Whether you’re new to a city or a long time resident, you almost certainly have knowledge and perspectives you can share with and learn from your neighbors. If cities had one spot where they could collect and capture the spirit of a thriving area, they might just increase collaboration and knowledge dissemination across an entire region.
LocalWiki is a project devoted to sharing the world’s local knowledge. Communities can download their free, open-source software that serves as a content management platform to include wiki pages, images, and mapping. Supported by the Knight Foundation, LocalWiki, after just one year, has had over 180 independent groups install its software. LocalWiki software has been installed 180 times, possibly by 180 different communities. Out of these 180 installs, we’ve been told that possibly around 40-50 communities are currently experimenting with the software and/or building out new projects. There’s around 15 projects that Philip Neustrom, Executive Director of LocalWiki, has personal knowledge of that are building out strong projects that will launch in the next several months. Additionally, some folks who have installed the software are using LocalWiki for non-local stuff, like this learning website: http://joincollage.com/classes.
Case Study: The Triangle Region
The Triangle Region of the area around Raleigh, North Carolina is LocalWiki’s second focus community now equipped with a way to share culture, places, and current events. At its official public launch mid-March, the community-centric Wikipedia type website was brimming with local history, media, opinions, and interesting characters of Raleigh-Durham.
This grassroots initiative began at a Raleigh City Camp meeting last fall when Phillip Neustrom of LocalWiki recommended that the Triangle become a far-reaching pilot community. You may recall the city of Davis, California’s platform that has actually become the largest, most used media source in the city, with one in seven Davis residents contributing to the site, according to localwiki.org.
To top it off, Triangle Wiki launched with over 1,000 pages — more than three times the amount that the Davis Wiki had at its launch. Reid Serozi, organizer of the Triangle project adds, “We’re a bunch of civic-minded geeks, and so we’ve gone after hot topics like parks, transportation … where to charge electric cars in town, public bus routes, and plans for light rail around Raleigh.” Those who have added information to the site regarding such facets as running trails, notable people, festivals, and public art include everyone from college students to city council members.
The Front Page of the wiki makes it easy to browse the site, check out the “Interesting Pages,” or choose a random page to explore. A news section, similar to blog posts, provides updates on the entire project. As a contributor to the wiki, you can add a pinpoint to the Map that allows users to click on points of interest in their neighborhood or areas of the Triangle they want to learn more about.
For Scott Reston, the wiki is a great platform to share the information and experiences he’s already collecting about the Raleigh Park System, his local passion. “I’ve primarily been porting content from my parks blog,” Reston told the Raleigh Public Record. “I’ve had some pretty good traffic to my site but I feel like it’s still a bit hidden and isolated. I’d love for more people to find out about Raleigh’s parks and to share the information they have.”
Citizen contributors to the site are encouraged after creating a wiki page to share it on Facebook and Twitter with hashtags, invite local businesses/organizations to add a page, organize a wiki gathering with friends, and review recent changes to monitor the progress as folks build pages in real time. The empowering wiki project is off to such a great start that neighborhoods will undoubtedly feel a widespread impact from the increased collaboration, transparency, and knowledge sharing.