View From the Queue

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This week's View covers a hodge podge of issues related to h2g2's processes for editing and featuring certain Guide Entries.

This Week's View

Since I was gone on vacation last week, I will be averaging the statistics for the past two weeks to gauge h2g2's progress. This will help me present statistics that match previous columns.

There are 257 entries remaining in the old Queue, compared to 289 two weeks ago. That's a lukewarm reduction of 16 entries per week. Although only 32 entries were removed from the old Queue, 51 gathered Edited status during my vacation. Can you guess where the other 19 entries came from?

That's right! The first entries have navigated through the entire Peer Review process. Since the Peer Review system was introduced roughly around July 25th, this means is took between 14 and 16 weeks for the first entries to navigate successfully through Peer Review. That's not bad, really, considering h2g2's commitment to working through the old Queue before moving on.

Of course, the transition will not be fully complete until the last entry is gone from the old Queue. This shouldn't be too long from now, since an inside source told me the remaining entries have already been assigned to Sub-Editors. Once the Sub-Editors have finished their assignments and the entries have made it to h2g2's main page, the old Queue will be gone for good.

There are 437 entries currently waiting at the Peer Review page, up from 388 two weeks ago. When we add this to the entries in the old Queue, we get a total of 694 entries total hoping to be Edited. That is an addition of 17, or a mere 8.5 per week.

For the first time, the What's Coming Up page actually has less entries than it did during my last report. There were 33 entries there last week, and there are 14 there now. This is actually a good thing, since the remaining entries completed the Editing process altogether. Those entries remaining on the page are likely to get to Edited status pretty quickly.

Because of this unexpected change and because of my non-presence at h2g2, I'm not sure how many entries were added to the What's Coming Up page during the past two weeks. But I did take a good look at the entries listed there this week. In future reports, I will know how many new entries were added in the past week, and also how many entries from Peer Review went on to be featured on h2g2's main page.

Future View From the Queue Statistics

It's getting harder and harder to compile statistics that really gauge h2g2's progress. This is largely due to the fact that the Peer Review process is less automated than the old editing system, and h2g2's Statistics page doesn't generate convenient numbers for me.

It is particularly difficult to examine the Peer Review page in detail. Doing so would require checking each thread on the page, and that would take additional hours each week that I don't have.

There will also be some confusion for me because the paid staffers at h2g2 will be removing threads from Peer Review and attaching them to the entry pages when a Scout recommends the entry to h2g2's Sub-Editors. Duplicate threads will also be removed, as will threads that clearly don't belong on the Peer Review page.

The What's Coming Up page will also change as entries are added at the request of Scouts, and removed because they have been featured on h2g2's main page. Because of all this, it will get tougher and tougher to guess exactly how many threads have been added by h2g2 members each week, and how many entries were commented on or picked for Editing by the h2g2 Scouts.

I am worried about my ability to be accurate and fair at this juncture because the transition from the old Queue to Peer Review will likely mean h2g2 will behave unusually in the near future. And since I don't know everything about Peer Review yet, I may get confused about what I'm seeing. So do forgive me for the next few weeks while I get my feet wet in Peer Review statistics.

New Tools at h2g2

A few wonderful new tools have been added to h2g2 lately. The first is the Community Soapbox. This page is there primarily to discuss the doings among h2g2's community pages and forums. The page currently holds a lot of interesting discussions about h2g2's policies, including one interesting thread which hints that a section of the Guide known as the World of h2g2 may be listed more prominently someday.

The other tools are related to the frequent request by researchers to make it easier to add graphics to their entries. It is now possible to nip graphics directly from the h2g2 Graphics page without concern over copyrights. You can also upload your photographs to a free service called Fotango. Just follow these instructions. Fotango is an online company that h2g2 has a beneficial arrangement with.

A GuideML Editor

Speaking of interesting new tools, MaW has created a free GuideML Editor. GuidePost includes handy menus that will insert GuideML code for you. GuidePost is *not* a WYSIWYG editor, though. It does not allow you to lay things out graphically like Dreamweaver or FrontPage might.

For this reason, I recommend GuidePost for experienced GuideML coders. For beginners, I still recommend learning GuideML by hand. After you become familiar with it, you will be ready to try GuidePost. I personally found that GuidePost saved me a lot of time, but I would have found it confusing if I didn't know GuideML pretty well already.

Go to the GuidePost web page for more information on the editor. For your convenience, you can download the Windows version here. A Linux version is also available on the GuidePost site.

Please note that GuidePost is the work of an individual member of h2g2. Thus, it does not have any official sanction from h2g2. Also, GuidePost does not include all the GuideML tags available, though it does include the most commonly used ones.

MaW makes the software more complete with each new version. Version 0.3 is available now, and Version 0.4 will be available within the next few weeks. If I could have one wish, it would be that spell checking ability would be added to GuidePost someday.

How Scouts Fit into the Peer Review Scheme

There are currently 30 volunteer Scouts at h2g2. I have personally felt a lot of confusion about how the Scouts do their job, since their role is fairly new. But luckily I've had a couple of useful conversations with Scouts that have helped to clear things up.

Colonel Sellers explained to me how the Scouts try to comment on every entry recommended to the Peer Review page. Unfortunately, it's tough for me to provide weekly statistics about how successful they are at this. However, I did take some time to look at the current state of things this week.

