|See also:||Yuletide, secret santa|
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Hippos are participants in Yuletide chatrooms (IRC and Discord, specifically) who have volunteered to help preserve the anonymity of participants who need a beta for a gift exchange assignment by acting as intermediaries between the participant in need and the public chat full of people who might be willing to beta. This is an important service, as exchange etiquette dictates that the contents of gift fics should be secret until work reveals and the author anonymous until creator reveals.
A November 2009 FAQ posted to the Yuletide livejournal said that the term "hippo" was coined in the Yuletide IRC in 2008 because the German flash game Die Anstalt - Psychiatrie für misshandelte Kuscheltier (English: "The Asylum (Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys)") was nominated to the tagset and includes a hippo with a zipper for a mouth. The same post described hippos as:
...a volunteer in IRC chat who will preserve your Yuletide anonymity by finding a beta for you. They're a beta-reader yenta. They may not guarantee a match, but they will do their best to keep the Yule secrets intact. 
Hippos on the Yuletide IRC assume the role by adding "HIPPO-" in front of their IRC name, changing their nickname to Hippo-NAME. This allows all online hippos to be listed together alphabetically in the list of online users and hippos are asked to use the name they've used to sign up to Yuletide, to prevent authors from asking their own recips to find a beta for them. If someone has a request for a beta, or wants to ask another question to the group that would give away what fandom they're writing for, they can privately message a hippo and convey the message there. The hippo will then signal for the chatroom's attention by "dancing", and then announce the request, whatever it might be, whether for someone familiar with a particular fandom, culture or language (such as a request for 'Britpicking' a story), spelling and grammar only, or anything else. If someone in the room can fulfill the request, they privately message the hippo, who can ensure that they are not the intended recipient of the gift before putting them in contact with the author.
The suggested steps for a hippo are:
I want to Hippo! How do I Hippo in Yulechat? First of all, thank you, Hippos! Welcome to the fun, rewarding work of a Yulechat Hippo. Here's how the magic happens:
- An author PMs you.
- In the PRIVATE MESSAGE WINDOW (aka PM), collect pertinent details from the author.
Besides the fandom, queries can include length of story, rating/type, and type of beta (quick, extensive, grammar, plot, canon, etc.) and so forth.
- ASK THE AUTHOR *not* to contact the beta until you have made the magical match.
- Go back to the MAIN CHAT window. Dance like you've never danced before! You must attract the attention of the chatroom. Be creative, find your style. Do not be afraid of using all-caps, or posting every minute.
- Potential beta readers and chatters may ask you clarifying questions in the MAIN CHAT. Gently dissuade anything more than that.
- Profit! ...I mean, BETA READERS are attracted!
- In each PM window, talk to BETAS.
They may contact you, or you may query them.
- Confirm the Yuletide sign-in name of the beta(s).
Other helpful info includes how much time they have, what their specialty is, if they can open certain attachments, have access to online documents, etc.
- ASK EACH POTENTIAL BETA *not* to contact the author until the match is made.
- In the AUTHOR'S PM window, present the name(s) of potential beta reader(s). See 3.
- Let the author work out which beta they want. The author has right of refusal to any beta. (Most likely the author will say any of them are fine.)
- Use your hippo magic if there are multiple candidates. Pick a match!
- In the BETA's PM window, if all checks out, tell the beta who the author is. See 9.
- Ask the potential beta if they wish to work with that author on that piece. A beta has right of refusal to any author.
- If at any point these steps do not work out, return to the PM windows, or main chat. AUTHORS and BETAS are asked to be patient!
- If both parties agree to this beautiful beta-reading relationship, then give them the all-clear to exchange contact information and make arrangements in their own PM window. Alternately you can exchange their contact information yourself.
- CONFIRM with the author that the case is closed! Stuff happens, y'know.
- TELL all PM windows that the case is closed.
- TELL MAIN CHAT that the case is closed.
- Dance happily!
- TELL MAIN CHAT if you un-Hippo or leave the chatroom, please. Try to keep a Hippo in chat at all times. If you're going Away From Keyboard, add an AFK to your nick. If you're the last active Hippo, try to get another Hippo to wallow in wait.
Hippos on Discord mostly use the "Hippo" role, a label that sets them apart from other users with color and by listing them separately in the server member sidebar.
The server FAQ instructs members who need betas to do the following:
Send a personal message to a user with the Hippo role (pink, shows up under Hippos on the user list; or a mod with Hippo in front of their name). Ask them to help you and give them relevant details about your fic: fandom, length, content notes, when you need it back by, etc. Tell them who it's for so they don't accidentally ask your recipient to beta for you!
Like on IRC, Hippos then solicit the attention of the people on the server (usually the general channel, but sometimes the yuletide channel) but unlike on the yuletide IRC, there's also a channel set aside for beta requests that don't get picked up so that people who aren't online when they're advertised can find them later.
Fanworks and Other Links
- How to Find a Beta in Yuletide IRC Chat, or: A Handy Guide to Hippo-ing by shusuarchived (2009)
- Hippos (Anthropomorphic)
- shushu, How to Find a Beta in Yuletide IRC Chat, or: A Handy Guide to Hippo-ing. 13 November 2009.
- Morbane, in the Yuletide Discord server's #faq channel, 11/24/2018. Quoted here with permission.