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What is h2g2?

h2g2 is a world-wide community which strives to write a practical guide to life, the universe, and everything. Through this shared ambition researchers form strong friendships, develop their writing skills, and continue a legacy created by the author Douglas Adams.
Silly Willy – (London)

So it is a website which does many things well – it’s a community and a resource, but the one thing it does exceptionally is train writers, (which makes it a great place for readers):

It helped me learn to write … I’ve gone from a spotty, self-important seventeen year old to a confident pen-for-hire thanks to h2g2, The Post and PR. Oh, and thanks to people like Pin and Gnomon, it also taught me how to use constructive criticism to improve. A hard, but useful lesson.
Mr606 – (Salford)

A brief history

H2G2 was founded by Douglas Adams and Robbie Stamp in 1999 as an early experiment in online communities and collaborative writing. They founded ”The Earth Edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. By the end of 2000 the site was struggling financially but Ashley Highfield, the newly appointed head of BBC Online, persuaded the BBC to take it on,  However, the site was never fully aligned with the BBC’s online strategies; it wasn’t pinned to a programme for a start, and they never saw the possibilities of selecting some of it for print. So it languished while Wikipedia over-took it, blogging platforms became the places to write opinion pieces or diaries, and eventually FaceBook trounced everything as a social network. Finally, just one day short of a decade later, the BBC announced it was “disposing” of H2G2.

Here the users explain what h2g2 is, and what it can become.

A good read

In the midst of discussing the writing, it is easy to lose track of the pleasures of reading h2g2.

At the heart of h2g2 lies an expanding and often quirky Edited Guide with more than 10,000 non-fiction entries. But h2g2 isn’t and never was Wikipedia’s competition.  It’s hard to explain but easy to show the difference between the two sites. Take socks, for example. Wikipedia has this to say about the subject:

“A sock is an item of clothing worn on the feet. The foot is among the heaviest producers of sweat in the body, as it is able to produce over a pint of perspiration per day.”

There’s more, but you get the idea.

H2G2 also mentions socks. It unabashedly discusses The Joy of Socks, finds Alternative Uses for Socks, struggles with Holy Sock – an Ontological Dichotomy, and ponders How To Take Socks Off – And Live. Not only can you learn How To Knit A Pair of Socks, you can also discuss your knitting project at The h2g2 Craft Guild.

Wikipedia tells you what you may need to know; h2g2 tells you what you might want to learn.

Happy Nerd – (California)

It’s a good place to read on a regular basis:

I’ve built a comfortable routine around reliable and fulfilling reading pleasure, in which the Post has been a stand-out.  I’ve wondered at some truly remarkable writers … There are two among them all who I know are simply on a different plane … They are Funderlik and Tonsil Revenge.
Pinniped – (South Yorkshire)

H2G2 encourages other kinds of non-fiction: memoirs, opinion pieces, reflective non-fiction and, tucked away in the corners, there are fiction and poetry. The only genres not on h2g2 are the ones slathered across the rest of the internet: there’s no fan-fiction, no slash-fiction and no porn.

The H2G2 Community

The community’s strength is in part due to its astonishing diversity. Aged from 16 to 80, researchers can be found on all continents, and come from all social backgrounds. They include students, teachers, bankers, doctors, security guards, lorry drivers, railway engineers and silver surfers.
Icy North

A silly, intelligent, lovable bunch of people who called themselves the internet weirdos, hootooizens, h2g2ers  …  It’s funky, it’s [playful], it’s informative, and above all, it is a community-centered site.
Montana Redhead – (California)

The warmth of the community is palpable. It has enabled members to form friendships they value around the world.

H2G2 contributors around the world

H2G2 contributors around the world

Here is Hypatia’s account of her husband’s funeral; Frank was not a member of the site but her online friends chose to honour her and commemorate his passing in Missouri:

Then we announced the balloon release. … When we started reading out the names of the cities where people were participating I nearly lost it. I am still amazed over the whole thing. We began by reading the names in the US. The audience was clearly impressed. Then we did all of the places in the UK. A couple of whispered ‘Wow!s ‘ could be heard in the chapel. Then we did the four in Europe and ended with the candles in Melbourne. As we changed time zones, we told them what time it was where the balloons were being released and the candles lighted. We ended with Pimm’s lovely remark – “There will be balloons rising free around the world and sparks of gentle light near the seas saying Frank is remembered and wishing him Godspeed.”
Hypatia – (Missouri)

The international nature of the community has proven a benefit to many.

Titania is Swedish:

I’ve improved my English tremendously, discovered I can write entries and even poetry in a foreign language.
Titania – (Sweden )

Maria is Spanish:

h2g2 is the best alternative to living in an English speaking country for those learners who want and need a linguistic immersion.
Maria – (Spain)

Bel is German:

I had some basic knowledge of English, but not enough to understand jokes (puns were particularly hard to understand, as were things written in dialect) …  I ended up taking over as Post Editor.
Bel – (Germany)

H2G2′s intelligent acceptance of people for who and what they are is mentioned by several users:

It’s been a stabilising influence in my life. I’ve been kicked out of my religious community, and lost a bunch of friends, but you’re all still here. And still as mad as ever. Being gay isn’t a big deal, but when I was coming out I thought it would be. It was comforting to know that no one here would care a bit.
TRiG – (Eire)

Intelligent (and silly) debate

If diversity and inclusivity don’t attract you, then perhaps intelligence and a variety of debate will:

I also think I owe a lot of my current philosophy on life to the people of H2G2. I came onto the site as a somewhat wishy washy “lapsed Catholic”. Now I’m an atheist, which is still relatively unusual on this island.
Woodpigeon – (Eire)

I don’t think h2g2 could be replaced by message boards or Facebook, … [It] always seems more thoughtful, you can often see ideas grow and minds change throughout the course of a conversation thread. …[ threads here]… are so varied, and the responses can be so eye-opening. Some of the topics … at the moment cover criminals rights, lots of threads about how to save h2g2, petty hates, useless facts, the weather local to you and what is the speed of beards – where else would you find that kind of variety in one place?
Deb –  (West Midlands)

H2G2 in a nutshell

So to sum up: hg2 is a site centred around writing, where what you write is constructively critiqued in a way that improves your ability to write; it’s full of great things to read and it is a community of playful people who enjoy each others’ company.

H2G2  is the most unbland thing I’ve ever encountered.
Effers –  (London)