Davis, California, is home to one of the largest municipal-focused wikis in the world. As of November 2009, DavisWiki.org had over 14,945 pages, 11,134 registered editors, and averaged 10,000 unique visitors daily. Not bad for a town with a population of just 65,000 people. Michael Andersen, writing at the Nieman Journalism Lab, summarizes six lessons that helped them achieve this success:
- Wikis need content to breed content
- Business information is the holy grail
- A wiki’s strengths kick in after one year
- Start with a subculture, then build out to a general audience
- Keep your content open source, no matter what
- Don’t get hung up on mimicking Wikipedia
The entire article is worth reading and most of the lessons learned by the Davis Wiki can and should be applied to the UBC Wiki. The Davis Wiki started with its founders, Philip Neustrom and friends, creating 500 seed articles – snippets about things that only exist in Davis. They also hit the streets and did a lot of promotion – such as sticking flyers in the bathrooms at the local university (I particularly like this one). I think seeding and promotion are two things that the UBC Wiki can be focusing on more.
Ultimately, though, I think a lot of the success with the Davis Wiki is due not just to their ability to just attract users to their site but also to their ability to create a community. In describing how it wasn’t just the founders who were sticking flyers in bathrooms but also the users, Neustrom explains: People don’t do that for sites they think are neat. They do it for sites they own.