This wikiguide was created by University of Illinois GSLIS students for the Champaign-Urbana Local Wiki, but it's good information for Bloomington-Normal too! 

This is a manual in the making for anyone or any group wanting to pitch in and help build the wiki.  The first contributions are from the first group of GSLIS students who joined in after the group that started the wiki.  Our themes are breakthroughs ... advice .... and powerful ideas.  The powerful ideas (in boxes) come from readings we did as we worked so there's a reference at the end of each box.

1. Assign this wiki
2.  Just do it!
3. Listen to local wiki editors and users
4. Set goals
5. Do what you like
6. Avoid wiki writers block
7. Just do it (really!)
8. Focus on outreach
9. Just do it (we mean this!)
10. Talk it out
11. Use the wiki
12. Set yourself some goals
13. You are a member of the community with which you are making a wiki
14. Suspend disbelief
15. Pair up!
16. Experience collective intelligence in action
17. Advice for those future yous
18. Creating the wiki is creating history
19. Go with the flow
20. Get in touch with your inner piranha
21. Make personal connections and do it for yourself
22. Reach out and teach out
23. Out of town wiki editors? Use the phone


1. Assign this wiki

Are you a teacher in McLean County?  Then create an assignment for your students that will get them creating B-N wiki content, doing outreach to tell others, or showing and teaching and helping other people do it.  Why?  Five reasons.

  1. Students write better when they write for each other and the rest of the world rather than for one reader, the teacher.
  2. They also learn a lot from talking with people and doing a little community organizing -- with whatever community.
  3. They really learn something when they have to teach it.
  4. BN Wiki has lots of room for growth and development and the community needs and wants this resource.
  5. The number one reason, though, is that they (and you and me) are caught in an information revolution.  This means (among other things) that we can crowdsource fabulous things.  Everyone gives a little and we all get a lot.  The best way to learn this is to practice it.  Help your class develop powerful computer literacy and be masters rather than peons in this digital age.

As a teacher, it was a breakthrough to assign something where I didn't know how it would turn out.  It was a success!  I'm happy to hear from teachers anywhere (K-20) on this.--katewill <at> illinois <dot> edu or leave me a note on my user page here:  katewill

Literacy, or computer literacy for that matter, isn't one simple thing.  Can you tell what number the next bus is?  Can you figure out the bus schedule?  Can you make sense of an academic article? Can you write one?  Can you read the Bible?  And can you write a sermon?  Can you understand rap music?  And can you spit rhymes?  Many literacies.  Some more powerful than others.  In different contexts.

     Powerful computer literacy is the ability to create content in cyberspace, to upload and not just download.  Stories, videos, databases, even software itself.  Don't be a garbage can anyone can throw anything in.  (You'll catch a virus.)  Practice computer literacy with an attitude.  Be an uploader not a downloader.  Talk back.  Push back!   Be heard.  Shape cyberspace.

     For more on this, see: Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick Finn.

2. Just do it!

The best advice I can give is to “just do it”. While thoughtful consideration should be given to organization and accessibility it shouldn't hold us back from adding content and contacting people. Our individual knowledge and skills are and will continue to be useful and we should certainly play to those skills. However, we also need to make sure that we're doing the work that may not come first nature to us: content and outreach.  A final piece of advice I can give is that a short page is better than no page at all. Stubs may be short but they offer a beginning place for others to edit. Think of them as an invitation to join in.

The number of non-GSLIS community members who are now contributing shows that the Wiki is taking root in the community. Our conversations with other community members show that there's a lot of interest and the word is quickly spreading from the people we've contacted to other people. I had a secret goal to see the number of Wiki users pass 100 before the end of the year and we're now well beyond that. We couldn't have done this without support and faith in the site.

Social capital is a term used for the people and resources that individuals have knowledge of and access to through a social network. Social capital can be broken down into two types: bonding (relationships within a group) and bridging (relationships linking groups with other groups). Social capital can be a powerful thing, especially when mobilized. The CUWiki is an example of both types of social capital. Users post information that they have as a member a particular network. That information is then either read by another member of that network (bonding) or it is read by someone outside that network (bridging). Either way, that information can be used by either group to accomplish things that they couldn't have without that knowledge. This can be as simple as learning about a new daycare provider near you or something more complex like learning that another group is looking for partnering organizations for a grant.

     To learn more, check out Abdul Akalimat and Kate Williams'  "Social Capital and Cyberpower in the African American Community: a Case Study of a Community Technology Center in the Dual City."

3. Listen to local wiki editors and users

If the Wiki is a part of a class, try to bring in visitors to class who are from BN and active wikians to discuss ways in which they have or may use the Wiki. This would provide context for the Wiki for students. It would also be helpful to have founding members of the BN Wiki visit the course to discuss what their vision of the Wiki was/is and how they think outreach should be completed, if at all.

A breakthrough for me was watching the numbers of pages go up by users who are not GSLIS students. This means that we made a dent in the mind of others about the Wiki. It was clear at the UC2B forum on December 1 that local community members and organizations were invested the idea of the Wiki. So many folks raised their hand to express interest or ask questions about the Wiki. It came late in the semester but early enough for me to be excited that the community is in fact interested in and may use it for personal or professional purposes.

