Update update update!
It's time for another LocalWiki update! What's happened since our last update? Erg, a lot!
We've selected our very first few pilot communities. So far, we've been working with folks in Denton, Texas; Sydney, Australia; and San Francisco, California. Do you (or did you) live in or near Sydney, Denton, or San Francisco? Shoot us an email at [email protected] and we'll get you involved in the pilot buildout!
There are several more pilots in the queue, and we're looking to work with more folks now. We'll be more aggressively reaching out to people who've contacted us, and our Kickstarter backers will soon get a chance to vote for the next set of pilot communities.
Technical development stuffs
A bunch has been accomplished on the technical front:
- We made a slick diff scroll-through thing.
- Implemented dynamic, global overview map that lets you 'dive' into different regions of the map.
- Added generic files support.
- Improved our file upload process.
- Made a ton of editor fixes and tweaks.
- Added ability to use custom map base layers.
- Refactored some code ("recent changes", most notably)
- Further improved copy/pasting in editor. This stuff is ridiculously complicated.
- Initial version of spell checking in editor.
- We created custom maps for two pilots and in the process learned a metric ton about GIS and the open source map stack
- Created a plugin system for the editor. Our first two plugins are "embed media" (videos, etc) and "include page."
- Cleaned up the way edit conflicts and merging merging happen when editing pages.
- Improved our deployment process.
- Simplified install instructions a bit.
- Conducted our first semi-formal usability test.
- Fixed a bunch of too-boring-to-describe bugs.
Overall, we've been improving functionality based on feedback from the initial pilots. Watching people interact with the earliest previews of LocalWiki has been really helpful!
We're currently marching toward our next milestone, due on the first of October. Our primary focus between now and then is to improve the deployment process, the documentation, and fix all technical issues that block the public launch of pilots.
Mike got hitched.
On a more personal note, two weeks ago Mike married his girlfriend of 12 years!
Philip & Mike
The weather is really heating up here in beautiful San Francisco, and so is our development! Here comes another update to give you a sense of what we've been up to for the past month and what’s coming up.
We’ve worked tirelessly on the LocalWiki infrastructure, and we are starting to see the benefits of all this work and planning. Our goal over the past month was to get the platform to a state where our first pilot community could use it to start building out their project and start giving us feedback about what works and what doesn’t. Thankfully, we hit our deadline! Here are some highlights:
- Maps: Wrapped up the very first draft of our collaborative mapping system. Prepped our mapping system for some exciting things to come.
- Search: Wrote the first draft of our search system.
- Editor: Continued much tweaking and improvement of our page editor.
- Images: Created a sweet image picker / uploader and enabled image versioning, replacement, and reverting.
- User accounts: Added user creation / login support.
- Versioning: Added the ability to delete and revert pages.
- Feeds: Created a basic "Recent Changes" page and added real-time feeds for individual objects (pages, maps, etc) as well the entire site.
- Created a rough initial design / look-and-feel.
- Continually refactored our code for easier development and reuse.
- Fixed a bunch of issues, big and small, with our sanity (mostly) intact!
For the next month, we plan to ramp up our open-source efforts and hopefully get more developers (like you!) involved. We'll record and send out a little screencast going over our code organization, etc -- join the developer mailing list to stay in the loop there!
Through the hustle and bustle of our code marathon, we had to push back our first pilot selection -- we'll be doing that over the next week.
Thanks for reading and have a fantastic weekend!
Mike & Philip
Here's a summary of what we've been up to for the past month or so: coding, coding, coding, coding, talking, coding, talking, talking, coding, coding, coding. Occasionally we take breaks for sleep and nutritional intake purposes. Want more detail? Read on!
Code, code, code, code & milestone
We've been hard at work on the technical side of the project. In the past month, we've:
- Begun serious work on our collaborative mapping system.
- Made the basic functions of our page editor work better.
- Come up with a way to allow for plugins / dynamic content inside pages.
