A Brief Guide to Scouting

5 Conversations

The job of the scouts is to help ensure that their are a steady stream of entries to give to the subs and then go on the front page. We do this by picking two entries out of Peer Review every month. But this doesn't mean that being a Scout involves just pressing on a button a couple of times a month. There's a lot more to it than that. Still it this is a good place to start talking about Scouting.

The Basics - Picking Entries

Once a month a Scout gets an e mail asking them to make two picks from the Peer Review forum.

  1. Step One find an entry that has been in Peer Review for more than a week that fits the writing guidelines.

  2. Step Two Read the Peer Review thread. Are there any issues raised that the author has not responded to? If so then hold off recommendation for a while. The chances are the author is in the process of making the changes, if you're not sure if this is still being worked on then ask. If the author has posted that he or she doesn't want to make the suggested changes then you will have to use your discretion. For instance if one researcher has posted some unreasonable suggestions, perhaps that the author expands the entry to include an irrelevant topic, and the author has explained reasonably why they don't want to make the changes.

    It is occasionally acceptable to recommend an entry where small changes need to be made. For example if the author hasn't posted in a while and their are some spelling errors that have been pointed out in Peer Review. At this point it's worth mentioning that entries don't have to be in Guide ML to go into the Edited Guide. It's very easy for sub editors to put in the correct guide ML, but sorting out bad Guide ML can take ages. If someone has suggested Guide MLing an entry and the author doesn't want to, then go ahead and recommend it.

  3. Step Three Decide if you think that the entry is factually accurate. Sometimes this is easy, for example if the entry is on a film that you have seen, or a TV programme which you are a fan of. If the topic of the entry is one that you are not familiar with then you need to give that discretion a work out. If the entry has been in Peer Review a while and several researchers who do have knowledge of the field have posted to the Peer Review thread and not raised any concerns then the chances are that their are no problems. If the entry hasn't received comments from researchers who do seem to know the field then you may be able to do some research on the web to verify that it is factually accurate. As many authors do provide links to relevant websites within the entry, this is usually quite easy. However there will be some cases where there are no relevant English language websites, for example an entry on cafes in Norway, in this case you could ask another researcher who has an interest in this subject area to take a look, there are lists of Sub Editors and Scouts with specialist interests. Despite all this there will be times when you just have to trust your gut instincts that the information is correct.

    Be a little wary of recommending entries that have not been in Peer Review very long, there may be some inaccuracy that you are not aware of, or has not been raised. This is more likely to be the case in scientific or technical entries than A Guide to Museums in California

  4. Step Four Is there already an entry on this topic in the Guide? Do a quick search to find out.

  5. Step Five Is it their own work? Cut and paste a sentence from the entry into Google to see if it has been published elsewhere on the web.

  6. Step Six Click on the recommend button by the entry. A box with come up asking for comments, type a few words, anything that you think that the Italics or Sub Eds need to know about the entry. Cut and paste the url of the Peer Review thread to the box as well. It helps the Sub a lot1.

An italic will read the entry that you've recommended and accept or reject it, sending an automatic e mail in the process. Now h2g2 has two members of staff this may be a few days after you made the recommendation. Once an entry has been accepted you can post to the Peer Review thread congratulating the author - don't mention it before that - it only gets the author's hopes up if the entry is rejected. If you don't receive an e mail check on the Coming Up page to see if the entry has been recommended. It's worth remembering if you are a Scout that you can see which entries have been recommended but not accepted at Scout Recommendations.

It can be annoying when you have nurtured an entry to perfection, and are itching to press that recommend button, then lo and behold another Scout recommends it. The trick is to keep calm and remember that there are plenty more fish in the sea, or indeed entries worth picking in Peer Review. One scout solves this problem by keeping a list of recommendable entries that are ripe for picking, so that if one is nabbed from beneath his nose he can easily find another. Some Scouts feel that it's rude to pick an entry that another Scout has clearly indicated that he or she is about to pick this soon.

What if I can't make my picks?

It's important that two entries get picked to keep the flow going for the front page. But don't panic every so often Scouts can't make their picks, if you post a quick message to the Scouts e groups someone will be only too happy to take them off your hands. If you have exams coming up, your computer explodes or for any other reason you need to take a break from Scouting for a while then just let the Italics know about it via the E group or a private e mail.

Right - Well that Seems Fairly easy then..

It's easier to make your picks if you visit Peer Review on a regular basis, try to read as many of the entries as possible and generally keep a finger on the metaphorical pulse. Don't assume that an entry will be boring just because of the title, there are many hidden gems hiding behind dull titles. As you will have noticed by now, when you first visit Peer Review the entries are listed in order of the last post to the conversation thread. By clicking on the link marked 'Date entered' you can get the list in the order that they were entered into Peer Review. This makes it easier to find the most recent entries or those that have been languishing for months because the author has left the building2. You can also order it by research number, revealing entries by new researchers. If you sort so that the entries that have had no recent comments come first, you will often find some entries which are ready for picking but no one has posted because there is nothing to add.
Some Scouts stay subscribed to Peer Review while others find that they can't handle the volume of traffic this generates in their conversations lists.

