Part I · Part II
Based on the feedback I've received from yesterday's daylog, I decided I would address some of the assumptions at work, both mine and those of others, surrounding my stated beliefs and to speak to the volumes of commentary that they have provoked in the chatterbox from the established citizens of today's E2. No "makes an ass of you and me" jokes, kthx.
First, I began my anniversary daylog by stating that I had been largely inactive on E2 for the past two years. Looking around, I don't see that a whole lot has changed since I last frequented the site. My assumption is that things are essentially the same, with the probable exception that everything that's been in place is even more entrenched and established due to the simple passage of time. This may not be the case. There may be some major substantive changes that have taken place in the way that E2 works and the kind of dynamic that its new users have with the current system. I don't know. Oolong tells me that it's his perception that the staff has been "chilling out a lot more" over the past two or three years, so maybe the conditions I envision as being ongoing or worsening are not quite the case.
Second, the beliefs I have expressed are merely beliefs, not irrefutable facts. I do not know for certain whether or not the pessimistic outlook I have for E2's future holds any merit, or whether it is merely "bullshit" as has been openly suggested. I am basing my assumptions on what I have personally observed in the past, and on what I have been told by dozens and dozens of people whose writing I admired and whose presence on this site made the community friendlier and more like play than work. My beliefs could be wrong, and maybe the history of E2 could be preserved in some way that will give a reasonable person satisfaction. If E2 really is a "lighter side" of the authoritarian experience I last tasted here, then I guess I will need to observe that to believe it.
Third, I see a lot of reaction to my idea of splitting E2 perceived as if I was suggesting that this would damage, destroy or take something away from everything that Everything2 is right here today and now. I can't see where this assumption comes from, except maybe by my choice of the word 'splitting'. Maybe I should say 'cloning' or something. These are semantics. All I'm envisioning is a sort of backup copy of E2 that could be managed in a different way than E2 has evolved into being managed, with a different mission and ultimately a different attitude. At least it would preserve whatever remains of the past that would eventually be seen as unnecessary content by future judges of merit. Will anyone bother to show up to this playground? I have no idea. But if all it ends up being is a museum, I actually think that's good enough.
Fourth, I am assuming that there is even anything left of the old E2 that is worth preserving. Yes, 90% of everything is crap, and while it's crap I like and want to remember, I am not talking about every single last bit of it. The stuff in my node heaven alone is mostly crap that I don't really want anybody else seeing again. What I'm whinging about does not really have to do with most of the actual content on the site, either now or six years ago or whenever. What I see that we've almost completely lost is an environment that is conducive for the creation of the sort of magical nonsense that E2 used to inspire, but which it frankly doesn't anymore - hamburger joint analogies notwithstanding.
Which leads me to my biggest assumption of all. I have repeatedly failed to express this idea in everything I have said up until now probably because it was the thing that I erroneously believed that everyone understands. It's something that many of E2's most passionate missionaries for content quality do not get, or in some cases, do not believe in at all. Apatrix sums it up on his home node with the words "E2 is people. Take care of the people and the content will take care of itself." What he is really talking about may seem evident, but for many it's not.
Years ago, back when I found this place on the web and made a home for myself here, E2 was populated by a lot of people that are different from the sort of people we have here now. Yes, there are some of the same faces here today that were here even in the very beginning, but many of (*) the people who aren't here anymore are the ones who made E2 such a vibrant, fun, exciting community. Some of them were morons and trolls. Some of them were brilliant writers with low self-esteem. Some of them were teenage geeks caught in the years between GeoCities and MySpace. Some were elderly Japanese men with a fondness for cooking and poetry. Some were college students looking for an easy, creative distraction. And some were people like me who just happened along by accident and were attracted inside by the barely organized confusion.
