- What is your name?
My name is Mark. Here on E2 I very recently took a name change to
'marku' from my previous username 'beldin'. One of the hazards of being
on the same site for more than ten years is that when you outgrow a
handle you chose as a little kid, you're stuck with it as an adult. The
new username is something I'm occasionally called by staff at one of the
local sushi restaurants I visit.
- Tell us something about you, your background, and what you've been up to lately?
I'm an IT professional, born and raised in Minnesota. My vices
include food, alcohol, and video games; I spend most of my time either
working or indulging those vices. Previous vices include Citadel-86
BBSes and LPMUDs, both of which helped to inform my interest in the
literary style and the user-created content here on E2.
- How did you discover Everything, and how did you become a noder?
I discovered E2 through Slashdot, back when a lot of the stories
posted there still had little superscripted question-mark links next to
the keywords. I didn't care much for the encyclopedia mission, but the
collaborative nature of the site really appealed to me, particularly the
feedback from editors and readers through direct messaging, C!s, and
As a teenager I had been on a fantasy-themed BBS which has a concept
called "The Arena." In it, everyone made a gladiator character that
would fit in a D&D-style setting. We posted descriptions of our
characters, and each week a moderator would pair off the characters to
fight against one another. Each author would write their version of the
battle and the winning version would be picked on literary merits and
posted as "canon" for the whole BBS to read. The judges would post
criticism and feedback on both versions of the story in a private
section of the site for the Arena participants to see.
After I made the transition to the web, I never found anything else
that I liked the way I liked that old Arena game, until E2. This site
was very ahead of the curve on gamification of its user experience.
- What are your favorite writeups -- both your own and from other noders?
Some writeups that made me fall in love with the site initially include:
The list is too long, though. Tell you what, I'll try to make it to level 4 so I can start giving C!s to all of them.
- The stuff riverrun did under the REMFS tag, which reminded me of a memoir that a Citadel sysop had posted on his BBS a few years earlier.
- moJoe's rant about toilet seats,
which didn't make me laugh until after it had already impressed me with
its reductive argument. The thing about unwarranted assumptions and
militantly unaware of my environment made it into my vocabulary, both socially and at work.
- The infamous and now-deleted writeup in the Butterfinger McFlurry node, which made me crack up on at least one overnight shift back in the days where I still worked those regularly.
- I finally had a good reason to hardlink Jet-Poop's why I did what I did
the other day. I had a hardcopy of that writeup hanging on the wall of
my cube for years, and several of my friends still laugh out loud every
time somebody runs a red turn light in front of me and I mutter
something like ran red light, corner of Prairie Center and Technology, 1:02pm.
Of my own writeups, my favorite is probably the poem I posted in December 2009, when trafficking in HOT NAKED PICS OF 18 YEAR OLD SLUTS, consider your sources carefully.
I wish I'd gone through another draft before posting it, but I'm proud
of how it turned out and it's been a lot of fun seeing how the text from
the piece got scraped from the site and recycled into link farms for
porno sites. The quoted string
hot naked pics of 18 year old sluts
had 0 hits on Google when I first posted that. Search engine
optimization is a funny business to be in, and I love idea that someone
would ruthlessly gank that specific poem text to use it in a way that
had no common context with the source material. Someone somewhere
someday will see that text as metadata in a porn search result and find
himself thinking twice about whether or not the girl on his screen
actually signed up to be random stroke material. Whether the
metrics-driven link farmers who copied the writeup in the first place
will notice this as an overall uptick or downtick in traffic on those
particular pages is a question with room for debate.
- What are your favorite and least favorite memories from E2's history?
- I remember that I used to spend a lot of night shifts playing around
with the CGI script that came online when E2 was down for backups.
- I thought the "participate in your own manipulation" poster was one
of the coolest pieces of advertising I had seen. I bought three copies
of it, and still own one.
- One of my very first writeups for E2, Pickle on a McDonald's cheeseburger,
was based on a rant I had originally written on a BBS a few years
earlier. The first copy of it was nuked by mistake by one of the
editors; he had literally meant to delete a different node and deleted
mine instead. I rewrote it from scratch and I think the editor C!ed it
by way of apology. A couple of years later when Node Heaven was
introduced I went back and read the first version of the writeup; I
think the second one was a lot better anyway. That was a pretty cool
moment and has stuck with me ever since. I tend to do the same thing
deliberately with my draft process in all writing (not just for E2)
these days; previously I would work pretty closely from my first draft.
