Future of WikiCU
OK, guys, help. I graduate in May. How do we take WikiCU forward? I'm perfectly happy to continue owning the site and keeping it on my server as this takes up very little time or money. However, once I graduate I'll have very little time or inclination to moderate the site or make any significant changes. And it's not just me. TTan recently observed that "the current cadre of editors are mainly former CUCom regs and almost all of them are alums," and most other users tend to make worthless contributions (inside jokes, irrelevant, self-promoting, etc). As TTan says, "we need fresh blood on WikiCU." So we either need a marketing strategy or I need to have over the reigns to someone else. Now, the university - which includes the student councils and all student groups - doesn't want anything to do with the site because they're afraid of being liable for any contributions. (Technically, under the DMCA, websites aren't responsible for user-submitted content, but the university is stubborn, hey what's new.) In light of this, I see the follow options:
- Continue as before. Hope and pray for new editors. Maybe apply a new skin/theme/style to make it look all swish.
- Transform the wiki into something more like a portal with a Columbia start page, blog feeds on the front page, weather, Spec headlines, votes, a forum, etc. CUCommmunity reborn. On the downside this would take a lot of effort - I certainly couldn't do it myself. And do people really want another version of what is ultimately a social networking website when they've already got Facebook? This option would become infinitely more attractive if Culpa and/or Cueats and/or BoredAtColumbia.net would join us in building a mega portal.
- Hand the site over to Spec. They'll still be around in 10 years, and in between hopefully lots of Speccies will work on improving the site. But they're hardly the most innovative bunch (remember all those efforts at making a splog). And because they're run by a big group of people, and new people every year, they might never get round to making any improvements. Also several contributors here really don't trust the Spec.
- Hand things over to another successful CU website. Bwog? Culpa? Would they even want anything to do with WikiCU? At least they've demonstrated the ability to create a good website, respond to student requests, and keep their respective sites running for several years.
- Give it to Wikia, the commercial arm of Wikipedia. They'll keep it running. But it'll have a ton of ads and Columbians will lose all control.
- Give it to some other student. But who? Plus this doesn't solve much because this student will also graduate like me, and isn't necessarily more reliable than me. I think Culpa does something like this - the site is owned by one person, but they designate one or two current students to run it on an everyday basis. Questions: what if this one person completely neglects the site? and how does this person choose current students to run it? surely it's better to hand WikiCU to an on-campus organization that will keep the site running for years to come even if it doesn't do a great job???
Please let me know your thoughts and ideas. − Reaganaut 04:08, 19 November 2007 (EST)
- If the site can remain on this server I see no need for most of the proposed fixes. What we really need are more people with an interest in the sort of material that's compiled here. Here are some ideas for that, specifically:
- Improve the site's Google rating. I'm not really sure how (maybe Google bomb stuff), but this has really low visibility on search engines, which hurts its relevance and ability to pull in contributors.
- Advertise. Flyering, appeals to Bwog, whatever.
- Reach out to alumni. They already contribute lots of stuff to the stories section of the alumni website, and have committed interests, like the Ultimate Frisbee team people. You could write to the alumni magazines (e.g. Columbia magazine or CCT) asking if they could run a story about the effort, which should pull in some disparate people.
- All I can think of for now. Anything else? Pacman 04:17, 19 November 2007 (EST)
- Unfortunate as it may be, the reality is that I'm not going to do all that! − Reaganaut 01:30, 2 December 2007 (EST)
- My two cents: adopt the culpa management scheme.
- Flyer on campus to recruit a 'staff' of editors (admins, really)
- At an interest meeting ask them to apply.
- Application should include ideas for leveraging the wiki, increasing usage, etc. Should also ask them to create an entry from scratch.
- I would really like to see some kind of development alliance between us, CULPA, and the new hungrycu.com guys.
- It's pretty clear that because of it's nature the wiki will draw less traffic. It might be a good idea to flesh out a few areas fully to show off. Housing would be the easiest- come up with a standard article format and bring the entire category up to snuff for buildings, really put together a solid lottery article, since that's something that first years will ALWAYS come looking for help on. Then we let the wiki do it's magic when they start clicking links to other articles...
