Proposed Update to Tools for h2g2's Editorial Process

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The Purpose of this Entry

This Entry is based upon a feature suggestion conversation. Its first purpose is to outline what the original feature suggestion detailed, as refined through means of debate in the aforementioned conversation.

It is in no way intended to reflect something that will definitely happen, - it is merely documentation accompanying a suggestion.


The Olden Days smiley - winkeye

Before the current Review Forums system, Peer Review was just another normal Forum. Scouts would request moves to a 'sin-bin' by email. This no longer happens - this kind of thread is now returned to its parent Entry. Although that means the system has since lost some bulk, moves are the most complex Volunteer activity in terms of having to go offsite and make requests, chase them up and so on.

When U177581 first signed up as a Sub, the system for receiving, editing and returning our Entries were somewhat primitive, involving tortuous amounts of precision copy-and-paste work into emails. With the advent of Ripley 1.5 in July 2001, the Scouts and Subs got a whole raftload1 of new buttons to play with, reducing our reliance on the volunteer email system somewhat, much to the relief of many.

This partial automation of the boring parts of the Editorial Process - the logistics of getting the right bits to the right place at the right time - were made less tedious and time-consuming.

The Situation Now

The current system was implemented in July 2001. It works well on the whole, but there is still a lack of a continuous flow of communication from the writing of the Entry through to its eventual appearance on the Front Page. Communication is good within the volunteer groups themselves - and between an individual group and the Italics - but a Sub-Editor has no way of knowing what was dicussed, if anything, when the Scout made his pick.

There may have been some minor outstanding issues, for example. If these are contained within the Peer Review thread alone, it's not too difficult to find them, although it could be a bit easier than it is. It's when there's discussion going on elsewhere - even offsite - that it gets more challenging.

This lack of continuity of information through the Editorial Process has recently been seen to have caused difficulties with Authors and to have allowed thoroughly avoidable mistakes both to be made, and to go unnoticed as far as the Front Page.

Currently, when a Scout makes their picks, they put details of their reasoning and the URL to the Peer Review thread into a form which is submitted back to the Towers. This part of the system works in so much as the comments appear to be read.

The Sub-Editor who gets the Entry can view the comments when they click 'Return to Editors' - but this is principally to add comments, and isn't that logical in terms of order. The Italic who approved the pick has no facility to, or at least doesn't, add comments within the automated system at any point. The Italics rarely ever comment on the stuff in the form after subbing, and have stated that until recently it wasn't a matter of course to read the Subs' comments at all.

Proposed System


  • To further reduce the dependancy of the Scouts and Subs on email and the ad-ridden site used to access the group pages.
  • To improve the continuity of the line of communication behind Entries.
  • To pre-emptively move some vital procedures away from an external service in case it should become a paid-for service which places impossible restrictions on the groups.

It is worth noting that this proposal does not aim to change editorial policy, and does not alter the processes that an Entry must go through to be accepted into the Edited Guide.

The Proposed System: Selection

  1. The Scout recommends the Entry

    The Entry is picked by a Scout, as at present, by clicking on a button attached to the Entry.

  2. The Recommendation box appears

    The Recommendation popup appears, offering a box for justifying the selection of the Entry and for offering any specific issues to the Sub-Editor.

  3. The Recommendation is submitted to the Italics

    Having filled out the box, the Scout submits his/her comments. The form closes.

  4. The information appears on the Italics' Recommendation processing page

    The Recommendation is listed and automatically includes:

    • The Scout's name, already recorded by the existing system.
    • The Entry ID and title, already recorded by the existing system.
    • The Scout's comments
    • A link to the Peer Review thread, already recorded by the existing system and shown on the Entry page.
    • A link to reject the submission, resulting in the current email to the Scout.
    • A link to accept the submission.

  5. An Italic processes the Recommendation

    On accepting the Recommendation, a box similar to the Scouts' box appears, allowing comments to be typed that will be sent to the Scout in the acceptance email. Another box would provide the option to elaborate slightly on the Scout's comments in case the Italic had something to add for the benefit of the Sub.

This part of the system is only mildly adjusted, since the main changes are to allow information to be passed along the system more efficiently to the editing stage.

