The Future of h2g2

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Before the bidding process began, the h2g2 Community Consortium Interim Committee (h2g2c3) made known broadly its willingness to support proposals from other bidders who could provide the h2g2 site and community the best opportunity; if none stepped forward, h2g2c3 planned to present the BBC with the h2g2 community's bid.

During the bidding process, various other bidders approached, and two were outstanding. It became apparent to all parties that h2g2's best opportunity for future success would combine aspects of all three bidders' original proposals. On June 16th the BBC agreed.

The BBC approved the three-way bid Chaired by h2g2
co-founder Robbie Stamp and presented with international social media provider Noesis Systems Ltd and the h2g2c3 on behalf of the h2g2 community.

The Combined Strength of Three Bidders

Former Digital Village Chairman and CEO Robbie Stamp and visionary author Douglas Adams, along with co-founders Richard Creasey, Mary Glanville, Richard Harris, Ian Stewart and Ed Victor created The Digital Village Ltd, which launched first the Starship Titanic game in 1998 and then in 1999.

In addition to Robbie's years of experience working on Hitchhiker projects, including the 2005 Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy film, Robbie brings a deep understanding of Douglas Adams's vision for h2g2. Robbie's experience
includes creating, managing and financing film, television, mobile and internet projects. He is also the author of a few books, is proud to be Researcher5, and will be Chairman of the new h2g2.

'Without the BBC, the site would no longer exist and I want to thank everybody at the BBC who has worked to give a home for eleven years now. With the decision made, that the BBC could no longer host, a new opportunity has arisen to build on the remarkable work done by the Community, to enable to enter into a new lease of life and to take big steps to realising the vision that Douglas had for creating a 'real' version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

'We were truly innovative when we launched, rather ambitiously it has to be said, live on the BBC television programme Tomorrow's World. Many of the site's original features have become staples of social networking and user-generated content sites. It is time for us to treasure and conserve all that is special about, but also to build on the achievements of the past decade and to begin to innovate again.

'I am genuinely, personally and professionally, thrilled to be involved with once more.'

- Robbie Stamp

Noesis Systems Ltd is an international social media provider with
expertise in multi-user chat rooms, communities, forums and games
specialising in promoting a friendly and open environment for all
ages. Noesis owners Alyson and Brian Larholm will provide
servers, bandwidth, technical expertise, and over 10 years of
experience in moderating multilingual forums.

'When we realised that was at risk, we knew that we simply had to step in to try to save and breathe new life into this remarkable and innovative community that had not just survived longer than most others, but done so with the core values of its founders intact.

'With the basis in the community, along with technologies readily available today, the original vision for a real Hitchhiker�s Guide is within grasp.

'It is a pleasure to be part of creating the foundation for the next stage in the life of a truly remarkable and unique concept.'

- Brian Larholm

The researchers serving on h2g2c3 volunteered to ensure the long-term survival of the h2g2 community and site. Before and throughout the bidding process, h2g2c3 members engaged the h2g2 community in numerous discussions about how h2g2 researchers could assume duties performed by BBC staff. Drawing on the community's thoughtful responses, they developed a plan that would give Guide contributors a voice and a role in h2g2's future. Steve Makin - Z, Consortium Chair/Cat Herder in Chief says,

'We've done it - we've saved h2g2! And we haven't just saved h2g2, we've got together a proposal that really is the best way of keeping the h2g2 we know and love for the next 10 years, and taking it forward to be something amazing and unique. We're all really excited about the team we've got together, working together with Robbie Stamp and Noesis - they're great people who've got the skills and expertise that we need. Robbie Stamp, one of the site's founders, cares as deeply about the future of h2g2 as all the community. Brian and Alyson Larholm who run Noesis have been here before, they saved Lycos chat when it was about to be closed and now run Noesis chat rooms all over the world.