Now instead I prefer to write a second draft from scratch, and only look
back at the first one after I have two finished products. That would
have never happened to me if deleted writeups had been so hard to get
back in those early days.
- I really miss the random quotes that used to show up on the top
page. Their tone and randomness appealed to me in the same way that the
old Unix fortune files appealed to me.
- It bothered me when the site took a couple of big steps back from
the earn your bullshit concept. The idea that the site should have a
high bar for writing probably helped it a lot, but the site needs enough
flexibility that those rules can be broken with good reason. To me that
'earn your bullshit' concept was about the importance of learning the
rules before breaking them so that even as we blew off a little steam we could all generally continue steering in the same direction.
- What keeps you coming back?
Rudy Rucker has a number of essays about science fiction; in them he
introduces a concept of gnarl, which he basically describes as weird
little twists and turns in the writing that don't really move the main
story along but surprise the reader and in doing so make the world a
little easier for the reader to occupy. I think that the overall
editorial mission of E2 is very friendly to this concept of gnarl, and
that this is an unusual thing on collaborative writing sites,
particularly ones with a meaningful standard for quality. Wikipedia is a
much more useful site to the world at large, but they have zero
tolerance for gnarl of any kind.
The door to the data-center hosting the E2 servers should have a sign on it that reads: This machine rewards beautiful weirdos.
- What do you hope for E2's future?
I'd like to see tighter integration between this site and social
networks. It would be pretty cool if I could link my E2 account to my
Facebook account or my Google Plus account, such that my new writeups
here showed up in my feeds there, and such that any friends of mine with
similarly linked accounts who use a +1 or a 'like this' button have the
option of giving me an E2 upvote in the process.
No, I don't want to help build that.
- What does E2 mean to you?
E2 is a place I can go when I'm looking to be surprised and engaged
by good writing on random topics. It's a place I can go to put writing
of my own when I'm hoping for honest feedback, and it's a better than
average place to display the finished product because I can use
hardlinks and pipelinks to help clarify some of the less obvious
- Who are your favorite noders? Which ones do you miss the most?
- People were /missing sensei before I had been here long
enough to really understand what was going on, but his writing has
consistently made me get what everyone was talking about.
- I occasionally wonder what happened to liminal, and go back and read those daylogs all over again.
- This is probably cliche, but I miss dem bones. I feel like the
site's current philosophy of content curation really started with him.
Somebody softlinked He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is our
son-of-a-bitch from Nathan, this is unacceptable and when I first saw that I remember feeling like the wording was uncharitable but the sentiment was spot-on.
- riverrun was my first favorite noder here, and I still go back through those writeups every so often. Somebody C!ed I could've kissed Orson Welles
yesterday and it still feels totally current. I just noticed for the
first time that he hardlinks every mention of Orson's name, and what a
good effect that has on the look and feel of writeup.
- Igloowhite is my all-time favorite noder here, and it bothers me
at least once a year that after he left here he didn't start publishing
long-form stuff. He and riverrun are actually why I stopped noding here
for so long--they made me despair of ever being able to write well
enough to belong on the same site. Lately, though, I've been thinking:
baseball has the minor leagues, right?
- And then there's Jet-Poop. I go through that writeup list and just
shake my head. I think about the idea of trying to produce that much
quality content for this site and just get tired. Half the reason I'm
responding to this interview is because he's the one who asked.
- Who would play you in the Everything2 movie?
Well, hopefully a pillow. I'm just not that active here.
- Please fill in the blank: "E2 is to the Internet as ___ is to the world."
E2 is to the Internet as the competitive slam poetry movement is to the world.
Overly competitive for some people. Niche. Populist. Highly
intelligent. Totally at ease with its contradictions. A little dated.
- Any questions that I didn't ask that I should've?
You should have asked me what I thought about E2's choice to work
mostly behind handles instead of real names. I'm ambivalent about it and
could probably have generated a couple of long paragraphs on the pros
and cons. Now it's too late, though. Sorry.