Oakland Wiki: History, Infrastructure and More

Oakland Wiki is open for both ideological reasons and practical reasons. The wiki, ultimately, was created for three ideological reasons: 1). Oakland has been painted in racist portrayals of poverty and despair and violence through the years, and the wiki is an attempt at dedicating a more objective image of the city and it’s people; 2). Many groups with the Oakland community have been excluded from the traditional avenues of information sharing, and the Oakland Wiki is a democratizing way of sharing information with all groups within Oakland, and 3). The wiki is meant to create a collective history and identity of the city and it’s people.

From researching the community’s list serv, Oakland Wiki drew its inspiration from the SeattleWiki page, with member matt, saying on 9/12/2013:

“Neat idea, huh? http://seattlewiki.net/Why_SeattleWiki%3F

If you have ideas, just put them here ;) http://oaklandwiki.org/Why”

Everything from the city’s history, landmarks, public safety, police, news, businesses are important editorial elements within the wiki. Although Oakland Wiki tips its hat to Wikipedia entry of the city, it believes it’s lacking, as some information cannot be verified or meet the notability standards set forth on Wikipedia. These standards on Wikipedia hinder the collective memory of the city’s history from the perspective of individual groups within the community. They may not be able to be sourced, and by allowing for it, Oakland Wiki creates notable and relevant perspectives of Oakland’s culture, history, community, and diversity.

In addition, the collection of useful information doesn’t only start with people who reside in Oakland. Whether a volunteer had previously lived in Oakland, lived here for a short amount of time or merely passed by, it doesn’t matter because each and every person’s knowledge of the city helps build a more objective image of what Oakland has been and really is today.

The last blog post I submitted, I talked about wanting to get to know my community more. I also found it a little difficult to want to contribute to a project I’m not getting paid for, however, I really believe in these ideological reasons for the open source project. As a media studies major formerly, I understand media is largely bias. Once I learned more about Oakland Wiki, I found it more convincing to be apart of this community of people who want to dictate the real face and voice of Oakland.

Originally, the project was founded by a few folks involved with Sudo Room in downtown Oakland and others in what is now the Oakland "civic tech" community who had heard of LocalWiki and thought it would be a good idea for Oakland to have its own LocalWiki, according to Marina Kukso, a former contributor for Oakland Wiki turned full-time employee at LocalWiki.

After posting my questions on the discussion group list serv, I received back the following answer for the size of the community from Marina Kukso:

“It's hard to know how big the wiki community is. We currently have 309 registered users (http://oaklandwiki.org/tools/dashboard), but since people also edit anonymously, it's hard to say. In terms of regular contributors/volunteers, I would say maybe on the order of 10-20? Again, it's hard to say.”

Based on the dashboard, the registered users has been steadily growing each month, as are the editorial contributions.

As far as the product, Oakland Wiki is an instance of the LocalWiki software, a free and open source project that is working on bringing local wikis to communities all around the country.

Communications within the registered user community is through Google groups, but all the participation happens on the LocalWiki software, as far as creating pages and editing them. So far, it’s been pretty easy to get in touch with the community and receive a response back. I also am going to bi-weekly editathons to meet some of the other registered users volunteering for Oakland Wiki.

The only issue I came across so far is that only some the code apparently can be changed within the templates, however, there’s some admin access needed for univeral stylesheets.

“There are two ways you could contribute coding-wise.

  1. Beautify templates with HTML CSS. On each page you can also click into source view and edit the raw code. But I know that some of the styling is overidden by a default stylesheet when it's displayed. which brings me to point 2.
  2. Give you developer access and modify the underlying stylesheet so you can effect the site as a whole

Marina: who can give developer access?


Looking back at my first encounter on the Google group and the email I sent, I don’t think I would have changed the way I approached the community. Sure, I would’ve loved to have known more about it’s history and came off more intellectual and insightful about why I want to contribute from a ideological sense. But, it's been nothing but enthusiasm and acceptance thus far.

added Comments Thomas 11/6/2013 (see commit description)