We're aiming to have something that our first pilot community can use to begin building content by May 1st. It won't be pretty or complete. Our goal is to allow our first pilot to start experimenting and providing feedback while using the platform to start building something great in their community. This milestone will also be a good point for interested developers to jump in, as we'll have something a little more polished and cohesive than we do now.
Talk, talk, talk
This month, we had a panel at the SxSW Interactive conference in Austin, TX, titled "Too Small, Too Open: Correcting Wikipedia's Local Failure." It went really well, despite being at 9:30AM on a Saturday! Philip was joined by Phoebe Ayers of the Wikimedia Foundation and Michael Trice of the University of Leeds Centre for Digital Citizenship.
In February, we were part of a roundtable at the Aspen Insitute in Washington, DC to discuss the unveiling of a paper on local community information hubs. The paper praises the model we are developing, saying:
"Davis Wiki site offers almost everything the authors of the Informing Communities report hoped for when they drew up the seven key ingredients for any local online hub"
A few weeks before that, we gave a talk at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism's Knight Digital Media Center on the Davis Wiki and a bit about our work on the LocalWiki project.
Choosing our first pilot community
Assuming all goes according to plan, we'll choose our first pilot community to work with in 6 weeks. But we need your help. We're looking for some particular characteristics for our first pilot community:
- Willingness to work with incomplete software.
- Ability to work fairly autonomously, at least at first.
- Preferably, a community where the media landscape is not already crowded.
- Patience and commitment. It will take time and effort.
- Enthusiasm, curiosity and wonder!
Know of some great people in a place that fits what we're looking for? If so, please recommend a pilot community. We'll be in contact with potential candidates for our first pilot in 5 weeks or so.
Philip & Mike
"Davis Wiki offers almost everything the authors of the Informing Communities report hoped for."
A few months ago we told you about an important recommendation made in a report written by the Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute:
Recommendation 15: Ensure that every local comunity has at least one high-quality online hub.
We talked about how the LocalWiki project aims to offer a workable, sustainable model for building and maintaining amazing local information hubs.
Today we're excited to announce that a white paper commissioned by the Knight Foundation came to the same conclusion, saying:
It is an amazing compendium of useful, user-generated information about the community's history, culture, government, schools, activities and much more. The Davis Wiki site offers almost everything the authors of the Informing Communities report hoped for when they drew up the seven key ingredients for any local online hub listed in Recommendation 15.
The report explains what an "information hub" is and explores three possible forms that local information hubs take, highlighting the LocalWiki project as one of the most promising models. You can read the report here (PDF).
While this is all pretty academic, this recognition represents an important milestone in the advancement of collaborative, community-owned local media.
It's been far too long, and it's time for another project update. We've been hard at work on the core of the software that will power the project. We've also been spending time running around meeting people passionate about local media and planning out many things to come.
Basic groundwork laid
Most of you know about the Davis Wiki, but what you may not know is that we developed the custom software that powers it ourselves. Back in 2004 there was just nothing else that could do everything you see on the Davis Wiki while being easy enough for most people to use. Developing the custom software was well worth the effort, but the more we learned along the way, the more we wished we could change some of the choices we had made early on and build on a better foundation.
When we got the opportunity to embark on the LocalWiki project, we knew this was our chance to take another look at the core of wiki software and rebuild it using today's technology and the lessons we learned from years of experience and analysis of other wiki engines' code. At the lowest level, one of the things we learned was that providing even the most basic wiki features like editing and versioning pages was difficult and cumbersome. What's worse, if done wrong these things made it downright painful for developers to add more complex features — for instance, while there may have been lots of code to help save and track versions of pages, that code couldn't be used to help someone save and track versions of map points.
By laying a solid foundation for the LocalWiki software, we'll not only make it easier for others to create basic wiki-like systems but also allow us to go farther with our vision of the best software for local communities to collaborate on information.
