Our first year

What we’ve done and where we’re headed.

This was the first year of the LocalWiki project. Between rampant coding, community building and traveling, it’s been quite a whirlwind. Now we report back on our first year and look toward the future.

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LocalWiki is the open-content, open-source effort to share the world’s local knowledge.

The year
at a glance

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.

Thank you,
Philip & Mike

A new kind of wiki software, designed for local communities.

We built something so easy to use, anyone can contribute!

Davis, CA, is one of the United States’ last true college towns, and it is second-most educated city in the country. It’s no surprise, then, that in 2004 residents were able to learn the complex syntax and process behind contributing to the Davis Wiki.

With LocalWiki, we wanted to make sure that anyone could contribute — not just those who were technically savvy. Why? Because everybody benefits from a more usable, accessible resource! And on the local level, everybody’s an expert. In Davis, somewhere around one in seven residents have contributed to the Davis Wiki. On Wikipedia, only one in 5,000 visitors ever make an edit.

A lot has happened since 2004. Products like Google Docs have mainstreamed rich, web-based collaboration. Unfortunately, open-source wiki software hasn’t generally kept up with the rapid pace of technological innovation. With our new software, we set out to do more than simply create a locally-focused wiki engine — we wanted to radically advance the state of the art in wiki software.

We created an incredibly easy and powerful graphical editing process.

Most wiki software requires you to write pages using a difficult-to-learn markup language. Some commercial wiki software feature graphical editing, but their interfaces are primitive, limited and not used in highly-collaborative environments. We created a completely open-source, 100% rich text graphic editing interface — and made it a joy to use.

We made a visual way to see what’s changed on a page.

Easy editing isn't enough — in highly-collaborative environments, knowing exactly what's changing and being able to quickly respond is absolutely essential. We developed an easy, quick and entirely visual way to see exactly what's changed on a page.

The result?

A frictionless editing process that allows people to start contributing to projects much more quickly.

A sense of place

We knew that mapping should be at the heart of LocalWiki. To that end, we developed a state-of-the-art collaborative mapping system that’s really, really easy to use. Pages can have maps with points, lines and areas — and anyone can edit a map just like editing a page. We even developed what may be the world’s first geographic difference algorithm to make it really easy to see what’s changed on a map.

Residents are mapping and describing the greenways in Raleigh-Durham, NC.

Not everything is just a dot on a map: our easy-to-use, collaborative mapping system brings the power of lines and polygons to regular people!

and describing neighborhoods in Denton, TX.

Neighborhood boundaries are usually subjective and ill-defined — a perfect example of the kind of information that's best collected by collaborating with your neighbors!

and we made it really easy to see what's changed.

Geography isn't simply data. It's often subjective, political and shaped through human experience. We developed what may be the first visual way to quickly see what's changed on a map — and ultimately allow communities to deliberate on the boundaries of their geographic world.

We gave some talks

  • SxSW Interactive: "Too open, too small: Correcting Wikipedia’s Local Failure"
  • Aspen Institute: Roundtable on Government Transparency and Online Hub recommendations
  • Keynote with Laura Flanders, SOCAP/Embrace Disruption: Global Wiki/Local Wiki, How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
  • UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Knight Digital Media Center training
  • Hacks/Hackers
  • Entrepreneurs Roundtable
  • UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Alumni Weekend panel on Media Innovation
1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144 233 377 610 987 1597 2584 4181 6765 10946 17711 28657 46368 75025 121393 196418 317811 514229 832040 1346269 2178309 3524578 5702887 9227465 14930352 24157817 39088169 63245986 102334155 165580141 267914296 433494437 701408733 1134903170 1836311903 2971215073 4807526976 7778742049 12586269025 20365011074 32951280099 53316291173 86267571272 139583862445 225851433717 365435296162 591286729879 956722026041 1548008755920 2504730781961 4052739537881 6557470319842 10610209857723 17167680177565 27777890035288 44945570212853 72723460248141 117669030460994 190392490709135 308061521170129 498454011879264 806515533049393 1304969544928657 2111485077978050 3416454622906707 5527939700884757 8944394323791464 14472334024676221 23416728348467685 37889062373143906 61305790721611591 99194853094755497 160500643816367088 259695496911122585 420196140727489673 679891637638612258 1100087778366101931 1779979416004714189 2880067194370816120 4660046610375530309 7540113804746346429 12200160415121876738 19740274219868223167 31940434634990099905 51680708854858323072 83621143489848422977 135301852344706746049 218922995834555169026 354224848179261915075 573147844013817084101 927372692193078999176 1500520536206896083277 2427893228399975082453 3928413764606871165730 6356306993006846248183 10284720757613717413913 16641027750620563662096 26925748508234281076009 43566776258854844738105 70492524767089125814114 114059301025943970552219 184551825793033096366333 298611126818977066918552 483162952612010163284885 781774079430987230203437 1264937032042997393488322 2046711111473984623691759 3311648143516982017180081 5358359254990966640871840 8670007398507948658051921 14028366653498915298923761 22698374052006863956975682 36726740705505779255899443 59425114757512643212875125 96151855463018422468774568 155576970220531065681649693 251728825683549488150424261 407305795904080553832073954 659034621587630041982498215 1066340417491710595814572169

The numbers.

The (traffic) numbers.

Unique visitors per month
Page views in 2011

Across our hosted local wiki projects, we receive 270,000 unique visitors per month and serve approximately 26,688,000 page views a year.

