The Opti Interview: Icy North

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A magic biro

Opti: Hello and welcome great unwashed masses to another Opti Interview. This week I am particularly delighted to welcome to the floor none other than Icy North.

Icy, I understand that you are in charge of Entry of the Month (EotM). For those that have yet to become acquainted with this, could you please enlighten us all as to what it is.

Icy North: Hi Opti. Hi everyone. Yes, the Entry of the Month is a competition run by h2g2's in-house community newspaper, the h2g2 Post, to find the most popular Edited Guide Entry published each month.

I didn't initiate the competition, of course; the credit for that has to go to Mu Beta, who did all the hard work in setting it all up in September 2007 and running the competition for its first year.

It's actually quite simple. Each month I introduce the competition, announce the previous winner, then suggest some of the Entries in the current month's competition in the form of a "shortlist". It's not really a shortlist - every entry published during the month is eligible, and I link to the Front Page Archive so that participants can see the full list. I actually try to select ones which illustrate the diversity of Entries, rather than those which I suspect to be the strongest candidates.

Researchers may cast a single vote for their favourite in a thread attached to the competition page. We don't ask them to say why, and it's a completely open contest. At the end of the month, I count up the votes (if it's a draw then the Post Team will choose the winner), then I inform the h2g2 Editors, who award the winning entry a special badge.

Opti: Why do you think EotM is so important to have on h2g2?

Icy North: It's not particularly scientific, but it's a test of what people like to read in the Edited Guide. It also awards credit to successful authors, as well as the other volunteers associated with producing the entry. Finally, it's a shining example of how this community can participate in an open vote without anyone complaining or trying to rig the result! (touch wood).

Opti: How did you get involved?

Icy North: Mu Beta decided to call it a day and I was only too happy to take it on. I didn't want to see all his hard work go to waste.

Opti: Over the duration that EotM has been in place, have any of your favourite entries been winners?

Icy North: Quite a few, I'd suspect. I used to vote when Mu Beta ran the competition, but I don't any more - my "shortlist" is probably more than enough influence. Without delving too far into the archive, I'll mention these three which I particularly enjoyed:

In the spirit of the competition, though, I won't tell you why.

Opti:... and did any take you by surprise?

Icy North: No, I think they're all worthy winners. In recent months we've had many wonderful entries written by participants in the Stretcher competition, for example, but there's only enough room for one winner each month. Some of them can count themselves unlucky not to have received an EotM badge.

Opti: Finally, what impact do you think EotM will have on Researchers in the future?

Icy North: Entry of the Month is just one of a number of ways to encourage people to contribute to the project. People have the opportunity to register in a small way what kind of Entries they prefer, and this may influence the style and quality of writing.

I also see it as a sort of "Edited Guide Review of the Month". Not all of us can keep up with all the new Entries on a day-to-day basis, so the competition also serves as a snapshot of Edited Guide activity for the month. Even if people don't feel they can vote, I hope they can read the competition page and browse through some of these excellent Entries. The Archive page lists all the previous winners, and this, too, features an interesting eclectic mix of winning Entries. In short, it promotes the Edited Guide, and that's why h2g2 was set up in the first place.

Opti: Thanks for being such a great sport Icy. I wish you well with EotM.

Icy North: Thank you, Opti.

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