HOWTO: procure your own Butterfinger McFlurry if there are none in your area

There's this huge stigma surrounding McDonald's employees, how they're maybe the lowest rung of employee in the entire universe, but I shall briefly illustrate just how much bunk this is; it just isn't true. Further to that, I shall endeavour to entertain you with one specific reason why having a McDonald's employee as a friend is a good thing; indeed, McDonald's employees are, on the whole, a happy lot, and it is not impossible to perform the task which I am about to describe with Joe, your friendly neighbourhood swing manager.*

As for the company itself, and its products, I carry within me very little with regard to a truly thought-out opinion, because I don't engorge myself on their foodstuffs frequently enough to formulate one. On the other hand, my daughter is a McDonald's fanatic, which means I am dragged to their PlayPlace on a semi-regular basis, and have gotten to know the staff at the nearby restaurant somewhat familiarly. I do know about Dairy Queen's Blizzard product, and have been known to enjoy the incredibly sweet product on occasion. Especially Skor--yum yum. Upon seeing the McDonald's mimicry of the product in the commercials on television, I decided at once to avoid them at all costs. Come on: McDonald's copying an already-tasty dessert treat? That's got to be awful.

I banished the thought from my mind until I happened upon the now-infamous writeup(s) above. Upon further investigation I found that, in what I can only assume is the entirety of the Canadian division of the company, McDonald's does not make the Butterfinger McFlurry. There is Oreo, there is strawberry shortcake, there is Smarties. I tried them, but was utterly nonplussed: why not just get a damn Blizzard? Still, there was a part of me itching to try a Butterfinger McFlurry, due to some intangible need, some draw I could not explain. Soft-serve and Butterfingers seemed like a winning combination to me, so I asked the manager of the aforementioned local McDonald's about it, and he hadn't heard a thing. "No," he said, "I don't think we've ever had that flavour." But I had a plan of beautiful simplicity which I intended to put into motion.

There is a fairly well-appointed corner store near my house, run by a Lebanese family. It's essentially a small supermarket, geared more or less directly towards the people who live in that country, the foods they are familiar with. They have just about every chocolate bar in existence there, including the Butterfinger. So the very same day that the restaurant manager told me that there were no Butterfinger McFlurries in my future I bought one, thought about it, and bought two more. Later on (after a real supper) I decided to test out my theory: would they, in fact, make me my McFlurry? So I grind up my Butterfingers--they break apart nicely as it is--and put them in a Baggie. Off I go.

I walk into the McDonald's, which is near-empty, as it's a weekday and in the late evening, just before closing time. I plop my bag of crushed Butterfinger on the counter and wait for the manager. And I ask.

There must've have been sixty seconds of debate between him and one of the other higher-ups. Strange glances over at me, as if I was some strange freak; no doubt I'm the kind who would anthrax their spinny machine thing. After the bland dispute is over, manager comes up and says, simply, "Sure. But it'll cost you the same as a normal one. What size you want?"

So there you go. So ends the HOWTO guide on obtaining your own Butterfinger McFlurry. It's really quite tasty: I wouldn't have written this if it wasn't. The buttery flavour of the candy bar combined with the smoothness of the ice cream is a very nice treat. But don't get the large size: I almost got sick.

* I don't know if it's Canada-wide or what, but I haven't been able to find a Butterfinger McFlurry anywhere up here. This writeup, as a whole, is based mostly on Canadian information, along with small tidbits of information I've gathered from Americans, which often contradict one another. I've heard that the Butterfinger flavour can be found in the South, that it's been discontinued, that it can still be found outside of Boston. Says Don Red as to the indefinite discontinuation: "I smell conspiracy."

(r) Myrkabah says re: Butterfinger McFlurry: I can tell you with absolute certainty that Butterfinger McFlurries are still available in the south. I had one just the other day, in Tennessee. It was terrible. Heh.



Composed for your edutainment in the time honored dialogue format.
Certified 100% free of frozen dessert information.
(Updated February 20, 2003)

Q: What's the deal with Butterfinger McFlurry? Why does it have so many C!s?

A: That could take quite some while to explain...

Q: Can't you give me the short version?