Our class tried to split into subject-area groups and that did not work out. What may work is dividing students into teams such as outreach, tech and page creation/editing. This would provide students not only a direct, clear path to engage in the Wiki but also provide them with professional experience they may want to gain. 

4. Set goals

Breakthrough: I tasked myself with cleaning-up formatting issues on pages, as well as enhancing them through internal links and tags.  Developing a system to track the pages viewed and not viewed was a breakthrough for me because I spent weeks chasing my tail.  I used the “all pages” list to pull one letter a time and went through the copied links.  By pasting it in an Excel document, I was able to then pull the letters list again and check any new pages.  As a single editor, I was able to work on B, K, and parts of the Cs. 

Advice: My biggest piece of advice for any group taking on wiki work would be to be systematic and set goals.  A clear achievable task is helpful to stay motivated and feel successful.  I would strive to do things systematically, whether within your own work or within a group.

I found some useful pages from another local wiki, Triangle Wiki outlined specific approaches for instructors and class groups to take when approaching wiki. Another useful page I found at the Triangle Wiki was a list of ways for people to get involved in specific roles.  My favorite was the Wiki Gnomes, which describes the clean-up tasks and goals I worked on myself.  Another role I would add from my own work would be de-stubber.  The wiki could really use help with fleshing out pages started as stubs.  Some of them will get fleshed out as more people get involved with the wiki, but someone interested in investigation and exploration could have a field day with taking on random stubs and figuring out more about them.

Happy editing - K. Quick (kek)

Social Capital (Pt II):  From a network theory approach social capital is “resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed and/or mobilized in purposive action” (Lin, 1999, 35). Social capital allows individuals to connect to the collective assets of the community.  Social capital can allow communities to create and maintain an identity.Social capital works as a means for information to be moved within and between communities.  Two types of social capital are commonly discussed.  The first, bonding social capital, is connections within a group; these resources are often easily accessible.  The bonding social capital makes an entity part of the community and creates a densely knitted structure.  The second type, bridging social capital, is between groups. This is  a  useful external and additional resource.  Bridging social capital is useful for temporary needs and reaching out to external support.  Platforms like the CUwiki social capital allows social capital resources to move directly from individual to individual. As a community driven initiative, the CUwiki has the potential to create bonding social capital between members within the community.

      For more information about social capital check out Nan Lin's article "Building a network theory of social capital" from 1999.

5. Do what you like

Breakthrough: I had two breakthroughs regarding the CU Wiki. The first happened when we had Philip Neustrom in our class via teleconference. He said that it had taken the DavisWiki five years to really take off, and I realized that the idea that we would “launch” the website after one semester and expect it to be a success was kind of irrational. I felt a little inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

 My second breakthrough was when the number of CU Wiki registered users topped 60. There were only 15 students in the class, and before we arrived, there were approximately 12 CU Wiki registered users. Including Kate and Brian and another one or two, assuming they weren’t part of the original 12, that adds up to approximately 30 people. For the number of registered users to double, that meant that there were community members (possibly including significant others and family members, but possibly also including people we had reached out to) who were interested in the Wiki. Generating that kind of interest made me realize that while it might take five years for the Wiki to really take off, it is possible for it to generate interest and benefit users now.

Advice to future BN Wikians: Create pages about things you care about; it's likely that someone else will care too. Take pictures for as many pages as you can. Write down everything you do if you're doing this for a class; the wiki does not track a user's changes to the site. If time and schedules allow, working with a partner will help motivate you. Create a page, then email the person, organization, or business the page is about to let them know it exists and that they can edit it. Create pages in another language if you speak it, even if you are still just learning! Mostly, though, do what you like to do, because that's what a real user would be doing.

Advice to instructors: Have methods for evaluation planned out and clearly stated before the semester begins. Require a weekly update from students, even if it is just a paragraph listing the pages created or people contacted. Ask the students to write down what they do for fun and what is important to them, and instruct them to use that list when they need direction or focus. Groups are useful to encourage motivation, although not to focus work in specific areas of the wiki. It may be more useful to break out into groups after two weeks of working on the wiki, so students know where their interests lie and what they prefer working on. Have the students set goals for themselves every week. Require students to attend two or three local community events that interest them during the semester to get them involved and give them inspiration. Make it fun! Give students links to fun pages other wikis have created and ask them what inspires them and what they think would be fun.


Cyberpower is when community meets cyberspace and/or public computing, and those things change the community. That is the ultimate goal of the local wiki: to provide free information online that empowers the members of the community. Cyberpower is the underlying goal of everything the students of LIS518 did this semester. As of yet, we have not witnessed the CU Wiki affecting the community in this way, but there is evidence from other communities such as Davis and Denton that it can. The local wiki can provide a place to find things, from things that have been lost (including pets!) to a mailbox close by, from a concert to a doctor, from locally sourced groceries to transportation information. It might take five years or it might take one, but at some point, the CU Wiki will be the place Chambana residents (and future residents) go to find things.

6. Avoid Wiki Writer's Block

Advice: As a distance student, I found it helpful to add content to the wiki once I’d chosen a specific, manageable topic that interested me. Could I Google some key terms and get at least a few satisfactory hits? That’s all I really needed to get going. Choosing a narrow and specific topic kept things manageable and helped me to avoid wiki writer's block. 