The Proposed System: Editing

  1. An Italic allocates the Entry to a Sub-editor

    The Entry is allocated to a Sub for tweaking. In the Entry Data column on the right hand side of the page, a three links appear. The first is a generated link to the appropriate thread from Peer Review, which can be seen by all. The second is 'Notes' - this appears for the Sub, the recommending Scout and the Italics. The third is the existing 'Return to Editors' link.

  2. The Notes Pane explained

    Clicking on the notes link launches a window not dissimilar to the existing 'Return to Editors' pane, except that it parses comments from previous (Scouts and optionally Italics) notes as per conversations, and displays them to be viewed, along with the name of the commenting Researcher as a link.

  3. The Sub-editor returns the Entry

    Having tweaked the Entry until they're happy with it, the Sub clicks the 'Return to Editors' button. A box like the one for the Recommendation appears, with simple box for comments on what has been done to the Entry. The comments become visible in the Notes pane.

  4. An Italic polishes the Entry

    As with the Sub, the Italic has all the notes so far shown at the top of the Entry. When they're done and have finished editing, they can add their own comments again prior to the Entry hitting the Front Page. The notes remain in place to be viewed by Italics, by the volunteers concerned, or by any updater.

  5. Afterwards

    The system should provide the ability for any subsequent updater to add their comments in the same way as the Sub-editor. This is not, like conversation forums, to extend or add to the Entry, or to present factual information, but to document what is changed very, very briefly - in one sentence or so. This will provide an Edit history which would be of use to any Updaters scheme.

The section that you have just read remains fundamentally similar to the current system, only it adds more opportunity for direct comments to be sent with the Entry as necessary, and adds the Peer Review thread and a comment-viewing feature to the toolset. This is to allow information to be passed from Scout to Sub, which is currently difficult, since the Scout is not named on the system, and the Sub is not allocated at the time of selection for Recommendation.

The Proposed System: Moves

You did say you wanted a complete overhaul, didn't you? smiley - winkeye The current moves system is time-consuming and creates emails, being dependent upon the email group.

  1. The Scout wishes to move the Review Forum Thread

    A dropdown is listed in the Entry Data column on the Entry page, below 'Currently in...'. It says 'Propose a Move to [Select One...]'. The Review Forums which the Entry was not currently in, along with an 'Entry' option itself would be available. The Scout selects one and clicks 'Submit'. A comments box would allow reasoning to be added if necessary.

    The Scout should be able to retract their proposal at any time before it is processed by an Italic.

  2. Another Scout wishes to second the move

    The Entry's listing in the Review Forum is flagged. When another Scout goes to move the Entry, they are greeted with 'Second a Move to' followed by the proposed move destination, presented as a link in place of the Propose box. Clicking on the link would second the move. The seconder should also be able to cancel

  3. An Italic processes the move

    The Italic's moves page offers the Entry and Thread IDs, Proposer and Seconder names, and any comments, along with an 'accept' link which moves the thread and posts to the thread automatically (the 'DNA Messages' post), and a 'reject' link, which removes the proposal for a move. The page should also list in a seperate section those Entries that are proposed for moves but not yet seconded - with a reject button but no link to accept them. The Italics' page should be visible to scouts, sans accept/reject links, naturally.


The proposed system as outlined above has some distinct, tangible benefits. Firstly, it allows for a flow of significant information through the Editorial Process in a way that does not make the information public. Secondly, it reduces reliance on the email forums, hopefully lightening peoples' inboxes. No longer being used for moves, the Groups system is used only for queries and for its calendar reminders. This should also improve the Scouts' workflow by increasing the efficiency of the moves system and thereby reducing clutter in Peer Review. Thirdly, the process becomes more internally open - an Updater or returning Italic would be armed with the thoughts of everyone who had worked on the Entry after the Author, and this would allow for queries to be dealt with more efficiently.

As discussed above, these improvements would help to eliminate some of the more avoidable inaccuracies that happen from time to time, which could only be a good thing. They're fairly fundamental and a potentially complex change, but then again, it's been two years since the tools have been overhauled, and a lot has changed since then. On top of that, who knows? There may be other DNA sites that could use good Editorial Process tools to come...

1Maybe a slight exaggeration, but we did get a few!

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