A: As you wish. Briefly, donfreenut's Butterfinger McFlurry writeup (BMcF, for short) became a symbolic battlefield between some of the old guard from E1, and some newer noders with differing visions of what raising the bar should mean. Many people seemed to feel their votes or C!s on BMcF would show their support for their particular vision of what E2 ought to be.

Q: Thanks. That wasn't so difficult, was it?

A: You're welcome.

Q: Hey, wait a minute! That answer doesn't tell me much at all. What are you trying to hide?

A: If you want to know more, I can try to explain more.

Q: Hmph. That's better. First, what's that writeup supposed to mean? I can see it's some kind of joke, but I don't get it. Can you explain the joke to me?

A: I'm sorry, friend. I'm afraid I can't do that. It is impossible to explain humor without destroying it. Butterfinger McFlurry is not mine to destroy.

Some readers sincerely find it to be very funny. As with many other forms of humor, you either get it, or you don't.

Q: Why bother to write this if you can't answer all of my questions?

A: Because FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions, not Frequently Answered Questions. Let's move on to your other questions. I will answer all I can.

Q: Fine. What do you mean with this crap about "a symbolic battlefield?"

A: Now that you mention it, crap played a key role in creating the conflict.

Q: You're just messing with me now, aren't you? Don't make me angry...

A: I'm quite serious. Humor is subjective. Almost every attempt to write humor meets some readers who think it's crap, even when many others are enjoying a good laugh. The same risk is shared by poetry, fiction, and all other writing in which the author seeks to express more than verifiable facts.

Deciding how to evaluate such writing has always been one of the toughest challenges for the editors and E2gods here. In the early stages of devising editorial standards, dem bones coined the phrase "Earn Your Bullshit" and posted a writeup to explain what it meant.

This was a great improvement, after everyone had struggled to make decisions with no guidelines, but it was not a perfect solution. Over time, different people arrived at different ideas about what it really meant. Eventually, it caused more confusion than communica--

Q: What did "earn your bullshit" really mean?

A: That's not so important now. What matters is the conflict arising from--

Q: No, seriously. What did it mean?

A: As you wish, but all I can tell you is my own interpretation.

It seems to me that dem bones never wanted to defend the kind of writing everyone (or at least, most sane people) can recognize as worthless. Such material can be found in other places. There is no need to encourage it on E2. As I see it, his goal was exactly the opposite: to emphasize the value of solid factual material, which everyone (or at least, almost all reasonable people) can agree is useful.

At the same time, he was seeking criteria to evaluate writing that is not strictly factual. E2 does not aspire to assemble a vast collection of dry, dull facts, phrased only in language acceptable to committees. That job is already taken. E2 has room for well-written fiction, well-written poetry, and even humorous writing whose only real purpose is to entertain.

Art is more risky than factual writing, especially on E2, where some have a strong bias against anything non-factual. That risk can never be eliminated, but it can be reduced. Readers might be more inclined to give your creative endeavors close and sympathetic attention if you first demonstrate your ability and willingness to contribute solid, clear, and accurate factual writeups.

To my mind, that was always the main message of "earn your bullshit."

Q: Yeah, but what does any of this have to do with all those C!s on Butterfinger McFlurry?

A: I'll get to that soon.

The word choice of "bullshit" may have been unfortunate. Many overlooked the core emphasis on factual writing and high quality creative material. Instead, a different interpretation now dominates the subject, especially among newer users, although a good number of established users and authority figures also seem to share it.

In this view, "earn your bullshit" is seen as nothing more than an expression of privileges granted to veteran users and denied to new users. Supposedly, veteran users can "earn" the privilege to post "fun" or "useless" writeups such as obscure inside jokes. New users must post a number of "boring" factual writeups before they can "earn" the same privilege.

Of course, this interpretation has a number of problems. For example, it overlooks the subtleties mentioned before, such as the goal (frequently stated elsewhere in the E2 FAQ) of making factual writeups that are interesting, or even entertaining to read.

Unfortunately, few paused to examine the merits of the interpretation. Perhaps this is because it fits in so well with the daunting challenges new users face in learning how to succeed on E2, and the painful experiences of having one's first few writeups downvoted, deleted, or both.

