Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

Davis, Calif., Wiki to Be Model for Local, People-Powered Media


June 21, 2010 By

What started as a community-based, online hub of news, events, history and all things local has caught the attention of a journalism foundation that wants to help others create similar platforms.

The creators of Davis Wiki -- a popular website where users contribute content that's focused solely on the college town of Davis, Calif. -- won a $350,000 Knight News Challenge grant last week to create software that will enable other cities to build and maintain their own wikis.

Dubbed Local Wiki, the nonprofit project "will create enhanced tools for local wikis, a new form of media that makes it easy for people to learn -- and share -- their own unique community knowledge," a Knight News Challenge press release stated. "Members will be able to post articles about anything they like, edit others and upload photos and files."

Davis Wiki co-founder Philip Neustrom, a 26-year-old software engineer living in the San Francisco Bay Area, said unlike traditional passive media - newspapers, radio, TV broadcasts - anyone in the community can contribute their knowledge to wikis, which provides a fuller context surrounding issues because the content is user-generated.

"We're trying to create a new type of local media built around the idea of mass collaboration," Neustrom said. "The way local blogs entered the mainstream a few years ago was a novel concept, and this is kind of the next logical step -- having everyone in the community add to one cohesive resource about the community."

Pilot Communities?

While the grant will be used to create specialized, open source software and help communities develop, launch and sustain their own local wikis, Neustrom said the goal is to create easy-to-use software that's better than the "run-of-the mill" wiki software available.

With his co-founder Mike Ivanov, 28, Neustrom plans to raise $30,000 for outreach and education efforts and will choose three to 10 pilot communities that demonstrate creativity, inspiration, willingness to share information and ability to network -- which may be the deciding factor.

"A lot of people are used to operating in a way where things are provided to them and they don't have to organize," Neustrom said. "We're looking for people we think are likely to know the right way to get something like this started."

Mass Collaboration

The Davis Wiki, which receives between 10,000 and 20,000 unique hits a day, was created in part because of the town's lack of organized, centralized, contextual information. Neustrom was saddened that the only way to really know a community was to live there for years, and wanted a way for people to get that sense of institutional knowledge more quickly.

In 2004, then-college students Neustrom and Ivanov created such a platform, with hopes that it would extend beyond their time attending college, and leave a legacy later generations would use and appreciate.

Built around the idea of "mass collaboration," the Davis Wiki contains local election results, events, restaurant reviews, news, gossip and so much more, Neustrom said. One of the site's more popular, recent items revolves around the town's "Crying Girl Con Artist" -- a young woman who allegedly asks Davis residents for money and becomes aggressive when confronted.

"Over the course of a week, more and more people came on (the site) and said, 'Yeah, she scammed me too,'" Neustrom said. "People came together and spontaneously organized and now the police can do something about this, whereas before, no one would have really known."

For Neustrom, the wiki won't replace local media, but complement it. He stresses the benefits: the unlimited space for information, the institutional memory and users' ability to contribute as well as consume.

Now he's just hoping other communities recognize its potential benefits and take charge. "We really want the communities to own these things, and not us."


| More

Comments

PrivateEye    |    Commented June 22, 2010

The site is useful enough but far from unique or essential and not particularly well designed from a visual point of view. With the availability of neighborhood blogs, listservs and online newspapers it seems far from essential to have neighborhood wikis too.

PrivateEye    |    Commented June 22, 2010

The site is useful enough but far from unique or essential and not particularly well designed from a visual point of view. With the availability of neighborhood blogs, listservs and online newspapers it seems far from essential to have neighborhood wikis too.

PrivateEye    |    Commented June 22, 2010

The site is useful enough but far from unique or essential and not particularly well designed from a visual point of view. With the availability of neighborhood blogs, listservs and online newspapers it seems far from essential to have neighborhood wikis too.


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All