The h2g2 website has a noble purpose: to create the ultimate guide to life, the universe and everything.
As with the fictional Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, whose author launched the project, h2g2's Edited Guide is compiled by researchers in the field. These researchers are h2g2's readers, who write, peer-review and edit each other's submissions into published guide entries.
Topics are varied, entertaining and often very unusual. They include advice for the traveller (A640018 - International Tipping Etiquette), fascinating biographies (A687954 - Graham Chapman - Writer and Actor), demystification of technology (A787917 - An Explanation of l33t Speak), and many others which defy conventional description (A18592815 - The Invisible Pink Unicorn). In short, anything goes.
Guide entries feature high on Google searches, and hundreds have been cited in newspapers, magazines, books and academic journals around the world, including Science, The Historian, Collins Dictionaries, The Times and The Guardian.
A few years after h2g2 came Wikipedia, an astonishingly successful user-compiled encyclopaedia in terms of scope, yet one which lacks style, opinion and entertainment value in its content. By all means look up facts in Wikipedia, but find out what you really need to know in h2g2.
Yet, there is so much more to h2g2 besides the Edited Guide. Its thriving community has one hell of a lot of fun along the way. User-configurable home pages, discussion forums, friends' lists, clubs and societies, and a community newspaper (The h2g2 Post) are just some of the things they use and get involved with. They volunteer in all sorts of capacities to run many of the site's functions themselves, whether this be writing, reviewing, editing, updating, illustrating or assisting newcomers. They meet up regularly in real life, too - some even met their future partners at these events.
Many researchers learn to write articles on h2g2 - some have gone on to use these skills in their careers. In its safe environment, the community continues to help aspiring writers take those first anxious steps, through generous support and valuable advice. It's not just factual writing, either; high-quality creative writing of all types is featured in its Underguide, as well as in The h2g2 Post.
The community's strength is in part due to its astonishing diversity. Aged from 18 to 80, researchers can be found on all continents, and come from all social backgrounds. They include students, teachers, bankers, doctors, security guards, lorry drivers, railway engineers and silver surfers. Whether it be describing the weather where they are in the world, sharing today's news stories, or posing a question, researchers can rely on the community to provide a helpful response from all angles. One distinctive feature of h2g2 conversations is that the topic will subsequently and entertainingly drift off into an entirely unexpected direction. All of this freedom of expression is the creative hub of h2g2, inspiring the community to get involved further with researching, writing and interacting with one another.