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I’ve been in Al Anon for about 6 months now, and I have written daylogs to mark my progression through the twelve steps. Making myself put this down in print helps me to clarify my thinking; I also am helped by reading or hearing about the experiences of others, and am hoping that maybe posting these will help someone else. Without further ado, then,
Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

Sounds like fun, right? A quick background for those of you just joining us: all the steps are written in the past tense, reflecting the actions of those who have gone before us in “working the program”. Furthermore, Al-Anon, like Alcoholics Anonymous, is a “selfish” organization, where the focus for on each individual is on his or her self; you’re not here to take inventory of another person, a.k.a. the alcoholic(s), and what is right or wrong with their character(s); your job is to work on yourself.

So. This is the step that actually gets written down. Although much has been written about the first three steps ( 1~Admitted that we were powerless over alcohol--that our lives had become unmanageable; 2~Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity ; 3~Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood him), it’s not really necessary to write anything down to “work” them. Taking an inventory of one’s character, however, takes time, and although it’s not supposed to be exhaustive, one does want to be thorough.

An analogy between Step Four and a store inventory is often drawn; it’s important for a shopkeeper to know what sells and what gathers dust, what works, what needs to be restocked, and what needs to be gotten rid of. We are reminded that some of our traits / “defects of character” may have developed as coping mechanisms that were once necessary in our lives, but have overstayed their welcome—what once may have been a useful or necessary way of dealing with our situation (or the best that we knew at the time) may no longer be needed, or the best choice of action.

Working through the first three steps lays a spiritual groundwork for taking this inventory, preparing the individual to have the courage and serenity (or hope thereof) to be able to take a good look at him/herself and just note the findings, without self recrimination. ”By looking at and accepting ourselves as we truly are, we can make decisions about who we choose to become.” 1

There are a lot of ways to take the inventory, from simply folding a piece of paper in half and listing positive traits on one side and negative on the other (and trying to an equal number of each listed), to reading and filling out the official Al-Anon Blueprint for Progress, a sixty-two page pamphlet which poses a series of questions on such topics as attitude, responsibility, self worth, love and maturity. There is a similar Alateen 4th Step Inventory, a 46 page workbook complete with cartoons, quotes from other teens who have gone through the program, and plenty of space to fill in responses and ‘draw your feelings’ related to attitude, self esteem, love, responsibility , feelings, and relationships. I’m 36, but I found the teen version less daunting, and chose to use it to help me organize my thoughts.

Attendees at Al-Anon meetings are frequently reminded that the 12 Steps are learning tools, and that they are guidelines in a process, not a program from which one graduates. Life constantly changes, and throws us curves—the 12 Steps and Al-Anon are principles and strategies for living. It may well be that one “finishes” Step 12 only to start over, repeating different steps at different times. With this in mind, my sponsor compared the 4th Step to remodeling a house; the first time through, you’re knocking down walls with sledgehammers. Later, you’ll be sweeping up and carting out debris, and eventually, vacuuming up dust. So, my first attempt at a 4th Step inventor would be in broad strokes, a general outline—more detailed work and fine-tuning could come later.

The inventory is supposed to be both searching and fearless. We’re not being asked, at this stage, to judge or to change anything, just to notice and record what is. Some people find it easy to list what they perceive as their negative traits, but have a hard time coming up with anything good about themselves. I, on the other hand, felt that laying out all my weaknesses and negative traits firsthand might be a bit intimidating, so I decided to sneak up on them, by starting with the ways I define myself and working my way down to my less desirable qualities. I created a table with three columns:

 Trait            Description / Background / History          Underlying Causes

I started by trying to answer the question Who Are You?. Some people try to write down their whole history, a mini-biography; I tried, within this three-column table, to capture who I am, and how I got there. So for instance, I started with I am a student, a teacher, a reader. Column 2 on my table contained a description of my joy in knowing things, learning, reading, making connections, sharing what I knew with others, getting good grades and positive feedback. In column 3 went my need for approval of parents, teachers, authority figures; applause, recognition, and affirmation of worth. Eventually, by page four, I got around to traits like arrogance, being argumentative, and lack of humility; by that time, I had given up on column three, because I had repeated the same underlying causes so many times; wanting to be well though of, desire to be right or be in control, needing to feel that I measured up. I ended up with 29 entries on my four page list, some of them contradictory.

