After Douglas Adams presented his idea of The Book in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to the world, it was inevitable that people would start working to make an electronic reference a reality. h2g2 is one of these projects; another is Project Galactic Guide (PGG).
Undoubtedly many attempts to create analogues of the Hitchhiker's Guide must have appeared on home computers, and some, such as Dave Hodges' 'Real' Hitchhiker's Guide received quite a bit of attention1. However, in 1991 in the early years of the Internet, the alt.fan.douglas-adams newsgroup became the stage for discussions about using the Internet to create a Hitchhiker's Guide for everyone.
This guide was briefly called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Known Galaxy, as founding father Paul Clegg preferred it to be about real things. However, reality was found to be too much of a constraint, and the whole thing was renamed Project Galactic Guide, a name that it has retained to this day.
Discussions about the Project moved to the newsgroup alt.galactic-guide. In the beginning the emphasis was on creating article browsers for every possible kind of home computer operating system, but in later years, as the World Wide Web became increasingly popular, a web version was developed at megadodo.com.
However, during 1997 and 1998, PGG was barely alive, with almost all the main players distracted by matters in 'real life'.
In 1999, PGG was violently awakened from its coma by the launch of h2g2. With professional competition on the horizon, everyone ran back to take care of their baby. A backlog of articles was attacked head-on by the editors, and construction started on a new website, incorporating a number of new features that had been in the discussion phase for some time.
A new site was set up at www.galactic-guide.com and the old megadodo material was copied over and then enhanced.
Around 100 new articles are published each year, and at the start of 2000 there were a total of 750 articles in PGG.
How PGG Works
The basic idea of Project Galactic Guide is to have a lot of fun while making a humorous electronic encyclopaedia. This fun comes first of all with the discussions about the articles' contents2.
When you find yourself inspired to write an article, PGG provides its own articles which help you to easily format your own effort. Once your article is finished, and you have asked friends and/or folks in the newsgroup to read it and to make comments, you can submit it by e-mail to [email protected]
It is then distributed to any editor who is free3, who edits it and engages you discussions about the subject matter, the flow of the text, and the humour.
When both are satisfied, the article is sent to the Review Coordinator, who puts it up on the newsgroup to be reviewed by peers - other Field Researchers and anyone else who wants to vent their opinion. Any comments are used to improve the article and to polish it to the highest quality, after which it is archived and published.
This provides an endless source of joy, because publication leads to both nice and strange comments from readers all around the world, from the moment of publishing until civilisation ceases to exist4.
So there you have it: a fun, amateur-writing project with a size which allows a personal touch. It has also been described as:
A collaborative Internet attempt at creating an electronic reference meant to guide and misguide its readers in matters of life, death, and finding a parking space anywhere in the universe.
An Internet experiment that aims to deliver interesting, informative, and humorous articles by letting an infinite amount of Field Researchers type out their random thoughts at a computer keyboard.
If you can't find it in the Guide, it's probably important!
Putting things out of perspective is the most fun way to put things into perspective.
The Truth is in there!