Breakthrough: When I spoke to another person over the phone who was truly excited by the news of a local wiki, I could finally imagine the wiki taking flight. After our conversation, I realized how simple and effective it could be to pick up the phone and call people. Don’t be afraid to use the old-fashioned telephone! It might be the easiest way to reach out and touch someone. :)

Bond and Bridge, Baby! A wiki can take root and grow as we form bonds with each other and build bridges across organizations and networks. Bonding social capital involves forming “relationships within a group,” while bridging social capital involves “relationships that link a group with others.” Over the course of the semester, I saw both bonding and bridging at play. Some of the more obvious forms of bonding happened in the classroom among students and teachers, while the digital divide lecture series were an example of bridging social capital, as speakers across disciplines shared their expertise with us and learned about the wiki. Both types of relationships are crucial to building and sustaining the wiki, which in turn, should help to nourish and energize the community (i.e., actual - virtual - actual). 

     For more info, see Akalimat and Williams's chapter  "Social Capital and Cyberpower in the African American Community: A Case Study of a Community Technology Center in the Dual City" in the book Community Informatics: Shaping Computer-Mediated Social Relations

7. Just do it!

Breakthrough: My breakthrough of the semester was when I figured out how to get people to contribute content to the wiki.  When I asked people if I could create pages for them and added the content that they suggested, they learned about the wiki, but they did not edit the wiki themselves.  However, when I made stub pages for an organization and then told them about the wiki and invited them to add or edit information they were much more likely to log in and make contributions.  The main lesson I learned is if you want people to add information to the wiki, don’t add all the information they will likely want on the page yourself.

Advice for future  BN wikians:  Just do it.  It is easy to procrastinate when it comes to working on the wiki.  You may worry about being rejected, breaking the wiki, or writing the wrong thing.  However, once you start talking to people and working with the wiki, you’ll realize that most people are excited about the wiki and want to be involved and you’ll find that the wiki isn’t all that fragile or breakable.  Also, if you write the wrong thing, it’s easy to go back and fix it later, or someone else can change it if you don’t catch the mistake. Another aspect of “just do it” is that if there is something that needs to be done on the wiki, do it.  Don’t be afraid of experimenting or taking on a project whether it is adding pages, creating tutorials, editing pages for consistency, etc.  If you don’t do it, it might not get done, so everyone might as well chip in and leave their mark.

Advice for instructors:  My advice to instructors using the wiki in their course is to ask students to share their progress with the class whether through discussion board posts, class discussion, or some other way.  This can help inspire students to “just do it” rather than procrastinating and can help students to address problems they encounter as they work on the wiki or celebrate the successes they have. 

I also think it is important for instructors to have a clear goal in mind when they ask their students to be involved in the wiki.  There are a lot of directions that contributions can take from planning workshops, to creating pages, to editing, to designing pages, to outreach, etc.  All of these contributions are valuable, but some may be more closely aligned with the goals of one class than another.  I think students will get the most out of the work they do on the wiki if they understand why they are doing the work and how it relates to the class they are in.  Making the goals clear can also give students direction and focus since there are so many different kinds of contributions that can be made that the wiki could be overwhelming for students who aren’t very familiar with the overall project.  Along those lines, instructors should also make sure that their students understand the purpose of the wiki and that it is a community initiative, not a University initiative.  The more students know about the wiki and its background the more accurately they will be able to represent the project when they do outreach work.

Ramsey’s Bots. In Wikipedia Revolution, Lih explains Derek Ramsey’s contributions to Wikipedia.  As Ramsey explored Wikipedia he realized that many of the city pages that he wanted to contribute to did not exist yet, and he didn’t want to create an article that was a sentence or two and a bit of trivial knowledge.  He found that many other contributors felt the same way, so he created a “software robot” or bot that created articles about communities and inserted census data about the community into the article. 

     Ramsey’s bot quickly became controversial as users debated whether or not the pages that the bot created had a place in Wikipedia.  Many saw these pages as a valuable first step to inspire communities to contribute information.  Others wondered whether the content the bots were creating was useful or within the scope of Wikipedia since many articles had not been seen or edited by a human and would probably not be for quite a while; the articles consisted of demographic information without any history or human writing to put it into context; and the bots created articles about all communities regardless of size, and people questioned whether or not some of those communities were worthy of an article. 

     In the end, Ramsey’s bots created 33,832 articles, which caused Wikipedia to grow 60% in one week (Lih 104).  Many Wikipedians eventually saw this as a huge step forward that motivated new contributors to add content.

     Lih, A. (2009). Chapters 5 and 6 of The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia.


8. Focus on Outreach


As a long distance contributor it was difficult to feel a connection to the CU community. I remember feeling like I was going to contribute to a community website about a community which I knew practically nothing. This feeling, however, forced me to think of ways creative ways I could still contribute to the Wiki.


As a long distance contributor, one very important role you can take on is that of an outreach coordinator. You can organize a phone or email campaign to trigger contribution from the local community. 

In the article “Social Capital and Cyberopwer in the African American Community: A Case Study of a Community Technology Center in the Dual City” Abdul Alkalimat and Kate Williams write: “Building sustainable democratic equality in the information age means more than how many individual are online. The key is to stabilize and support people working with information technology in the form of social organizations rooted in the legitimate social capital of the community.” With this in mind, the more local people and organizations that you can encourage to contribute, the more the CU Wiki can serve its purpose to build sustainable democratic equality.