In the past couple of months we've written an extensive versioning system for the Django framework that will allow us to simplify later development; explored and refined ways to show changes between different objects, especially rendered HTML pages; began the work on our graphic editor interface; and done lots and lots of research on different technologies.
Opening up our development process
We want the LocalWiki project to have an open-from-the-start development process. As such, while the code isn't ready for casual contributors quite yet, we are fully opening our development process. While we have experience working in the open-source world, one thing we're new at is working full-time alongside other folks. We'll probably make some mistakes, but we want to get this right.
Are you an experienced developer who wants to get involved? Please sign up for our developer mailing list — we'll be sending out a super-geeky developer update in the next day or two.
A (tiny) space to call our own
A little over a week ago we moved into a little hole-in-the-wall office space. After working out of a coworking space for the first two months, we felt we could be more productive without the distractions that come with sharing a space with so many (admittedly, incredibly nice and professional) people. The space in the Mission District in San Francisco is tiny and barely fits two desks, but it's quiet, it's convenient, and we can stay here late into the night working. After spending a weekend furnishing it, the new space has made a huge difference in our comfort, communication, and ability to work for hours on end without interruptions. It also turns out to be cheaper than the coworking setup, which is a nice bonus.
A small Kickstarter update
Several months ago, we faced a serious issue: the Knight Foundation commited funding to the software development aspects of the LocalWiki project, but essential outreach and education aspects were unfunded. With your help, we raised an absolutely essential fund through Kickstarter.com to support outreach and education in pilot communities. Our plan for the Kickstarter fund is to hold on to it until we begin the outreach and education phase of the project, which will happen shortly after the first pilot community is selected.
Mike and Philip
Kickstarter: Pros and Cons
We recently ended our first big fundraising drive for the LocalWiki project and wanted to take a moment to step back and reflect.
In particular, we'd like to talk about the funding platform we used, Kickstarter, and its advantages and disadvantages. While we already had a grant from the Knight Foundation to develop the LocalWiki software, we need to raise more money to go beyond just the software and help us do community outreach, coordination and education to ensure our project's success.
What is Kickstarter?
Kickstarter describes itself as "a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors." It works like this:
- You post a project description on Kickstarter. You make a pitch video. The video isn't a strict requirement, but almost all funded projects have a video. You come up with a set of "rewards" for different pledge levels on the site. You set a funding goal and a time frame for your project.
- Kickstarter staff look at your proposed project and provide feedback. Then they (hopefully) approve your project and it's posted on the site.
- Your project goes live.
- If you don't hit your funding goal in the specified time frame, no one's cards get charged and you don't receive any of the funds.
Sounds simple enough, right?
An almost remarkable percentage of Kickstarter projects reach their funding goal. How's this possible? There are a few reasons why Kickstarter appears to be such a successful fundraising platform.
1. Staff Filtering
As mentioned before, the Kickstarter staff review postings before they appear on the site. In our case, it took a few days of back-and-forth with Kickstarter staff for our project to get a green light.
In our case, Kickstarter staff were concerned with our initial reward selections. Kickstarter wants you to have a rich selection of rewards that provide a lot of value to pledgers. For instance, something that seems like it ought to be worth $50 should be priced as close to market value as possible in the reward selection. We almost gave up on using Kickstarter because the approval process appeared to be pushing us toward a reward selection that would really cut into our real, post-reward funds.
That raises another important point: Kickstarter staff wants your project to succeed. Their filtering process helps Kickstarter ensure high quality (lots of successful projects!) and also lets them push project creators to maximize their chances of success (well priced rewards!). The main reason Kickstarter staff wants your project to succeed, though, is because Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut of your funds.
So, in our case, we ended up paying Kickstarter $1,316. That's fairly significant, but it may be worth it.
2. The Kickstarter "Mold"
Launching a Kickstarter project means you're going to have to do certain things if you want to meet your funding goal:
- Produce a video about why you want to raise money. This helps you focus your message into a couple minutes. This helps you fundraise.
