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January 25, 2011 11:44 AM   Subscribe

The BBC plans to jettison the Douglas Adams-founded H2G2, but the H2G2 Community Consortium is trying to raise money to buy it back.
posted by rhiannonstone (30 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can't believe that's still around! The BBC is a public corporation, why can't they just give it to the community?
posted by phrontist at 11:54 AM on January 25, 2011


It seems that H2G2's licensing choice is somewhat to blame for the situation. According to Wikipedia, "authors retain copyright but grant BBC a non-exclusive licence to distribute" their contributions. Actually, Metafilter uses pretty much the same system. In comparison, Wikipedia and similar projects use GFDL and/or Creative Commons, which allow third parties to mirror the site elsewhere. This has resulted in a gazillion read-only Wikipedia spam clones, but it also means that one entity can't control the fate of the project: people are always free to migrate to another version if they see fit.
posted by zachlipton at 11:55 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Vell, H2G2's just zis guide, you know?
posted by Babblesort at 11:57 AM on January 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


I don't think its an issue of 'buying it back' so much as being able to successfully host it.
posted by ElliotH at 12:02 PM on January 25, 2011


I don't think its an issue of 'buying it back' so much as being able to successfully host it.

My thoughts exactly. I can't see the Beeb making trouble over letting go of the site, but the hosting issues for a site like that are nontrivial.
posted by Urtylug at 12:09 PM on January 25, 2011


We need H2G2 to keep Wikipedia from having a total monopoly on semi-accurate information on the Web.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:19 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The BBC plans to jettison the Douglas Adams-founded H2G2

And 200 other sites. Oh, and 360 jobs.
posted by gwint at 12:29 PM on January 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


I keep expecting H2G2 to have died and vanished and then every so often, I end up there and its continued existence warms my heart. I can't remember if I ever contributed--I remember making an account (I think the impossible-to-remember number is written down in a journal somewhere), but I'm a little afraid to find out what my teenage self thought was important to document.
posted by hoyland at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2011


They should have merged with Blockstackers, Inc. and made H2G2E2.

I always thought of H2G2 as Everything with star power behind it.
posted by JHarris at 1:30 PM on January 25, 2011


I suspect zachlipton has his finger on the real reason why migrating it won't work.

Here's hoping that someone there at least thinks to keep an archive of it, but given how intent the BBC is on self harm to appease the Tories and Murdoch I'm not sure that can be counted on.
posted by Artw at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2011


I suspect zachlipton has his finger on the real reason why migrating it won't work.

Well, the BBC can sell the site outright to new owners, including a potential community group, and the license would presumably go with the sale. In other words, the BBC can migrate it, but any random guy can not.

On the other hand, since the copyright still rests in the original authors, someone could try to engage in a massive re-licensing drive to get permission from contributors to move their content a new site. This would be a pretty difficult undertaking, and there would certainly be many holes from users who can't be found or who are unwilling to participate, but if enough of the site is written by a core group of users, it's conceivable that someone could pull this off.
posted by zachlipton at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2011


This is why I won't invest time and effort into anything under corporate sponsorship (as opposed to sites like Facebook, where the website is in fact the company's identity). Almost without exception the plug gets pulled after a few years and enough turnover in upper management has occurred.
posted by crapmatic at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2011


Here's hoping that someone there at least thinks to keep an archive of it, but given how intent the BBC is on self harm to appease the Tories and Murdoch I'm not sure that can be counted on.

It's interesting, the characterization of an enormous organization like this as a single, rational, self-aware entity. There are a lot of people at the BBC who are facing losing their jobs and would frankly, rather be employed and just making great stuff.

And it's not just the Tories or Murdoch being appeased here...there's a recession, there's resourcing for the 2012 Olympics, there's a the fact that the TV license fee has been frozen for the next 6 years. Then there's the fact that the BBC is taking over the cost of the World Service from the Foreign Office.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is H2G2?
posted by Daddy-O at 3:26 PM on January 25, 2011




I can't see the Beeb making trouble over letting go of the site,

Are you familiar with the Beeb?

They are nothing but corporate stupid over issues like this.

If they do hand it over to community it will be as one giant pdf or flash movie.
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on January 26, 2011


+1 for the FPP title.
posted by dry white toast at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of h2g2, but in reality I pretty much never go there.

It's alarming to see so many cutbacks at the BBC, and you'd think the cost of the World Service is pretty trivial in the greater scheme of things. But then again I don't know if it's still as listened to as it used to be, with the proliferation of web and TV news everywhere.

