Monday, September 22, 2008

Why not Wikify?—Updated 1

It turns out there is at least one other voice crying in the wilderness: "Wikify, wikify!" (See my recent post entitled "Why not Wikify?"

Matt Thompson, who blogs personally at Snarkmarket, is currently on a one-year fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute of the University of Missouri, where he is working on a research project entitled "Wikipedia-ing the News." (via Fimoculous) From his original proposal:
To paint a broad picture: Imagine if the work of the hundreds of reporters dispatched daily to cover a city didn’t merely fade into an obscure archive, but added day after day to the work that came before it. An online news site in the era of Wikipedia would be a living archive, adaptable to suit any context, growing to encompass all aspects of life in a community. Entries would be deeply and meaningfully interlinked to other entries, elegantly situating every news event in multiple larger contexts. The “latest news” on the site could be a kind of changelog, reflecting new additions or edits in the system. The site would be a news commons atop which other narrative presentations of the news — stories, blogs, videos, games — could sit.
He said it better than I did, but a couple of my paragraphs offer seamless elaboration:
And then, dare I suggest, why not allow readers to edit the wiki as well, with the reporter who "owns" the issue keeping an eye on it to prevent abuse? It works at Wikipedia itself, why would it not work at a local newspaper wiki?

Once established, readers could add new topics, including pages on the history and amenities of the area, on elected and appointed local officials and legislators, on businesses and non-profit organizations, on schools and churches, on clubs, bands, rivers, mountains, parks and what-have-you. Every new news story might come with a series of wiki references to allow readers to explore the backgrounds of not only the issues but also the personalities, buildings and organizations involved.
See also Matt's "elevator pitch," or capsule summary of what he's talking about.

As Matt points out, this whole notion was suggested in the American Press Institute's February 2008 report, "NewspaperNext 2.0—Making the Leap Beyond 'Newspaper Companies'" (PDF, page 13). I had read their idea and should have mentioned it, but at least as described in their report, API's notion of a "localpedia" sounded more descriptive than dynamic. It did not incorporate the "living archive" aspect Matt and I have envisioned, in which the local wiki follows all ongoing news stories and the "latest news" becomes the equivalent of a "changelog," which reflects the stories most recent incremental changes.

Matt's cubicle neighbor at Reynolds is my friend Bill Densmore, who is there working on another project worthy of extended mention (soon!), the Information Valet Project. I'll be keeping tabs on both Matt's and Bill's progress with interest!

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