A lot of us on h2g2 are old hands. That is, we've been floating around here for a long time. We've found our niche, and we enjoy our little corner of the internet. Well, I certainly do.
But some people here aren't. Us old–uns sometimes forget that not everyone knows what's going on. Some find Peer Review a scary place. Some don't know that the Volunteers are always waiting if anyone needs a hand, and that the Eds are wonderful but understaffed and (probably) in desperate need of a holiday. And finally that h2g2c3 is important, but without h2g2 remaining active all its work is in vain.
So here's Vip's guide to a few things on h2g2.
Yes, that's you! Everyone who signs up is a Researcher. Researchers can pick and choose from a multitude of different ways of contributing to the Guide:
- Commenting in conversations
- Reading Entries
- Creating Journals
- Writing Entries for yourself
- Submitting Entries to another part of h2g2 like the Post, Peer Review, or the Alternative Writing Workshop
- Offering your opinion of Entries in the Post, Peer Review and the Alternative Writing Workshop
Now I hope there's one or two things that made you think on that list. Number one – you contribute by being here, by talking, by reading, and by writing. h2g2 really does appreciate you. Even people who read but rarely post are contributing, they are just harder to see and therefore harder to thank.
Number two – your opinion really is valued in the review forums. Yes, you! All Researchers are wanted over in Peer Review and the Alternative Writing Workshop. There is nothing worse than submitting an Entry to a forum and getting no comments. If you like something, say so! If you don't, try to explain why. It's comments like that that keep the review forums alive. It's also wonderful to receive comments if you submit Entries to the Post. We know that Entries get read but it can be easy to get disheartened if your contribution sits there forlornly with no comments...
If you want to know where everybody is, chances they are in Ask h2g2. It's the one place that everyone has on their radar. From there you can see where the active people are posting, and see if you want to join them.
h2g2 ettiquette (as much as it exists) reckons that unless the conversations appears to be private or personal, it's absolutely fine to introduce yourself and join in. We are a totally public site, and we want people to feel a part of the team. Even if you just want to say hello and lurk from the sidelines, that's just fine.
Submitting an Entry to a review forum can be a nailbiting decision. Will they like it? Will they think it's stupid? Is it good enough? Will I get judged personally?
Don't worry. The idea of Peer Review and the Alternative Writing Workshop is that your writing – not you – is commented on with a view to make it the best it can be. That will usually mean that you need to make some changes, but that is normal and expected. Researchers are there to help, suggest, and polish. After all, we are all here to make a Guide that we can be proud of.
If you are worried about submitting an Entry, try looking up a Scout or an ACE (see below). They are friendly, helpful people who are used to guiding first–timers through the Review process.
Official Volunteer Schemes
The Assistant Community Editors are h2g2's welcomers, but they are also there as a first port of call if anyone – new or old – needs help. Everyone who signs up should have got an ACE visiting them who gives the newbie information about the site but anyone can also ask advice from the ACE homepage.
What, as a Researcher, can you do to help? Firstly, if you want to sign up ACEs are actively recruiting at the moment. Have a meander over to What do the ACEs do? and have a read. Second, if you see a new Researcher around the site, please check their Space to see if they've had an ACE welcome. If they haven't, please alert the ACEs by posting to the homepage so that they can greet them. A word of warning – if you post on the newbie's Space, it removes them from the ACE's 'to welcome' list. The ACEs don't mind you posting on the newbie's Space, as long as you tell them so they can head over as well.
Gurus are your technical support team. While ACEs answer general quesions about h2g2, these are your people for specific questions about the technical bits of the site. If you need to ask them a question, pop over to A395688 where the Gurus who are subscribed will answer your queries.
Scouts have a very important job – they are Peer Review's quality filter. They have the power to recommend Entries to the Editors that they think are ready for inclusion in the Guide. The Eds then read through the Entry and, if they think it meets the Guide's criteria, they 'pick' the Entry out of Peer Review and it carries on through the process. Not everything that gets posted to Peer Review will make it through to the Approved Guide. Some will be unsuitable, and some will be just fine but lack that 'zing' which makes something Approved (that's not a bad thing, by the way – learning to write well is a long process and don't be put off if you think you have an idea but need help to make it zing!).
