Mike & Philip at the Knight News Challenge award announcement at MIT, 2010-6-16

When we started the Davis Wiki, back in 2004, we had very few expectations. It began as a lighthearted experiment about putting neat information about our city online and sharing insider knowledge, and we built it in our free time as students while attending UCD. We were blown away by the response the wiki got, and we couldn't be more proud to be a part of what is now the best information resource in town and one of the most vibrant local websites on the planet. For that, we cannot thank you enough. The Davis Wiki of today captures not only the facts and figures about anything and everything in Davis, but also manages to convey the unique character of the town and its people.

You probably have a good sense of how popular Davis Wiki is, but we thought you might like to know some actual numbers about just how much people use it. On a given day, about 1 in 6 residents visits the site. Over the course of one week, nearly half of the residents. And over a month, we have found that just about every Davisite visits the wiki. That is a huge local audience, bigger than that of the area newspapers, local websites, TV and radio stations! The wiki has unquestionably earned its ambitious tag line, “The definitive resource for Davis, California.” But another number is even more incredible and illuminating: 1 in 7 residents actually contribute their own knowledge to the wiki. It is not a passive medium. What you have all helped to create here is a completely new model of local participation and civic engagement, unique in the world.

Over the years many people have reached out to us for help in creating something like the Davis Wiki in their own communities, and we have tried our best to help. The software we developed to run Davis Wiki has always been open-source and free for anyone to use, and in 2006 we created to provide free hosting to new community wikis. But none of these efforts, still done on a volunteer basis in our limited spare time, have resulted in anything close the success of the Davis Wiki. So we couldn't be more excited to share with you that, thanks to a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight News Challenge, we are starting an ambitious new project to bring collaborative local media to more communities: LocalWiki.

We have been dying to tell you about our plans for LocalWiki, and now that it has been officially announced as a Knight News Challenge winner, we finally can. The non-profit LocalWiki project consists of building a completely new kind of wiki software and establishing a set of “pilot” communities that will use our software and work closely with us to start and grow their wikis. We want to apply our experience with building the Davis Wiki to create the next generation of wiki software that is easy to use and addresses the specific needs of local communities, and we want to share our experience with creating useful content and fostering a sense of community with as many people as possible to help them build something as great as Davis Wiki.

The Knight Foundation grant is a huge opportunity that will allow us to work full-time on the software, which the grant will cover. But as we have seen with many other wiki projects, even the best software available doesn't by itself lead to the results we have seen with Davis Wiki. What we still need to give the LocalWiki project the best chance of succeeding, and what we need your help with, is to be able to show communities how to turn a brand new, empty wiki site, into a sustained and growing information resource that solves real community needs and is used by thousands. This means paying a community outreach coordinator to be available to communicate with the people working on local wiki projects, holding online and in-person workshops about how to build content and encourage collaboration, and compiling a vast knowledge base of tips, techniques, and best practices that everyone can eventually use to replicate the success of the Davis Wiki. This also means we need your financial support to make all of this a reality.

If you enjoy using the Davis Wiki and want to support the future of community-owned, community-maintained, noncommercial local media in Davis and beyond, please contribute today. We have even put together some great pledge benefits to sweeten the deal and help you show your support:

[[ksdonate]]Check out how awesome the LocalWiki pledge drive was!


We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we can't wait to get started. With your support behind us, we are certain we will succeed. Let's do this!


Mike and Philip

Unable to include /Pledges


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2010-06-17 17:41:31   It truly is a new way of enabling folks to work together with the people in the communities they reside. The non profit motive is also spectacular. If you build it, they will come. I find myself wanting wikis for other cities, if not for the information just to look around and hear what the locals from that area have to say. Localwiki seems to capture this nicely! It's going to be awesome to have powerful flexible software that enables people to connect on a local level to truly enact change from the ground up, or just provide cool knowledge... —StevenDaubert

2010-06-17 18:05:41   Rock! Good job Davis, and good job Mike and Philip! Is there a way to donate besides this site? —KenjiYamada

Right now the site is the best way to contribute — it's all-or-nothing fundraising. If you'd like to send a check, you can send it to the address listed on the Donate page. But we'd prefer kickstarter-based donations so we meet our goal. Note: The link was incorrect a few minutes ago. Fixed it now! —PhilipNeustrom

