This week's View contemplates offing itself, and provides a how-to guide for starting your own Community group at h2g2.
This Week's View
There are 185 entries recommended Guide entries listed on the h2g2 Statistics page, compared to 238 a week ago. That's a rather suspicious reduction of 53 entries, since I know only 25 entries were featured on h2g2's main page last week. Hmm.
I learned something very interesting about this particular statistic last week. I previously assumed that this figure told me how many entries were left in the old Queue. And in fact, that was the case for a while -- before h2g2 sent the last entries from the old system to Sub-Editors and turned toward the entries submitted to Peer Review.
Now, though, things have changed. Some of the entries counted as 'recommended' actually come from Peer Review. They are marked as such when h2g2 takes an entry from the What's Coming Up page and assigns it to a Sub-Editor. So a number of entries now part of that statistic are from Peer Review, but I have no way of knowing how many.
Because of the confusion over this, Mark Moxon is considering the removal of this statistic from the Statistics page. The number doesn't actually represent the number of recommended entries in any case, since the entries on the What's Coming Up page aren't included in the statistic.
There are 9 entries on the What's Coming Up page, compared to 15 last week. And there are 455 entries on the Peer Review page, which is 19 more than last week. If we add the recommended entries to the entries at What's Coming Up and Peer Review, we get a total of 649 entries located somewhere in the Editing process.
Is it the End?
The 'statistics' portion of the column gets shakier and shakier, it seems, as the transition to the Peer Review system finishes. Peer Review, remember, is a manual process that makes no guarantees on when -- or even if -- anyone's entry will be edited. The nature of the system is that a particularly good entry will sometimes be pushed through much faster than a barely passable one.
For that reason, it is this author's opinion that statistics become rather useless is helping writers guess when or whether their entry will be accepted, edited, and featured on h2g2's main page. The column can gauge whether h2g2 is keeping up with its writers in general. In the old Editing system, the information was useful because entries were edited roughly in the order they were received. But in the future, this simply won't be the case.
This column was built on a foundation of useful statistics. And its name, 'View From the Queue,' was coined around an Editing system that no longer exists. So the question I must ask myself is whether the column has a future anymore. I mean, are people interested enough in the column to want it to continue? Or has its usefulness run out?
I believe in democratic solutions. So here's my proposition. If ten or more people want the column to continue, it will do so. If fewer than 10 people express an interest, then the column is no longer worth the effort I have been putting into it. If you want to add your vote for the column's continuation, add your name to the thread set up below for the purpose.
How to Build a Community Group
A couple of months ago, I decided to create a new society for the Community. I wanted to bring together the musicians and die-hard music fans at h2g2. I knew there were similar groups for film buffs, book lovers, and so on. It was just a matter of figuring out how to create the group and give it a quick jump start. I found the experience challenging, but also rewarding.
Rather than let other would-be creators start in the dark as I did, I thought I would pass on what I learned. Here, then, are a few tips for people interested in creating their own Community groups. Please note that while my group includes members with a particular interest (music), many other groups are created purely to entertain, and yet others have a particular task which the members are trying to accomplish together. My tips should apply equally well to any group.
How To Get Started
The first thing to do is create a page for the group. There are two ways to go about this. The most common choice is to click on the "Add Guide Entry" button on your personal space. This will result in a page that only you can edit, and you will be listed as the page's author. This will provide you with handy central control over your group.
The other choice is to create a whole new user at h2g2 to house your group. To do this, logout of h2g2, and register again with a different email address. Then make the user name be the same as the group's name.
The advantage of this method is that multiple people can take joint responsibility for maintaining the group. You can give each group administrator the email address and password for the group page, and they can make changes without you needing to worry that your personal stuff will get messed around with. The disadvantage is that you will have to logout and log back in each time you want to make changes to the group page. Also, doing this artificially inflates h2g2's membership numbers.
Anatomy of a Group Page
Once you have created a space for the group, you will have to fill in the page with some vital information. The main page for the group should be titled with the group's name. And the first paragraph should be a brief description of what the group is. If the group is located in a particular spot in h2g2's virtual Community, this information should be included at the top of the page as well.
Next, you'll want to include added details about the group. First, your group might have a useful resource or two for people outside its usual membership. If this is so, list the helpful stuff near the top of the page. Second, create a listing of the benefits and responsibilities for people who join the group. Finally, consider including a list of members or regular contributors.
Finally, you may eventually want to set aside a section at the bottom for any changes that the members may have missed. This section might include the announcement of new features, the results of popular votes, calls for helpers, and so forth. For an example, you can check out my page for the Musicians Guild.
To summarize, here's the anatomy of a group page:
Title: The group's name.
First paragraph: description of the group, and virtual location if pertinent.
Listing of any resources the group offers to people outside its membership.
Responsibilities and benefits to members. This could be a link to another page.
Membership list, if applicable. This too can be a link to another page if the list is long.
Finally: Recent changes made to the group, if any.
A group's success will depend partly on its concept. A coalition of virtual garbage men to routinely visit virtual pubs and restaurants around h2g2 sounds like a great idea, but you should be understanding if few people are willing to step into the role. The trick is to create a group that appeals to the self interests of other h2g2 members. Also, beware of creating an establishment similar to one already present at h2g2. New groups sometimes can't handle the competition.
Assuming your concept is sound, the biggest challenge is in getting the word out about your group. Luckily, there are a lot of super ways to do this. The most important thing is to get your group listed in the appropriate directories at h2g2. Drop off a note to the purveyors of the Overwhelmingly Huge Guide to H2G2 Clubs1 and the Quick Reference Guide2.
If you want your group to have a virtual location within h2g2, find a home for it by starting at the The World of h2g2 page. Then make sure your neighbours know you have moved in by contacting related pages from the area you have chosen. Then consider announcing your arrival in the Community Soapbox page, where the h2g2 staffers might possibly be moved to add your group to the World of h2g2 directory.
Another great idea is to advertise the group through your name. You can change your name by clicking on the "Preferences" button. My own name currently reads, "Fragilis the Melodical, Visit the Musicians Guild at U150368." If someone checks to see Who's Online, they will see your little advertisement. They will also see it when they view your forum postings.
You could also add a link from your personal space to the group. For that matter, you might encourage other group members to add similar links and you might even create a nifty group graphic they can put on their pages. To see an example of this, I'll let you peek at the Musicians Guild Membership Graphics page.
Finally, you might consider forming alliances with other groups and/or virtual spaces within h2g2. If there is a group with goals or features that complement your own, contact the group's owner or administrator. The two groups might include links to one another, and might even work together on a joint project.
Once you've create your group's page and gotten the word out about it, you can expect a quick jump in membership. Plan on spending a lot of extra time on your group for the first few weeks. New members may have their own ideas about what the group should be like, and a good group owner will do what they can to accomodate everyone.
If the group has joint goals, wait until after this crucial period is over to get started on them. You can wait until things get fairly stable before jumping into any huge projects. Just concentrate on getting to know the members (or regulars) that have joined you.
You should plan on spending at least a little time each week monitoring the group. If things at the group page are seeming sluggish, consider opening up a discussion on a new topic. Or try motivating the group to work together on a project that would be useful or interesting. Some group creators visit their group page daily to keep things moving along. What you do will depend you and the type of group you created, but a good axiom is that your work will never truly be done.
Next Week's View
Next week, I'll announce the winner of the contest to determine when the old Queue would finally die. Who guessed the closest? We'll find out. Also, I will tell you whether the column will be wrapping up soon, or whether it will continue under a new name. Finally, I may offer special information about the planned site update -- if there is any.
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.