In order to make informed decisions, Scouts have to read the Entries in question. This is where it is very important to remember that *everyone* can read and comment, not just the Scouts. Sometimes it's easy to think that because the Scouts are active in Peer Review that they are the only ones who can comment – this is not so. In theory they don't have to comment at all. They should be able to read an Entry and recommend it without ever posting a comment because Researchers have already proof–read it and helped to make it a success. In theory, anyway!
Scouts also check to make sure that Entries meet the criteria for Peer Review (such as it being original writing, it is a new topic, etc.) and tend to be the first to deal with new writers who have submitted Entries that aren't suitable, although some ACEs may help out there too. Unsuitable Entries are removed from Peer Review by the Eds under recommendation from the Scouts.
The Sub-Editors are a very important group of people who take 'picked' Entries and make them shine! They check for spelling and grammar accuracies, and add or correct GuideML and add links where appropriate. They also make sure that the whole Entry is a flawless read from start to finish, without ever stilting the voice of the author. It's not an easy job, but they make sure that everything that goes through them comes out suitable to be added to the Approved Guide.
The Curators are a small group of Researchers, usually current or former Sub-Editors, who have been given the permission to make small adjustments to Entries after they have been published on the Front Page. They are crucial to keeping the Guide up to date. You can help them by spotting errors. If you see something that isn't right, post to Editorial Feedback and let them know. Make sure you tell them what it should be as well as where the error can be found.
The UnderGuide mirrors the Guide processes in that they have Miners that scout out great writing in the Alternative Writing Workshop forum, Gem Polishers that polish picked Entries, and the UnderGuide Editors who run the whole process. Without them all the UnderGuide wouldn't be possible. Although it's quiet at the moment the UG has put out some of the most poignant, funniest and creative examples of writing that h2g2 has ever produced. Perhaps you could be the next Front Page contributor?
With only a few staff, the Post Editor and her staff collate, sub–edit and publish the weekly newspaper that is our beloved Post. They rely on regular and occasional columnists to provide the content that keeps us all reading every Monday. Don't forget to leave a message for the author if you read their stuff!
The AVIators, Community Artists and Photographers
Are you good with a camera? With art? Or with videos and sound? Then these creative Volunteer schemes may be for you. Most of the art around h2g2 has been created by Volunteers. Pop over to their pages to say hello and see if they are taking on new members.
Scavengers are all people who enjoy the fine art of taking something out of the Flea Market, re-writing it to Approved standard and submitting it through Peer Review. If you Scavenge five Flea Market Entries, you are awarded the Scavenger badge (but you'll have to ask as nobody keeps formal track). Scavenging can be a really good strategy for creating Entries if you think you don't have any ideas of your own, or you find yourself more suited to amending someone else's work rather than working from scratch.
When the 'disposal' of h2g2 was announced, the Community rallied around and called themselves the Community Consortium (partly so they could call themselves h2g2c2 – see what they did there??). When it became clear that we were serious about bidding, it was decided that those who were able to dedicate themselves to writing a viable bid for h2g2 would form the h2g2c2 Committee – hence c3.
Although they spend a lot of time off–site for competition privacy reasons, most are still active on h2g2 and often ask (beg!) for comments and ideas to make the Community bid both a true Community project and a damn fine one. They really do need your viewpoint, even if it's negative, and if they ask for help it's because they simply can't do it themselves any more. If you can help out, they would love you to say so when they ask. Really.
If h2g2c3 win the bid the plan is for the current Committee members to stand down and for formal elections to be held for the day to day running of the site. If someone else wins the bid, all their work will have been in vain but that's OK because it means the site is in good hands. And they can have their lives back.
We have two members of staff from the BBC Online team that keep h2g2 running. The BBC also keep them running, so they frequently have less time to dedicate to the site than they might like. If you have a question about the site, do ask one of the volunteers or fellow Researchers first. The Eds do crop up as much as they can but it can be difficult for them to respond as quickly as they used to. These days they mostly focus on the Guide process and keeping the Front Page ticking.
In summary, there are more ways to contribute to h2g2 than you can shake a stick at (although maybe if you had a really big stick you could try). If you want to contribute more there are some really easy ways for you to do that – comment more on anything you read, direct people to the right Volunteer, and keep writing! And if you ever need any help, there are lots of people who can and will do so. Just don't be afraid to ask.