- Aside: It's too bad that Robert McCaughey's class isn't around anymore. This would've been a great platform for his 'research project' assignments.
- -Absentminded 04:26, 19 November 2007 (EST)
- I think a similar version of McCaughey's Columbia course is being offered next semester. Adolph Lewisohn 02:00, 2 December 2007 (EST)
- I'm open to alliances, but I doubt any sort of small-scale alliance would lead to anything. − Reaganaut 01:30, 2 December 2007 (EST)
- First off. Make a prominent link on the main page to this. Right now, the only people who even know this discussion is going on are the aforementioned CUCom regs and other obsessive "Recent changes" checkers with no life. We need to put it out there that there's a serious discussion going on with respect to WikiCU's future. That being said, here are my observations:
- I concur with Absentminded. There is a fairly well-established trend of student-run websites that manage to survive several generations -- most notably CULPA and Bwog. However, that's because they either have a strong and regimented organisation (Bwog), or they serve a pressing need (CULPA). Since it is the very nature of Wikis that they are collaborative and each contributors contributes with respect to his or her free time and knowledge (and also since there's no need for strong organisation), I think the CULPA method is an interesting study.
- To add further credence to the CULPA method, I am a big fan of having a "core" team who can take ultimate responsibility and ownership for a site like WikiCU. For any community to exist (e.g. CUCommunity) there has to be base of regular users that know each other and work together on a regular basis. WikiCU cannot be Wikipedia because we simply don't have that critical mass of users (and even that being said, I will wager that the vast majority of Wiki edits are made by a relatively small base of editors, and the vast majority of Wiki users are readers).
- Absolutely do not give it to Spec. That organisation can't even maintain a consistent web front (it changed no less than 3 times in my four years here). Their upper ranks are full of overambitious zealots over-eager to add their own stamp to a something that isn't broke to begin with. And the point about Splogs is well-put -- they can't even keep that up. What worries me more is that they will close it off, either explicitly or implicitly. Explicit -- only allow Speccies to edit. Implicit -- brand it so that non-Speccies will feel unwelcome.
- Absolutely do not give it to Wikia. I can only imagine the mayhem that will be unleashed on this if non-Columbians are the editors. We might run into your asshole friend who insisted on reversing all your edits on the "University of North America" (remember that?)
- Absolutely don't try to turn it into CUCommunity reborn. Why? The more complicated this site is, the harder it will be to maintain and keep up-to-date. What ultimately killed CUCommunity wasn't just Valcarcel's constant declarations of war, etc., but because Adam couldn't keep up with the buginess and complaints and feature requests of an interface he wrote himself from scratch.
- What would be very useful is if you could provide some technical stats on WikiCU. Space needed, bandwidth requirements, monthly users, etc., etc., etc.
- If we do elect to go the CULPA route, now might be a good time to appoint some positions. You can be 'Owner'. Feinstein, myself, absentminded, Pacman and others who have made some substantive contributions can be 'Senior Editors'. A few that choose to volunteer their continued time and commitment as alums can be part of the 'Management Committee' or something. That way you can advertise that WikiCU is looking for Senior Editors and Management Committeepersons.
- Ttan 04:43, 19 November 2007 (EST)
- That all sounds very bureaucratic. Anyone can edit WikiCU already. What problems would this bureaucracy solve? If you want though, I'll let you be Chairman of the Management Committee. How does that sound, Chairman Tao? ;) − Reaganaut 01:30, 2 December 2007 (EST)
I'm with absentminded and ttan, a CULPA style management scheme would have the best shot at longevity. Attracting new, interested editors is pretty important to the continued life of the site. I can certainly stick around and keep an eye on things. Feinstein 16:36, 1 December 2007 (EST)
- We discussed very early about the prospects of turning this site over the Spec and I still believe now what I strongly suggested then: do not, under any circumstances, turn this user-driven independent website over to, as others have indicated, a group that cannot properly maintain a website in any form. The beauty of this website remains its independence and I would be extremely cautious before turning it over to anyone with a potential bias. My biggest concern, as it has been since day one, is watching my own work for a small, independent website get turned over to some large campus group that won't bother to acknowledge you or preserve what you've done. I will add a bit more later, but, quickly:
- There needs to be a stronger group of "core" users -- not a group of replacements, but a group to take over once some of us can no longer actively scan the wiki. I didn't even learn about this potential problem until reading about it on Bwog a few minutes ago. I've also been wrapped up in papers and exams and whatnot and haven't had all the time in the world to devote to this site like I did back in the spring and summer when it first went online.