Making all this even more complicated, the people who shared this interpretation vehemently disagreed on whether it was a good idea. Many veteran users understandably felt they had worked hard helping to make E2 what it is today, and had earned the right to have a little fun with it. Many new users, equally understandably, felt this was an unfair double standard. Why should they be forced to write all the "boring factual nodes" just because they arrived a little later?

Q: Speaking of boredom, are you trying to bore me to tears?

A: I told you this could take quite some time.

Q: But when are you going to say something about Butterfinger McFlurry? Remember? That writeup with more C!s than I can count on all my fingers and toes?

A: Oh, yes, thank you for reminding me. There is another part of the background information I almost forgot to include--

Q: Can't you just skip that and answer the question I asked in the first place?

A: Don't worry, we're almost there.

Butterfinger McFlurry entered the picture while all of these issues were still gradually coming to a boil. Donfreenut's writeup remained somewhat obscure after it was first posted. It catapulted into infamy only after the E2 administration changed the system to allow multiple C!s on the same writeup. (This occurred on July 30, 2001.)

The change in BMcF's notoriety started slowly, so it's difficult to pin down exactly when it happened. It occurred at some point after donfreenut made some improvements to the writeup, including better formatting with assistance from Crux. Presumably, this was an effort to apply the standards expressed in raising the bar to his own work.

To my knowledge, there was no organized effort to promote it. Gradually, many veteran users who felt they had fulfilled the requirement to "earn your bullshit" seemed to draw an unconscious link between their hopes for E2's future and the fortunes of a humorous writeup about a McDonald's food-like product.

In their minds, this one writeup came to symbolize E2 as a community that values fun along with facts. Many feel E2 is in constant danger of losing the qualities that make it enjoyable, that it may be drifting closer to the dull, dry encyclopedism they have always wanted to avoid. Giving their C!s to this writeup became one way of showing they did not want that to happen.

Q: You really think that explains all those C!s?

A: No, not all of them, but it seems this sentiment was the core that "got the ball rolling," so to speak.

After it started to accumulate C!s, Butterfinger McFlurry became the subject of frequent, heated arguments in the Chatterbox. Most people seem to either love it or hate it, with very few in between. Some highly vocal users hate it so fiercely they want to see it terminated with extreme prejudice, and are never shy about saying so in public. Others are equally fierce in defending its existence.

The two sides could not reach any mutual understanding or compromise. At the height of the controversy, opponents accused the E2 administration of favoritism for refusing to delete the writeup. Defenders threatened various reprisals if the writeup is ever deleted. Both sides accused each other of stupidity for failing to agree with the "obviously right" position. After many months of this, only exhaustion made the controversy fade, and it can still flare up in the Chatterbox from time to time.

As with any other political issue, people have a wide variety of reasons for taking a stand. Any number of different motivations for C!s on Butterfinger McFlurry could exist. Here are a few possible examples:

  • "I get the joke. It's funny! Laugh!"
  • "I don't think it's funny, but if you do, enjoy."
  • "Don't delete humor for being politically incorrect."
  • "I'm showing support for donfreenut for having the courage to post this."
  • "I want to annoy the humorless drones who downvoted it."
  • "It's fun to watch people get angry about this."
  • "With so many C!s it must be cool. I want to be cool too."
  • "I admire the E2gods for having the courage to keep this."
  • "E2 would lose its charm if it got rid of all its silliness."
  • "Don't you have more important things to worry about?"

This is only a partial list, and of course, any one person may have multiple reasons.

Q: Maybe you've convinced yourself, but how do you explain why so many people downvoted it, with so many different reasons to C! it?

A: Only some of the users see Butterfinger McFlurry in this way. Most of them have never taken the time to articulate it to themselves, much less explain it or defend it to those who disagree. To many newer users, BMcF symbolizes several problems they perceive in E2.

Some suspect it is too easy for the veteran users to relax their discipline and stop caring about quality in their writing. Among other things, they fear this could worsen what has been called the Everything credibility problem.

Some also perceive a tendency for E2 to degenerate into a vast collection of obscure inside jokes, heavily interlaced with juvenile sexual references and other things most of us would probably find difficult to explain to our bosses, to our mothers, or to our grandchildren.

Many who don't "get" the humor of BMcF feel it should be deleted so new users will not attempt to emulate it. Even some who do "get it" share this view, partly because attempts to emulate it have invariably been painful experiences for both authors and readers.