The (install) numbers.

Independent installs

Since our first major software release in December, our software has been installed over 182 times — already making LocalWiki one of the most-installed Knight News Challenge projects ever.

The (code) numbers.

Code commits
% comments
Lines of tests
Words of documentation
Code screencast views
Developers watching

A look inside: DavisWiki.org

 UC Davis 
 A local wiki responds 

Photo CC-By-SA Public Laboratory

Pepperspray-related pages had

Edits about the incident

in one week.

On November 18, a police officer peppersprayed students sitting in the UC Davis Quad, kicking off a maelstrom of international media attention. But while the world's presses buzzed, Davis residents were busy compiling every bit of information about the event on their local wiki, DavisWiki.org. Residents created an ever-updating chronology of events; posted and analyzed photos, videos and letters; discussed and debated the events; and countered incorrect information that was rapidly circulating.

Even before the event occurred, the DavisWiki had extensive pages about the UC Davis Police Department, the UC Davis Chancellor, the head of the police department, and the location of the event. With the DavisWiki, residents were able to share and learn about an important event in its full context, not just consume the latest new updates.

During the week of the event, over 25,000 people visited pages on DavisWiki related to the pepperspraying, and the page about the event was edited over 700 times by over 100 different residents. But residents didn’t simply read and share online — they turned this information into real-world action, including the largest protest in the city’s history.

 A look inside what’s new: 

Page content growth over time:


Shortly after the LocalWiki project was announced, a Facebook group was started to promote the idea of a local wiki in Denton, Texas. After the Facebook group showed a good deal of support, Andrew Broz, then a student at University of North Texas, created the initial DentonWiki site using the older DavisWiki software. Ritch Ludlow, also a UNT student, quickly got involved in the project and registered DentonWiki.org. Neither Ritch nor Andrew fit the traditional "community organizer" mold. Ritch and Andrew tried promoting the early DentonWiki (which ran old school DavisWiki software), but they ran into severe problems with contributors finding the legacy software difficult to use.

In June of 2011, Philip Neustrom and Mike Ivanov contacted Ritch and Andrew about becoming one of the first LocalWiki pilot communities. DentonWiki was transitioned over to the LocalWiki platform in early June. Philip and Mike, busy with crucial software development work, selected Denton because they felt the project could drive itself without much direct guidance during the buildout period.

In August of 2011, the LocalWiki software became mature enough that it was suitable for the general public. A goal of launching the DentonWiki on November 1st, 2011, was set and Philip headed to Denton for two weeks to help with the launch effort. During this period leading up to the site launch, Philip and Ritch held regular DentonWiki editing sessions. Because Denton was the first LocalWiki pilot, getting feedback on the nascent LocalWiki software was really important. Promotional efforts during the pre-launch phase were focused on trying to build a core, dedicated group of editors to help drive the project.

The DentonWiki launched to the public on November 1, 2011, with over 800 pages, and it’s now well on its way to becoming an indispensable resource for local Dentonites.

 A look inside what’s to come: 

Page content growth over time:


Triangle Wiki, serving the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, region, was started in September of 2011. The folks behind the project met at Raleigh’s first CityCamp, an open "un-conference" focused on open-source civic technology. As the Triangle is a large region, they’re currently focused on building out Raleigh (but they’re looking for locals in other areas to start build-outs there, too!)

Reid Serozi, who initially spearheaded the project, and Philip Neustrom connected in 2006 after Reid had seen the DavisWiki and thought the Raleigh-Durham region could really benefit from something similar. At the time, Reid experimented with using the legacy DavisWiki software to start something in Raleigh-Durham. He ran into issues with usability: to contribute content you had to know a certain mark-up language, making adoption outside of the tech elite extremely unlikely. He also didn’t have any other partners in crime to help drive the project. As such, the older project never got started.

In the Fall of 2011 Reid pitched the idea of using the new LocalWiki software to several Raleigh City Camp Staffers to develop the Triangle’s first local wiki. The group accepted the challenge with little hesitation.

Today the Triangle team is working hard to build up a mass of interesting, unique content and attract essential early contributors. They’re on track to launch their project in March.

There are many more projects like Triangle being built as we speak, all over the globe.

Where we’re helping

( And a few places outside of the US )

Our donors

Essential Supporters

Founding Supporters

  • Jim Ratliff
  • Andrew Chen
  • Kenji Yamada
  • Paul Ivanov
  • Rodney Blackwell
  • Andrew Leonard
  • Jason Moore
  • Jason Aller
  • Jeff Shaw
  • Lauren Giles
  • Scott Meehleib
  • Otis the dog
  • Nick Schmalenberger
  • Rob Roy
  • Sheryl Schaffner
  • Ryan Massie
  • Blair Baldwin
  • Charles McLaughlin
  • Michelle Palmer
  • Charles Roberson
  • Jeff Tolentino
  • Eugene Eric Kim
  • Ryan Wold
  • Davis Bike Collective
  • Amelia Gray
  • Scott Lay
  • Aaron Christopher Cohen
  • Darach Miller
  • Jose D Lopez
  • Dina Biscotti and Siva Gunda
  • David Dickson
  • Sharon Zimmerman
  • Christine Hjelmfelt
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  • Diane C Murphey
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  • Robert Schanafelt
  • Chris Lambertus
  • Brian Fong
  • Davis Bike Collective
  • Paul Lanzi
  • Alex Darocy
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Thank you!