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, if that's not a sufficiently UgLy
link. Not to be confused with the radio series/tv series/book/towel/film/etc by Douglas Adams — although he was a founder.
http://www.h2g2.com (Earth Edition)
(currently preferred URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2)
Now operated by the BBC. Was a good thing, members would write articles on whatever they knew something about. At first the management would edit the articles and 'bless' them. Eventually a group of volunteer Sub-editors helped with the workload. Also included 'blog' style journal for members, and you could post comments on anything (articles, journal entries). Members were from all over the globe, and they loved to form protest groups. The protested the 'No Spitting' rule, people who discovered and used GuideML? secrets, even the attempted reclassification of Pluto as a non-planet. Oh yeah, the site used XML extensively (but behind the scenes, so you never would know).
The Editors once said that "both the community and the Editors are essential, but the Editors are more essential", which didn't seem to have quite the effect they were looking for, but I think made them feel a little better! But really, this was a stark illustration of the flaw in the h2g2/BBCi approach to communities: being essential is a bad thing. Increase the Wiki:TruckNumber, and avoid becoming essential. Instead, aim to become valuable
Why is this all in the past tense? h2g2 is very much alive as a community, and seems to have survived some serious tests of its existence. OK, so as a 3-year "Researcher" there, I may be a little biased, but in actual fact the strengths of h2g2 over the other DNA sites that have been created using its software are very worthy of discussion. -- RowanCollins
(there are probably better/more canonical names for concepts mentioned below, but I haven't hung around enough to find them. please link them.)
- Recently, several of the communities set up by BBCi were closed down, as not having gained enough momentum to justify administrational effort. The main problem seems to have been a mismatch between the TargetScale? of the software and the EditorialProposition? / TargetGroup — too few staff, too little potential content, and thus too few users, spread over too large a VirtualArea? See discussion at http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/hub/F94024?thread=390374
- h2g2, itself, on the other hand, continues to be a thriving community, although as a collaborative project, it has larger problems with TopicDrift? than some. The somewhat bureaucratic approach to the Editing system has been blamed by some for the slow addition of content — although it includes PeerReview, it still requires ultimate acceptance by one of an ever-decreasing number of staff. To tackle this, a less stringent system called the UnderGuide? has been created (by users) which aims to be more flexible in its rules and allow more good writing to be highlighted without the need for such a high degree of ConFormity?. The degree to which this CommunityLed? approach will "solve" the "problems" is yet to be seen.
Also worthy of pondering is the extent to which the rigid hierarchy and SemanticMarkup? (XML ExtensibleMarkupLanguage) on which the system is based have yielded genuine advantages — certainly WikiPedia is running into problems due to its lack of semantic markup (particularly ForkingProblems?). But that comment should probably be somewhere else, so I will stop rambling now.
- What sort of problems? Every once and a while, someone suggests that Wikipedia shift to an XML-based markup language, but most people argue that such a move would simply put another hurdle in front of potential contributors. -- StephenGilbert
The particular discussion that came to my mind was (in a rather odd coincidence) on WikiPedia:Talk:H2G2 — concerning a piece of text directing h2g2 Researchers to an appropriate "how to become a wikipedian" page. It has been pointed out that such "self-referential" text creates problems when people fork the content — they would accidentally incorporate what to them would be nonsense. (Just one more problem with ForkingOfOnlineCommunities) Now, were the pages marked up using a semantic, rather than an essentially visual syntax, such information could be surrounded in <project-specific> tags (or something less verbose) and easily weeded out by/for forkers. Currently, links between NameSpaces could be searched for, but the text would then have to be parsed by a human to delete. -- RowanCollins
- I see your point. There a bit of a conflict between wanting to make articles useful outside of Wikipedia's context and wanting to keep the markup as simple as possible. In my experience, however, people who mirror or fork the entire encyclopedia don't even bother to filter out the Talk, User, and Wikipedia namespace, so concern about including project-specific information seems to be low. -- StephenGilbert
I hope you don't mind if I quote that last sentence back to WikiPedia:Talk:H2G2. (Of course, if you don't, you can delete it :p) -- RowanCollins
- No problem. You'd better not try to draw me back into Wikipedia politics, though. :) -- StephenGilbert
pairing up [Frankie Roberto's post] with meatball pages was interesting:
- CommunityMayNotScale — in this case, it may not scale downwards, which is a break from the norm. A process which works at a large scale, fails at a lower scale.
- LoginsAreEvil, and this limited growth, when growth was precisely what they would have had to do.
- SeedPosting matters, even for companies. This is one of the things h2g2 got right when it was first setup, but the "Sense of Place" sites seem to have missed. This is interesting because I had imagined that the phenomenal advertising power of the BBC would mean that this rule wouldn't apply to them.
- You can't run a site with an AbsentLeader. Doing nothing is not devolving power. ;-)
Later on in that thread, Ancient Brit supported the "budding" method to start new communities (c.f. WikiEmigration, etc). He's right, of course, but we're still short of good technical tools to do this: the CommunityWiki innovations (NearLink, PageCluster, RecentNearChanges?, etc.) go some of the way, but the process still isn't as seamless as it should be. DNA is paradoxically harder to bud, even though it has the advantage of a unified underlying database. Oopsie. -- MartinHarper
- Actually, budding within DNA would very much be achievable — although admittedly it's hard to see how it could successfully emigrate outside the confines of the BBC, given the current management culture. If a self-contained area of h2g2, such as [M2M2] became big enough that it could become its own community, the TechnologySolutions exist to reassign the existing content to a different site, since they reside in a common database. Thus all references to the articles and their attached discussions would remain valid, but the new site could nonetheless begin forming its own identity. What's more, the UnifiedLogin? system — including one conversation list shared between all communities — would mean that users could easily straddle the two communities. The only current technical oddity with this is that although a user's Personal Space (FrontLawn) seems to be site-independent, any conversations attached to it, including the user's journal, belong very visibly to one site. -- RowanCollins