Tuesday, March 28, 2006

33 Wikis: #5 -- Davis Wiki

This is the fifth installment in "33 Wikis," a close look at best practices in wiki-based collaboration. Each day -- for 33 days -- we look at one wiki and briefly describe what the wiki is for, why we like it, and what we can all learn from it. If you want to nominate a wiki, please let us know. On day 34 we will post a public wiki featuring info on all nominees.

Thanks to Eastwick-client Ross Mayfield (CEO at Socialtext) for reminding us about this great wiki, which has a great recipe for the Wiki Waki Woo, the unofficial cocktail of wiki people.

What this wiki is for: "Davis Wiki" is a community site for Davis, California, the home of U.C. Davis, one of the top schools in the California university system. The organizers describe the wiki as an "interconnected community effort to explore, discuss and compile anything and everything about Davis — especially the little, enjoyable things."

Why we like it: There has been lots of talk about collaborative sites at the local community level, but the Davis folks actually appear to be doing it. And they've done such a good job building out the content that it is sometimes difficult to describe it without comparing it to other things. Citizen journalism, consumer information exchange, birds-of-a-feather discussion groups -- the "Davis Wiki" does all these things ... and more. Like other good wikis, it also has a super-simple users guide to drive use and adoption -- the two things that trip up so many wikis.

What we all can learn from it: The way this wiki blurs the lines between various categories should qualify this as an ongoing case study for various types of wiki watchers (e.g., newspapers, business directories, political organizers). But just as important are the numbers that this wiki openly provides around use and adoption. The user stats page -- which is often missing or buried on a wiki -- should be interesting to people who are trying to get big wiki projects going. If you were to take these numbers and build a graph -- where the y axis is number of edits, and where the x axis is the number of participants -- you'd get an expression resembling what the social network folks call a power-law distribution, where a small number of people are generating the most output. The lesson here would be what many of us in the wiki world already know -- that you need to identify people who both produce and can connect with lots of other people. [Suw Charman calls these people supernodes]. In the meantime, note that there are 122 people on "Davis Wiki" who have made more than 100 edits. How many wikis today can claim numbers like that? I expect we'll find out.

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