- Write about, and provide updates, why you want to raise money. Again, this forces you to focus your message.
- Widely publicize your project. This is magnified by the next point ("All-or-nothing").
Your project will also be sitting alongside lots of other interesting projects, so just "hanging out" on Kickstarter may help your fundraising effort seem more legitimate. However, you may not get many pledges from traffic originating from Kickstarter.com -- this really depends on what type of project you have. In our case, probably 90 percent of our pledges came directly from folks browsing Davis Wiki.
Having to fit into this mold means you're going to have to do the kinds of things that organizations that fundraise successfully do. Which is great, because you might not have done all these things otherwise.
3. User Interface
When we decided to launch our outreach/education fundraiser we didn't have a lot of time to prepare a fancy fundraising site. We knew the Knight Foundation grant announcement would generate a fair amount of press and we wanted to capitalize on that excitement and energy. We had a couple days before we had to be in Boston for the announcement and most of our time was spent making our fundraising video. So having a pre-built, well designed fundraising site like Kickstarter really helped us.
Here's what you see when you click the usual Paypal "Donate" button on our site:
and here's what you see when you click "Pledge" on Kickstarter:
While we could have crafted our own pledge drive interface on top of a payment gateway, using Kickstarter saved us a lot of time.
4. All Or Nothing
Kickstarter pledge drives are "all or nothing," meaning that if the goal isn't met by the specified time then no one's credit cards are charged and the project doesn't get any of the pledged funds.
Surprisingly, the all-or-nothing nature of Kickstarter is its greatest asset in ensuring projects hit their funding goal. Once a project has reached a certain threshold of funding, the project creators (and pledgers!) feel an intense desire to "unlock" the money. In fact, word has it that something around 90 percent of projects that reach 25 percent of their funding goal are eventually fully funded.
Having projects be all-or-nothing was probably a decision made by Kickstarter to support projects that need to meet a concrete goal, such as printing the first major run of a new book. These are, by and large, the sort of projects Kickstarter excels at funding -- projects where, if a certain amount of money isn't raised, the project simply isn't possible, or isn't worth it.
But what about projects that deviate from this format? Projects that need to fundraise money but aren't goal-or-doesn't-matter? For more general fundraising projects, the all-or-nothing property has an interesting effect: It functions as a sort of "matching donation" multiplier. In traditional fundraising, matching donations -- where an individual or organization pledges to donation $X but only if $X is raised independently -- are a common and successful way to drum up contributions. With Kickstarter, a donation of $50 with a $10K goal can be thought of as being "matched" by 199 other $50 contributions!
The all-or-nothing characteristic is a way to create a big "matching donation" pool and helps drive pledges even for projects that could make do with less than their goal amount.
It's not all milk and honey, though. There are some hidden drawbacks and costs to using Kickstarter.
Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut of your pledges and Amazon will take an additional amount (around 2 percent) on top of that. If your margins are slim, this could be significant.
You should think about it like this: I'm paying Kickstarter 5 percent of my pledge goal if we make it. Is the Kickstarter service worth the 5 percent? In particular, you should think about 1) The pre-built platform you get with Kickstarter; 2) the publicity of being on Kickstarter; 3) the "mold" that Kickstarter forces you into and the value of that.
#1 is worth it if you don't have a lot of time or resources to build something yourself. We certainly didn't.
In some cases, #2 is really valuable. Obscure, quirky projects can get amazing press just by being a part of Kickstarter. But if you're doing something more like a traditional community-based fundraiser you probably won't get much from #2. For us, the publicity of being on Kickstarter didn't drive a lot of pledges, but it did give us some valuable exposure.
I think everyone can benefit from #3 unless you're a large organization with a track record of successful fundraisers. In that case you've already got methodology, fundraising materials, and probably a big existing donor base.
