Building a Wiki Community: Pet Projects

Since launching the moderated wiki, Whorunsgov has, on a couple of occasions, created projects to entice people to contribute. We try to focus these projects on narrow topics that people have strong opinions about.

The projects include:

1) Tracking Blue Dog Democrats’ stances on the proposed health-care bill
2) Highlighting advocates and lobbyists that work on climate and energy issues

Of these two projects, the climate change idea was considerably more successful. Here’s why.

First, what went wrong with the health-reform tracker? We asked our community to find out how each representative who identifies as a Blue Dog felt about various proposed health care measures. We created a chart with the choices of “public-option,” “co-ops,” “universal coverage” and “market-driven reform.” We had all the representatives in the chart, and the community could fill in the chart as the representatives expressed his/her opinions on health-care.

We thought this simple chart would convince the community to fill in the chart, but we were wrong. It actually amounted to a lot of work in order to add to the chart. The community member would have to either do an exhaustive Google search or call up his/her representative. These aren’t tasks people at home are used to doing. Plus, the definitions of the terms in the chart were too vague. Some Congress members supported the public option if it was triggered in while others only supported a robust option. People at home didn’t know how to make the distinction, and therefore were discouraged from contributing.

For the climate change project, we tried to fix many of these issues. First we picked 10 lobbyists that work on curbing carbon emissions or focus on energies that ranged from oil, natural gas to green energies. We asked the community to help profile these 10 lobbyists. We also talked to the lobbyists, and asked them to help the community by adding some biographical information. With this collaboration, we got three of the profiles completely filled out, including multiple contributions from community members. It was highly successful, compared to the health reform tracker.

The climate change project had clear goals, a defined time-line and specific questions to answer. Although it seemed as if the health-tracker would be the more defined project, it eventually proved to be too vague, unclear and large. Going smaller with projects can entice community members to contribute, but having defined definitions and goals is the key.

-Ryan
Whorunsgov.com

Also please check out our new Department Profile Pages launched today!

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