This week, the View teaches you how to Feed the Writers. Also, it continues Project Spy.
This Week's View
There are 17 entries on the What's Coming Up page, 20 less than last week. And there are 292 entries on the Peer Review page, which is exactly the same as last week. This tells me that the Scouts and Sub-Editors are presenting us with new entries at about the same rate as the writers can supply them.
A total of 83 threads total have been moved from the Peer Review page to the Writing Workshop, just 4 more than last week. There are also 141 threads in the Sin Bin this week, 15 more than before. All in all, it has been a relatively slow week recovering from the holiday season.
The University of Life released Joe aka Arnia's project on Numbers and Logic last week. The project's 7 entries added to the 25 entries from Peer Review for a total of 32 new Edited Entries. It has become a pattern for h2g2 to release one new University project per week, adding between 4 and 10 entries to the total.
To follow up on last week's factoid, Anna has decided to edit the The Paul McCartney Death Clues entry personally. I'm sure Bluebottle is pleased that his entry will finally make it to the front page soon.
Feed the Writers
In one sense, writers are the lifeblood of h2g2. The site draws people in through the Edited Guide, a compendium of entries at least theoretically similar to the Hitchikers Guide Douglas Adam wrote about. But without writers constantly providing new entries, the Guide would very quickly start to feel stale and interest in this site would likely decline.
In order to keep the Guide and h2g2 healthy, we need to support the site's volunteer writers and the staff who help keep the Editing process going. I did an entry earlier on How to Keep the Staffers Happy. This week, we look at how to Feed the Writers. If we want all these writers to keep churning out great entries for free, we should at least give them something -- however intangible -- for their efforts.
Be a Peer
If there is one thing we can all feed the writers with, it is our opinion. You don't have to be a writer to be a writer's Peer. You simply have to know what you like. Anyone can drop by the Peer Review page, pick an entry of interest, read it, and offer comments to the author. And these days, it is easier than ever. To get to the Peer Review page, just click on the banner ad at the top of your screen from anywhere at h2g2.
That said, there is a lot of debate about how exactly one should offer suggestions and feedback. Those familiar with the Peer Review process sometimes worry that casual helpers are missing some of the best entries, or that negative comments could be taken more harshly than intended by new writers. This was Lucinda's suggestion.
"Don't just review the first page: the threads slightly deeper in are often overlooked, but they need feedback just as much as the
rest of them.
"There's also the old positive/negative thing. Oldhands aren't at risk so much, but if someone's posted
their first entry to PR, they need to be encouraged - recently I've been trying to always pick out one good
thing about the entry - one sentence that made me laugh, or a picture that explains things well, or the
way one paragraph is put together and made me feel. People learn just as well from being told what
they've done right, I suspect..."
I also believe that writers should follow the old adage, and treat other writers as they want to be treated. It is one of the great ironies of h2g2 that writers desperate for feedback themselves often don't consider that other writers must be feeling the same way. If only each writer submitting to Peer Review would give feedback while they were there, everyone would likely be much happier. The Apprentice made the following suggestion for writers.
"I agree that writers need to support each other more and get quite concerned with the disinterest at the
Peer Review page. It would be nice to think that every time someone posts a new entry at the PR page
they could look at two other articles already mentioned there and pass comment. That would certainly
get the ball rolling."
Other Places to Feed Writers
You don't have to go to the Peer Review page to feed one of h2g2's writers. There are plenty of other opportunities too.
If it is your habit to peruse each day's new entries, consider adding a nice comment to your favorite one. Tell the author exactly what you like about the entry. And feel free to ask any additional questions about the subject that you may have. This is a quick and easy way to make a writer feel good about their efforts.
If you have a favorite author, or the same author is responsible for a number of entries you have enjoyed, pop off to their personal page and drop them a note of thanks. Authors love being recognized, and this way really lets them know you have been paying attention.
Finally, you can also stop by the Writing Workshop and seek entries of a less finished nature to comment on. Some of these are diamonds in the rough, and sometimes they linger indefinitely because the author never feels inspired to make the needed corrections or additions. A good round of feedback earlier on in the game might rescue many of these entries from obscurity.
Suggest a Submission
One ongoing problem is that good writers often fail to recognize their own talents. According to Bluebottle, many newcomers' personal pages contain something worthy of their own Edited Guide entry.
"One thing which no-one has, as far as I know, addressed yet, is the
question of user pages. Anyone who has ACEd or greeted new
researchers know that a lot of them start off by writing the equivalent
of a guide article about their home town as their user page's
introduction. These often have the potential of becoming useful
guide entries, yet no-one seems to suggest them - partly because
of the fact they are user pages, but often because they also include
jokes, a description of who the researcher is etc."
If you come across a page like this, it would be nice if you could advise the newcomer on how to put their super content into a proper Entry and submit it to Peer Review. This sort of hand up can really inspire a new writer, who could become a staple at h2g2.
Those who are capable of taking a more active role could also consider giving a solid push to the content of a writer who doesn't seem to be listening to suggestions, perhaps because they no longer visit h2g2. You might find an interesting entry laying about attributed to an author who hasn't posted for months, or you might see an entry in the Writing Workshop with many comments but no reply from the author.
If you do, you could consider submitting the entry to Peer Review yourself. Replace the 'A' in the article number at the top of your screen with the word 'test' instead. Then copy the contents and paste them into your own entry. Tidy up the entry as needed, and submit it to Peer Review with a note asking the Sub-Editor to give the original author due credit.
The writer might never be able to thank you. But you will have done h2g2 a favor anyway by rescuing worthwhile content that would otherwise have been lost. And after all, isn't that sort of thing the reason we switched from the old Editing system to Peer Review?
Project Spy is an ongoing project for this column. Several volunteers send me periodic updates on their entry's progress through the Peer Review system. Through them, we get to spy on the emotional component that makes the editing process at h2g2 so unusual.
This week, I got another email from my third volunteer, who is still swimming discontedly in a sea of nice comments. And Volunteer #4 finally got in touch again. It looks like he is resigned to keeping his entry out of Peer Review indefinitely. You can read about it below. And since his input here is officially over, I'll let you know who he is too.
[The entry] is quite happy. It sat there as 'recommended' and has attracted a
couple more nice comments. Still no constructive criticism.
In the meantime, over the holidays when no-one was looking, I had a few
entries on the front page, including, incidentally, [entry name withheld] which cannot
be much more than 6 weeks old, which shows that there is a fast track
I have also written a couple more entries, one of which, got
recommended very quickly (It should show up in a day or two). Again, a
light item on a populist sort of subject. So that seems the way to go if
publication is your goal.
I'll keep plodding along.
I am volunteer #4 of your survey, but I have removed my Entry from
Peer Review, following some controversial, but always cooperative
discussions with researcher Gnomon, who convinced me that my Entry
was not ready for the Guide. He is right.
That means that it makes no sense imho to participate in your survey
BTW: The Paul McCartney Death Clues Entry is not the only member in
the long time waiting club. My Entry about Alcatraz has
been in the pipeline since Oct 3, 2000, and I'm still waiting :-(
Next Week's View
Next week, the View will round up all the resources listed in previous columns into one handy directory. I will even strip some previous columns of their statistic so you can focus on the subject at hand. With any luck, the new directory will keep you clicking for hours.
Click here to see previous weeks' Views.
Opinions expressed in this column are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of h2g2 or the Post.