It's hard to take Kickstarter fundraising offline
We held a couple of offline events during our pledge drive (a bar night and a silent auction). Unfortunately, it's pretty difficult to move offline funds back onto Kickstarter. You're not permitted to "pledge" toward your own project, which means you need to find a trustworthy third party to agree to pledge any offline funds. This also means the offline donors won't be noted on Kickstarter.
For local community-based fundraising efforts this can be problematic.
The all-or-nothing system is a bit confusing
Unfortunately, the all-or-nothing pledge system can be a bit confusing. Many folks we talked to thought they had already given us money before we hit our funding deadline.
Our fundraising period was 90 days -- the longest allowed by Kickstarter -- and so there were lots of people who'd simply forgotten they'd pledged by the time their cards were charged. Thankfully, Kickstarter is astonishingly good at collecting funds (they pester pledgers with an email every day for a week if their card is declined), and we only saw a few pledges that never came through.
Many successful projects are basically product sales
Despite the perception of Kickstarter as a fundraising site, a large number of high profile Kickstarter projects are, at their core, product sales. What do I mean by product sales?
Well, all Kickstarter projects have rewards. And unless you get remarkably lucky, you're going to have some cost associated with acquiring, shipping, and dealing with that reward. For folks in the non-profit world, we're all very familiar with the standard tax-deductability formula that's on donation receipts:
(Amount contributed) - (Value of goods or services given to donor) = Deductible amount
This isn't just some tax mumbo-jumbo -- it tells that the donor intended to give at least the deductible amount to the organization or project itself. But this formula doesn't tell us everything. After all, oftentimes we get goods or services donated to us and then, in turn, give them away. We're still bringing in money, either way. So the important missing part here is the cost to us of those goods or services, right?
(Amount contributed) - (Cost to us of goods or services given to donor) = Our profit
The first formula is still useful for differentiating these "I'm basically selling something" Kickstarter projects from "I'm doing something amazing, help us!" projects. So let's call the first formula the "Donation amount" and the second formula the "Profit amount."
How do projects measure up?
Methodology: I calculated Profit and Donation amount by using my best guess of production cost and resell value of the rewards (to an interested party). For instance, a T-shirt is counted as having little or no value (unless the project is all about T-shirts). This is roughly how the IRS counts things.
I also subtracted estimated Kickstarter and Amazon fees from total profit. I also factored in over-pledging and "no reward" choices.
The following are projects I've heard about recently, either because they got widespread press or because they touched my social circle in some way:
- Vuvuzelas for BP: Raised $6,846 with a pledge goal of $2,000. Estimated Profit: $5,437. Estimated Donations: $6,846. Profit percentage: 79%. Donation percentage: 100%.
- NIMBY - Industrial Art and DIY Space: Raised $17,897 with a pledge goal of $17,255. Estimated Profit: $16,161. Estimated Donation: $17,823. Profit percentage: 90%. Donation percentage: 100%.
- Hollaback!: Raised $13,560 with a pledge goal of $12,500. Estimated Profit: $12,241. Estimated Donation: $13,466. Profit percentage: 90%. Donation percentage: 99%.
- Decentralize the web with Diaspora: Raised $200,641 with a pledge goal of $10,000. Estimated Profit: $135,905. Estimated Donation: $180,051. Profit percentage: 67%. Donation percentage: 90%.
- Embodiment: A Portrait of Queer Life in America: Raised $12,568 with a pledge goal of $10,000. Estimated Profit: $11,397. Estimated Donation: $10,848. Profit percentage: 90%. Donation percentage: 86%.
- Punk Mathematics: Raised $28,701 with a pledge goal of $2,400. Estimated Profit: $20,224. Estimated Donation: $17,225. Profit percentage: 70%. Donation percentage: 60%.
- Power Laces: Raised $25,024 with a pledge goal of $25,000. Estimated Profit: $12,429. Estimated Donation: $12,904. Profit percentage: 50%. Donation percentage: 51%.