     This article is available in the book Community Informatics in China and the US: Theory and Research (2012).


9. Just Do It

The Wikipedia Revolution chapters had a big impact in how I approached the Wiki. I came to realize that anything that was occurring in the community was relevant, and to not be afraid of putting something up. From the reading I came to realize that I’m an inclusionist in terms of the kinds of information that should be added, with the stance of eventualism: If you know about it, start a page for it. Make a stub. You can edit it later—it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you start it and it’s incomplete it will eventually be edited, grown by another user, or be completed. Another big breakthrough came from LEEP week. We came up with the “Just Do It” mantra—just put it up, just make a phone call, just talk to someone: Just Do It. Finally, I experienced a breakthrough in the way I was interacting with the wiki. I was floundering in the music group and finally just decided to take on the ‘nethic’ that was discussed in the “Hacker Ethic” reading. Adding things that seem organic and authentic to me made me more passionate and less worried about putting up imperfect pages. I’m new to this community too, and so for me to add things that I’m both not familiar with and not using seems inorganic and against the grain of a wiki. 

Advice to new wikians: 

  • Don’t be afraid to start. Create a stub page, start making mistakes. Ruin the formatting of a page, and revert it all back. The beauty of wiki: mistakes can be edited. It never hurts to start.
  • Don’t be afraid to engage: whether that’s speaking to someone you’ve never spoken to, interacting with communities that you’ve never been to, or doing something you’ve never done—don’t’ be afraid to engage in Wiki. You have to lean into the process to get anything out of it.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore—see new things in your city. Click around your wiki and learn from others.
  • Don’t be afraid to push. Push back on community members who tell you it’s silly. Tell them another cool benefit of a wiki. If they’re still not receptive, cut your losses and move on, but give an initial big push to each person you talk to.
  • Don’t be afraid to change. Change your mind on how you’ve set up a page, change your outlook on the community you’re interacting with, change your location to find out more

Advice to Instructors: 

Create some sort of weekly check-in for wiki engagement. It would be good to know where each individual stands, and also allow them a brief space to reflect on what they’ve created each week. Provide the effort with structure, because creating a wiki is a fluid process—which is good—but is bad for tangibles and grading and remembering what you did and how you helped create something. Creation is a big process! Embed your students within a strong sub-community, because if they’re new to town it can be difficult to feel authoritative in providing community knowledge. 

Bit by Byte: In Anthony’s proceedings, she talks about the very beginnings of community informatics in her work place and how there was some resistance to breaking the normal bounds of librarianship and going into the community. An idea we discussed both in class and in the Bit by Byte reading is the idea of not approaching the wiki as a librarian, but approaching it as a person. If you’re engaging the community, make sure you’re doing it as a community member, not as an institution like a university or a library. If you approach the wiki with the mindset of a community member who thrives in the place for which you’re creating the wiki, someone with the same amount of social capital as others in the networks you're wiki-ing in, you’re much less likely to take a passive role and an institutional-centered view on what’s important and what’s silly for a wiki to have. 

     Anthony, C. (2009). Building community: Bit by byte. In Williams, K (ed). eChicago (proceedings book) (pp.99-108), Available at

10. Talk It Out

My biggest breakthrough for the wiki, sadly, came during the last discussion we had as a class. During this discussion it was revealed that other people also had felt pessimistic about the future of the wiki – I believe someone even used the term 'crash and burn.' My misgivings about the project caused me to not give it my fullest efforts, but other people seemed to have worked very hard and contributed a great deal despite their worries. Hearing them say that they had their doubts, but that they conquered them and ultimately had good experiences, made me realize that if I had voiced my doubts earlier, others with similar doubts could have helped me get over them. I held back in fear of seeming like a Debbie Downer or a non-team-player. I also realized in hind-sight that the instances in which I had shared my criticisms and doubts had probably helped people whether I realized it or not – either by getting them to analyze their efforts or further cementing their undying ardor for the project. So my breakthrough, in summation, was realizing that there was a place for a negative voice in the discussion, and that I should have contributed it instead of sitting off by myself and being grumpy about it.

My advice to future wikians is in a similar vein: to communicate. Communicate everything, even if it's negative. Don't just share your objective goals and accomplishments – have grand ideological discussions, and share your personal feelings about your experiences. Divulge everything you can. And keep track of the things you're communicating. It'll help you both as a student in a class and just generally as a wiki-builder, to keep track of your progress and really feel like part of the group, rather than one of thirty or so people all separately trying to a scale a mountain made of stub pages.

My advice to an instructor would be to encourage this discussion among students by quantifying it and providing structured, mandatory venues for it. Have regular discussions of progress as part of class, or make forum participation a requirement. Ask for students to report to you and other project directors on a regular basis, but also make sure they're talking to each other. Hopefully they'll do this on their own eventually, but I think it's best to play it safe and initiate it in an official setting.


In the essay “Community Informatics for Community Informatics: The 'Hope or Hype' Issue Revisited,” Bill Pitkin explores the 'inherent optimism' of community informatics and how noble, idealistic aspirations should be tempered with careful critiques and progress reports. Hope is a beautiful thing, and without it no community informatics project would ever get off the ground, but it's important as you go along in any project to assess the 'methodological, philosophical, and ideological' aspects and make sure what you're working on is the best fit for the problem and being implemented in the best way.

