Two transplanted Davisites create a city-specific online encyclopedia
Ever wondered where the cleanest bathrooms in Sacramento are? Where to get the best cheap/vegan/Thai/Afghan/Czech food? Who makes the best cappuccino, and where to find the best dry cleaner? Or maybe you need to know if you can legally drink wine with your picnic in a nearby park.
Right now in Sacramento, you’d have to do the footwork yourself to get that information. But in Davis, all of that and more is available for a few mouse clicks at Daviswiki.org, a free Web site stuffed with user-generated content striving to cover everything, no matter how trivial, about Davis. Now, two Davis transplants want to bring something similar to Sacramento with a sister site, Sacwiki.org.
If you surf over to Sacwiki.org now, you’ll find information about the city; a few pages about local restaurants, bars and businesses; and a handful of determined people adding information and opinions. Most of those people are fans of Daviswiki.org and are familiar with its benefits.
Created in 2004 by two UC Davis math students, the Davis site survived trolls who vandalized it, eased its way through online arguments about how Davis history should be written and weathered other storms by helping users keep the site cordial and useful.
That’s what former Davisites Brian Gingold and Charles McLaughlin wanted for Sacramento when they launched Sacwiki.org. To become a useful resource, however, it needs more people to write about their favorite and least favorite businesses: The cafe that offers a twist of lemon with espresso or the place that always serves burnt coffee. Everything is fair game.
Right now, the site lacks diversity and depth, although visitors to Sacwiki.org have been enthusiastic. “To have people actually build content is more difficult,” Gingold said. Sacwiki.org is at a tipping point. It could quickly succeed as a reference, or it could remain mired in obscurity. “One of the most common misconceptions about starting a wiki is that you can throw a wiki up on the Web and expect it to grow simply out of inertia,” wrote Davis wiki co-founder Philip Neustrom on wikispot.org, which hosts both the Davis and Sacramento wikis.
Like other wikis—the best known being Wikipedia.org—Sacwiki.org is fueled by users who create pages and add information to existing pages arranged in broad categories, like “Food and Drink,” “The Region,” “Today’s Events,” “Music Scene” and “Art Scene.”
If information is incorrect or becomes outdated, users can and are encouraged to edit the page, and a degree in Web design is definitely not required.
When attending UC Davis, Gingold and McLaughlin used Daviswiki.org almost constantly to check the events calendar, use the Random Restaurant Generator, look up a dentist’s phone number or answer any number of the nagging questions about life in Davis. When they moved to Sacramento, however, that kind of information wasn’t collected in one place.
“Really, I was looking for a list of wireless hot spots and I realized Sacramento needed a wiki,” McLaughlin said.
Luckily Neustrom was working on free, open-source software for people to start wikis in their own communities. Chico, Santa Barbara and Walnut Creek also have started city wikis.
“What the wiki contains and means is up to you,” Neustrom wrote on Daviswiki.org. “As a general rule, you should contribute content you think will be helpful or insightful to others, but even this rule can be broken at times. Interesting things will stay, and bad contributions will pass with time. Never be afraid to try something new, to edit something, to make your voice heard. This is our place, our resource, our voice.”