Wow, what a year!
As some of you know, this project had been brewing in our collective heads for many years now.
In 2004 we started the Davis Wiki, an experimental project to collect and share interesting information about the town of Davis, California. We wanted the Davis Wiki to be a sort of collective, ever-updating “community brain” that would contain anything and everything about the town. So, unlike most websites, the Davis Wiki would be editable by anyone.
What we wanted didn’t exist, so we built it. We found some open-source “wiki” software and spent the next several months extensively customizing it to make it easier to use, more aesthetically pleasing and have some specific functionality we thought was important in Davis.
As the years passed, the Davis Wiki grew and grew and grew — and it’s now the largest, most used media source in the community. But the recurring question always was: how do we help other communities create resources as amazing as the Davis Wiki? The LocalWiki project is our attempt to answer that question.
A little over a year ago we were awarded a grant from the Knight Foundation and simultaneously launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund essential community outreach. Shortly thereafter we were able to begin what we’d only ever dreamed about before: devote serious energy and resources toward bringing something as amazing as the Davis Wiki to other communities.
Just as in the early days of the Davis Wiki, the majority of our early work was technical in nature. We spent most of our first six months working on software and spreading the word about the project. The end result: a new kind of wiki software designed, from the ground up, for local communities.
Over the next six months, while still writing code at a breakneck speed, we kicked off the nimble beginnings of our pilot community program. We solicited recommendations for communities around the world and received over 300 formal inquires. With our limited resources in mind, we began working with just a few communities right off the bat.
Our goal with the pilot program was two-fold: to get essential feedback on our new software as it was being developed, and to help steward communities through the process of creating new local wiki projects. It was important to us to help develop focused efforts: we’d rather have a few strong, thriving projects than hundreds of projects with no momentum or quality content.
On November 1st, 2011, our first local wiki pilot, DentonWiki, formally launched to the public. Coinciding with that launch was the first major, easy-to-install release of our new LocalWiki software.
Where are we at now? We’re working with 6 pilot communities and have many more partnerships in the pipeline. Several of our pilots are close to launching, and our new open-source software is rapidly being adopted around the world.
It’s impossible to detail everything that’s happened over the past year, but we hope to give you a glimpse of where we’re at and where we want to go. Most importantly, we want to take the time to thank you. Without you believing in us and believing in the promise of collaborative, community media, none of this would have been possible.
Philip & Mike