The Frankie Roberto Interview

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The Frankie Roberto Interview

Frankie meets... Ottox the

Ottox, a 30 year old Dane living in Roskilde
(near Copenhagen), is another of these reseachers who seem to crop up an
awful lot. He was recently involved in the Roskilde
and also initiated the Vote for a
Mushroom Smiley Campaign
, using HTML tables to create a neat little
placard. Ottox studied math and physics for a few years, then dropped out to
start musicology instead. Still in the middle of this course, Ottox is also
working in the children's section of a public library, reading lots of good
children's books! His main interest is in music.

'I like all kinds of music. I sing in a quite good choir, mainly
nordic contemporary capella works. I sing bass, but I can't get as deep as
I should! If anyone is interested they can hear them on MP3.
Music is so important! As one of the greatest Danish composers ever, Carl
Nielsen, said, "Music is life and, like it, inextinguishable."'

I ask first of all how Ottox came up with his h2g2 nickname, which is
pretty unique.

'In real life my friends call me "Otto". Don't ask why, nobody knows!
When I
registered with h2g2 (and I did that in less than 5 minutes after having
the site), I immediately changed my nickname to Otto, but the same day I did
search to see if there were any other Otto's. There were four or five (I
never seen any active Ottos though), and so I put the x in the end to make
unique, and perhaps a bit more "spacy"'

Ottox often makes it into the top 10 highest posting researchers. I ask
how he manages to post so much to h2g2.

'I'm subscribed to/involved in a lot of threads. If you take a look at
conversations list, you'll see that there's very often more than 100 threads
updated in a day. So even if I replied once to just half of them, I'd still
it into the list most days.
Last week I made 302 posts in 24 hours and yesterday I posted around 230
posts in 24 hours. Before that, I think my record was
about 170 posts. I am addicted to h2g2! I don't know if it's anything to be
proud of. Actually yes I do, it's not! Last
week and yesterday I was online for almost all of those 24 hours in a day!
The main reason that I make so many postings is that my best friends on h2g2
are the other researchers normally to be found in the most postings list. To
have conversations with them, it's necessary to post again and again! Notice
that most of my postings are very short, and with a lot of smileys.'

I think we all know well the fact that h2g2 is very addictive. To use
Abi's terminology, I ask Ottox to explain why he thinks h2g2 is so

'It's the friendship! There are some wonderful people at the site. The
is that they are spread all over the world, so there are friends to talk to
any time of the day. That makes it very hard to log off. I'm often
surprised, and even scared, that I can have such strong feelings for
people I don't know as much other than small yellow smiling faces. But as
one of
those friends said to me the other day, "if you spent that much time with
in real life, I think you'd get to know them very well!"'

Having just been to the London meetup, I agree with him wholeheartedly.
There are so many friendly people on h2g2, and always so many different
things going on. I get Ottox to tell what his favourite activities and forums

'That's hard to answer. I like to read Guide Entries (and hope to
write a real
one myself one day), but I much too often don't do it. Most of my time, I
hang out with my friends in some of the many (silly) fan clubs, or in the
threads for the Muses and the Guardian Angels. Or maybe I use even more time
lurking all over h2g2! There are places I like, but more or less ignore
because I'm too busy. That's places like the Kingdom of Balwyniti, The
- a club for Lego lovers,
Musicians Guild
, the Choral Society (and it's bad I'm not there, since
my own pages), the Procrastinators Society, and the Crossed Purposes Pub.
I'm an employee at the Terran Embassy, which could be a very interesting
but unfortunately it has been bombed by the BBC.'

He pulls a face which suggests he is not too happy with some of the
changes that the BBC takeover has brought in. This is also reflected at
Ottox's homepage, where he parodies the notice that was on the h2g2 site
during the Rupert period, with a 'this page will be updated really, really
soon' message. Ottox does say he has plans for his homepage though, but
refuses to tell me what they are.

'I have plans, but I'll probably be procrastinating for years, so I
don't think there's any point in telling about it! Most of the stuff from my
"old" page, now at A547364, should come back. I
do have plans for something quite different but that's a secret!'

I promise that it will stay between him and me (and readers of the Post),
but he wouldn't budge, so I move on to something different. Ottox has official
postions as an Ace and a Guru. Aces meet and greet new researchers who sign
up, so as to help them get into the guide and also answer any questions the 'newbies' may have. I ask
what the best and worst things about being an Ace are.

'The worst thing about being an Ace is the bad conscience if you don't
anyone for a long time. But that's not a big problem.'

He winks to show he's joking. In fact he cares passionately about the

'I take the job quite seriously, I think it's important to be there
for the newbies
if they reply to a greeting. Therefore I don't greet anyone if I can't be
the next days, and I don't greet anyone who is online if I'm about to log
There are so many Aces that it isn't a problem , no newbies are missed.
I also think it's important to be very positive about h2g2 when I greet
newbies. I actually applied to be an Ace just after Rupert, but when Peta
contacted me about it, I wanted to put it off, because I was too upset about
moderation. When Douglas Adams died, so many new people came here, that I
had to help!'

And the best thing?

'The best thing about the job? Hmmm... there are many good things
about it. It's a good way for a shy
person to meet new people. You also get to know a lot about what's going on
in the community, because it's often discussed in the Yahoo group, and of
it's a wonderful feeling to know about new smilies 12 hours before anybody

'Community' is the key word on h2g2. It's what keeps the site alive, what
keeps it interesting, and what makes us so addicted to the site and so eager
to meet up with other researchers in real life. Building an online community
with the strength of h2g2 has been a target for dotcom companies all over
the web, the theory being that community can enhance a site's value and so
increase its economic worth. With the site now owned by the BBC, the
economics of the site aren't of great importance, but community is still
important. I ask Ottox why he thinks building a community is important.

'It's important because it is the people who make
h2g2. There are good entries written by researchers who do not comment on
anything else in peer review, who do not "ask h2g2", and who do not go to
virtual pubs, but I doubt that they feel the same for the Guide. I don't
it, I'm not one of them, but I would be surprised if they wouldn't be just
happy for writing for something else. And I doubt that any of them were in
for the meetup.'

'The community is the Guide. During Rupert when the website wasn't
there, the
community, at least the most addicted researchers, were still around, and we
even had a few
new people joining. Think of the opposite situation, if the website was
avaiable but there were no researchers. It would be a dead!'

I put a bit more of a philosophical question to him now. Is the h2g2
community successful because it somehow compensates for a lack of
communication and community in real life?

'I don't see it as compensating for community in real life. I've got
lots of
people to talk to, and some very good friends. But while I've always had
many people to talk to, I've never been good at
actually doing it. I sure use h2g2 to practise communication. Most of my
are small, silly and filled with smileys, but even those are a big step
And a few, like this interview and other emails, are bigger and
more serious, and these are even more important in my...'

He tries to look for a word that doesn't sound too drastic.

'..."struggle" to be better at talking to people in real life.
I'm not worried about "living in a virtual world" or whatever some people
might think. I'm sure it wouldn't be a bad thing, if I wasn't online so much
I am, but I'm also sure that talking on h2g2 has helped me to talk more to
friends and others in real life, to open up to others and to be more honest

It's an interesting idea and one I leave the rest of the community with.
Why do we feel that h2g2 is so important, and value so highly the
friendships that we build on the site? The community is certainly what makes
h2g2 so addictive, BBC staff included, and I, for one, wouldn't want it any
other way.

Frankie Roberto

Next Week: Ming Mang on her pet rat and how to get away
with not ironing.

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