies is subject to deletion.
    • Highly subjective writeups are strongly discouraged and will only be retained if the quality of their writing is particularly strong. Such writeups include:
      • Writeups in response to other writeups.
      • Writeups which solely express personal tastes
      • Writeups which are solely lists
      • Writeups which ask questions inviting replies
      • Metanodes
    • Personal information without long-term relevance must be posted as part of a Day Log and not as part of the main database.
    • ASCII art is permitted where necessary to illustrate a concept; however, prose explanations are preferred.
    • New users should not write about Everything2 itself.
  3. TITLING
    • Titles should always aim to make the writeup easy to find.
    • Keep titles as short as possible.
    • Titles should not invite list making ("Books that will blow your mind," "Cover songs that are really cool," etc.)
    • Titles should not be namespaced. A node containing information about the thing that is a red ball should simply be called "red ball," not "toys: red ball" and not "ball: red."
    • Do not use HTML tags in titles.
    • Only use ASCII characters in titles. Do not use Unicode HTML entities. (However, you may use Unicode HTML entities within a writeup.)
    • Chinese titles should be romanized in Pinyin, and Japanese titles should be romanized in Hepburn.
    • Never use a URL as a title.
    • Never use an abbreviation or acronym as a title, unless it has gained acceptance as a word in its own right (e.g. radar).
  4. Most pages on this site are prepared as HTML. If you want to post something, then you need to know at least the most basic hypertext mark-up codes, such as the paragraph tags.
  5. All members (so long as they have made a small number of contributions) can vote on the work submitted by other members. Voting is completely at the discretion of the individual users. Do not complain about downvotes, XP or soft links in the chatterbox.

Complete? No. And the formatting could be better. The point is that it's clear, simple and to the point. You don't have to go through 20 FAQ pages to understand how to use E2.

Then, when the rules are finally stated succinctly, the editors can be bound to them as well. This is a key point. Many people leave E2 because they feel unfairly treated by the administration.

Whatever our policy is, it must be fair and it must let people be creative. The beauty of E2 is that it inspires creativity. Your writeups are your own, and you can fill them with whatever mix of fact and opinion you want so long as you follow the rules. Our policies must always keep that basic principle in mind, so that more and more writers will come here and find an environment in which they want to stay.

I'd like to start off by saying that E2 is in serious danger and/or end times!!! Things are spiralling out of control and the website is falling apart!!

Yes, that's right. They've gone and made me an editor.

As a new editor, I've decided to come back down from Mount Awesome to let you know what the heck they're doing up there, besides eating ambrosia and playing chess with real human pieces.

All kidding aside, the last month has been a truly enlightening and uplifting experience. When you get your dollar sign, there are LOTS of shiny new buttons. People practically line up to answer your stupid questions about how those buttons work. You spend the first few days reading all the new FAQs and figuring out the syntax of macros and how to delete a writeup and then, oh, God.

You actually can DELETE writeups.

I've been here for 5 years and that statement never hit home quite like it did about a month ago. When you actually have the power/ability/responsibility to delete another person's work, all your noding philosophies and past indiscretions stare you down. I spent a good deal of time in serious introspection about my editorial policy and action plan, only to chuck it out the window. I came to this site to enjoy myself and become a better writer. I'm gonna keep doing just that, only now I'm gonna help others enjoy the site and become better writers, too. Screw the politics. Let's enjoy ourselves again.

I spent the better part of my first month questioning my judgment, conferring with respected peers, and cheering on those who're just getting started. I've introduced myself to many brand new noders, most of whom have been very friendly and enthusiastic. I weighed in on a few editorial discussions, helped out with a quest, wrote a few things. But it's true: most of an editor's job is actually inspiring people to make things better, rather than just axing those nodes the editor doesn't like.

To those who tolerated my newbie editor activities: thank you for your patience, your understanding, and your willingness to keep E2 lovely. I am happy to report that I helped several writers make their work better, did some broom pushing behind the scenes, and swung the axe only when necessary. I have not made anyone cry, I have not made anyone quit, and I have not deleted you-know-what. But there's always next month.

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