- Designing Obama: Raised $84,613 with a pledge goal of $65,000. Estimated Profit: $24,717. Estimated Donation: $30,010. Profit percentage: 29%. Donation percentage: 35%.
- Coming and Crying: Real stories about sex from the other side of the bed: Raised $17,242 with a pledge goal of $3,000. Estimated Profit: $10,773. Estimated Donation: $6,144. Profit percentage: 62%. Donation percentage: 35%.
- Glif - iPhone 4 Tripod Mount & Stand: Raised $137,417 with a pledge goal of $10,000. Estimated Profit: $98,950. Estimated Donation: $15,467. Profit ratio: 72%. Donation ratio: 11%.
- Lockpicks by Open Locksport: Raised $87,407 with a pledge goal of $6,000. Estimated Profit: $64,043. Estimated Donation: $4,922. Profit percentage: 73%. Donation percentage: 6%.
This is hardly a proper random sample, and all of these projects were successfully funded. Many projects on Kickstarter never reach their funding goal. Unfortunately, it's difficult to search Kickstarter for unsuccessful projects for more data points.
Additionally, there are other costs associated with shipping rewards and time spent drumming up pledges, processing shipments, etc. Theses costs weren't included, but some costs (like time) are very real.
So, is Kickstarter good for running fundraising drives? Well, let's take a look at this graph:
That big spike is the Diaspora project, which had a few extraordinary factors working in its favor -- perfect timing, massive public backlash against Facebook, and a huge NYT piece. Ignoring that spike, it's clear that the projects which have the highest Kickstarter totals are those that are actually getting the least amount in donation-like pledges.
So while Kickstarter has many high-profile, successful pledge drives under their belt, the campaigns that raise the most cash tend to not look much like traditional donation drives.
All-in-all, we're happy we used Kickstarter. It helped us raise significantly more than we would have otherwise. It has drawbacks, though, particularly for non-profit organizations wanting to run somewhat traditional fundraising drives.
Laying the groundwork
The LocalWiki project has officially started! A few of you have been wondering what we’ve been up to since the pledge drive, so we want to give you a quick update. For those of you who are more technically inclined, we hope to also provide an insight into these early stages of our process.
If you want to follow our updates in the future, please sign up with your email address at https://localwiki.org, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/localwiki, or follow this blog. Or if you’re a huge geek, join us on IRC in Freenode’s #localwiki.
Besides working on fulfilling all of your Kickstarter pledge rewards (CD’s and t-shirts are going out soon!), we are ramping up development of the wiki software that will provide the platform for all of our pilot projects. Starting in October, Philip and I have been working out of our awesome coworking office in San Francisco (shout out to NextSpace) and laying the groundwork for this new platform.
Making software that lasts
This probably won’t make much sense unless you’re a techie, but here are some details about what’s going on:
Our initial focus at this stage is to build a set of reusable Django apps that will provide the core functionality of an extensible and easy to use wiki software, which include making it straightforward to edit a page, tracking and working with revisions of pages and other objects, and letting people compare those revisions to see what’s been changed. We will then use these components to build the first functional iteration of our wiki software. The benefits of this approach are that it helps us focus on each aspect separately, will help developers in the Django community to understand and contribute to our code, and makes it possible for other projects and organizations to use only the parts they might find useful. Software only survives if many people actively use it, and we want to ensure our software a long and happy life.
Next few months, roughly speaking
November-December: Core software. We create the central components of the wiki software and put them together into something that will enable folks to start creating awesome content. We unfortunately have to work out some legal issues around licensing before we can easily accept outside code contributions.
As soon as our licensing issues are resolved, we’ll send out an update with information about how to get involved with the development process. We hope the licensing issues will be resolved in the next couple of weeks. Nevertheless, it may be difficult for outside developers to get involved at this point because core bits and pieces will be moving and changing at a rapid rate.
