...and a very hoopy welcome to h2g2! Now, you have more than likely come to be here from the link I posted in my welcome to you on your User Space. Once you've managed to wade through the terror of joining one of the liveliest online communities on the net and having someone 'ACE' (welcome) you, this here page is here to help you, the newbie, find your feet around the Guide.
if you haven't already gathered what h2g2 is about, Douglas Adams decided to create an Earth edition of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which could be easily accessed through devices such as mobiles, PDAs, etc. This site is exactly that .
When you signed up, you will have been asked for a user name. Now, although this will always be your login name, did you know you don't have to keep that name whilst chatting to others on h2g2? For example, you might log in with the name 'User42' but might want the name visible to others to be something else, like 'Pants Lover' or some other totally daft name. To change your name, simply click on the Preferences tab on the menu to footer about with your settings,change your name (keep it clean, though!) and hit Update Details below. You can also choose which skin you would like to view the site in from here; a 'skin' is a choice of layout for the way you view the site.
Your User Space is your own part of h2g2, your 'home page' if you like, so use it to tell everyone who you are, what you do, etc. You can have anything you like on your User Space - but again, keep it clean! You can present your User Space in either normal text or GuideML - the Guide's very own markup language. Two good entries to help you brighten it up from boring old text are the Picture Library and the Smiley List. You also have a Friends List, Message Centre and Journal on your User Space, both of which are great for keeping tabs on your mates and letting others know what you're up to. To give your Personal Space a fantastic look, here's some hints and tips on spicing up your user page.
If you're still a bit confuzzled as to what's going on (that's nothing to worry about - h2g2 is a huge site and it's easy to get overwhelmed!), there's the official Don't Panic Tour. Here you'll find more useful tips on where and how to get started, what all those buttons in the menu screen are and also help cut through some of the jargon we're all fond of here*. Other places of note are the editors' welcome message and a welcome message from Douglas Adams - the man to blame for this site .
Once you've figured out what the Guide's all about1, you'll more than likely want to get some entries written for the Edited Guide - not as arduous a process as you may think! To create a Guide entry, simply click on the 'Add Entry' button on the menu - you don't have to write an article with every Guide entry you create; you might want to create an entry for a new club you may have started, a reference page for all your favourite links, that sort of thing. If you're after some help and advice for your first masterpieces, Contributing to the Guide should answer your most niggling queries. You can also look at what others are writing about in Peer Review, where researchers can make comments and suggestions about a writer's entry.
However, 'Hootoo'* doesn't purely concentrate on writing for the Edited Guide; there's far more to the site than simply writing entries! As well as being the guide to life, the Universe and everything, h2g2 is also a a great online community. The site is primarily based on the idea of the Guide from the many mediums Hitchhiker has graced, but it doesn't mean we can't have some fun! We have our own newspaper - The h2g2 Post - and there are quite a few clubs dedicated to regional groups of researchers, a list of which can be found here. If your part of the world isn't covered, Don't Panic! Feel free to start your own group . We have our own 'Notes and Queries'-type page called Ask h2g2 and weekly Talking Points, which are found on the Front Page. It's a great place to hang out and don't feel pressured one bit to write hideously complicated Guide entries every week if you don't want to - you can talk nonsense in one thread, go on a virtual pub crawl in another (normally the same threads as the former) and discuss philosophy, religion and politics elsewhere if you so desire. There are all sorts of clubs and societies to join in h2g2 other than regional researchers' groups; there are far too many to mention here, but you can find the full list here.
Unlike many online communities, we also have meetups in various places around the country. There are two 'official' meets a year held in London, where you can meet fellow Researchers and the Italics - the people who are 'in charge' of the site . You might be thinking "I don't want to go and meet people off the net! That's just too weird!", but rest assured we're a very friendly bunch and we were all newbies once so a friendly welcome is guaranteed.
Above all, have fun! h2g2 is a big place and can be daunting at first, but it's also friendly - don't be afraid to interject with your own views in conversations, but if you are still unsure about anything at all, you know where to find me .