- An on-campus meeting for anyone interested in joining wikicu, complete with free pizza, a facebook group, and no fewer than three blast emails. Actually, do not do any of this.
- The hosting situation. I understand we use dreamhost. Dreamhost is great for the first year, but then it demands a good amount of money. How are we doing in that area? Should we solicit donations ala wikipedia?
- Cost of hosting isn't an issue, but thanks. − Reaganaut 01:30, 2 December 2007 (EST)
- Subtle advertising in the form of links. I see sometimes people, and I'm not sure how closely they're involved with the site, post "for more information" kind of links to Bwog redirecting to this site. I remember a few months ago, some people doing the same over at collegeconfidential. It's not a bad idea, hoping that a few of those people could catch on make a number of edits on their own. Adolph Lewisohn 00:04, 2 December 2007 (EST)
- Generally the consensus is to continue as before. I'm more than happy to continue hosting indefinitely, but I doubt I'll pursue many of your thoughtful suggestions (flyers, staff, committee, and so on). Yet I still think there's got to be a way to reinvigorate the site and take it forward. It's already got a ton of fantastic content, but we still really need more readers, more editors, more community. I'm inclined to post class notes, study guides, etc. to start bringing in a lot more traffic. Anyway, I'll give some more thought to the various options over the next few weeks. − Reaganaut 01:30, 2 December 2007 (EST)
Just a note for your stats, if there were a way to include articles in the Class namespace in the NUMBEROFARTICLES metric, I suspect UMassWiki would be quite a bit farther up the graph as students have been writing essays and creating collaborative works such as class e-zines in the Class namespace since 2006. Looking at the page table,
SELECT * FROM `amherst_page` WHERE `page_namespace` = 100 AND `page_is_redirect` != 1 returns 590 records.
SELECT * FROM `amherst_page` WHERE `page_namespace` = 100 AND `page_is_redirect` != 1 AND `page_len` > 499 returns 527 records. That means (assuming I'm looking at the right table) there are 527 non-redirect articles in the UMassWiki Class namespace which are 500 bytes or larger. :)
You can see some of the work done by students for classes here, here and here. And hey, that might be an idea to boost your traffic and bring in new editors. I've gotten a few out of the scores of students that were forced to use the wiki for their homework. ;) --GMorehou 13:25, 7 January 2008 (EST)
PS, one other thing which might be pretty easy to do in order to improve your Google indexing is install a Sitemap script or extension, stick the appropriate link in robots.txt, and sign up for Google Sitemaps. I'm using a hack of a script I dug up on the web quite some time ago which generates a sitemap from the database and assigns various priorities and change frequencies to the namespaces I specify and it does indeed do great things. Not only have I seen new pages get indexed in just a couple hours, but Google no longer has to crawl through the entire site to find new and updated pages, so even orphans will get indexed. It's definitely worth the effort. I hear the other search engines are working to adopt the standard or have already done so. --GMorehou 13:48, 7 January 2008 (EST)
Are we ok? - Denzera
To Reaganaut and others - can we confirm that (A) the site's continued existence is safe for the foresesable future, and (B) the site's continued editorial / promotional efforts are being maintained by another generation? Want to make sure everything's ok for next year.
- I can confirm that the site will be around for as long as I can foresee into the future. Upon my forthcoming graduation, I intend to stop contributing and/or moderating, although I'll still be happy to appoint (and, if needed, remove) admins as per requests sent to email@example.com. Otherwise, the site will essentially be the territory of admins and users, much as it is now, except without me. In the event that I do ever take down the site, I'll give due warning and try to find a new owner. In the worst case, I'll at least make a site backup available for download until eventually someone sets the site up again. Hopefully this clarifies things. I'll post a similar message again on my user page next week after graduation. − Reaganaut 09:06, 12 May 2008 (EDT)