Everything2

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Everything2, or E2 for short, is a large collaborative Internet community, currently at www.everything2.com. It describes itself as having "grown from being a very simple user-written encyclopedia to a very complex online community with a focus to write, publish and edit a quality database of information, insight and humor."

Table of contents
1 Nodes and Writeups
2 Messaging
3 History and Society
4 Software
5 Related projects
6 Other Resources

Nodes and Writeups

E2 users called noders create pages called nodes and add information in multiple writeups. Only logged-in users can create writeups, and only the author of a writeup or an editor appointed by the site administrators can edit a writeup. Writeups are written in a simplified HTML dialect and do not contain images. As of August 3, 2002 (20:50 GMT), 478,139 writeups existed. The copyright for a writeup rests with the author, and no agreement to any kind of license is entered into by writing on E2 (except for giving the site permission to publish). Authors retain the right to remove their work from the site if they so wish.

There are other types of nodes that do not contain writeups; for instance, the administrators can create "superdoc" nodes (similar to Wikipedia's special pages) such as Everything New Nodes and Page of Cool that allow interaction, and each user has a "homenode" where they can add a short autobiography or other text (or a picture, if they are level six or above -- see Rewards, below).

Links

Hard links in E2 are simply words or phrases surrounded by [square brackets]. E2 writeups cannot link outside of E2; to reference an external URL, a noder simply includes it in the writeup as plain text.

At the bottom of every node, the system displays up to 64 soft links, though each node can store an unlimited number thereof. ("Guest User" -- any viewer not logged in -- can see 24, a logged-in user can see up to 48, and the senior administrators ("gods") can see up to 64). These are two-way links intended to approximate "thought processes". Whenever a logged-in user moves from one node to another, be it through a hard link, another soft link, or through the title search box, the system creates (or strengthens) the bidirectional soft link between the two; however, some nodes -- namely the special pages and the user profiles -- will not display the soft links so created. By repeatedly moving from one node to another, users can and do deliberately create such softlinks; some users will use these soft links to make anonymous -- sometimes positive, but more often negative -- comments on others' writing.

Rewards

The administrators loosely based E2's reward system on role-playing games. Every time a user creates a writeup, they earn one experience point (XP). Users with at least 25 contributed writeups and 50 experience points can vote + or - on a writeup, which has a 1/3 chance of giving or taking an experience point from the author depending on the direction of the vote and a 1/5 chance of giving a point to the voter; after voting on a writeup, a noder can see the writeup's "reputation," or number of positive and negative votes. The site's editors delete writeups that do not meet editorial standards or those whose removal has been author-requested. The only effect on the author's XP is to lose the 1 XP they got for creating it.

New levels are attained by reaching arbitrary numbers of XP and writeups, which are given in the FAQ. A high interquartile mean of the reputations of a user's writeups can lower these numbers by up to half.

The system grants special powers at other levels of writeups and experience, such as "cool" (reward author with three XP and send the writeup to the front page), the ability to create primitive chat rooms on the site, and space for uploading a picture to a user's "homenode."

Copyright Policy

For a long time, the posting of copyrighted song lyrics and poetry to the site without approval from the copyright holders, while certainly frowned upon, was not actually prohibited. E2 chose to only passively enforce copyright law, in a manner similar to an ISP. This policy changed in August 2003 to a more active one where writeups containing copyrighted material had to either conform to fair use guidelines (length limits, proportion of quoted material to new text) or be posted with permission.

Messaging

Everything2 provides two communication tools: the Chatterbox and the message system. The Chatterbox is similar to a chat room. It appears as a panel on the right side of the page that logged-in users can use to read conversations and participate in them. Discussion of controversial topics, especially religion and politics, is limited to the "Political Asylum" -- a separate "room" of the Chatterbox dedicated to such conversations. The site's administrators have the ability to "borg" -- prevent from using the Chatterbox or message system -- those users whose behavior violates the unwritten standards of politeness and decorum. This is done through a bot called EDB (short for "Everything Death Borg"), which announces when it has "swallowed" a user. Most silencings last for five minutes, though persistent trolls may be silenced for a longer period -- sometimes permanently. The message system lets users send private messages to other users. The messages are stored in the user's mailbox to be read when they next log in. The main use for the message system is giving constructive criticism to the author of a writeup; however, it can be and is used like any medium of private communication.

History and Society

The predecessor of E2 was a similar database called Everything (later labeled "Everything1") which was started around March 1998 by Nate Oostendorp and was initially closely aligned with and promoted by Slashdot. The E2 software offered vastly more features, and the Everything1 data was twice incorporated into E2: once on November 13, 1999 and again in January of 2000. E2 is operated by the Blockstackers Intergalactic company.

Writeups in E1 were limited to 512 bytes in size. This, the predominantly "geek" membership back then, and the lack of chat facilities meant the early work was often of poor quality, and full of in-references. As E2 has expanded, higher quality standards have been enforced, a lot of the old material has been removed, and the membership has become broader. Many noders prefer to write encyclopedia articles similar to those on Wikipedia. Some write fiction or poetry, some discuss issues, and some write daily journals, called "daylogs". The userbase has a notably leftist political and cultural leaning.

E2 has a very complex social hierarchy and code of behavior, to which it is sometimes difficult for a newcomer to adjust. Moreover, some people complain that new users are held to a different standard from established contributors, and that their writeups are singled out for deletion regardless of content. Others dismiss such complaints as unjustified; they observe that few communities treat newcomers exactly like long-time members, and they claim that those who learn and obey the rules are usually -- though not always -- treated fairly.

Software

E2 is implemented in Perl on top of a MySQL database. The code (but not the content of the database) is freely available under the Artistic License at EveryDevel.com.

Related projects

Other Resources


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