why a silly website matters

A very long time ago, I joined a website that had been created by Douglas Adams, and expanded by a silly, intelligent, lovable bunch of people who called themselves the internet weirdos, hootooizens, h2g2ers.  It is a community drawn together by their love of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, intrigued by the idea of creating their very own version of Ford Perfect’s handy dandy little guide.  We write quirky little entries on things that were interest us, from my own entry on St. Augustine, to shared entries on things to do with a butternut squash.  It’s funky, it’s silly, it’s informative, and above all, it is a community-centered site.  None of us get paid to write entries, welcome new folks, or edit each other’s work…we just do it.

Forward a couple of years, and the little website that could grew to a rather impressive size.  And then, in a move both reviled (by those who were not fans) and welcomed as a saving grace, the BBC took it over.  They changed a few things (political talk during elections was verboten, for instance), but most of the time, the Beeb was a benevolent parent.  Then, last spring, in one of those classic government moves, the BBC asked all of it’s online communities to ‘prove’ they were worthwhile.  We at h2g2 rallied, but we were a wee bit worried.  We aren’t just one thing.  We certainly aren’t a typical website.  In fact, it’s easier to tell you what we aren’t.

h2g2 is NOT:

  • a dating site:  although more than one couple, including by friends Ben & Stephen, met via h2g2
  • wikipedia: although we predate that open, editable, information site by quite a few years
  • a blog:  although sometimes, it seems like we are, at least in part
  • a chat room: although we carry on conversations about things that, at first glance, might not matter to anyone

So you can see why we were a bit nervous.  But low and behold, the BBC decided that, as un-categorizable as we were, we could stay.  There was a collective sigh of relief.

Fast forward to a week ago, and this shows up.  Guess what?  all of those things we are…and yet aren’t…mean that we don’t ‘fit’ the BBC’s model of online presence going forward.  But at least they aren’t just shutting us down, right?

Well, here’s the problem with that…there are a lot of us (see this map for where we are…impressive, no?).  We’re big, we’re quirky, and we’re not particularly fond of change.  Not to mention that we need servers, and IT, and all of those things that go with maintaining a rather large, and growing, website.

Meh, you say, websites come and go.  Well, here’s why saving h2g2 matters to me, despite me not having been around all that much lately.  I’ve made friends around the world.  I have friends in Estonia, across the UK, Canada, and the US, in Japan…literally, I have made friends from all over the world.  I have laughed with them, cried with them, fought the forum trolls with them, argued with and virtually hugged them, sent a few of them care packages…and in a couple of months, I am going to the wedding of one of them, which is being officiated by another of them.  I am friends with them on Facebook, we follow each other on twitter, celebrate births and other happy events…we are a community.  In my own tiny corner of h2g2, I met people who were doctors, artists, nuclear power plant workers, uni students, government workers, teachers, chefs, musicians…the list goes on.  I have met some of them in person, and long to meet others, when funding permits.  We have discussed current events, movies, books…and we have shared our parenting pains and joys.  These people, these internet weirdos, are the ones who cheer me up when I’m down, celebrate my successes, and pass me virtual drinks when I need one.  They are, truly, my friends.

And you know what?  That deserves to be saved.



Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 12:21 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. *wipes away a tear*

    Thank you, lovely one.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Doug McKerracher, Ralph Ferrett, Gavin Williams, martinbzm, h2g2c2 and others. h2g2c2 said: Pls follow and RT a blog post on why #h2g2 matters: http://tinyurl.com/4anlh23 #Saveh2g2 […]

  3. I couldn’t agree more. 🙂

  4. Gee, you know – I do have to agree with all of that. Lovely, as Ben said, and well put.

  5. Not even a member, but agree with you on all counts.

  6. […] funky, it’s [playful], it’s informative, and above all, it is a community-centered site. Montana Redhead – […]

  7. […] funky, it’s [playful], it’s informative, and above all, it is a community-centered site. Montana Redhead – […]

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