SignOn San Diego Adds Local Wikis

Some people in the user-generated content community are very Wiki-centric, but there really haven’t been local applications – until now. Our forward looking friends at The San Diego Union Tribune’s SignOn San Diego site have launched a local Wiki to fill out their AmplifiSD music site.

The AmplifiSD Wiki lets registered users contribute and edit local band info and bios and videos and MP3s and other information, such as discussions about the pros and cons of various music venues from the Casbah nightclub to the Verizon Amphitheater (just for the record, Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder and Jewel are all from San Diego).

In conversations with me and Newspapers and Technology, SignOn head Chris Jennewein noted that the AmplifiSD Wiki, which is mostly text-based, is “a way for readers to not just submit content, but define the categories of content. So it’s much more open-ended. My inclination is to make this as open as possible and see how readers use it. It could grow to encompass many areas of content.”

Indeed, there’s more to come. After the music Wiki is totally launched, Jennewein said SignOn is going to develop Wiki modules for community sites covering fast-growing North and East counties. That’s expected to happen within the next few months.

“As editors we can guess” what’s important to readers, “but with the Wiki technology, we’ll know what the community is truly interested in,” he told N&T. “In East County we may find that recreational activities are very important or people may write about the best places to fish, hike or run. We may find that local government becomes very important or that traffic is a hot-button issue.”

The technology underpinning SignOn’s Wikis is coming from MindTouch, a San Diego start-up developed by Steve Bjorg, a former Microsoft Advanced Tech Group exec. It is being run by Ken Liu, a longtime fixture in the San Diego tech community.

Liu envisions MindTouch as an enterprise-class publishing platform working with both large and small newspapers, online media (B2B), consumer (sports, kids) and topical sites (cats). For newspapers, topics to be deployed or in talks include global warming, pro football, kids sports, embedded with schools and people profiles, says Liu. “The killer app are going to be community Wikis.” Liu also envisions that MindTouch will get paid primarily based on page views. That way it is a win-win for its partners.

Liu acknowledges that when he brings up the idea of doing Wikis to newspaper people, they invariably mention The L.A. Times’ disastrous Wiki experiment in 2005, which resulted in profane, hate-filled contributions to its editorials. As far as I know, no newspaper has gone near a Wiki since.

“It was a very bad experiment that violated every rule,” says Liu. To prevent such abuse, MindTouch has a number of safeguards in place. For starters, no anonymous contributions are allowed. The Wikis also require multi-level permissions who can do what to what page, down to the page level visitors, new contributors, vetted contributor, admin rights, etc. There are also content/word filters that can be customized for each customer.

“The bottom line: Don’t open the flood gates and let it all hang out,” advises Liu. “Have a full set of control tools. You need to balance trade-offs to take advantage of power of people’s voice.”

Liu also makes a case for Wikis as an anchor, or host, for other Web 2.0 content, such as blogs/forums, photo catalogs, videos and e-newsletters. “Wikis allow in-depth, referential content that can be constantly updated and becomes evergreen. Our deployment of Wikis is the uber aggregator of practically all social media and editorial content, with the content to provide the full, rich context about a topic.”

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