Complete citation for article mentioned: Pitkin, B. (2006). Community Informatics for Community Development: the “Hope or Hype” Issue Revisited. Pages 77-98 in Networked Neighborhoods, P Purcell, editor. Springer London.


11. Use the Wiki

One of the breakthroughs I had as a wiki editor was mastering the “as you go” method of page creation. If I went to a restaurant, a park, a church, a store, etc., when I got home, I would see if it had a page. If not, I would make one with the information I had just accumulated in my trip. It was often unplanned, and usually didn’t include an in-depth interview with anyone, but it was a very successful way to bump up page creation and contribution. More than once, I happened to take a picture of something  (my bike at a repair station, the foliage at a local park, a terribly designed bus stop) and realized that it would make a great picture for the wiki. I realized that planning outings had its use, but I really got more done by just making pages for places I had gone, or places I wanted to go. Obviously, it was a significant breakthrough, and I think one that is in the spirit of the wiki.

My best piece of advice to wiki editors would be to use the wiki. That may sound silly and obvious, but it’s important. If you need to know a business’s hours, come here instead of Googling their website. If we don’t have a page on it, make one. If we don’t have the hours listed, find them and add them. We want the wiki to be user-friendly, and the only way we can make sure it is user-friendly is to use it ourselves. If it doesn’t have the information you want, then that’s a problem we need to fix– and, more relevantly, that you need to fix.

What is Collective Intelligence?

The cuwiki utilizes the idea of “collective intelligence,” also called “universally distributed intelligence.” The idea behind this is that no one knows everything, everyone knows something, and, together, we know everything. Everyone has something unique and important to contribute. To pretend otherwise is to dehumanize someone in this day and age. Because intelligence is universally distributed, the more people contributing to a collection of knowledge, the deeper, richer, and more diverse the breadth of information will ultimately be. That is the idea behind our wiki– to harness everyone’s unique knowledge and perspective into a coherent collection of information that can be shared with everyone. That is why it is so important that we keep getting more editors and making more pages.

--“What is Collective Intelligence,” by Pierre Lévy, located in Community Informatics in China and the US: Theory and Research (2012)

-Caroline, ckionka

12. Set Yourself Some Goals

It took me a number of weeks and some exploration of this project but eventually I was able to come up with three goals to focus my efforts.  After outlining my objectives I felt much more confident in what I was doing.  Having specific goals helped me guide and assess my work much better.  My objectives were:

1.     Engagement - Promote content that would engage the user with real (non-virtual) communities

2.     Outreach – Establish other niches in the communities who would adopt the project and become invested contributors

3.     Structure – Create structure and supporting content around the pages I added as well as the project as a whole

Literacy comes in many forms.  Not only does literacy itself have many levels, but there are different types of literacy.   Most people primarily think of reading literacy but digital literacy is also becoming a more common discussion point.  With this in mind I came up with three levels of LocalWiki literacy:

  1. Learning what a LocalWiki is
  2. Understanding how to use it
  3. Recognizing how to use it in ways that are relevant to their life

Levels of Literacy:

Being literate is a statement with varying meaning.  The definition of what it means to be literate can vary significantly, from being able to vocalize written text to being able to critique lengthy articles.  For this reason Patrick Finn outlined what he sees as four distinct levels of literacy in his book Literacy With An Attitude.  They are:

1. Performative- ability to “sound out” words

2. Functional – ability to complete basic reading and writing tasks such as reading a newspaper or filling out a form.

3. Informational – ability to read and absorb knowledge

4. Powerful – ability to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize what is read; involves creativity and reason. 

Knowing what traits define each level of literacy can help you evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching methods as well as identify how to enhance literacy.  Once you can see these distinctions, you can apply similar principles to other areas as well. 


13. You Are a Member of the Community With Which You Are Making a Wiki

It may seem obvious that, as someone with a commitment to contributing positively to society, you are a valuable member of the community with which you are making a wiki. But not everyone is apt to believe that, especially not an outsider or newcomer who may with a fresh, valuable perspective on things. But unless you see yourself that way, unless you see yourself as a part engaging the whole, the wiki, in your hands, is only being created for the community, not by the community. Having grown up on pre-packaged information from sources limited in both scope and capacity, it takes a while to get used to the idea of an infinite source of information that you can infinitely manipulate. It is difficult to realize that you can engage with and collaboratively create the whole instead of merely trying to identify it and assimilate yourself to it or rebel against it. Information you previously believed to be unimportant because it was unreported, unrecorded, and might as well have not existed outside your own mind or your small world, given the resource of the Localwiki, can now become invaluable information for the people around you. Sharing information can be an act of investing yourself in the good of those with whom you share it. As Kate Williams says, “If one person in Champaign-Urbana is experiencing it, it should be on the wiki.” It is a lot of power and a lot of responsibility but if you do this right, you will not be alone.

"The visible and imaginable dynamic of expanding virtual universes"

“…collective intelligence is a universally distributed intelligence that is enhanced, coordinated, and mobilized in real time.” –Pierre Levy, pg 79 of Community Informatics in China and the U.S.

