The corruption of Everything
September 30, 2001 7:19 PM   Subscribe

The corruption of Everything -- For quite a while now I have been happily reading and enjoying the entries in Everything2 As Metafilter has seen a number of references to user contributed guides I thought it might be a good time to discuss a common phenomenon that seems to be now finding it's way into Everything... more in the thread ->
posted by soulhuntre (16 comments total)
When it started it was a good place to find and post all manner of information, some funny, some informative and some simply obscure. There was some oversight but generally the idea seamed to be to have a lot of information go up... it certainly didn't hurt things too much to have a wasted node in there. The quality has certainly stayed high and there is a lot of good information there, so I don't mean it imply that the system has devolved into total chaos.

Lately, I think as an effect of the experience system there have been a lot of long term nodes getting killed. This obviously came to my attention when many of my own long standing nodes started disappearing in quick succession. Now, it is true that some probably deserved death but but I don't think they all did - and certainly the standards must have changed recently if so.

However, while looking into this I  found that this is becoming a common occurrence, somehow you attract the negative attention of an editor or administrator and things start to happen from there. Like other peer moderated systems attempts are made to keep abuse of the moderation to a minimum but it is not a perfect process. On the other hand, the editors themselves seem to have recognized that the system is easily abused and are often hiding their actions behind a bot that preserves their anonymity.

Here is a view of the lifecycle of these types of systems, your comments are welcome:
  • The system is born
  • Information is added by a fairly small group of those "in the know"
  • Critical mass is reached and/or the system gains attention at large
  • Many new items are added by the public
  • Long standing users get annoyed at the quality they see (for reasons real or imagined)
  • The classic "this isn't what it used to be" feeling sets in
  • Peer review instituted
  • The peer review system is rapidly used by some long standing users to acquire power
  • That power is (mis)used to try and force the "good old days"
  • New users become frustrated and stop adding information
  • The system stagnates
Is this really the way it goes? is this how it has to be? Am I totally off base?
posted by soulhuntre at 7:20 PM on September 30, 2001

Peer review instituted

The peer review system is rapidly used by some long standing users to
acquire power

That power is (mis)used to try and force the "good old days"

New users become frustrated and stop adding information

The system stagnates

I just hope, for your sake, you're not talking about Metafilter, soulhuntre...

Otherwise you bad!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:24 PM on September 30, 2001

Umm... MiguelCardoso? That passage you quoted is positively eerie.

Not what has happened, but what could...
posted by kd at 7:31 PM on September 30, 2001

I've had a feeling for the past few days that something large and related to my life somehow is nearing it's end. Endings affect me strangely, making me both melancholy and happy at the same time. I don't understand it either

(from kd's website)

Me too. Don't you just hate the whole twisted paraphernalia of death wishes and the various ways in which they are traduced and deodorized?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:07 PM on September 30, 2001

The problem I see with MF is that you can't see how any post or comment (ideas) relates to the other ones beyond the immediate web page. It needs more structure so that you can benefit from the big picture: both by how things are changing in subject/content (how ideas evolve) and how the information relates (or doesn't), not just per post, but with respect to all posts.
posted by greyscale at 9:42 PM on September 30, 2001 mentioned here.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:19 PM on September 30, 2001

Hi, I'm a senior site administrator on Everything2 -- a so-called "god" in our local jargon over there. There are about a dozen of us "gods", I guess.

I don't know what's with this "trying to force the good old days" thing, but what we're trying to do over there is ERADICATE the BAD old days. In what soulhuntre calls the "good old days", we had no standards of quality, and people vomited an incredible amount of trash into the database. We're still cleaning it up. A lot of my old stuff from eighteen months ago is gone, and rightly so. That's true of most of us. We're looking at the future, not the past. The site's a lot better than it was a year ago, and we intend for it to keep improving. Yes, our standards have risen. We're proud of that, and we're proud of the fact that almost all of our users are meeting those higher standards.

The "kill bot" he speaks of was instituted to *guarantee* that users are informed when their stuff is deleted. In the past, they weren't necessarily informed. That was a problem, and we fixed it.

As for users being "singled out": Some users do poor work. When we delete the worst of it, some of them will throw a fit: They don't think they should have to measure up to the same standards as everybody else. (I think soulhuntre may have run into a couple of these people and made the mistake of believing their stories.) So they moan and complain about how they're being picked on. They don't want to admit that maybe they're not measuring up. No, they pretend that it's all somebody else's fault.

Well, that's absurd. Why would we pick on a user who's writing good content and strengthening the site? Why would we antagonize somebody who's doing us a favor by writing well? Why would we REMOVE good writing, when GOOD writing is so hard to come by in this world? That's crazy! No, when we get a GOOD user, we treasure that user -- and we're getting and keeping more and more of them these days, ever since we started giving them a good home where they won't be drowned out by noise.

That's the bottom line: We only delete crap. When something can be salvaged, when the writing can be improved, we work with the user to make it better. We devote a lot of time to that.

As far as I can see, soulhuntre's complaints just aren't accurate. His own most recent efforts just this evening were darn good, by the way.

posted by wharfinger at 10:29 PM on September 30, 2001

Well, maybe I'll go back and have another look around. The last gander I had gave me the impression that things had if anything gotten a little sillier and more chaotic than last year, but if, as wharfinger suggests, the crap is being purged, I still think the concept is a very cool one, and worth being a part of.

