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This week, the View offers the usual updates on h2g2, examines the results of last week's poll, and browses through the University of Life.

The State of Peer Review

The former flux state in Peer Review has definitely eased back down to normal again. The Coming Up page is up a typical amount from 9 entries to 24. And the number of threads on the Peer Review page has actually gone down a bit from 248 to 239.

Lucinda had a good idea for a statistic I could include. In future columns, I'll track the longest amount of time that has occured since any of the threads at Peer Review has received comment. For instance, I noticed this week that no thread in Peer Review has gone without a post for more than four weeks. More than 100 threads have received comment or been initiated in the last week alone.

This demonstrates how the Peer Review system has become a vibrant and active area within h2g2, more lately than ever. What this means is that you have to view four pages of threads right now in order to make sure you've seen all the entries that may have been added to the system in the past week alone. In my opinion, people who view only the first page are quite frequently missing most of the picture.

Back to my statistics for a moment, the Sin Bin went up slightly from 185 threads to 195 this week. And the Writing Workshop has jumped up to 317 entries. For some reason I neglected this statistic in my last article, but I noted that the Workshop contained 284 entries two weeks ago.

The growing ranks of the Writing Workshop are leading to concerns that people genuinely trying to improve their entries are getting lost in a flood of former Peer Review threads pushed out because the author is unable or unwilling to make improvements. Because of this situation, people interested in helping writers are faced with the daunting task of sorting the wheat from the chaff.

On a related note, Whoami? has created a page called The Alternative Writing Workshop for entries that aren't suitable to become Edited Guide Entries. This way writers who wish to improve the writing on their personal opinions, first person accounts, and so forth needn't go it alone. Personally, I think it's a great idea. It remains to be seen whether the page will function well without an official volunteer scheme to provide dedicated helpers.

Elsewhere in h2g2

I reported a couple of weeks ago about Arpeggio/LeKZ, the newer community member who has caused a lot of discussion lately. Conversations revolving around the researcher with multiple personalities have not always been entirely congenial. As a result of recent developments, she/they were sadly banned from h2g2 for a week.

I admit I don't know much about LeKZ and certainly don't feel knowledgeable enough to judge whether she/they deserved to be in this situation. Some people have expressed disagreement. There is now a thread set up for those who wish to show support for the banned researcher. Unfortunately, it threatens to degrade into further arguments. I understand that Arpeggio/LeKZ will return as long as the temporary ban is duly respected.

On another note, h2g2 has another new italic. Chris Gray may sound like someone new, but he's actually beeline, a regular Researcher and Sub-Editor of long standing. Congrats to Chris/beeline for turning his interest into a paying job.

There are also two new index pages at h2g2. One lists all the old Topics of the Week, while the other lists previous Talking Points. For those of us who have been around for a long time, shuffling through these can be a real blast from the past. For newer folks, it might prove interesting to see what we've debated about.

The After Rupert Survey: Results

Well, the numbers are in. You can click here to see the results of my After Rupert Survey. As with my previous polls for the View, I expect that this survey is weighted towards people who take place in h2g2's Volunteer Schemes. For whatever reason, a higher percentage of these folks read my column.

More than half of my respondents enjoy h2g2 about the same amount now as they did before Rupert.1 29% said they enjoy h2g2 less. When asked about the entries coming out of Peer Review these days, about half again said they were roughtly as good as before. 33% said that they are actually better now.

So do folks like our Edited Entries longer or shorter? 57% prefer a mix of the two. I must say I wasn't surprised by that one. And I was also unsurprised that 61% feel that h2g2 is great because it combines a sense of community, good reading, fun stuff to do, and the freedom to write and get noticed. For most of us, no single element among that list is as important as the group combined. For those that did pick a single element, the Community was the most popular pick with 17% of the vote.

When it comes to Moderation, our researchers have some differences of opinion. 65% either wish Moderation were less restrictive or that it didn't exist at all. 9% even hate Moderation with a passion. But for 27% of my respondents, the Moderation scheme doesn't seem important or is actually seen as contributing to a good atmosphere.

When asked which restriction they would most like to see lifted, 61% of my respondents said they'd like to be able to post URLs in conversations again. 17% want to be able to post images, and 17% would like to be able to use foreign languages without risking Moderation. Only 4% said they would like to use curse words at h2g2.