Levy goes on to distinguish collective intelligence from the intelligence of an ant colony, or to “totalitarian projects involving the subordination of individuals to transcendent and fetishistic communities.” Unlike ant colonies of these “totalitarian projects,” an intelligent community is constantly open to interpretation and reinterpretation and this negotiation is its “specific objective.” And though this sounds like a recipe for chaos, Levy assures us that within the context of “the visible and imaginable dynamic of expanding virtual universes,” this is not a possible way of life, but the best way of life. The CUWiki is our own, local section of “the visible and imaginable dynamic of expanding virtual universes.” Welcome home.


14. Suspend disbelief

The biggest breakthrough for me was having my disbelief that something like this could work quashed upon seeing the first few user edits.  Being able to learn new skills and pass them on was richly rewarding.  Realizing how the contributions produced through this project were examples of Levy’s Collective Intelligence theory was profound.  It is always rewarding to see a group of people with only a class syllabus in common pull together in a short amount of time and create something amazing. 


               As others have said “just do it” - choose a topic, start making pages, and get others to help.  Get involved in your community, attend civic meetings, organize outreach programs by talking with community members.  Talk about what the wiki can do for the community.  Have a plan – organizational and functional – but be willing to change, after all a wiki is an organic, living thing – it takes shape, it grows, it evolves. Use a variety of metrics to measure success and provide data.  Be detailed; avoid duplicating efforts and appearing unorganized.  Make time for the wiki; allow a few hours per week to insure continuity, growth and preservation.  Host workshops where the efforts of building the wiki can be explained, and where pop-up cybernavigators can help people create wiki pages.  My best advice though is to have fun!

Collective intelligence is the life-blood of community informatics.  It validates what each of us brings to the community informatics table that provides the bountiful feast that both nourishes the mind and replenishes the spirit.  

“My initial premise is based on the notion of a universally distributed intelligence. 

No one knows everything, everyone knows something, all knowledge resides in humanity.”

~ Pierre Lévy    

Community Informatics in China and the US: Theory and Research (2012)

 Collective intelligence is as important to the success of a culture as it is to an individual. Therefore as society evolves in the digital realm and becomes unfettered by boundaries, shaped into a McLuhanesque community, it becomes even more important to consider the needs of all citizens in this global environment. The inherent responsibility for those ahead to reach back and help those still behind becomes clear.

~ Mary

15. Pair Up!

Advice for future wikians:  A good way to work is in pairs, especially if some contributors are local and others are not.  The local contributor can do the outreach work in the community.  They can visit shops or offices and make the in-person or over-the-phone connection with the community that is so necessary for this, or any, local wiki to grow.  The distant contributor can act as "support staff," creating and editing the page for the business or organization.

It's also good to set up weekly meeting times - in person or virtually - so that you can stay accountable and support each other in the process.  Skype is a great tool for discussing things at a distance.  You can also use old-fashioned AIM, email, or, gasp, the telephone!  But the point is, keep in touch with your partner!

You can help make the wiki a community hub when you work together to add more information!  You won't always be in the same physical place, but you can get together virtually. 

On hubs and the "space of flows:"

"Second, the space of flows is made up of nodes and hubs.  These nodes and hubs structure the connections, and the key activities in a given locale or locales... Hubs are communication sites... that organize exchanges of all kinds, as they increasingly are interconnected and spatially related.  However, what characterizes the new role of these hubs and nodes is that they are dependent on the network, that their logic depends on their place in the network, and that they are sites to process signals that do not originate from any specific place but from engless recurrent interactions in the network.

-Manuel Castells, "Grassrooting the Space of Flows," in Community Informatics in Chinaand the US: Theory and Research.

- Karen, KWhyte

16. Collective Intelligence in Action

Advice For Future Classes Working on the Wiki

  • Rather than breaking up into groups along businesses, art, outreach, etc. lines, commit (either as individuals or group) to a specific project. For example, write a newspaper article about the wiki or create a video about how to edit the wiki.  

  • Don't worry about the grade. Do what you care about and do it how you think it should be done.

  • Work on a single page as a class. The wiki is a collaborative effort and nothing could be more collaborative than 20 people working on a single page. Great things will come out of this.

My Biggest Breakthrough Moment 

The genuine interest expressed at the Dec. 1st community meeting convinced me the CUWiki is sustainable. Before, all interactions I had were through direct conversation/correspondence and I sometimes felt that people's responses were mostly dictated by politeness rather than genuine interest. But to see people in a group react with the same interest was fantastic.

Collective intelligence and the Wiki

“Intelligence” and “Knowledge” have horrible reputations. The two reside in the ivory tower; they have the particular stench of experts; they are robed in expensive clothing; they lean all day on the years they could pay to learn. “Intelligence” and “Knowledge” pronounce their names so peculiarly so as to not even sound English to the masses and, unfortunately, they always announce themselves. But the two are being replaced by a pair with the same spelling but modest enough to remain lowercase.

This new 'intelligence' and this new 'knowledge' can be found in the LocalWiki. The LocalWiki values intelligence and knowledge in all its forms. The wiki celebrates the diversity of experiences, skills, and understandings in our community. On the wiki, the expertise of every individual has its place and its value. The formal organizations and the casual bar meet-up discussion groups, the expensive public sculpture and the graffiti, the funded archive and the personal collection, the city official and the lifelong resident, the newspaper and the citizen journalists, they are the community and they all have a place on the CUWiki.

For more on this: Pierre Levy “What is Collective Intelligence?”    


