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The Longest Now

Arlington Wiki
Thursday September 15th 2005, 11:41 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Every city needs its own wiki; a single repository
for community information on its history, culture, landmarks and
ongoing events.  Arlington, for instance, needs its own
wiki.  The existing “Arlington Wiki” is dormant, part of a top-down Live from Arlington site.  On the other hand, the Arlington mailing list is active and the town is full of tech-savvy (and history-loving) people.

I brought up the idea tonight at the monthly meeting of a technical
advisory group.  I hope I didn’t offend anyone by suggesting that
a push-only website wasn’t the perfect model for an information
portal.  The “Citizen Needs” section of the seven-section Needs
Assessment the tech advisors carried out this past summer was voided,
rolled into the Town Website group… people decided that any citizen
needs would be covered by improved website design. 

Other citizen needs I can imagine :

  • the need for a place to post important citizen-to-citizen town announcements,
  • the need for a way to send public comments
    to the town (that others can see, add to, comment on) — this is being
    taken care of via the selection of a “customer response management:”
    tool (is that the acronym?),
  • the need for a collaborative, up-to-date city calendar
  • the need for better, more accessible archives of town data – property, legislative, judicial, executive
  • the need for public schedules and timelines
    for important ongoing tasks.  Example : the Arlington cemetery
    plots are expected to fill up in 10 years.  A number of
    representatives from the cemetery came to the Selectmen’s meeting on
    Monday to mention this, and point out that we should start thinking now
    about how to proceed in 5 years so we don’t run up against a real
    crunch.  This had apparently been brought up previosly, perhaps 5
    years ago, with no progress since… It is not enough
    to see a three-line summary of this request in the meeting minutes —
    there should be a timeline and suggestion-repository, updated whenever
    the relevant groups make progress towards the goal of finding a place
    to expand, which can be followed this year, next year, and for the
    coming decade… keeping track of each revision of any public documents
    and proposals involved.
  • the need for a good collaborative annotated map of the city — both at the present time and at key moments in history.  (For inspiration, see the Wikipedia project on geographical coordinates.)

Note that in each of these cases — as, indeed, in the case of the town
website itself — the services and information above could be provided
by third parties, asking for information independently and sharing it
with the world; not officially on government servers or part of a
government project.    But it makes a lot of sense for
the town government to directly provide,  facilitate, or cheerlead
such efforts, if for no other reason than that they are an important
part of a thriving community.  .

Arlington Wiki …

I will say, as a plug for this idea, that has been tremendously helpful for moving down there, although it’s fairly student-centered.

It seems like you need two things to make a townwiki successful: a good percentage of folks who are technically literate, AND a good percentage of folks who really care about/are interested in their town (not true everywhere: “mabel, let’s live here! it’s close to the freeway!”)

Living in urban areas, I can’t imagine what I did before Craig’s List… maybe in the future the local wiki will be essential.

Comment by p. 09.16.05 @ 2:15 pm

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