Taking its name from Unified Field Theory1, Unified Guide Theory attempts to unify the fundamental forces of h2g2 into a single online Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything.
'You can create your own Entries containing anything you want, from your opinions of world events to a description of your home town, and it all goes to make up H2G2, the sort of guide which was not possible before we had the means of live, shared information resources.'
—A Welcome and Thank You Message from Douglas Adams
What are the Fundamental Forces?
The fundamental forces2 of h2g2 are researchers and the ideas they share, whether in entries or conversations.
Researchers write entries which inspire discussions, which in turn inspire researchers to write more entries. By removing barriers to creativity, we can build a better Guide faster.
'We're gradually beginning to get some tiny, tiny inkling of how powerful a networked community sharing information really could become.'
—My Vision for H2G2, by Douglas Adams
Don't we Already Have a Single Online Guide?
Well, sort of, but it's not quite what it could be. All h2g2 activities can't take place on h2g2, and all well-written, published entries aren't treated equally due to institutionalized yet artificial divisions.
Some volunteer groups, such as the h2g2 Photographers and the Aviators, must meet elsewhere online in order to use tools not yet available on h2g2. Publishable entries deemed unsuitable for the Edited Guide may find a home in either the UnderGuide or The Post, categories which are harder to search or browse.
Under Unified Guide Theory, h2g2 would contain all the tools researchers needed to build the Guide. The Guide would contain well-written entries of all styles with quality, not genre, being the only consideration. Bringing all excellent materials into one Guide would require more encompassing yet simpler publishing guidelines, the removal of artificial barriers to creativity and connectivity, and a streamlined editorial process.
'Some of that will take a little time, of course, because everybody will be learning as we go: you, the contributors of the information, and we, the architects of the system into which it all fits.'
Won't Mixing Fact, Fiction, and Opinion in the Same Guide be Confusing?
A unified Guide shouldn't be any more confusing than a well-run bookshop or library. Because librarians classify and index books and periodicals, few library patrons are confused about the nature of their reading materials.
Similarly, entries in a unified Guide would be classified according to genre as well as subject matter. In a well-organized Guide, entries should be easy to find for newbies and seasoned researchers alike, whether they are browsing through the Guide or searching for specific information.
'An online guide should be absolutely live, voluminous, self-organising, and individually responsive to each user.'
How would the h2g2 Post fit into Unified Guide Theory?
A periodical's archives can provide researchers with valuable snapshots of events. Just as newspapers, magazines, and journals form an important part of library collections today, The Post archives should be an easily searchable part of the unified Guide.
Under Unified Guide Theory, entries intended for The Post wouldn't go through the same peer-review procedure as other entries; such a requirement would grind the news cycle to a halt. Once an entry was published in The Post, it would be categorized in the archives. Just as newspapers, magazines and journals form an important part of library collections today, so will properly categorized Post archives become an even more valuable resource to future h2g2 researchers.
'The more people who use the Guide, the more useful it will become, and the more useful it becomes, the more people will use it.'
Unified Guide Theory promotes the idea of unleashing h2g2's creative power by embracing the best of all well-presented information, factual and fictional, poetry and prose.
The implementation of Unified Guide Theory is expected to be an ongoing site-wide effort embracing all genres of writing and all parts of the h2g2 experience on all types of devices.
'What we are now in the process of doing is taking the experience of the last two years and radically redesigning the underlying architecture of the Guide so that it becomes much easier to find information, much, much easier to enter information, and much, much, much easier to connect one piece of information with another. Then we'll look at how that's working and then, I expect, we'll redesign it again.'