Stuart Blog 2: Cleveland Wiki

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Cleveland Wiki

I've been seeing more Cleveland events pop up on recently. I hope the Cleveland Wiki people take advantage of existing resources rather than compete with them. The difficulty in creating a community portal isn't technological. It's social. The crucial element is to get a critical mass of participants. I'm concerned that if this new effort isn't undertaken intelligently, it's most significant effect will be to suck critical attention from other fragile, nascent online community loci. Hopefully, the CleveWiki project will move in exactly the opposite direction. The opportunity exists to leverage the existence of a wide variety of new and exciting tools to create something that could be very useful for the city.

I don't think that the goal of the CleveWiki should be to become the source of all Cleveland content. It's most valuable purpose could be as an aggregator. I don't want to add all of my event data to Upcoming and then have to add it again to CleveWiki. Then add all of my restaurant reviews to DinnerBuzz and then have to add it again to CleveWiki. I want to be come to CleveWiki and search for public theater productions. When I've chosen my entertainment for the evening, I want to see it on a map presented alongside all nearby and highly rated Italian restaurants.

Fully implementing my ideal portal probably isn't possible right now. But the tools to do it are currently being built. The design philosophy of the CleveWiki project should be to be prepared. The critical component of this philosophy will be openess. Allow users to create restaurant reviews on their own websites and suck them in to CleveWiki. Allow users to post their event data where they want it - at Upcoming, on their own blog, etc... Then suck it in and mash it up with the restaurant reviews and present it all on a pretty map.

Here are some example "almost there" implementations:
Yahoo! demo, Alkemis Local, Mashupcoming, Microsoft Local Live and MashMap.

The CleveWiki does have a carefully planned and precisely articulated philosophy, right? I think that before they move ahead they should. Openess and cooperation should be the project's foundation. Once this has been established, they should make an exhaustive search of what's already being done to organize Cleveland related information. Find all of the people working independently and organize them. Consider all the different tools and choose the ones that will help these people the most. Rushing ahead without doing that is more than a waste. I fear that it may be very harmful.

Unfortunately, it's far beyond my technical abilities to suggest large steps towards my ideal community portal but I think I can offer several useful suggestions. I've decided to break that up into two additional posts: one devoted to a merchant database and another devoted to an events database and several other miscellaneous items.


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