At one point, some even paid real money for the chance to see it get deleted, although that effort ended up falling short of the requirements the administration had set for it.

Q: So that's it? That's all you can tell me?

A: Yes, at least at the present time. Please let me know if you think of any questions I haven't covered. Of course I can't promise answers for them, but I'm always willing to try.

For the sake of history, let me try to document as accurately as I can exactly what the story is, because Eco's writeup above, should it survive, doesn't explain anything at all and just adds to the confusion of future noding generations. I briefly consulted with donfreenut, the original author of Butterfinger McFlurry, who told me that I got much wrong in the story that follows, but felt no inclination to tell me about the nature of the errors. Let me also invite any member of the noding public who's more confident than I of the facts to help me document here exactly what happened.

History, prehistory

Butterfinger McFlurry was a very old writeup on this site. It was older than me. It's almost as old as the transition from e1 to e2, from 2001, not even two years into e2 history. Admittedly two years is eons in internet time, but e2 is sexagenarian in the same time being close to 11 years old at the time of this noding. In e2's long history, Butterfinger McFlurry represented something about the inherent contradictions in this website's system.

donfreenut's writeup at April 3, 2007 contains a brief version of the story. In fact, it's told in that terse figure-me-out style that was the hallmark of the early e2, full of self-referential jokes and vague allusions to elements of pop culture that the reader is supposed to figure out. Of course we still have writeups of that sort nowadays, but they're the exception rather than the norm that they were back then.

The standards of quality for writing in e2 have varied over time. In the beginning, back when it was e1, back when there were only 512 characters per writeup and two writeups per node, there weren't many standards to speak of. Soon after that, in the very early e2, there were ridiculous level requirements that were possible to achieve only through noding many and many inane writeups. Node the phone book, node the names of the streets in your town, node your breakfast... it really was "everything" back then, but unfortunately endless information also means endless nonsense. This kind of noding was known as Noding for Numbers. We haven't had a case of that in probably at least 5 years as of this noding, maybe longer. The original writeup by donfreenut in this node was of that type.

It was a young nodegel, but it was also a young internet overall. There was no Wikipedia; Google was but an obscure search engine that looked promising; John Baez was probably the only person with a blog, back when they were still called "weblogs". E2 really was the first site to think of being something like a repository of all information before anyone else really tried it, and they really meant "all" back then.

As was inevitable, the signal-to-noise ratio eventually got too low, and they realised that they really had to curb the nonsense a little because otherwise it's just not easy to find the good stuff. One of the first great purges of information was to get rid of the phone book entries from e2. This is what donfreenut describes in his daylog linked above. But somehow, changes are always difficult for everyone. No matter what the change is, someone is going to dislike it, just as back then at least a few (or all, according to donfreenut) people thought that multiple chings was a terrible idea. donfreenut himself didn't entirely like the idea of getting rid of all of his phonebook entries, amongst which was the original version of Butterfinger McFlurry, which was just the nutrition facts information that you could read off the product label ("everything", remember?)

Thus begun the first rebellion.

Earn your bullshit, raising the bar

In this quest to figure out what was worthwhile content, dem bones came up with one of the very unofficial site policies: you could node idiocy as long as you first noded some good stuff first. Picasso first create realistic paintings in the classical style before doing cubism, and so noders should first create content that can be appreciated by anyone, not just other denizens of e2. There was also a similar current at about the same time of raising the bar which meant that the overall quality of writing had to improve. One of the suggested ways of making good writing was to make it funny or zany or interesting or just plain weird.

But it's just bloody nutrition facts. How the hell can you make that interesting or zany enough to warrant its existence?

donfreenut opted for the zany solution. With crux's help, he simply filled the writeup with the most non-sequitur and weird things he could think of. "Nasty euphemism for female genitalia", "long live my dick", "head nigga of the McFlurry crew" and so on. In short, he defaced his own writeup in the most sophomoric way possible.

That's it. That's the joke. For many years, from 2002 or so when I joined the site until 2007 when donfreenut posted his brief explanations, I had no idea what the joke was, and nobody could explain it to me. When pressed, they said that if they explained it they would destroy its magic, but now I am almost certain that it was a case of the emperor's new clothes, and they didn't understand the joke either. I didn't know that originally it was just the nutrition facts. I could sort of guess that it was trying to make a statement about the quality of writing in e2, but exactly what this statement was, I never could figure out until that very same daylog in 2007.

