The Success of Davis Wiki

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We believe the success of Davis Wiki is a result of the vision we had as well as the tremendous effort we put in to bring that vision to life. We also believe this type of success is replicable, but it is by no means easy or necessarily obvious. We see similarities in the mainstream adoption of blogging as a new medium. Although the concept has existed since 1994, and many users kept online journals, there were few examples of successful blogs as we know them today, and it took many years and many pioneering efforts as well as the creation of specialized tools for blogging to establish itself as a different new medium. Wikis were invented in 1994, and it took until 2001 for the first truly groundbreaking project (Wikipedia) to be created, and several more years for it to get significant traction. Many community wikis look to Wikipedia for guidance and try to follow in its footsteps. However, we believe local wikis are something dramatically different, and Wikipedia's model is not the right approach. It is understandably difficult for new community wikis to reject the principles that have worked so well for the world's largest wiki, and to this day Davis Wiki is one of only a handful of successful local wikis that serve as an example of a better model for local communities.

To address the two specific examples of wikis, there are some clear differences between their approach to building a community resource and what we did in Davis as well as what we propose. The most glaring difference, even at first glance, is that both of these wikis use the standard, off-the-shelf Media Wiki software. This software is general-purpose and, while it is very popular, is not well suited to a local community wiki. By contrast, Davis W...

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...Each local wiki has to develop naturally to serve the specific needs and interests of the local community. While it is valuable to learn from other communities, it is a mistake for a new wiki to try to copy the content or organizational structure of a mature, successful wiki. Different types of content and organizational paradigms will be appropriate in different communities, depending on geography, language, culture, demographics, and the individual talents and interests of the contributors. It is important to let the character and values of the local community pervade the local wiki.

In recent years we have covered all of these points in conversations with community leaders and various interviews. For a good outside perspective on what made Davis Wiki a success, we recommend reading the Neiman Journalism Lab interview or one of the other articles, attached.

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