What's Up at the University of Life

Frankly, the University of Life is a little disorganized right now. For instance, Colonel Seller's completed project (USA Birth of a Nation) is still listed as being in progress even though it was released weeks ago. And many entries submitted to the Admissions Office over the past couple of months aren't listed on the Current University Projects page.

For the sake of authorial integrity, I should mention that I am working on a University project right now. My project on Sexual Orientation includes many entries that I have sent to the h2g2 Post for early viewing and comment.

I talked last week about how University projects are sometimes the result of a single person's diligent effort. Well, a consistent problem with the University of Life has been that authors occasionally begin work on a large project and then never finish it. In some cases, the author has simply lost interest or been distracted by real world issues. In other cases, though, the author gets frustrated because they don't get much help or support.

They may have expected collaborators to come along, but none do. Also, authors may feel discouraged because nobody is providing them with the feedback or moral support that might convince them to continue. Quite often, this is because nobody realizes the project exists. Unlike Peer Review, there is no special set of volunteers who are tasked with reviewing and commenting upon people's University work. And so far, the University has been an area outside the usual traffic zones of h2g2.

Kes suggests another reason why University projects are often one-man shows or fizzled attempts at group projects. She is working on her second University project now and told me that "the simple problem of coordinating several people across multiple timezones means that the projects took a long time." But she also said that "it is fantastic fun, and the quality of the entries benefits greatly from having a diversity of input and ideas." So for her at least, the collaboration effort has really paid off.

Anyway, the sad result is that there are many very good entries hidden in the University that might never make it to the Edited Guide. They may even be complete and well written, but the Projects they are within remain unfinished. I think h2g2 could prevent this from happening by offering more support to the Field Researchers who are in charge of University projects.

Some Current University Projects

Today, I want to look at some of the really great University projects which are in progress. Once I'm done, ignorance will no longer be an excuse. I'm hoping a few people will feel motivated to contribute to a project or at least stop by to offer some feedback.

  • King Arthur in Literature goes into more detail than you might be prepared for on the mythical King Arthur and the stories surrounding him.

  • If you're interested in that project, you might also want to see the one about The English Language itself. Probably it will help you put all that literature in context.

  • Speaking of English and being English, there's also a project on British Politics. It's a good thing we're allowed to talk about it again.

  • And for those on the other side of the pond, there is a large and growing project on The American Revolutionary War. It's a real treat if you like reading about historical battles.

  • If that's not macho enough for you, how about the project on Formula 1 car racing? There's both a complete explanation of the sport and a decade-by-decade history.

  • The ladies needn't feel left out either. There's a quite amazing project underway about Women's Health. Everything from skin care to menopause to abortion is covered.
  • Latin American Pre-Hispanic Cultures is a really fascinating look at the history in a portion of the world that has been much neglected by h2g2 so far.

  • But if you're phobic, you might want to stay away from the project on Zoonotic Diseases. You can't catch anthrax over the internet, can you?

  • And no doubt the astronomers among us will enjoy a project about The Stars. Now that's a big topic, if I ever heard of one.

  • Luckily, that project is balanced by one on a very small topic. The Cell is small indeed, though cell biology is anything but elementary.

  • If that's not technical enough for you, perhaps you should try An Introduction to Programming. For that matter, programmers might want to visit this thread where DoctorMO is considering a project on Visual Basic.

  • There are so many serious Projects! So it's nice to see someone kicking back to describe Classic Party Games. Charades, anyone?

  • The drinkers among us may enjoy the project on The Use and Abuse of Gin. It turns out to be a rather fascinating drink once you take a closer look at it.

  • And movie and music buffs might enjoy the Project on Film Composers. Who's your favorite?

As you can see, there are tons of interesting things going on at the University of Life. These were just a few picks I decided to offer. I urge you to check out the University of Life to see what else is under construction right now.

The Next View

Since this week's column was so long, I'm going to take it relatively easy next week. In addition to the usual material, we'll take a look at the most misunderstood feature at h2g2 -- The Journal. We've all got one. But what is it for? I'll cover the history and uses of this oft-neglected section of our Personal Pages next week.

Written by Fragilis the Melodical.

Feel free to check out my past columns.


05.07.01. Front Page

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1Rupert is the outage of h2g2 that occured earlier this year before h2g2 became a part of BBC Online

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