This week, the View takes a statistical look at h2g2's doings, offers cut-and-paste code for Douglas Adams tributes, examines why h2g2 is addictive, and shares tidbits on the next site update.
The State of h2g2
There are 278 entries at the Peer Review page, compared to 256 last week. It looks like the recent glory days of fast approval have grinded to a halt. Perhaps people are really taking Douglas Adams' death to heart, and are contributing to the Guide in the spirit of a personal tribute. In any case, I would guess we are (or soon will be) back to the usual long wait for writers seeking to be featured on h2g2's main page.
There are 237 entries in the Writing Workshop, compared to 212 before. Again, this is a pretty good upswing for a couple of weeks and could reflect a growing effort to contribute to the Guide.
For other statistics of interest, the Zaphodista-inspired Petition for Greater Freedom on h2g2 has collected 48 signatures online plus 5 petitions that were mailed to the BBC. Peta has already received the first of these mailed petitions. Meanwhile, the h2g2 Election board has collected 102 posts from h2g2 researchers abiding by the Election Guidelines.
On another note, h2g2 has another new employee. Nat, a web designer, was introduced a couple of weeks ago. We also have a new programmer now. Dharmesh is another relative newbie to h2g2. Since we know h2g2 was down to its lowest staffing levels ever after the transfer to BBC, it's nice to see new people coming on board.
Finally, there are 420 threads about Douglas Adams' death on his old Personal Space. Things there finally seem to be calming down, though new threads are still coming in at a rate of one every couple of hours. What seems to be happening now is that a growing number of people are putting tributes to DNA on their personal spaces.
About Those DNA Tributes
There are a few h2g2 graphics you can use to give your tribute a little color. I thought I'd provide some code for each that you can copy and paste into your Personal Space or tribute page. Of course, you will need to use GuideML format to use these graphics.
Copy this code:
<PICTURE EMBED="RIGHT" BLOB="B1034259" ALT="Black Towel" />
The Black Towel featured in the h2g2 Post is a sign of mourning for Hitchhiker's Guide fans. It can be also used to promote the fan-designated Towel Day on May 25th. The idea behind Towel Day is to wear a towel around and use it as a discussion starter to talk about Douglas Adams and his marvelous books.
For the black-and-white photo, copy this code:
<PICTURE EMBED="RIGHT" BLOB="B360093" ALT="Douglas Adams" />
For the color photo, copy this code:
<PICTURE EMBED="RIGHT" BLOB="B1035830" ALT="Douglas Adams" />
These press photos have been featured on DNA's Personal Space. It would be an appropriate companion to discussions of Adam's personality and contributions to humanity, along perhaps with a quick note about his death. Something like: Douglas Adams 1959-2001.
Copy this code:
<PICTURE EMBED="RIGHT" BLOB="B1015003" ALT="The Hitchhiker's Guide Cast" />
This marvelously done graphic of the Hitchhiker's Guide characters as portrayed by the BBC television series was featured at a Talking Point on Favourite Hitchhiker's Moments. While being perhaps a tad cheery for an obituary, this graphic would be a great companion to any discussion of the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy.
The code included will place the graphic on the right hand side of your page. If you like, you can change this to put the graphic on the LEFT or in the CENTER. Just change the word RIGHT to the one you want. You can find more information about GuideML code for pictures here.
Why is h2g2 So Addictive?
We recently uncovered that when asked, most Researchers admitted they spend 2-8 hours at h2g2 per session. And an awful lot of us are here on a daily or weekly basis. This begs a question. In a world where 10 minutes is considered an extraordinarily long time to spend at a single web site, why is h2g2 so addictive?
Part of it, of course, is that h2g2 doesn't feel like a single web site at all. It feels more like a microcosm of the internet, filled as it is with daily reading material, community groups, clubs, the Post newspaper, and so forth. While some of this is 'official,' even the official stuff is usually friendly enough to keep users at their ease. In general, I'd say the lack of hard boundary between the site's purveyors and its users is a plus.
Also important, there is never a lack of things going on. By clicking to find Who's Online, we can even find out what other people have been up to. For instance, I clicked just now and learned that the Pub Quiz is back, there is a Footie Quiz as well, many people have explored their potential 42isms, and one new member of my Musicians Guild is excited enough to give it some free advertising. Cool!
I think it's another huge plus that the majority of content at h2g2 is similarly formatted. You're pretty much set once you get the general hang of reading Guide entries, forum posts, and journals. Compared with the internet as a whole, h2g2 is user friendly and sports very few ugly or unreadable pages.
Finally, the most addictive thing about h2g2 has got to be its clever combination of real-time communication and weighty Guide entries. The rest of the internet seems stiffly divided between content that is meant for mass consumption and the frivolous meanderings of personal communications. Whether we are talking about WWW pages, newsgroups, email, ICQ, bulletin boards, or multimedia content, the technology usually discourages users from either turning their ramblings into something useful or seeing that their something useful should be the subject of rambling commentary.
By combining consumer-oriented content with personal conversation, h2g2 offers a less stratified view of the internet as a mass collaboration device that can be both useful and fun. And let's face it. Who doesn't like seeing that some stranger has posted 'Just Now' with some feedback about their latest entry? The realtime feedback with the potential to easily improve the final product makes our efforts wortwhile in a way that just doesn't pan out anywhere else online.
Future Site Updates?
I've been catching a few straggling hints here and there about the next big h2g2 site update. Here's what I know so far.
A new skin for general use is coming, but it will not be based on the Hitchhiker's Guide.
There will be new Smileys.
The Help! Button will not change back into a Don't Panic button.
h2g2 is looking into the possibility of offering an AvantGo or other skin for palmtop users. However, there's no evidence that this will be part of the next big update.
The Next View
I'll be taking a break from my article next week to concentrate on my college exams. When I come back, I'd like to take another look at Community Groups and Clubs. An earlier column gave some tips on creating a Community Group. Now I'd like to share thoughts on what to do with the group once it's established. And what do you do when somebody else has abandoned a Community Group you'd like to belong to?