You often hear Scouts complaining that there is nothing worth recommending in Peer Review, one way of changing this is to encourage authors to change their work so that it becomes recommendable. Many Scouts find that seeing a new author improve an entry, which then gets on the front page, is one of the most satisfying parts of the job. When you are commenting on an entry in Peer Review take into account the tips on the Peer Review page. Remember that as a Scout your comments are seen as semi official.

When you are making comments on an entry written by a new author be careful, this could be the conversation that decides whether they stay on h2g2 or not. Keep everything friendly and fluffy; compliment any parts of the entry that are good. For example phrases such as this can be very useful :-

This is an excellent idea for an entry, and what you've done so far is extremely well written - well done smiley - biggrinsmiley - ok but as it stands I think this is a bit short for the Edited Guide. Do you think you'd be able to make it a big longer?

It takes a lot of time to post a long list of small things that could be improved on an entry, and if they're acted on then it improves the entry greatly. But to a new author having lots of small errors pointed out can be a little intimidating. One way of dealing with this is ask permission to point them out, for example -

Great entry, I can see you've put a lot of work into this smiley - bigeyes there's a few small errors is it ok if I point them out to you?

If an entry written by a new author is generally good but there one or two typos then some Scouts keep it fluffy by adding 'Sorry for nitpicking' or some other such encouraging words. Most authors are keen to make any changes needed to get their baby into the Edited Guide, but some will over react and take any comments you make very personally. If this happens stand back, don't become involved in a flame war3. One approach that many find useful is to post to the E Group asking for some backup, soon some other Scouts will arrive and be able to back you up and calm down the situation. When something like this happens it's usually because a new author hasn't understood the system, though it could be due to the way that you criticised them not being quite 'fluffy' enough, if you think this is a case ask another Scout, who you trust to tell you the truth to have a look at some of your posts.

Many new researchers4 who arrive, read all of the help pages and, lacking confidence, submit excellent entries to the writing workshop. When you have time, a skim through the writing workshop can make an author very happy.

So How Good Should it Be?

In short - as good as possible. The editorial process for the Edited Guide is run by volunteers; it's up to us to maintain the standards of the site. Neither sub editors nor staff have time to completely re write a piece. If the entry is excellent, the author has left the site, and the changes are very very minor then it may be acceptable to recommend them anyway - but this situation is the exception rather than the rule. Before you recommend an entry ask yourself if you would be willing to sub edit it yourself. If you are also a sub editor you can ask for certain entries to be in your next batch by e mailing the editors - some sub editors will offer to sub entries that they know are a lot of work but want to get into the guide.

Entries don't have to be in Guide ML to be recommended, sorting out bad Guide ML is a Sub Editors nightmare, and putting in fresh Guide ML is fairly simple. If an entry isn't in Guide ML and the author doesn't want it to be in Guile ML don't suggest it. The first attempt at Guide ML is probably going to be frustrating and time consuming. If a researcher is keen to put an entry in Guide ML of course offer all supportive comments and links. If you aren't familiar with the details of Guide ML yourself ask another knowledgeable researcher to help them, a new researcher may not know who to ask for help, or may not have the confidence to ask them. They may find it easier to write bug free Guide ML using MaW's Guide ML editor GuidePost.

To know which changes should be suggested you need a fairly detailed knowledge of the standards that you're working towards. It may be useful to read the Sub Editors guides to Style and Guide ML, you should already know the Writing guidelines inside out. There are a number of common errors that are worth picking up on:-

  • Guide ML, should all be in capital letters.
  • Quotation marks should be single quotes (') not double quotes (")
  • Don't start off with a Header Tag - the title of the entry functions as a header. Encourage the researcher to start of with an introductory paragraph.

Spring Cleaning Peer Review

If Peer Review if full of unsuitable entries it's more difficult for good work to get the recognition it deserves. Keeping the Peer Review forum clean and tidy is another important part of the Scouts' jobs. Sometimes this involves making sure that unsuitable entries aren't left in Peer Review.

If an entry is not suitable for the Edited Guide then the first thing to do is to point out the reasons why. Hopefully the author will be pleased that you've taken the time to provide feedback and make the required changes - sometimes this isn't the case, and you may have to advise the author to move the entry out of Peer Review.

  • To the Writing Workshop

    Entries should only be moved to the Writing Workshop if the author is planning to work on them, and some major re writing is needed. If the author is likely to carry out the work within the next few days then it need not be moved, but if it's going to take longer, then a move to the Writing Workshop should be advised. In the past the Writing Workshop was used as a dumping ground for entries where the author had moved that weren't quite up to standard in Peer Review. This is no longer the case.

  • To the AWW

    A well written piece of personal opinion, experience, narrative, poetry or fiction, has no place in the Edited Guide, however good it was - but it may well make CAC-C, The Post or The Underguide. The, previously endless task of explaining to researchers why their excellent work wasn't suitable for Peer Review has noticeably diminished since the launch of the Underguide.