I had been thinking about this inventory for more than a month when I finally wrote it down. By that time, I had already filled in most of the blanks in the Alateen workbook. When I had finished with that part of my inventory, I made other lists: the first was “People I have hurt or wronged (which is actually a later Step in the program, but while I was on a roll, I thought I’d jot it down); a list entitled “When I get angry, I …, and a compilation of the negative traits from the inventory, labeled “Okay, so things I need to work on” .

Now, certainly not everything in my life (or even the majority of things) have to do with alcoholism or alcoholics. I’m the grandchild of an alcoholic who stopped drinking before I knew him, so there are family patterns that may have come from contact with alcoholism, and there are recent patterns of behavior that have come out of my current relationship that definitely have to do with too much drinking, but I wasn’t trying to tie all of my traits to alcoholism. That’s not what it’s about. To me, so much of Al-Anon is working on becoming a better person, and while there are guidelines, I get to decide for myself what that would consist of. We are reminded in meetings to take what you like, and leave the rest ; that’s what the inventory is about too—keeping the traits that are beneficial and becoming aware of those that, in the words of Dr. Phil and Tyler Durden, aren’t working for me.

The beauty of this program, of the twelve step programs in general, I guess, is that they are broken down in to incremental actions. All that is called for in Step 4 is taking the inventory, becoming aware of oneself; sharing your findings comes later, in Step 5, and even being willing to change isn’t until Step 6. So once I had it written down, I was done.

Next, I needed to get in touch with my sponsor and find a time when we could sit down and talk about the inventory.

___________________

1 How Al-Anon Works for Families & Friends of Alcoholics , © Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 1995, page 52.

step one | step two | step three | step five | step six step seven | step eight The Twelve Steps

The demise of E2 as demonstrated by linear interpolation

This place needs more actual content. Let's begin.

That short and oft-quoted phrase hits upon a turning point in the development of E2. It serves as the introduction to much more important writeups by written by much more prominent figures in the noding community than myself. If you read through tes' writeup, everything that applied then (almost two years ago) applies now. This place does need more actual content, and always will.

So, if the concept remains valid, then why mention it here? Well, over the last few weeks, I've been monitoring the rate at which the nodegel (measured in the number of writeups) is shrinking. I first mentioned this in a recent daylog of mine, in which I posed a rebuttal to the "Zero Population Growth" personal noding moratorium suggested by one of our editors. Without belaboring you by repeating myself, I stated that the database was already shrinking, and that holding back wouldn't do very much good to E2 as a whole.

***
What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation

***

That got me to thinking: Just how quickly is E2 being depopulated? Pretty quickly. As I noted in my daylog, old nodes are disappearing much faster than they're being replaced. I shared my ideas with Ouroboros, and he asked me to track how quickly the number of writeups was dropping. Check this out:

Everything2 Statistics as of 2002-08-31 03:48:10 (from the earliest Everything Daily Report in my possession):
Writeups total: 480,102

From the Statistics Nodelet, 2003-08-21:
Writeups: 466,939

From the Statistics Nodelet, 2003-09-02:
Writeups: 465,240

Although my methods and presentation of stats are nowhere as elegant as Professor Pi's, the numbers don't seem to lie... Over the first 355 days for which I have reliable stats, the apparent rate of writeup loss is 37.08 writeups/day (net loss of 13,163 writeups between 8/31/02 and 8/21/03). In the twelve days since then, the rate of loss has been 141.58 writeups/day (1699 writeups in that timespan). The rate has almost quadrupled.

My first instinct was to blame the decline on the updated policy regarding copyrighted works, and it seems evident that this policy is carving out small chunks of the nodegel. For example, a quick visit to Node Row turned up nuked nodes containing lyrics to songs recorded by Iron Maiden, Neil Diamond, Easy-E, Moloko and those of significant portion of U2's catalog.