Because changes always provoke unrest and the change of the day was multiple chings, it seemed reasonable to proceed with the rabble-rousing against earn your bullshit and raising the bar by getting his friends to C! the writeup, perhaps to try to undermine the symbolic value of C! or to make a point about how little new features in e2 matter or something of the sort. But the ultimate goal was that: rabble-rousing.

The Flurry lives on

And it was a goal that was marvellously achieved. For at least 5 or 6 years after its creation, Butterfinger McFlurry became a symbol of e2, of the contradictions of e2's identity crisis, of being forever torn between sense and nonsense. Many people chung the writeup for many reasons: being in the bandwagon, making a point about the silliness of the writeup that should exist in e2, or just for being silly themselves, or even for a desire to add to the inherent confusion of what this website is exactly about.

The writeup would come up in discussions frequently for many years. It would start debates of what the content should be, of how great it was that e2 changed, or how horrible the same change was. It really was everything that donfreenut hoped for and more. It made people talk and argue about content, quality, and standards for years. Sometimes it also made people laugh.

As part of these contradictions, dem bones and N-Wing with consultation with donfreenut put special code for the writeup into the voteit htmlcode which displays the voting information and the removal status of the writeup for all writeups. As a way to mirror the unending controversy that Butterfinger McFlurry caused all the time, it was simultaneously permanently marked for destruction without actually ever being removed. It would still be voted and showed a healthy number of both upvotes and downvotes in the hundreds each with the total reputation never being too far relatively from zero, at one time as low as -100, but usually closer to -60. For a writeup with many hundreds of votes, it was close to being evenly split half in upvotes and half in downvotes.

An alternative version of the events as narrated by Oolong changes a bit the players in this episode. At one time, Butterfinger McFlurry was in fact really marked for destruction by C-Dawg, but dem bones intervened and said that it was up to the author to decide if it should go or not. As a great compromise, someone (who?) suggested that the writeup should have a permanent fake marked for destruction, signalling the forever controversial status of the writeup. N-Wing is undoubtedly the coder who implemented the Mark of Cain on the writeup, for I have seen the code that did it, and it's got N-Wing's signature all over. Coding styles are like fingerprints. A coder can tell what other coder did something.

The Flurry ages and dies

All things come to pass. By the time it was 2008 or so, seven years after the initial publication of writeup, its controversy status had almost completely faded away. It was forgotten. E2 had changed a lot in many ways since then (and in many other ways, it hasn't). The people who were here ten years ago were gone. New people had come to replace them. Content has never stopped coming in at varying ratios of quality/quantity. But the Flurry no longer had the importance it once had. The people that had most cared about it seemed to be absent or only very vaguely present around the site.

By this time, late 2008, alex and Oolong decided that it was time to retire the code from voteit that gave Butterfinger McFlurry special status, reasoning that the code was a bit of unnecessary extra overhead, since it had to be called on each and every writeup of the database to check to see if it was the Flurry or not. Furthermore, overall it didn't seem too relevant anymore. The people that had cared about that joke either didn't care anymore or weren't around too much, if ever at all. And for almost four months, the special status of the McFlurry was removed, and nobody even noticed. Perhaps a few passing comments were made about it in the catbox, but that was about it.

Until one day donfreenut himself noticed that it was gone. He considered the nuked status implemented in the code to part of the writeup itself and took great offense to it being removed without being notified or consulted about it. He requested the Flurry to be removed along with almost all of the content that he had ever contributed to e2 (about 140 writeups). This revived a bit the controversies that McFlurry has always created with the usual old-e2 vs new-e2 and the good ol' days with the brave new internet in which e2 seems so small and insignificant.

Words were exchanged but tensions couldn't be soothed nor could donfreenut be swayed to anything other than indignation over how he had been treated in the site. A writer leaves the site and takes his Butterfinger McFlurry with him, and a piece of e2 history and culture with it.

Butterfinger McFlurry, March 12, 2001 — April 8, 2009

In memoriam

Long live your dick, Butterfinger McFlurry. Long live.

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