The image of the Grim Reaper was presumably coined in the Middle Ages, when the 'black Death' killed thousands of people in Europe, reducing the population to a third or even less. His scythe is an allusion to the way grain was harvested at the times. More details can be found here: The Grim Reaper.
However, this article is about someone almost, but not entirely different from that.
The Peer Review Reaper was coined by Bels in posting 132 of a conversation dealing with a proposal to remove the Writing-Workshop as a whole. Bossel carried on using the name in later postings (notably #141) but it was Witty Ditty who proposed a real h2g2 identity by this name and who actually created it.
Unlike his, er..., real life sibling, this Grim Reaper carries only a virtual scythe but his tools have evolved into an internet connection and an eMail account.
So What's His Purpose?
In a nutshell, the Grim Reaper is there to help keep Peer Review clean of threads relating to entries which don't follow h2g2's guidelines for Edited entries. Such threads shouldn't be there in the first place but as any regular PR visitor can tell, reality is different. There's a fair number of entries of the fictional or opinionated kind, there's the occasional 'My Boring Hometown' type of drivel, and there are some entries that have been abandoned by their authors.
PR is meant to be a place for reviewing entries that do follow the guidelines and for authors who are present in order to discuss any review questions. Reviewing means to talk about the structure and contents of an entry, but not to read out the Guidelines to someone who didn't bother reading them before submitting their piece.
There are two lines of defense to keep PR clean: the first is to have the author rewrite their scribblings or, failing this, to have them click the 'remove' link found on the Peer Review list. The second line of defense is the h2g2 Scouts who can ask the Italics to remove a thread that is deemed unsuitable for PR. The latter process requires that
the Scouts get alerted to such a thread,
that two of them vote to have the thread removed1.
This is where the Grim Reaper comes into play. Peer Review is a big place and having two Scouts find their way into the same thread to make a decision is a matter of chance. The Reaper is there to ease this process. It is an open persona (details further down) and anyone (ie: you) can take on the identity and post to a thread. In so doing, the Reaper gets subscribed to it. Thus, by just scrolling through the Reaper's conversation list, Scouts can easily find those threads and start doing the darker side of their job. Another consequence is that PR regulars can easily find out
which threads are best avoided to make the most efficient use of their time spent in PR, or
where to go for throwing in their tuppence-worth in a possibly controversial discussion.
How to Reap
The Grim Reaper is an open persona. Any h2g2 researcher is free to use the identity, as the data required for logging in is publicly available. However, you'd better not try abusing it.
So, if you'd rather that a certain thread was removed from PR then do the following:
Check whether 'The GR Manoeuvre' is online. If so then someone else is busy at the moment. Please exit here in order to avoid confusion.
Log out from h2g2 or open another web browser for which there's no h2g2 cookie on your machine.
Login with the name and password given on the Reaper's personal space.
Post your query to the review thread in question, or simply subscribe to it. No flak or vitriol please! If you think the entry violates the Guidelines but makes good reading otherwise, do alert The Post Office or AGG/GAG.
Once you're there, you may unsubscribe the Reaper from threads that aren't in Peer Review any more (ie: the thread's headline has the words 'Peer Review' in it eg: 'Peer Review: A123456 - My Boring Hometown' or somesuch).
Log out from h2g2 or, in case you started a second browser, close it.
Finally, if you happen to be a Scout then you're invited to collect the Grim Reaper's victims (ie: Flea Market cases and agreed decisions), have them sit in an eBoat, say 'farewell' and send them over the River Goo to the Scouts' eGroup.