***
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.

***

There. Case closed, right? At first, I was content to simply state that the database was shrinking because the editors were deleting writeups in violation of the copyright policy. But that would be too easy -- and if you know me or of me, then you know that I rarely take the easy way out. Having already established that more writeups are being nuked now than a year ago (the "output" of the system, if you will), I -- with the assistance of Ouroboros -- shifted my focus towards the rate at which writeups are being created (the "input"). The results were a bit disturbing, as demonstrated in our (slightly edited) IRC log from last night:

caknuck sigh: "386 writeups submitted 3 years ago today"
caknuck the slowdown isn't a new phenomenon
ouroboros well no
caknuck but it's not b/c there isn't anything to node, though
ouroboros but 386, X, 159, 30 is worse than decimation
caknuck X = 258
caknuck that's almost a linear progression
ouroboros 12, 8, 5, 1
ouroboros interesting. the end of E2 as demonstrated by linear interpolation.

Yes, using these hastily gathered numbers to draw conclusions about the end of Everything2 is overly dramatic. But it should be plain to see that, compared to a year ago, fewer people are contributing new material to the site. Take a look at A Year Ago Today, then stop by ENN (look at the datestamps) and you'll see for yourself.

***
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms

***

In the end, I don't know what this means. Are people noding less or are there fewer people visiting the site? Are experienced noders spending as much time writing as before, but taking greater care and putting more effort into each submission? Have housekeeping duties kept the best and most prolific noders from writing as much? If the number of new writeups continues to drop, will the site (and with it, the community) stagnate? Honestly, I don't know.

One thing I do know... This place still needs more content. Let's continue.


Source material: T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land" (1922)

Many thanks to the aforementioned Ouroboros for his help and guidance with this project (and for suggesting the Eliot references).

I have now been at my job for over two months. This is my first proper employment since leaving university, and certainly the most money I've ever made - so why am I so reluctant to actually do anything?

I can see now what people mean about office jobs. At first I was overjoyed, but it's not actually what I want to be doing, is it? It's like filler. Something to allow me to eat and buy shelter, but it doesn't stretch far enough to satisfy me emotionally; yes, I could be here for the rest of my days, programming in a small office that used to be a broom cupboard. Or I could go out and see the world, write something, gain hundreds of amazing new experiences. We only live once, right?

The worst vice anyone can have is inertia.

So, I am going to start doing two things. The first is, every day after work (or even before work!) I'm going to write one thousand words of my book. That way, after a year I'll have a full first draft to play with. The second is, I am going to save up, and every three months or so, I'm going to go travelling somewhere new. Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas - it's all good to me. I want to see things. Partially I want to write about them, but mostly ...

Mostly I want to live.

This morning, I have an urge to write a paean to E2 Quests.

I'm currently flailing about in the madness of the Copyright Redemption Quest, hoping it gets extended so I can save four more writeups from certain doom. It's given me the opportunity to notice writeups of mine that should have been thrown out or totally rewritten a long time ago, and get them deleted myself before they're trashed with extreme prejudice.

It's also, oddly, spurred me to write metric fucktons more on several old things of mine. It's not odd exactly - I've been trying to refurbish my old writeups for a while now - but it's odd in that I wouldn't have bothered with many of my copyright-infringing nodes if it weren't for the insistence of E2.

Me:
(tripping gaily through the nodegel, scattering daisies)
La la la. What a beautiful day it is, Mister Bluejay. It's far too sunny and nice to be laboring over some stupid song lyrics. I think I'll ask for a few of my writeups to be deleted and sit here watching the animated bunnies dance instead.

Quest:
No! I'll give you lots of XP and blessings and C!s if you fix it up! You shall have many a golden trinket to bring your granny in the woods!

Me:
My what? What are you talking about?

Quest:
Er... nothing. Pay no attention to the granny behind the curtain. Look, why don't you just try it?

Me:
No. Lyrics suck. Judy Fjell sucks. I'm tired of her. I wanna watch animated bunnies.

Quest:
But the animated bunnies are all in your head!

Me:
I can't hear you! La la la.... (skips on to the Enchanted Grotto of Deletion Requests)

WDR Node:
(its rapidly appearing and disappearing writeups glimmering in the wind) Hello there, child! If you seek to clean up your act, verily, post ye here!

Me:
Buh?

WDR Node:
(flippering its scintillating pixels distractedly)
Please consider revising your lyrical writeups to fit in with our policy! You can just use excerpts or talk about the song more!

Me:
No goddamnit! Don't make me get out the rolled newspaper!