17. Advice for Those Future Yous

The message is nothing than a remark for things that are to pass. Whatever you are doing, it may be wrong, it may be right, but as time move forward, it will always be a learning experience, and that is what you build off of. Every step of the way is a stepping stone, and take pride in where you step.

Move with every confidence you have. It is how things change. It is how we can observe hope in movement.

Do not be constrained by the status quo or the work of your predecessors. As you were, they were once in a spot there they were faced with standards and constraints. Take those outrageous ideas and implement them. At worst they will suck, and you get to go back to the drawing board.

Be aware and active, and understand your peers. Whether they do good work or not, they have the same goal you do – the betterment of the community. Overcome your differences by working towards the same goals.

And no contribution is too small. A simple word on a blank page might grow into a tree of knowledge.

Don’t drown in numbers. The amount of content, the number of users, the number of pages is not telling of the stories. Uncover those stories and reasons that all this is important. Maybe those are your own stories. Or maybe they’re stories of your friends, family, significant others. Document them, create them, and let it become a part of history, a part of the glue that holds the community together.

It’s ok to be playful. Jest and laugh. Someone will find it one day, and appreciate it just as you have.

And break things. Please break things. Experiment and ruin things. Only by creating a broken mess can people fix it (or tell you to never do that again). That is how things improve (despite the hours complaining when things are broken).
     Finally, learn to let go. Some times things have a natural progression, and letting it go is the only way it will blossom.

            It is perhaps more so than being a consumer of information. It certainly has to do with being less of a downloader and start becoming an uploader as suggested by Patrick Finn in Literacy with an Attitude, but maybe the digital landscape has just as much an influence as an actual “Root Shock.” Perhaps “digital communities” are perceived as invasive and removing the emotional ecosystem in the physical reality (rather than being complementary to it).

It is perhaps more so than being a consumer of information. It certainly has to do with being less of a downloader and start becoming an uploader as suggested by Patrick Finn in Literacy with an Attitude, but maybe the digital landscape has just as much an influence as an actual “Root Shock.” Perhaps “digital communities” are perceived as invasive and removing the emotional ecosystem in the physical reality (rather than being complementary to it).

     Being sympathetic towards this attitude is important. They are not part of this culture, and may only begin to accept it when they have understood it to be a part of their community, rather than pulling it away. Some times the digital landscape may be rough and unfiltered, and people need to be able to see it as an ore yet to be polished, rather than a dangerous wild beast.

-For more on Root Shock see Root Shock by Mindy Fillilove


18. Creating the Wiki is Creating History


CI Lab Research Analyst Brian Zelip, who had done a similar hair project in Toledo, Ohio, helped me to get connected with a woman who found herself working inside of another salon once she had lost her own business. Although she missed her first appointment with me at the library, where I was going to show her the wiki page I made for her as well as help her create an email account, she has been in touch with me and plans to come again. Due to the rapport Brian built with the stylist, she had many good things to say about him and then trusted me. When I told her all that I could do for her at the library, she sounded very happy and relieved to be receiving technology assistance, saying, “This is exactly what I needed.” Every time I received a callback or reply email, set up an appointment with someone for cybernavigating or received any leads, like that of the music instructor in the basement of the high-rise or the stylist Brian knew, I considered it a breakthrough. 

Learning from Cyberorganizing: Advice for Future BN-Wikians and Instructors

Much of what I have learned while cybernavigating is also advice for future cuwikians and instructors:

·      Keep in mind that creating wiki pages is both documenting and creating history.

·      Digital divide issues—lack of technology skills, resources, and equipment—contribute to growing insecurities, which can then hinder use of the wiki and other technology.

·      Focus on being personable and get into “research mode” later when documenting the work. Building relationships may also make future work within communities easier to carry out.

·      Building rapport is very important to gaining social capital for both cybernavigators and the community members who interact with one another through the Champaign-Urbana wiki.

·      In building rapport, seek out other ways in which you may address various needs of community members.

·      Develop good techniques for finding your results. Members of communities such as Champaign and Urbana probably do not need more researchers grilling them and forcing their way into their everyday spaces. 

·      Celebrate even the smallest breakthroughs, knowing that they are stepping-stones to greatness. A cyberorganizer should be content knowing that she has done all she could do to make a difference in the community, even if the community did not seem quite receptive. Not having this attitude may cause a cyberorganizer to lose stamina and give up without giving the work time.

·      Be your own worst critic, taking the time to significantly analyze the work you are doing and noting imperfections.

·      Be a teacher as much as a learner, giving back to the communities who contribute to your research. 

“Community development, then, encompasses building various kinds of capital – not only financial, but also physical, intellectual, social, and political – to enhance how people live. I find this broad definition of community development preferable to more narrow perspectives because it encompasses social – as opposed to merely economic – aspects of life. Therefore, community development is more than just building physical structures or increasing economic opportunities; it also includes efforts to build local capacity, educate and organize community residents and increase their access to local policy making that affects their lives. Moreover, this broad definition is equally applicable in both rural and urban contexts” (78).[1]


Community development is about improving all aspects of human life. Many community organizers seem to get very caught up in the logistics (i.e. fact-finding and numbers) and forget about the people and true purpose of their efforts. Positive interactions result in increases in social capital, which is a major goal of the CU wiki. 