December-March: Focus on features. We will push heavily to involve more outside developers to help make our software awesome and get some initial user feedback. If you are a developer interested in helping, this will be the best time for you to get involved because we will have somewhat solidified our development processes and underlying, core software. We will also need help with and feedback about the software from a higher level (e.g. feature requests).
March and beyond: Pilot communities, educational materials, community outreach. With the wiki platform largely built, we can start new pilot projects and educating potential users about building successful local projects. At this stage we will need all the help we can get from you to select pilots, write helpful guides, submit bug reports, and develop a model for communities to follow.
LocalWiki to Create Collaborative, Community-Owned Local Media
So much of the unique knowledge and experiences we acquire through years of living in a community gets spread only by word of mouth, or worse it just stays "locked up" in our heads. But this is great stuff, valuable expert knowledge that can benefit everyone. After all, when it comes to the communities where we live, we are all experts!
What if everyone could share and collaborate on what they know about their local community? What would local media look like if everyone in the community was creating it?
The LocalWiki project is an ambitious effort to create community-owned, living information repositories that will provide much-needed context behind the people, places, and events that shape our communities. We were awarded a 2010 Knight News Challenge grant to create an entirely new sort of software to make our vision of massively collaborative local media a reality.
In 2004 we started the Davis Wiki, an experimental project to collect and share interesting information about the town of Davis, California. The site is editable by anyone and it soon became the world's largest and most vibrant community wiki.
Today the residents of Davis use it for everything from learning about local news and local history, to helping return lost pets to their owners. It's become the largest, most used media source in the city. On any given week, nearly half of residents use the Davis wiki; Nearly everyone uses it on a monthly basis. And 1 in 7 residents contribute material to the Davis Wiki.
The Davis Wiki is maintained, at almost every level, by the community at large. Here's a short video clip about the Davis Wiki:
What About Local Blogs?
In 2007, when the Knight News Challenge began, local blogs were the hot new thing. The Knight Foundation was awarding grants to a variety of great local blog projects.
In 2010, blogs are a widespread, tested model for disseminating information about local happenings. A local blog -- a time-based series of updates on a particular topic -- is in many ways an extension of the time-based model of newspapers. While a local blog may sit on an easily accessible website with lots of comments and frequent updates, it is fundamentally a stream of new facts and new bits of information, day after day.
This bit-by-bit, time-based approach to providing information clearly has its origins in the printing and circulation process of newspapers. And our communities benefit from having strong, thriving local blogs and newspapers. But with the instant, always-on access afforded by the Internet we can build a new form of local media that is constantly updated, provides the full context around local issues, and is maintained by the entire community.
Local Media, By Everyone
Another limitation of blogs is that they are written by at most a handful of people. With a local blog, a few people write and everyone else reads (and maybe leaves comments).Here's how that looks:
People can interact and share through comments and Twitter, etc., but this doesn't allow the community to command the full publishing power of the resource. And as new facts (often provided by commenters or via Twitter) arrive, the editorial team has to update their post (if we're lucky!) to reflect what's new. Or perhaps publish another post, leading to more information fragmentation.
With our local wiki projects, the entire community will not only read, but also contribute to and maintain the resource:
A High-Quality Online Hub For Every Community
How do you find out more information about a particular topic in your community? With only local blogs and newspapers to depend on, you'll quickly find yourself sorting through a scattered web of posts and news tidbits going back years. Wouldn't it be great to have an information hub with the full context behind these important local topics?
This is the final recommendation of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy report:
It's also a central objective of the LocalWiki project. We hope that our local wiki projects will offer a workable, sustainable model for building and maintaining amazing local information hubs.
We're just getting started on the LocalWiki project and we couldn't be more excited! If you'd like to get more information, or help out with the project, fill out the "Help out & get more info" box at localwiki.org.
We also need your help finding pilot communities for the project! If you know of a great place -- or great people! -- for us to work with, please fill out the pilot recommendation form.