2010-06-17 20:32:47   This is truly phenomenal news! I am so very proud to have been a part of the experience and to have seen it's constant growth. The Wiki has become a vital part of the community and has informed, allowed communication to and has been a fun resource for all of the Davis community. —WesOne

2010-06-17 21:51:54   I've always said that every city needs a DavisWiki. —TimMonk

2010-06-17 22:22:42   I am proud to say that I was one of the earliest contributors to the wiki, doing a great deal of work on it starting in the '04-'05 school year. I LOVE the wiki and all it has given me, the college town I came to love so much, and the people of the town. THANK YOU, PHILIP AND MIKE! You've made a difference. —EliseKane

2010-06-18 08:55:01   How does the "LocalWiki" project/foundation/charity and whatever software is developed under that system complement and/or compete with the WikiSpot project/foundation/charity and the Sycamore software? —j-beda

LocalWiki is a project (and in the near future, the defining project) of Wiki Spot, and falls within Wiki Spot's mission of helping communities use wikis. The new software will eventually replace Sycamore for local communities, as Sycamore is showing its age and we can do so much better. We will make it very easy to port all the data over to the LocalWiki software. —MikeIvanov

Localwiki will be more relevant, and flexible, iirc... Daubert

2010-06-22 14:47:20   Congratulations from the RocWiki crowd! —PeterBoulay

2010-06-22 15:06:57   I do not wish to be a detractor. I'm very much for city wikis all over the world. I LOVE the DavisWiki. I won't leave the Net without it. But, in terms of success for other cities, I have some questions related to the idea that it isn't the software (other than wiki formatting does pose some obstacles)...

* I saw the DavisWiki emerge right after disappeared. It seemed like there was a need that the DavisWiki filled and gave it momentum starting out. I don't know if this is true or not, but that is what I perceived. At the time, I was looking for Davis411 and instead came across the DavisWiki. Do you see this as a factor as to how well DavisWiki started out? That there was an online desire for something like it before it even started?

* People want to go to a site and find stuff. They don't want to go to an under construction site or something where little to nothing is found. Have you looked at any stats on how much certain people have contributed to the DavisWiki site, especially when it got started? My thought is that a small group of individuals set out to include a ton of stuff on the DavisWiki about Davis that made it very useful to people checking out the site. This made the site useful and made people want to come back and also contribute. My thought is that you want a site that has all the basics like listings of businesses, schools, city, police, fire, parks, etc. All the details don't even have to be there, but when someone tries to look something up they at least get a returned page that fits their search. After that, then publicity publicity publicity. If people don't know about it then they will never check it out.

* Davis is a relatively small community with a lot of organizations, a lot of college peeps with computer skills, a lot of small businesses, a lot of events that go on, and a certain sense of community. Davis is actually one of those places that doesn't have to put up a sign saying "It's happening in Davis" because it already is (my relatives lived in Soledad, CA where they actually put up a sign that says, "It's happening in Soledad" and nothing is happening there like ever). The DavisWiki sort of highlights the fact that all sorts of stuff is happening in Davis all of the time. How much do you see the uniqueness of Davis as part of the success of the DavisWiki?

I'm not saying that local wikis can't be successful elsewhere. I'm just seeing how much you guys looked at the social aspect of a community as opposed to just offering a site with software.

New software: good People going to the site and finding information they are looking for: better People finding the site so useful that they want to contribute: priceless

Thanks for making a wonderful community site that I use all of the time. To me, it is better than Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Friendster (is that still up?) and phone books combined.

All the best with your new venture and continued DavisWiki success, RiotInDavis —RiotInDavis

You're exactly right about "People want to go to a site and find stuff. They don't want to go to an under construction site or something where little to nothing is found. " Which is why it's so important we help educate & work with the pilot communities so they "get it," so to speak. We definitely understood that element when starting the Davis Wiki and we know that, if we work closely with a few communities, we can help them understand it as well. And, along the way, document the growing process so other people in other places understand the right way to start something like this.

