Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: UK's most densely packed city. It's not London...
I'm probably one of the few active members that has more than 20 years in academia, and I think the essay writing idea is exclusionary and unproductive.
If this is about filtering off spammers, there are probably much better ways to do this: say prevent posts from being edited or links from being added by new members until 25 posts.
That anyone thinks this essay writing as an entry point is a great idea because it creates a "walled garden of intelligence and wisdom" is a sure sign that person has neither. There is simply no such thing. We don't live in an Ayn Rand novel.
Keep it simple for new members to find the welcoming community we've always been. I may have joined AI to read Apple rumors; bake in the flame wars of old, but I stuck around for the diversity of ideas, experiences, backgrounds (though we all still pretty much identify as white and male) that textured discussions outside of apple products. Let's keep our door open.