The honor roll was a method invented on everything2 that was intended to reward good writeups. Unfortunately the underlying math behind the honor roll guaranteed that instead of rewarding good writeups the honor roll would instead encourage people not to write anything at all.
When the honor roll was introduced the bulk of the website consisted of writeups by fled users that were significantly below the quality level of current writeups. In fact this is still true today. So while the original idea was to support the best noders instead we have a situation where everyone is on the honor roll. There may be a few fled users that are not on it, almost all active users are on it, and the votes, experience and levels of fled users are meaningless.
The underlying math behind the honor roll essentially gave everyone a one time boost in status at the cost of permanent stagnation and the more writeups a person has the worse the effect is. If you want the short answer then it is this; every writeup you post lowers your merit.
Now for the longer explanation.
The honor roll uses a funny way of assigning an average reputation of your nodes, which they called merit (the exact math used to calculate that number isn't actually all that important), and if your reputation compares favorably with the overall average then you need less writeups per level.
When the honor roll was introduced people almost instantly started culling writeups with lower reputations in order to to raise their merit. This of course had the effect of raising the average numbers of the website. The net effect is that the person is no closer to that next level than they were in the first place, in fact they are further away than when they started, since now they are missing all those low reputation writeups and thus can't gain any levels the normal way.
Now one would think that you could just make some new writeups and just keep on trucking, and in a way you can, but, and this is a big but, a writeup today can't even begin to compete with the vast bulk of writeups that have been here for years. This website simply isn't as popular as it used to be, at least not with users that are apparent to you or I (the administration assures me that guest user loves us, and I have no reason to dispute that). Thus that new writeup will almost certainly fall short of the user's merit score and have little to no effect on the number of writeups needed for the next level. Users with lots of writeups were actually able to sit there and watch that gargantuan number of writeups they needed for the next level go up by one every once in a while, even if they didn't lose any writeups.
Thus, the honor roll discourages content creation and encourages content destruction, and it is largely the reason why so little content was posted from 2002-2007.
It is my hope that the majority of the people who read this will be reading a historical writeup about the way things used to be when the honor roll was the default system.