Reid Serozi is a project organizer of Triangle Wiki, an encyclopedia-style website about the Research Triangle region of North Carolina. In this interview, conducted by email, Serozi discusses what’s behind the project and how Triangle residents can contribute to it.
Q. What is the purpose of Triangle Wiki, and what is your role in it?
A. Triangle Wiki is a grassroots, open-source movement powered by LocalWiki software to provide a free, openly editable, community-centric website for local history, media, opinions, interesting characters and everything else about the Triangle region (Raleigh-Durham).
Triangle Wiki may seem old school as it provides a single place on the Web where local knowledge can be documented and preserved for the future. By no means does the Triangle Wiki Web platform feel old school with the powerful editing capabilities and beautiful editable maps that give a sense of place to each wiki page.
My involvement with Triangle Wiki started in 2011 as a project organizer when I pitched the idea to start a local wiki effort to group of talented Raleigh civic geeks. My responsibilities today are spread across contributing content, actively managing an online wiki community, developing marketing campaigns and planting new local wiki communities in the many different towns and universities within the Triangle region.
Q. What advice do you have for people who want to contribute as writers and editors?
A. Ask yourself what things, places or people do you value the most in your community. Those are potential wiki pages you might find yourself having the greatest knowledge of and desire to contribute toward.
Don’t worry about being formal, asking for permission or producing structured content at first. Visit the wiki and make a few edits on existing wiki pages to get your feet wet.
If a page doesn’t exist, then create one and add a photo or a few lines of content to get the page seeded. Share the page with friends and ask them to contribute what they know.
Don’t focus on high-level contributions like a page about Durham. Triangle Wiki is place to capture the many unique, hidden and wonderful things that make the Triangle what it is.
Q. On occasion, Wikipedia has faced criticism regarding its credibility and accuracy. How does Triangle Wiki ensure that it’s a reliable, trustworthy resource?
A. For starters, did I mention anyone can edit Triangle Wiki?
The criticism we hear the most about Wikipedia is the barriers to entry are too high and the contributors are not even from the local area. You will see Raleigh’s Pullen Park Wikipedia page being updated from people in Chicago.
Triangle Wiki is taking a different approach to making sure it’s a reliable resource, which means allowing content to be subject to a crowdsourced hyperlocal forum. The visitors and contributors are gonna be mainly people from the local community. These are your neighbors, public servants and the same people you stop along a greenway to ask for directions. This same audience is going to have a greater incentive to make sure information about their community is helpful for others.
Q. With the rise of social media, we live in an increasingly crowded world of online information. What is the future of the wiki format fit in that environment?
A. Today, local knowledge is easily shared by the minute within a community in the form of fragmented small digital bits for a short attention span audience. The majority of that local knowledge is shared globally across commercially driven digital media services.
The local wiki is noncommercial and built for the long term by local contributors who love their communities. The local wiki space will eventually fill a void for existing and future hyperlocal blog content.
Generally, hyperlocal blogs are geared toward niche audiences focused around a city, town or neighborhood district that tends to be operated by one or two local volunteers. The hyperlocal blog model is not always sustainable.
There is a tremendous amount of work that goes into a frequent published blog, and the authors eventually move on in life. What happens to those outstanding retired online resources? What if we could shift those publishers toward an open, local wiki model where the content and collaborative contributors will continue for life?