'It's been great working on the bid with Robbie and Noesis, and I know that it'll be great to work with them on h2g2. The community'll be at the heart of the future of h2g2, taking on the roles of the BBC staff, running the site on a day-to-day basis, though we will take on paid staff as and when that is needed and or feasible! We will also have representatives on all the key decision making bodies.'

We all look forward to many more years of building the 'real' Hitchhiker's
Guide To The Galaxy together.

h2g2's Future

Of deep concern to all parties was finding a business structure secure
enough to protect h2g2 assets, flexible enough to raise funds for
modernization, and diverse enough to permit the creativity to build a
Guide - NOT an encyclopaedia! - to Life, the Universe and Everything.

Once the sale has officially been completed, the plan is that initially h2g2 will begin
operations under the auspices of a Charitable Trust. 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Foundation' will become the owner in perpetuity of the h2g2 assets coming from the BBC. The Foundation's primary purpose will be to support literacy and literary causes.

Douglas was an insatiably curious man and it seemed fitting that the Foundation should have at its core the development of people's capacity to share in and communicate ideas about and experience of 'Life, the Universe and Everything' from helping people to learn to read and write, to involvement in writing competitions and literary festivals.

It is intended that Douglas Adams's family will always be represented on the Board of Trustees. Douglas's brother, James Thrift, will be the first family member on the Board. James sent this message:

'Eleven years is a long time to be away, but it now gives me great pride to sit as a Foundation Trustee and on behalf of Douglas's family, to welcome h2g2 back home.'

Our primary objective in this first phase will be to transition h2g2 from the BBC onto
Noesis servers. This part of the operation has been dubbed 'No Researcher Left Behind'. We will
migrate entries and conversations to Noesis servers and match
researchers with their personal spaces. More details of this project
are forthcoming, but in the meantime, Don't Panic.

Once h2g2 is running stably and researchers settled into our new home,
Phase Two begins and it will be time to focus our attention on building traffic, publishing more official entries more quickly, improving user experience and seeking ways to build revenue, which are likely to include sponsorship and advertising. The original h2g2 was supported by advertising.

Volunteerism has always played a major role of the success of h2g2.
Soon teams of volunteers will be assuming the duties
performed by BBC staff. An overview of the current volunteer schemes can be
found here, and your help is very welcome.

If Phase Two is successful then it is the clear intention to move to Phase Three, which will mean the creation of a fully commercial 'for profit' entity, with its own Board. This company will assume operational control of the site, will be granted an exclusive world wide license to develop the assets held by the Foundation and will be able to seek external investors.

The Commercial 'trading arm' will be mandated to return a percentage of profits and/or a royalty to the Foundation, which will also be free to fund raise to support its activities in the way that any Charity would be.

It also is our intention to find a 'felt fair' mechanism to reward researchers building the Guide, should we all have created significant value at some stage in the future. Indeed now we have won the bid, we are working with the lawyers to establish the deeds for the Trust and to create the best way of doing just that.

The Community will also have the right to elect a Board Member to the Commercial Company and to elect a Trustee to the Charity Board.

At this stage we would intend that some paid staff be taken on to work full- and part-time with the volunteers. There will also be business development activities as we look for partners, sponsors and advertisers.

Alongside the development of the site, the emphasis in Phase Three will very much be on mobile development. It is this phase, the ability to deliver the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on smart phones, that will really take us a big step closer to realizing Douglas's original vision.

One thing that h2g2 has always done very well is develop writers. Through the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Foundation we can develop writers not only through the tried-and-true Peer Review process here on the site but also through schools, online tutorials and other charitable trusts. As more writers join our ranks we can build our Guide to Life, The Universe and Everything faster.

This strategy gives us a chance to build on Douglas Adams's original vision. It shows deep respect for and includes the Community, is broken down into realistic steps and has social responsibility at its heart with the creation of the Foundation.

'We have the first snowflake. Now let's build a blizzard.'

- Douglas Adams

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