I still like Wikis better though!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:35 PM on September 30, 2001

Heya wharfinger, thanks for taking a moment to post here. What I am hoping to
do is expand on my thoughts so that this discussion can go where I hoped it
would - to a much larger question than specifically Everything2.

As I mentioned, I am sure some of the old nodes deserved death, but some of
them seamed harmless and got killed for reasons that still seam like the simply
ran afoul of some standard that is more about personal quality judgments than
not. Now, that's fine by me - Everything2, like any other system is
welcome to hold whatever standards it wants - the observation is simply that
those standards are changing and that sometimes I think perfectly innocent nodes
are getting killed.

What it DID bring to my mind was the lager issue, that it seems to me that
peer reviewed and user contributed systems do seem to have this lifecycle, so I
asked for comments.  It is certainly possible that the people I spoke too
are generally disgruntled or paranoid, but there may be a lot of confusion out
there too on what and why. I think the problem for now might be that it is all
pretty arbitrary seeming, and that reasons aren't always give. I do understand
that there is a mentor system and folks to ask, that wasn't my point either :)

So, to be clear, I don't think that I have been the personal victim of a
editor... but I do know that a lot of my nodes got nuked in a short amount of
time. It seems to me that maybe an editor found one of my nodes and decided to
see what else I had written. Even if the judgments on each node are completely
valid (and they seem pretty fair with a few exceptions) that leads to a lot of a
users nodes nuked with little explanation in a short time.

You can see how that might make people feel intimidated right?

Anyway, take Everything2 out of the
mix for a moment so that the details can be put aside. We see this happening on
Kuro5hin and a few other sites. Maybe this
closing of the ranks is an inevitable protection mechanism... but with peer
review software becoming
increasingly easy to put up I think it is
a phenomena worth looking into.

posted by soulhuntre at 12:01 AM on October 1, 2001

Take it to MetaEverything2Talk, ya'll.
posted by Optamystic at 4:43 AM on October 1, 2001

I think your "timeline" is very accurate, soulhuntre, from what I have witnessed myself in various forums, which is why I am very concerned about, if not opposed to, the conversion of Metafilter to a peer-review system. Sounds good in theory, but it's very difficult to implement with any success and without great abuses, given how people tend to be.
posted by rushmc at 6:16 AM on October 1, 2001

I still find Metafilter to be an exceptionally good site, and the recent events around 9-11 only prove it. Consistently, I was drawn to interesting and relevant info that would otherwise have slipped past unnoticed. That said, though, irecent events also showed the limits of the system, namely that everyone was posting 9-11 stuff for about two weeks, and comments that should have been in threads showed up on the front page. Ideally, I would see MeFi having sections, similar to kuro5hin, or more likely memepool, where posts get categorized by subject rather than date. I think this would make MeFi even better.

As far as peer-review system goes, don't the thread comments do a good enough job, especially now that the flaming of bad posts has given way to ignoring them. I often find that the number of comments a post gets can be a strong indicator of its quality.
posted by fellorwaspushed at 7:10 AM on October 1, 2001

This is from Dan Cody's blog...
On metafilter today, I was greated with: There have been 587 links and 10913 comments posted since your last visit. Rather than even attempting to wade through the mess trying to pick out something worthwhile, I simply closed the window.. And that sucks, because I really used to enjoy it there.

Now it's turned into a place where the objective of most people is to post supporting arguments for their own opinion to get other people to support them, to get pissed off at them, or to advance their own agenda by making it seem that because they posted a piece which supports thier opinion, their opinion is valid and correct.

And as anyone who's ever been to a party where people regurgitate known - but one sided - opinions and mis-construed facts for the sake of advancing their own opinion/agenda, that is when its time to grab your coat and find another party.
I'm new to MeFi myself, but I've bailed-out of another online forum I formerly enjoyed when it became too crowded and noisy, so I know what Dan means. (I'm not very active in these discussions and don't plan to be; mostly I just want to check out the links.)
posted by StOne at 7:16 AM on October 1, 2001

> On metafilter today, I was greated with: There have
> been 587 links and 10913 comments posted since your
> last visit. Rather than even attempting to wade through
> the mess trying to pick out something worthwhile, I
> simply closed the window..

That's why the "catch-up" button in newsreaders was so useful in very active newsgroups. It meant "mark everything as read and just show me new stuff as of now and if I missed anything wonderful while I was gone, well, is too bad."
posted by jfuller at 11:39 AM on October 1, 2001

> That's why the "catch-up" button in newsreaders was
> so useful in very active newsgroups...

Ah, when the Usenet newsgroups contained the bulk of Internet open dialogue, now _those_ were the good ol' days. (Honest, I'm being sincere, here.)
posted by gee at 6:43 PM on October 1, 2001

On metafilter today, I was greated with: There have been 587 links and 10913 comments posted since your last visit.

And it is somehow OUR fault because he doesn't visit often??

too crowded and noisy

Life is too crowded and noisy (or "popular and vigorous," to use terms with less negative connotation), but some good does come of it occasionally.
posted by rushmc at 7:39 PM on October 1, 2001

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