This guest blog post is from a member of the Wikia Stars program, a group of Wikians selected for their leadership and dedication to their Wikia communities. Learn more about Stars here.
Wikia is a great way for people to come together to share information on the things they love. And what do we love? Apparently video games,TV shows and cooking (and encyclopedias)! Who doesn’t?
My involvement in Wikia, though, came when I was struggling with a massive amount of San Francisco’s homeless resources, in printed form, and trying to digitize it into my vision for a new resource website. But my vision was stuck in the old school web and database formats that had been around for 10 years. I thought I needed thousands of dollars for fancy web design and log-in portals, not to mention money for future development and ongoing maintenance.
But then I heard how Wikia was a new way for constructing a web site. Wikia provided simple tools so “non-programmers” could edit and maintain the site, plus the community was encouraged to be involved with maintaining it. The hard part (it sounds easy now) was figuring how to link Wikia Categories with types of Homeless Services. But once that was solved, SFHomeless.net (sfhomeless.wikia.com) became one of the first, if not the first, non-profit civic resource wikis in the world!
So what other kind of non-profit or public sector could benefit? If you’re thinking of bringing Wikia order to web chaos, maybe your calling is in environmental issues, education, employment, criminal justice, civil liberties, or medical issues? Or maybe you spent a long time learning how to care for a sick person, and now you have a vision for a medical wiki that deals not just with disease, but also with insurance, hospitals, alternative care, support groups, etc., all linked together in one Wikia site?
Civic, non-profit and public sector wikis can be used to organize countless resources, replace traditional FAQs, reinvent training materials (SFHomeless has training video links to YouTube), network with other resource websites, link to communities and events, understand government or corporate chains of command and bureaucracy, offer neighborhood- or location-based services, and on and on. It goes beyond traditional, static websites, and creates a type of community that is growth oriented.
Every sector and special interest of society could use a community of wikians organizing what is really community-owned resource information. That’s what it comes down to: people with a special need and experience organizing their knowledge, and then coming up with the best way of sharing it and improving it with others. Wikia give users a chance to help the world in significant ways with the power of collective experience, limited only by the ability to envision where there’s a need to improve!
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