Wiki what? Wiki who? Wiki why?

Carlos Virgen rounds up some thoughts on wiki use by news organizations, but I always get the feeling that most reporters and editors stop reading at the word “wikitorial,” freak out, and hide under the desks.

Still here?

Good. Carlos has a great idea about using a wiki as a “contextual archive” for related stories. (Matt Thompson might call them “topics.”)

Carlos says:

“So maybe calling it a wiki is the wrong thing to do. Maybe it would be more precise to call it a contextual archive of news stories. Although I think incorporation wiki conventions such as public input via comments and edits (after a reasonable registration to preclude trolls) should be a big part of this feature.”

I like the idea, but I’d like to reiterate my frequent pitch for using wiki software to build an evergreen “FAQ About [Your Town Here].”

It doesn’t even need to be a fully open to the public for editing endeavor — you could use one account for your entire news organization and let any staff edit it.

This is really a wiki in FAQ’s clothing.  This, my friends, is a gateway wiki.

It should be good for SEO if you do it right, it would drive traffic to your news site (because you would link to stories that helped answer the questions, yes?) and it could serve as trip-to-the-morgue-free reference material for reporters.

Looking for those notes on who was the district superintendent in 1981?  Would you rather search your news site (or a filing cabinet) or search your wiki that has links to the pages for the school district, the year, the superintendent, all superintendents, and links to the relevant stories if you really need them after all that?

Back in Santa Cruz, I always thought this would be perfect during tourist season.  Entries on parking, the Boardwalk, Umbrella Man, surf lessons, etc…  The questions locals constantly answer. Well, maybe I answered these more often than most as a bartender, but you get the point.

Then, how about a front page print tease on a regular basis with a fun “fact about town” to drive people to the FAQ and let them know it’s there?

This is low-hanging fruit if you ask me.  I recommend MediaWiki, which looks, feels, and acts like Wikipedia, making it familiar to readers and less complicated than I expected for editors.

[UPDATE: Derek Willis tweeted that he covered this ground and came to similar conclusions in 2005.]

[2nd UPDATE: Brad Flora of Windy Citizen and I ended up having a video chat this afternoon to talk out some ideas around this. Check it out below.]
Should local news sites use wikis? from Knight Pulse on Vimeo.

Placeblogger: More human than ever

Check out the redesigned Placeblogger a 2007 Knight News Challenge winner.

The aggregation-by-location niche seems to be blowing up lately, especially as startups try to hitch their maps to the iPhone’s wagon, but Placeblogger feels like real live humans are writing blog posts in real live places.  I like that.

via the Knight Foundation Blog.

See also: Build your own local news application using Outside.In’s API

Migration and alternate reads

I’ve been a little busy for the last week or so moving across the country, although going weeks between posts isn’t really anything new here, eh? As always, I’m posting to Twitter far more often than I could hope to blog here.

While I’m slammed with life and work busy-ness, please check out the following if you haven’t yet:

  • Sean Blanda’s Confessions of a journalism student: “The problems facing journalism schools are similar to those facing colleges overall: industries moving too quickly, lower barriers of entry into certain job markets, and the cost of education outpacing the reward.”
  • Shawn Smith on How to write Web headlines: “Be interesting, not mysterious! Interesting doesn’t mean making readers guess what a story is about. A web reader won’t often click into a story to figure out what your headline means.”
  • The Knight News Challenge runners-up: Including Matt Waite’s Louretta CMS for small-town news sites.
  • Hartnett introduces us to Backyard Post: “What I’d really like to leave you thinking about today is simply the foundation on which Backyard Post is built: Neighborhoods. Not cities, ZIP codes or some other vague, gigantic or similarly off-the-mark stab at reaching actual humans in the actual neighborhoods where they actually live.”

Our new washer and dryer will be here any minute, so I’ll leave it at that. Rumor has it our car is in New Jersey, so we’ve got that going for us. Moving is easy. Migration is hard.