WDR Node:
(hangs head and shuffles behind a large cardboard bush)

Me:
Phew.
(dancing my writeup merrily toward the Big Blank Textbox in the Sky)

in10se:
(leaps out from behind a cloud)

Me: AAAAAA!!

in10se:
Please do the Quest! Everyone should do it!

Me:
What is with you people?!

in10se:
You might as well get some free XP instead of losing it to Klaproth!

Me:
B -- Th -- Bu... I... Well, that's a good point... I guess I could just cut out all but the second verse and write something explaining the song in general....

WDR Node:
(bouncing joyously back into the grotto)
That's the spirit!

Quest:
(appearing in a puff of purple smoke)
Hooray!
(Quest, Node, and in10se join hands and do a strange and eerie dance around the land. The End.)

I'm not sure where that came from. You see what this stuff does to me?

That's the beauty of a quest, though, imho. Because of the Copyright Redemption Quest, I've had the opportunity to post so much more than I ever would have. I finally went back to Lawsuit and talked about what their concerts were like and how much the band meant to me when I was growing up. Even more amazingly, I wrote to the mother of several of the band members and told her how much they meant to me - something I'd always wanted to do. And she actually wrote back, and then sent my email on to one of her sons from the band! Every time I look at that, I get sent back ten years, back to the days when I was just a hysterical fifteen-year-old fan worshipping these local musicians who were barely more than kids themselves.

"My mom forwarded me your request about publishing Lawsuit lyrics... and I'm here to say knock yourself out.... As far as sharing the music with the world goes, we're all for it. Have fun, and thanks for the inquiry. If you ever have any questions about anything Lawsuit, I have the answers."
-- Ned Sykes

Gasp! Squeal! Et cetera! I might as well be at a Beatles concert right here and now.

I realized, too, that the story I posted in Fup. Store Cat. was a total copyright violation, and I trudged through adding more explication. But it was worth it, because I asked them for permission too, and got to see that the people behind the famous, neighborly, friendly giant bookstore really are friendly and neighborly themselves. They even specifically forwarded me their chain of emails on the subject so I could see how enthusiastic they were to be included here:

Malia in Marketing: "Very cool. Shall I write a 'hell yes!' response, or would you prefer to?"
Dave Probably Also in Marketing: "Actually, I'd love it if you could do it. But include a 'hell yes' and a thank you from me too."

And as I prepared to nuke Peace Somewhere (bad pun), I realized that I could instead use it as background music in a longer node, and post the story of my experience at the massive "let's shut down the city" anti-war protests in March. (I have this image of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in some cheap activist musical - "Hey gang! Let's shut down the city!")

Fixing that node is a small thing compared to the sense of strength and community that I get from talking to people here about how I can improve or have improved my writeups, or submitting something solid to a quest. I've learned the fun way that quests mean XP and small shiny things and adulation from the folks running it, and those are fun things. On the surface, those are my goals in playing here. Ultimately though, what I like the most is the challenge of learning something new and writing out all the stuff that's inside me.

It's funny. For several years I've wanted to take more creative writing classes, just so that I would have someone standing over me giving me things to write about and deadlines for writing them. Now I'm in a creative writing class, and I just realized that all these quests provide me with exactly that. Without Everything Quests: Hollywood's Golden Age or Everything Quests: The Nobel Prize winners I would never have met Alva or Alfonso or the two Vance Colvigs. I wouldn't have met the family and band members of my sometime-favorite musical group or be staring at a bunch more non-compliant writeups that are daring me to come up with something creative, relevant, and interesting to say about another person's work. I certainly wouldn't be laboring for weeks over my scratchpad in the delusion that I was going to finish the writeup there before my birthday on Saturday. I would, in fact, be asleep right now.

E2 rules.

Ladies and gentlemen: let's not get hasty.

Gord makes several excellent points in general about the content levels of E2 today versus its levels prior. 12 to 8 to 5 to 1 is indeed a puzzling conundrum. But, as they say, there are lies, damned lies, and .. well, follow me to the history of September 5 in the annals of Everything2.

So, we look back and see that in 2002, 172 writeups were submitted to E2. Not too bad ..

In 2001, 250 writeups saw the light of day.

In 2000, 488 writeups were born.

488!

488, that's right. By comparison, on September 4, 2003, 61 writeups were submitted. Slim pickings indeed.

