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Thu May 15 2003 at 19:34:57 (15.9 years ago )
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Sun Jul 9 2006 at 22:53:23 (12.8 years ago )
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I'm semi-retired.

October 2005: It's the usual reason(s). New job, decreased leisure time, changing priorities, etc, etc. Probably I'll check back now and again. Maybe I'll start writing again someday.








Excuses for not having written much

Dannye was asking over at livejournal why E2 seems to be in decline. This was rejected as a user poll because someone didn't like the question.

Speaking as someone who has read thousands of writeups, but written under thirty, I think one problem is that E2 is becoming full - or rather, empty; mined out.

That might sound strange, given that the name of the website is "Everything", and it currently contains far less than everything. Still, I think it's true. Here's an example:

I wrote an essay in college, about Maxwell's Demon. Being on a Physics course, I had few essay assignments so I put a lot of effort into it, and it's one of the few pieces of writing I'm really proud of. With a bit of editing it would make a great writeup on E2.

Here's the problem though: Even though to most people the subject matter is quite esoteric, E2 has five writeups on the main subject, fourteen writeups on background subjects, eleven writeups on related topics, one biography of the main scientist and one writeup noding about noding. Unlike Wikipedia, where I could improve on previous articles just by inserting one or two new points, on E2 I would have to write a comprehensive new writeup repeating most of the previously posted information. This would not feel especially rewarding for the effort expended.

Part of this is because at least 30% of us are slashdot-reading dorks, but I think the problem affects most users. It's no longer possible to debate controversial (i.e. interesting) political topics as they've been done to death then sealed off by the editors. Universally popular topics are pretty much covered. (Plenty of information about sex, for example.)

This leaves us factual noders covering topics in ever smaller niches. It's rare now that I find a topic that I'm interested enough to write about and that hasn't already been covered in E2. It's even rarer that many other people are also interested in it. I'm slightly embarrassed by the density of tedious trivia in my own writeups.

I joined E2 late (2003) and I envy those who were around in 2000-2002, when there was so much low-hanging fruit and standards were lower. I think it must have been much more fun. This is not to say that the standards should have been kept low; as a reader I appreciate the high signal-to-noise ratio. A surplus of crap could have driven away users much faster than any other problem that currently exists.

I think the way forward for E2 is to drop the "encyclopedia" mindset, as the Wikipedia model works far better. Instead, E2 should focus on its own strength: the ability to support subjective writeups with distinctive authors who own their work.

My favourite writeup ever on E2 is CowboyNeal's How to smoke a pipe. I'm sure there's scope for a lot more articles like that one.








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