My biggest assumption is that the thing that attracted me to E2 in the first place was the same thing that attracted many of the best people who are no longer here. I base this assumption on meeting and talking to hundreds of noders over the span of six years. To me, so many of the things about E2 that we have worked diligently to purge over the years are the same things that brought the kinds of crazy people through our door who gave the nodegel its sparkly appeal. You may be inclined to view this as misty-eyed nostalgia because that's how I've been given to expressing it, and I think it's because I am failing to identify and articulate the nature of these intangible qualities which gave birth to the community - not the community the way it is now, but the way it was then. They are different. Do not assume I'm saying that everything that's gone now was good. Some of the bad policies and problems we got rid of were horrible nightmares that gave everyone no end of grief. E2 is the way it is today because we fixed so many things that we saw were broken about it. But if the easy standards we had and the chaotic bullshit we got rid of were not responsible for attracting the kinds of people who made E2 a crazy game instead of a professional writing project, I can not figure out why this does not jibe with what I have been told by so many of them.
I guess what I'm doing here is coming back from my long tour of "exit interviews" and issuing a report on my findings, along with a proposal of my recommended action. Obviously, E2 is under no obligation to do anything about this, and I have repeatedly stated that I don't expect anything to happen. But the visceral hatred, biting sarcasm and even name calling batted around in the chatterbox and directed toward me over the views I've expressed is really the best example there is for how many perceive the face of E2 today. We used to borg people for making personal insults in the chatterbox, but now you can unload on anybody however you want and everybody just shrugs. What kind of community is that? I'd like an E2 where people weren't complete bastards to each other, particularly when some of them have been friendly colleagues for years. Civility is always in order.
But that E2 isn't this one. Noders that stick around have really thick skins, and it's always been thus. This is another reason that I find so many people who used to contribute good content here decided to leave. They'd just had enough from the same individuals that never ever ceased giving them shit, no matter what they did. I suspect this was one of the reasons that Community2 was created. I think dann wanted to build a place that was like E2 was for us back in 2000-2003 but without the editorial spatula of extreme agony. He wanted a friendlier place to play the game without anybody being in charge, and it sort of fell apart while they were in the process of building a better mousetrap.
And that leads me to the last assumption (for now), which is what I and so many of the gone, growing in number would probably like to see happen for E2, but which is likely impossible for a whole lot of good reasons. It comes across like what we want is to go back to the "good old days" of yesteryear, but that's a crock. If yesterday was so awesome, there wouldn't have been any reason to change into what we have now. No, what I think we really want is an idealized version of everything good that made E2 the jive-ass dance club it used to be, but without so much pretense of trying to get serious and clean ourselves up for something legitimate. We want an E2 without a rising bar. A nodegel where you can fuck around all you want, node for numbers and make shit up, experiment and have fun without worrying about if you are good enough. Not some place without rules or consequences - no copyrighted material, no plagiarism, no being a dick are not unreasonable conditions of entry. But some place where you can write what you wish and not have it cut down solely by an unseen hand with a red pencil. I'm not the only one who wants to play in the nodegel again, like before everything mattered so much, but starting over from scratch just wouldn't be the same.
Clever people do the most interesting things when they think that nobody is paying attention. Insecure people give you amazing stuff when they feel safe that the risk of criticism is low. Hanging out with people who are having fun and playing is very different than being with people who are confidently trying to impress each other with their hard work. All these factors and others like them helped make E2 what it was in the beginning. It wasn't perfect, but is it nothing more than foolishness to wish for a place that could be? If so, then I'm just a fool in love with an idea that was never meant to be. Well, me and a hundred of my friends. Maybe in time, I can learn to accept that.
So by all means, keep Everything2 and all it has come to embody, both in reality and perception. Keep on going down that road, wherever it leads you. If you don't believe me when I tell you where I think it goes, that's okay. I could be totally wrong. I know a whole lot of you believe that there is nothing wrong with E2 the way it is, and in fact believe strongly that it is better than ever. You wouldn't be working here if you didn't. But maybe think about doing something for those of us who lived through E2's turbulent past and view it through a gilded frame. Maybe cloning the site for a museum-go-round isn't the best idea. I don't have all the answers, and never said I did. But I am not the only one who wants to remember, and our old picture keeps fading away.
* I'm told this was phrased in a way that implied that I was suggesting that everyone on E2 currently is boring and no fun, and other things that I was not trying to imply whatsoever. Please excuse my careless insult - I did not mean to suggest anything of the sort.