It has been just over a year since the launch of the WikiTribune pilot, and we’ve learned a lot. Our goal is to stay in “pilot” for another 6 months to a year and then move to “beta”. These are subjective descriptions, but they are important as an indicator of how we are thinking about our progress so far.
Essentially what we have seen is that the quality from the community is extremely high – the quality of the dialogue between us all is high, and the quality of the output is high. We are making staffing changes to invest more in community by following two directions: (1) technology and community support; (2) changing the mix of journalists to more directly suit their role as supporters of the community.
One of the most challenging things has been to get the software and culture right to encourage participation. As longtime community members will remember, we launched with a very beautiful site that had all the signifiers to suggest that you could read but not participate. Orit Kopel led the redesign process to get to where we are now – with lots and lots of edit links everywhere – which has resulted in a great improvement in participation.
We are still working through the site and finding vestiges of the clearly wrong perception that the journalists are ‘above’ the community, supervising their work. This was never the intention and it is something we got wrong in the early design. Despite the best efforts of staff, the overall structure and design didn’t let the community genuinely flourish.
This past week, we made a major improvement (which has resulted in a big spike in logins and edits from community members) by allowing far more people to make the decision to click on “publish” when a story is ready. We encourage you to login and make an edit soon to see how much easier it is now.
Within the next couple of weeks we will be rolling out a new homepage that makes “pending edits” (those which have been made but not yet published) much more prominent, so that the community can actually find each other more efficiently to jump in and collaborate more effectively – the way a true wiki works.
As you may have heard, we’ve made some major personnel changes. We are looking to hire new journalists – our old staff was great, but we are now focusing much more on community support, and so we are looking for journalists with extensive wiki experience, and journalists with fact checking passion. Effectively, what we are doing is inverting completely how people normally think about communities and journalists – the community is not here to merely help the journalists. Rather the journalists will be here to work for the community.
We are excited to lead WikiTribune in a new way and welcome you all to join us.