But there is much more to this. Using an as equally unofficial method as Gord, I randomly selected 20 writeups from September 5, 2000, September 5, 2001, and September 5, 2002. I excluded daylogs (since we're arguing about content, we can concede that daylogs are important but not in the same category) and cut and paste public domain offerings and copyright violations (to focus on original content). I then pasted the entirety of these writeups into one large Word document and got the word count. Sure, this will include a lot of "words" that are nothing but math notations, meaningless sources, and Perl documentation. But all of this is technically under content, and since each year was treated equally, there shouldn't be any real outliers. Once again, this is unofficial, so do your own damn study if you're so inclined.

Here are the (unofficial) results:

In 2000, the 20 writeups had 3,337 words, for an average of 166.85 words per writeup (wpw).

In 2001, the 20 writeups had 7,452 words, averaging 372.6 wpw.

In 2002, the total increased to 10,158 words for a 507.9 wpw.

Pretty good, huh?

Now I took a random sample of 20 writeups from the past three days (ENN), once again excluding public domain and copyright stuff.

For the first 19 writeups, there were 17,941 words, for a 944.26 wpw average. But, Kyle, you say, I thought you did 20 writeups for each year. And you're right I did. But the reason I only averaged 19 writeups into the equation is because ...

One writeup alone this year had 9507 words!

That's right, Noung's amazing account of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has 9507 words all by itself, bringing the 20 writeup average of 2003 up to 1372.4 wpw!

To be clear in the implications here: Noung's single writeup has added the equivalent content to the database as 57 writeups from 2000, 26 writeups from 2001, and 19 writeups from 2002. On average, a writeup written today will provide 8 times more content than a writeup from 2000, 4 times more content than 2001, and 3 times as much content as a writeup from just one year prior.


But numbers don't tell the whole story. So let's turn back the clock, courtesy of A Year Ago Today, and take a snapshot of September 5, 2000, and see some of the things posted:

Now I'm not saying these things are not important. But compare these to Noung's writeup on the USSR, or to Servo5678's comprehensive writeup on Dr. Zoidberg, or the excellent biographies of Augustus Toplady (drownzsurf), Robert Emmet (Oisin), or Wilfred Thesiger (olmanrvr). There are thought-provoking writeups on cancer, leaf proof gutters, computer science, and biotechnology. There are song reviews, movie reviews, and poetry analysis. In 2003, our content counts!

Gord is right - it's not for a lack of topics that the noding has slowed down. But our voting standards have raised significantly. Frankly, I am surprised more of those writeups from September 5s past have not disappeared, superceded by better nodes. There is still a great deal of information floating out in this world that needs to be hauled and in thrown into our little pack rat closet. And when the information runs out, we will have to process it all. There will always be room for analysis, philosophy - and of course, humor, which is, I believe, E2's bread and butter at heart. And there will be room to grow, and it will grow, as it continues to grow, as it always had.

This place needs more actual content. Let's begin.


amnesiac: yeah - 9,000 word writeups have been judged to be "good" - small writeups are "bad"

I think amnesiac places too much of an affirmative effect on my daylog. I wasn't trying to say, "9000 word writeups are the standard by which we should live by!" I was instead trying to both a) refute caknuck's claim that E2 was fading away in terms of content and b) refute that our content today is equal to our content three years ago. It's true, having a one line definition of Banffshire and fuel filter is important - these are the writeups that fill in the gaps and go unappreciated too often - but you wouldn't point to these as the best writeups on e2. I think it's also a very plain fact that many of the writeups from three years ago can be superceded with a minimal of research and effort by our writers today. Things like Butterfinger McFlurry and You noders still fucking suck, your needing my wisdoms bad are timeless classics (and, in fact, too few writeups of the same nature are appearing today), but there is a lot more to offer than one line factuals. In the end, I was just reassuring any worried minds that indeed, E2 is alive and well and will continue to be so long into the future. Hey, we're even letting in one line writeups to this day! Now, as for borgo's concerns, well ... that's an issue not easily solved with numbers and backslaps. Strangely, the only solution to the lack of "fun" lies in the content - so get to it, noders! Don't just inform, entertain! Don't just think, create! Don't just act, be! You know, Socrates was a rather dapper wit ...

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