Pitkin, B. (2006). Community Informatics for Community Development: the “Hope or Hype” Issue Revisited. In P. Purcell (Ed.), Networked Neighborhoods (77-98). London: Springer.


19. Go With The Flow

Don't worry about making mistakes, or messing something up.  Just jump right in and give editing a try.  We're all part of the CU Wiki community, using our collective intelligence to help make each others' pages better.

If you're still nervous, click around the wiki.  Look at other people's pages and learn from them.  Then go learn by doing.

Far from merging individual intelligence into some indistinguishable magma, collective intelligence is a process of growth, differentiation, and the mutual revival of singularities.  The shifting image that emerges from such skills and projects, and from the relations among members in the knowledge space, constitutes, for a community, a new mode of identification, one that is open, dynamic, and positive.


Levy, Pierre. (1997). What is collective intelligence? (77-80) in Community Informatics in China and the US: Theory and Research.


20. Get In Touch with Your Inner Piranha

My advice is to embrace the piranha-effect approach -- which is to say, don't be overwhelmed by the concept of a local encyclopedia and think that you have to find all of the relevant knowledge that ever existed. Just get something started and trust that a feeding frenzy will ensue.

From an instructional standpoint, I highly recommend having students read Andrew Lih's book The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia (particularly chapter 5). 

Good advice for how to get started on the wiki:


“Very few articles start out as masterpieces in Wikipedia. In fact most start very humbly as one-line ‘stubs’ that may barely even qualify as coherent prose.” (p. 92)


“ ‘In French Wikipedia they came up with a fantastic phrase, they call it the piranha effect,’ says Jimmy Wales. ‘You start with a little tiny article and it’s not quite good enough so people are picking at it and sort of a feeding frenzy and articles grow.’ “ (p. 83)


from Andrew Lih’s book The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia

- Danielle

21. Make Personal Connections and Do it for Yourself 

The first piece of advice that I would give to future wikians would be to work with what they have and to not be afraid of reaching out to everyone they can and, by extension, asking those they reach out to if they know of anyone else that might be interested. I have found that almost everyone you ask will likely know someone else that you can talk to. This process – especially when done by word of mouth - was how I came upon the most interesting and useful information about the community.

The second piece of advice that I would give future wikians is to become a contributor to the wiki by first thinking about what you are passionate about and then about how you can relate and/or apply that passion to the wiki as a community resource. When I first started working on the wiki, I found the concept and purpose of the wiki, overall, interesting, but I was not contributing to pages that had any particular importance to me, personally. I feel that once I began working on pages like the LGBT pages on the wiki, which were important to me on a much more personal level, the quality of my work increased significantly because I was creating the pages for myself as well as for others.

On why contributing to and networking for local wikis is important: 


"The technology that makes virtual communities possible has the potential to bring enormous leverage to ordinary citizens at relatively little cost - intellectual leverage, social leverage, commerical leverage, and most important, political leverage. But the technology will not in itself fulfill that potential; this latent technical power must be used intelligently and deliberately by an informed population More people must learn about that leverage and learn how to use it while  we still have the freedom to do so if it is to live up to its potential." 


from The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Fronteir by Howard Rheingold

- Cat

22. Reach Out and Teach Out

My advice for any future wikian is to reach out to the community. When I first went into the field I immediately saw that there was a knowledge void among many of the local business owners as to what a wiki is and the benefits of it. This led to many teachable moments because I was empowering many people with useful information that they would be able to pass on. By reaching out I was able to teach out. 

My biggest breakthrough came when I completed the task of adding all the live links to the locations of all the bars in Champaign/Urbana on the front page of the "bars" page of the wiki. Providing users with this easy access to this information will benefit many residents and non residents who travel to the area throughout. This  is something I am very proud of because the work that myself and my classmates have done will live on virtually well past the time we leave UIUC.


"Literate Societies are described roughly the same way as civilized societies had been-as large, diverse, logical, scientific, technological, having a sense of history, regulated by impersonal laws and sacrificing solidarity somewhat in favor of individualism. It is a short step to conclude that literacy causes the characteristics attributed to literate societies" (Finn 121).

From Patrick Finn's book Literacy with an Attitude: Educating Working-Class Children in Their Own Self-Interest


23. Out of Town Wiki Editors? Use the Phone

The biggest challenge for me while working on the wiki was the distance since I attend U of I via distance. I felt that I was not really connected to what we were doing. I knew that adding pages and talking to community members was important, but I didn’t feel like I had any real stake in the project. Never having lived in Champaign-Urbana I struggled to really feel like I was in a position to add pages and make changes. I felt like an outsider. It wasn’t until I was walking around Green Street with Hilary talking to shop owners that I felt like I was really part of the project. Being able to talk face to face with people really made a huge difference. To keep the that contact while not on campus I had to use the phone.

For those of you not on campus it can be hard to stay connected. To keep connections alive don't settle for email only, give people a call. When working on the wiki from afar I though that even though we are off-campus, and we might not really know who we are calling or what exactly they do, call anyway. I think that talking to people is really helpful to get into the wiki work. Contact with community members is important. Give places a call, let them know about the wiki.

“While the space of flows has been produced by and around dominant activities and social groups, it can be penetrated by resistance, and diversified in it’s meaning. The grassroots of society do not cease to exist in the information age” -Manuel Castells (Space of Flows)