    Many Scouts often recommend that an author move their piece to the AWW, it's worth remembering that the AWW is not a dumping ground for Peer Review. It's a place in its own right and it's important that it doesn't get full of pieces that will never make it. As Scout you cannot say that a piece is or is not suitable for the Underguide. You can say that you don't think that it's suitable for Peer Review, but that you like it and perhaps it would be suitable for the Underguide.

    For example -


    Thanks for posting to Peer Review smiley - biggrin. Unfortunately Peer Review is not the place for works of fiction - but it's very good and I'm sure that it would be suitable for the Underguide.

    This is not acceptable. You can't be sure that it would be suitable for the Underguide and it may be just giving researchers some false hope, as well as leaving the Underguide Miners with an awkward situation.

    This is much better -

    This is a very interesting piece of writing, and I certainly enjoyed reading it, however unfortunately it's in the wrong place. Peer Review is for writing aimed at the Edited Guide - and the Guidelines don't allow fiction/opinion pieces/ first person accounts.

    However the Underguide does allow fiction/opinion pieces/first person narratives, perhaps you could submit it to the AWW to see if it would be suitable.

  • Back to the Entry
    If the author is no longer interesting in working on the entry and wants it to remain unedited. Or if the entry is unsuitable for any other review forum. This is usually the case for very short entries, only a few lines long.

  • To the Flea Market
    The Flea Market is for entries that could be brought up to Edited Guide standard if the author was willing to put in some work - if they hadn't left the building. They await a loving owner to take them over and nurture them.

Usually you will ask the author to move the entry themselves. However sometimes that's not possible. If the author is a digibox user they cannot remove entries from Peer Review as a pop up box appears, if the are not willing to move clearly unsuitable entries5, or if they have left the site - defined as no posts for the previous two months. In that case you can ask the italics to remove the entries from Peer Review. As long as a minimum of two Scouts agree that the entry should be moved, then you should e mail the Scouts E Group requesting that it's moved. As the italics have lots of things to do try to send the e mail on a Friday. This means it's easier for Jim to sit down and do them all in one go.

Awkward Situations in Peer Review

There are times when a Scout gets to deal with situations in Peer Review that they'd rather not deal with. Still it happens - forewarned is forearmed.

The Keen Researcher who doesn't take Advice

Often new to h2g2, and usually in their teens, they submit an entry that is factual, written in the third person, and often on a worthy topic, but just not up to scratch. Either not long enough, only a few lines, or just a dictionary definition of the topic, or extremely badly written. Because there is so much that needs improving then it's hard to offer constructive critism without them feeling picked on or got at. Try not to offer lots of criticism at once, compliment something about the entry and above all keep it fluffy.

the Copied Entry

As a Scout you may come across entries that have been cut and pasted from other sites - usually as you are Googling an entry just before you are about to recommend it. Just because the text of an entry appears on another site doesn't mean that it's not the authors own work. It may well be text that they have written but published on their own website - if it is a Geocities site, it may be text from a free to distribute web page. Or it may be that they have misunderstood the difference between cut and pasting and taking material from a source and writing something original. Unfortunately its not unknown for other sites to copy entries from h2g2.

Some researchers prefer to yikes the entry and then let the author sort it out with the italics - as it may the least embarrassing situation for the author. Or you could use a fluffy phrase along the lines of..


Good entry - but I've just noticed that a very simalar one is posted here - (link). If this is your work are you aware of the copywrite situation of content on h2g2? (link to the most relevent copywrite help page).

Try to familise yourself with the pages on intellectual copywrite, and the Terms and conditions. Even if you never come across an awkward situation new researchers often have questions on these issues. Always explain that you're just a researcher and refer them to an italic or to the help pages for more information.

Quality Control

The Edited Guide is of high quality, and it's important it stays that way. Being polite to researchers doesn't mean picking entries that aren't up to standard. It means telling them why you think that they aren't up to standard in a polite way.

In theory it's the editors job to have the final say on what should or shouldn't go into the Edited Guide. But it's only sensible that Scouts take part of the responsiblity for checking that sub standard entries don't get in - they can spend more time examining each entry than the Editors can. In this Scout's experience conflict often occurs when the Scout makes a pick as a reward to an author who has tried hard - if you have spent a great deal of time helping an author improve an entry its sometimes hard to look at it rationally. Be aware that this may happen and if in doubt ask another Scouts opinion.

Remember if you really want an entry to get into the edited guide you should offer to share joint authorship with the author and improve it yourself, rather than leaving the work to a sub editor or risking letting a sub standard entry into the Edited Guide.

And finally..

The site attracts many new researchers, and many of them want to contribute to the Edited Guide. As well as being the future lifeblood of the guide, many of them are interesting friendly, fascinating people. As a Scout you'll be one of the first people that they meet. Remember researchers who are trying, but not suceeding, were not sent by god6 to try you - they're people as well.

The most entries you can comment on in Peer Review the better not recieving feedback is not a nice experience that many authors feel is akin to rejection. As Bossel explains so much moreeloquantly than I could.

1Note that if you removed the name of the skin from the url then it will not be skin specific, that means that the sub ed will see the thread in whatever skin they normally look at h2g2 in. 2also known as 'Evisings'3many of the Scouts could tell you of times that this has happened4including Z5only in extreme cases6or the italics

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