As far as the uniqueness of Davis, there's a bit to say there. The biggest element, that I think is worth noting briefly here, is the technical literacy and general well-educated-ness of Davisites. Because Davis is technically literate, it was a great place to start something as technically challenging (editing wiki formatting, very geeky at the time) as the wiki when we did so — 5 years ago. But since then a whole lot has changed. People everywhere are more familiar and comfortable with using the web on an everyday basis, and — here's the big part — non-technical web based collaboration is actually possible! People use stuff like Google Documents every day. We can make a new, modern local wiki with that level of ease of use — and we couldn't do something like that 5 years ago. So that technical element has been removed, for the most part. —PhilipNeustrom

2010-06-22 19:14:05   Funny coincidence! I work in Senator Steinberg's office (in Sacramento), and as part of our community outreach efforts we had recently been discussing working on bolstering the Sacwiki (which is an wikispot wiki). We felt it could be a huge resource for constituents, and we decided to start adding content and encouraging more people to use Sacwiki. We discussed the project as far back as a month or two ago, but only officially started working on it today, at which point we noticed the LocalWiki project.

I'll go check out the LocalWiki article now, but I'd love if there were more obvious ways for people like me to jump in and work together with others in other cities by sharing best practices, etc. —NaBarry

Stay tuned for this. Essentially this is exactly what we are trying to do with LocalWiki: create the place for local community wikis to share best practices and support one another. That's really awesome Senator Steinberg is getting interested in this, it proves that now is the right time to do this project. Please stay in touch and help us spread the word about this effort. —MikeIvanov

2010-06-22 22:34:54   I can help with some free/super cheap colo at the Omsoft NOC if that would help at all. Perhaps reducing costs in other areas would help. We have lots of unused upload bandwidth available on our fiber pipe to the Intertubes. Good luck with the projects and congrats on the award. —omrob

2010-06-23 12:42:08   I can't think of a more deserving recipient. Wikis are where it is at. We are all in this together after all and wikis reflect that. So, what is this:


on the front page and how can we help embed video. We've got a lot of it. —JeffShaw

Video will come with the first new software release :) The video we posted is a special case— it's just for our vimeo video. —PhilipNeustrom

I figured but thought I'd ask. You guys think of everything. Go localwiki! And bikes. Go bikes and wiki! —JeffShaw

2010-06-27 23:29:42   Daviswiki is one of the greatest site ever! It's an excellent resource for new comers, or old timers. The whole non-profit idea is just awesome - like other wiki, the goal is to inform. Great job! —LeeY

2010-09-13 14:56:34   Awesome. I'm beyond excited to see that this is going to happen. I look forward to seeing the results spread across the intertubes. Thank you so much for putting in the effort that has been/is/will be needed to make this a success. —ARWENNHOLD

2010-09-14 17:52:00   Thank you for starting the LocalWiki project! I came across LocalWiki while reading about the Knight Foundation, and it inspired me to create a Wiki Spot wiki for Denton, Texas (DentonWiki) and do some local outreach.

The potential of a local wiki in a place like Denton is extremely obvious—thanks for providing the support and inspiration for DentonWiki! —AndrewBroz

2010-09-28 14:56:54   Are we looking at days, weeks, months, or years till the first localwiki software release? —KrisBulman

  • Software development takes time, and lots of it. I guarantee that it won't be days or weeks. Months are possible, but over a year is likely. —MM
  • Our current timeline is to have a very rough alpha, suitable for new content-building and easily accessible for outside software developers, in 3 months (and at that point begin the pilot work). But Mason Murray is right - software development takes time. We haven't even gotten started on the meat of the project yet— but we start on Monday :) We'll be sending out an email with details (timeline, mailing lists, how to help) very soon. The process is a little confusing because Knight makes a big-deal announcement but work hasn't begun yet! —PhilipNeustrom
  • Thanks for clarifying guys and I did recently see the email, in the meantime I'll continue beefing up our community wiki & will watch for an alpha to test. —KrisBulman
  • any traces of an alpha out there to test, or new year updates? —KrisBulman

2011-01-07 08:09:05   very exciting. when we hosted the Computers and Writing Conference at UC Davis, I loved being able to point to the daviswiki. it was a tremendous example of what a local community can build through non-commercial collaboration. It's thrilling to see Mike and Phillip's work being supported by the Knight Foundation. —carl.whithaus