Maybe h2g2 or something like it can be revived under the "Big Society" banner.
posted by philipy at 9:01 AM on January 26, 2011


H2g2 brings back so many memories. I remember reading it while Wikipedia was in its infancy, when I was discovering Douglas Adams' writing, several years after he died. I felt a great regret for getting into his stuff after he was already gone, but it helped to explore this living thing that he had created.

If it goes go down, I do hope it gets archived somewhere.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:58 PM on January 26, 2011


So, erm, the site looks awfully similar to Everything2. Anything stopping them from porting all the writeups over?
posted by LogicalDash at 2:38 PM on January 26, 2011


you'd think the cost of the World Service is pretty trivial in the greater scheme of things

Nope, the World Services cost is not trivial (annual budgets is roughly £272m) and is also facing huge cuts itself.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 12:15 AM on January 29, 2011


World Services cost is not trivial

By "trivial in the greater scheme of things" I meant compared to anything else the government does in the arena of foreign relations, and in comparison to the benefits.
posted by philipy at 6:58 AM on January 29, 2011


I always sort of thought of it as emergency back-up Radio 4 for when it was too late for real Radio 4 to be on.
posted by Artw at 7:40 AM on January 29, 2011


For UK listeners, it's a little bit like Radio 4, but has a more global perspective.

Things like A Dollar a Day don't often make it to R4.

But for the rest of the world... well, as my earlier link mentioned, it's what kept Gorbachev in the loop during the attempted Russian coup of 1991. It's also helped Obama talk to the people of Iran, and it could provide an invaluable channel of informaton into a country where say - unlikely scenario I know - the government has cut of all Internet access and mobile phone networks.
posted by philipy at 8:17 AM on January 29, 2011


I meant compared to anything else the government does in the arena of foreign relations

Ah yes, true - except the BBC isn't the government, nor is it funded by the government.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 3:43 AM on January 30, 2011


No, but the World Service was, until recently tranferred from the Foreign Office budget to BBC.

Don't assume people don't know what they are talking about. Make some effort to understand where they're coming from instead.
posted by philipy at 7:23 AM on January 30, 2011


Chill out, philipy. See my earlier comment above. It would be easier to assume you knew what you were talking about if I hadn't already said the exact same thing.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 10:50 AM on January 30, 2011


Let me rephrase that: philipy, I wasn't making any assumptions about your knowledge. My understanding of where you were coming from was that you hadn't read my earlier comment (in which I had already made that point). That is all. It wasn't a personal attack.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 11:12 AM on January 30, 2011


I wasn't making any assumptions about your knowledge

Then what was the point of saying this:

except the BBC isn't the government, nor is it funded by the government

Either you feel the need to tell people things they already know, or you assumed I knew less about BBC funding than you do. Or perhaps you think that I'm just given to making stupid and irrelevant comparisons?

Well, I repeat my point... before assuming I'm making an irrelevant comparison, make the effort to understand why I would be making that particular comparison.

Just to be 100% clear, where I am coming from is this:

- The World Service was until recently funded by the government
- There is no reason why UK TV viewers should pay for things like Mandarin radio broadcasts to China
- There is probably good reason why the government should
- Having transferred the budget to the BBC, the FO still feels like it needs to have a say in what services are provided
- The £46m pa intended saving are peanuts in the greater scheme of govt spending on international relations
- The BBC's international reputation and reach are a big plus for Britain
- Things like that take a long time to build and a short time to destroy
- Moving the budget and causing these cuts was not a very bright thing for govt to do

All of those points are in the articles I linked to in my various comments, and I didn't feel the need to spell them out before.

Looking at the planned cuts to the World Service in the context of govt spending on international relations (FO, DFID, MOD) is an entirely relevant and legitimate thing to do.

That is why, as per one my earlier links, Hillary Clinton has views on the subject, whereas she doesn't have views on funding Doctor Who.

You might disagree with some of my points above, but they are not ill-informed, they are not irrelevant, and they are not stupid.

I don't appreciate being treated dismissively.

I can chill about that, but I'm not going to pass over it entirely.
posted by philipy at 11:46 AM on January 31, 2011


Whoa. Look:

You might disagree with some of my points above, but they are not ill-informed, they are not irrelevant, and they are not stupid.

I don't appreciate being treated dismissively.


I don't disagree, I never said you were ill-informed or your points were irrelevant or stupid. Nor was I treating you dismissively. But you are extremely sensitive and defensive. And you're obviously arguing with somebody else because as I said: I don't disagree.

If you'd like to take this further, I suggest we go offline. This is really offtopic, and most of the guests have left the party anyway. The mods should probably close this thread.
posted by Jon-A-Thon at 11:44 PM on January 31, 2011


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