I will say that the Scouts seem to be doing a top notch job so far. Pretty much all the threads on Peer Review that are a week or older have comments from Scouts. In some cases, I also see them working with authors to improve entries.

Wampus also explained to me how the Scouts go about recommending the best entries to the Sub-Editors. Apparently, the paid staffers at h2g2 Towers give them a particular day on which to recommend their favored entry. They send this info to the Towers, and a few days later they receive an email accepting or denying the recommendation.

After the Scout gets this email, they go back to the appropriate thread for the entry on the Peer Review page. There they announce the acceptance of the entry (if appropriate). Later on, the paid staffers will move this thread from Peer Review to the entry's page and list the entry on the What's Coming Up page.

When I notice little activity on the What's Coming Up page, it could be that the Scouts haven't been recommending entries at their normal pace. Or it could just as easily be that the paid staffers at h2g2 Towers haven't gotten around to listing the Scouts' latest recommendations yet. Since the whole Peer Review system is a manual process, I have no waying of telling which is the case.

Like me, the Scouts must take extra time to wade through the forums on the Peer Review page. As more and more entries are added, it takes longer and longer to page through the forums to find the information or threads you need. For this reason, I have a lot of sympathy for the Scouts and the difficult job they do for h2g2.

Controversial Entries

I've seen a lot of discussion lately about h2g2's policies on entries of a controversial nature. These fall primarily into two categories -- adult and religious.

On the adult front, there is an interesting conversation going on about the possibility that h2g2 might employ a language filter to eliminate swear words, as well as a question about how the site should treat content of a strictly adult nature.

One example of such adult content might be Con's interesting entry called Cunnilingus - A Guide, which was submitted to the Peer Review page. The entry includes how-to information, but uses clinical words. The thread discussing this entry hints that h2g2 is worried about possible legal repurcussions if the entry becomes part of the Edited Guide.

On the religious front, there is a little concern that entries that explore religion from a non-Christian perspective are being held to much higher (perhaps unattainable) standards than other entries. This feeling comes largely from the Freedom From Faith Foundation, a community group for non-Christians.

For the sake of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am a member of the FFFF. However, I am interested in everyone's viewpoint.

One recent bone of contention has been Twophlag Gargleblap's entry on God. This entry takes a cold hard look at various religious and theological views on God. It has been submitted and rejected several times, and is currently receiving both criticism and praise in its Peer Review thread. See the Freedom From Faith Foundation page for more examples of similar entries that have been rejected by h2g2.

What do you think about having Edited Entries about religion that carry a non-Christian tone? What about adult content? And how do you feel about h2g2 filtering out your swear words? Now is the time to let your voice be heard on these controversial issues.

What to Do About Inaccurate or Incomplete Edited Guide Entries

I've seen an awful lot of questions about what concerned members should do when they come across an entry in the Edited Guide that is incomplete or inacurrate. Since h2g2 is a collaborative work-in-progress, we all want to pitch in when we feel something could be done just a bit better.

First, you must judge the severity of the problem. A spelling error might be annoying, but the world will not crash down around us if it isn't fixed instantly. A factual error that might result in a serious misunderstanding might require more immediate action. Since the time of h2g2's volunteers and paid staffers is precious, we must learn to make judgment calls so we don't cause them unnecessary stress.

If the entry you are worried about was featured on h2g2's main page today, you should start a thread related to the entry to make any quick adjustments. Possible titles for this thread include, 'Typo', 'Correction', 'Nitpick', and 'Editor: Please Note'. The day after an entry is featured, someone from h2g2 will check the threads for any last-minute changes to the entry.

If the entry has been around for a while, you can still post corrections in this manner. But please note that it could take months for the appropriate person to make your correction in the entry. There are so many entries in the Edited Guide that looking through them for corrections takes quite a while.

There is another option. You might consider contacting the entry's Sub-Editor. A handy link to their user page is included in the information box to the right of the entry. Just drop a note off at the editor's user page, and don't forget to include a link back to the entry in question.

If the Editor doesn't respond to your query, a last resort might be to contact Crusader. Since there are thousands of us and only a few sub-editors (and one Crusader), I must ask you not to abuse the privilege of being able to contact someone for help.

If your correction requires the addition of a lot of new material or a total restructuring of the entry's contents, a whole different course of action becomes necessary. The volunteer structure doesn't generally support having Sub-Editors or paid staffers fill in large blanks in Edited Entries. Doing so would be very time consuming for them.

If you feel an entry needs a major overhaul, the only thing to do is get working on it yourself. Copy the current Edited Entry into an Entry of your own. Then add the material it is missing and make whatever changes are necessary. Finally, you should submit the updated version to the Peer Review forum for approval.

If you do this, please remember to credit the original researcher at the bottom of your revised entry. That way, you will both get credit when your revision becomes the official Edited Entry. Also, you should include a link to the original Edited Entry in your post to Peer Review, along with your reason for wanting to change it and a link to your updated version.

Next Week's View

It's been very interesting to see all the things people want to see discussed in the Peer Review column. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas for this week's View.

Next week, we'll take a good hard look at whether the Peer Review process is improving the wait for writers. I'll compare the wait time for the last entries navigating through the old editing process with the entries that are making their way through Peer Review.

Fragilis the Melodical

Click here to see previous weeks' Views from the Queue.

Opinions expressed in this column are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of h2g2 or the Post.

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