Local wikis are special.
When I browse through sites like DavisWiki, TriangleWiki, or ArborWiki, I feel like I know where I would go to eat, what groups I would want to be involved in, what neighborhoods I would want to live in. I read through the pages like I’m discovering the solved mysteries of another civilization that I otherwise never could have understood.
I feel like I can get to know those cities through their wikis.
I get a sense of the amazing depth and breadth of knowledge people have about the place they live.
I want to know my city – Seattle, WA – the same way. So I’m making a wiki.
A local wiki that is personal and community-authored can provide needed depth and context to a city’s media landscape. A wiki for Seattle can augment the resources currently available, serve as glue between disparate sources of information, and help build a community of citizen journalists through meetups and other events. SeattleWiki is a shared, Creative Commons resource that anyone can contribute to and benefit from as they work on their own news and community projects.
SeattleWiki should be like a combination of a personal guidebook and a weird encyclopedia – documentation of the issues, communities, and curiosities of Seattle, recorded by citizens of Seattle.
Wait, why not use Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is arguably the most supremely awesome wiki because of its size, but it does not solve all problems related to collaborative archival of information. Wikipedia (surprisingly) has editorial limits to its content and issues with the usability of its editing tools (wiki markup can be hard).
Wikipedia is an information hero on a global scale, but Wikipedia is not the One Wiki To Rule Them All.
And there can never really be One Wiki To Rule Them All, right? Same as how the internet can’t just be one network node, and there will never just be one place to find funny cat pictures.
There are instances where we don’t need a monolithic resource, where instead we need a loosely distributed network of resources that we can choose from based on the needs of the moment.
And when I’m in Seattle neighborhoods like Fremont or the University District, looking for secrets, food, and other fun stuff, Wikipedia isn’t about to help.
There are Wikipedia policies that tend to exclude the type of content we’re looking for on a local wiki:
Effectively documenting the locations around town that have the best wireless and plug-ins requires that you do some original research.
You could review streets in Seattle based on their beauty, resources, and livability, but if you do so with a neutral point of view it might not be useful. SeattleWiki wants you to share your point of view.
Why do we need a wiki if Google exists?
We might be able to find stuff like the above examples by searching around on Google, or asking buds on Facebook or Twitter, but sometimes that just doesn’t work.
Blogs go defunct and get deleted, tweets get lost, Facebook profiles get deactivated, local news organizations fail to archive and provide access to their content in useful ways.
But SeattleWiki won’t go away. A local wiki can be a lasting, reliable resource that provides information of utility and entertainment, a guide to neighborhoods that can convey history and current goings-on in one place, with references to the rest of the online resources that are helpful.
In the ever-changing and unpredictable environment of the internet, a local wiki is a commitment to telling the story of a city, to documenting the history of a place and its residents as it happens. A local wiki is a group of neighbors dedicated to sharing with each other the information they need to know to make decisions in their daily lives, whether those decisions involve voting in elections, listening to local bands, or figuring out where the best place to park a car is in any given neighborhood.
Why a new wiki and not just use seattle.wikia.com?
The biggest problem with it: it’s wikia.com. It’s an existing site that has some good content, but it gets only occasional updates, and the commercial nature of Wikia makes it unappealing for a community project like a local wiki.
Wikia has a lot of ads, features, and design elements that clutter the pages and distract from the wiki content.
The best answer might be contacting the people that started and maintain seattle.wikia.com and finding out how we can work together. If the original authors become interested in teaming up, or even transitioning over to using SeattleWiki.net, that could work out really well. The content on wikia.com is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike, so there shouldn’t be a problem with that solution.
So what makes SeattleWiki special?
SeattleWiki.net is built with LocalWiki, an open-source Django project started by founders of the super-awesome DavisWiki.
LocalWiki’s mapping system is one of the best reasons to use it for a locally-focused wiki. It’s really easy to map the location of something. LocalWiki also has a great json api that can easily be used by other apps, and the developers are hugely helpful to communities working on setting up a project with the LocalWiki software.
LocalWiki received a grant from the Knight Foundation, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and the software is based on the developers’ experiences creating DavisWiki.
LocalWiki is also the best looking and easiest to use wiki software I’ve ever seen. It’s fun. And perfect for documenting all the intimate details of a neighborhood that residents care about.
But there’s more to it than software.
What will really make SeattleWiki special: the insight and knowledge of the residents who choose to contribute.
We need animated gifs, image macros, and videos of the wonders and oddities of the city. We need descriptions of all the covered outdoor areas with plugins so we know where to work on our laptops outdoors. We need detailed parking information for cars and bikes, restaurant recommendations for people with dietary restrictions, guides for going on public art walking-tours. And more.
The immense scope of the project is intimidating, but also inspiring. Each Seattle neighborhood could have hundreds of pages describing all the details compelling enough to share with others.
The goal is to reach 1000 pages, then publicly launch the site with a release party.
The more people get involved, the sooner we can launch.
You should help.