It's hard to believe that, as of today, I've been on h2g2 for one year. Depending on what sort of a mood I'm in, it feels like I'm still a newbie or that I've been here forever. This site is my second home now, and has become perhaps more important to me than anything in my real life. For someone who is very shy and doesn't have a lot of friends at school, it's great to be able to talk to people without having to see their faces, and without having to bother with the whole 'I'm a kid - you're an adult' thing, which means that all you can talk about is how your school is going.
I suppose, now, it might be appropriate to give a brief history of what's happened to me in the past year, so I will.
In the summer of 2004, looking for something to keep me occupied while spending a week on a relatively deserted, boring island off the coast of British Columbia, I checked out Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt from the public library. As I was reading it1 it dawned on me that there were an awful lot of references to some site called www.h2g2.com. And so, figuring that any site that Douglas Adams officially hyped had to be cool, I resolved to check it out when we got home.
Now you must understand, I hadn't had much experience with the Internet up to this point. I was 14 at the time, and I had never used an instant messaging program or spent vast amounts of time surfing the World Wide Web. We had used a dialup connection for as long as I could remember, and though my parents had always had email for work and that sort of thing, I had not even gotten an email account until I was 13, when we temporarily moved across the US and it was deemed necessary for me to keep in touch with my friends. So I never actually thought I would be much embroiled in this h2g2.com thing; I would just visit it occasionally and read the new content, just like I did with all the other websites I frequented.
So one day - a Tuesday, 29 September, 2004 - I was home alone for a couple hours and somewhat bored. So I typed 'h2g2.com' into the browser, and I saw the Front Page for the first time.
I read a little of the content on the Front Page - the day's new entries, that sort of thing - but I was a little scared of the hugeness of the site. In my limited Internet experience, I hadn't come across something this big before. So I clicked on 'Help' in the brunel sidebar, and read the entire h2g2 Tour (which was not particularly helpful). Once I discovered that you could actually submit entries to this thing, I got terribly excited. Having always wanted to get something published, but never having done so, I determined that on this site I would see my name (albeit not my real one) in lights (well, at least hyperlinked) next to something I had written. I then read loads of other stuff. I read the Review Forums FAQ, the Writing Guidelines and the GuideML Clinic. I 'Spiced Up My User Page'2 and responded very nicely to my ACE message. I posted a few comments to long-dead conversations3 and first got embroiled in the 'god' thread. (I am proud to say that, unlike so many newcomers to that thread, I did not respond to the first post.)
I also wrote my first entry, and submitted it to Peer Review. Racking my brains for something I knew about, that would also be interesting, I settled on one thing I could do with ease: creating pseudo-illuminated manuscripts with a few coloured-ink fountain pens, coloured pencils and metallic gel pens. And so it was that, after a relatively short amount of time (none of my other entries, I don't think, have gone through as quickly) I found myself a Front Page author. For the first time in my life, I was published. And I was so proud. I told my parents and they were proud. And so began the obsession of the past year.
Since this article is getting a bit long, I'm going to fast-forward a bit here, and so I'll just say that so much has happened to me on-site since that fateful day. I learned that maybe it isn't a good idea, if you're only a young teenager, to give out all sorts of personal info online. I learned that I actually (bizarrely) enjoy sub-editing, and that it might be a fun career someday. (My parents have since lost all hope that I might actually do something normal like teaching.) I turned 15 somewhere in here, and learned that people will still listen to you if you're that young, as long as you have worthwhile things to say. I learned lots about politics and even more about different religions. I made the friends that I've never had in my real life, people who listen to me when I say silly things about Chaucer or how cool the Proms are or how I got to audition for Jeopardy. I've learned that England isn't really like the PG Wodehouse ideal, but that the reality - I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, the Ashes, bbc.co.uk and of course the way 'manoeuvre' is spelled - is not too bad, either. I've learned what it's like to be a real person in a real world, more than I ever have felt at my high school. I love being a part of the EG - writing, scouting, editing - and helping out with The Post. I feel that h2g2 is my real life, essentially, and that my days, weeks and months at high school are just a part I'm acting.
So now we come to a time one year later, 29 September, 2005. I've become a member of this community and intend to stay a member of this community for as long as my Internet access shall live. Now, I suppose, it's become an obsession. We got a DSL connection at some point in the past year, when Earthlink dial-up failed us yet again, and for my fifteenth birthday we hooked my laptop up to the LAN. So now I get up fifteen minutes early every morning (as if 6.30 wasn't bad enough!) to check my email and scan the Front Page. When I get home, reading the backlog takes precedence over the homework (maybe that's why I'm failing AP Chemistry) and if there are still posts to be read and entries to be subbed at my theoretical bedtime of 22.00, then woe betide anyone who tries to stop me!
On the whole, it's been a terrific year, and the feeling I get here that I'm part of something wonderful is entirely thanks to all of you. I owe everyone who has a U-number - from Natalie, Jimster and Paully to the Researcher who only signed up this morning - a huge vote of gratitude for making this place worth coming back to every day. I don't want to show favouritism, but I would especially like to thank azahar and Matholwch for looking out for me, and BH (Calcutta) failed for writing such cool journal entries and for introducing me to ISIHAC and the BBC Proms. But those are just a few people in the awesome network of friends I've built up over this year, and I can't possibly begin to thank you all individually, so I'll just say you all rock and I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to 'meet' you all. One of my ambitions is to meet at least some of you in person, so expect that, in a few years from now, I'll be timing my next visit to London to occur at the time of one of the official meets. One of my other ambitions is to get an h2g2 t-shirt, so if anyone out there fancies sending one to California, my birthday's in February!4
Thank you, all, for one of the best years of my life. True, there are other things (like quizbowl) that have made this a great year, but this little island in cyberspace has been the crowning reason. Here's to many more years to come!5