Sunday, August 13, 2006

Participatory Politics

I'd been working haphazardly on Wikia, trying to figure out what to do with the system. Wikipedia has become an invaluable tool, and I put together a set of articles on the upcoming elections in Washington State that I'm rather proud of. But it wasn't big enough, and I couldn't put my finger on what was missing.

The concept is participatory politics.

Wiki systems had been around for a few years before Mr. Wales started Wikipedia as an add-on to a similar but more closed project that he had been working on in 2000-2001. According to his description, they got more content posted in the first 2 weeks that Wikipedia was online than they had in the previous two years of the project. So he scrapped the original project, moved everything into Wikipedia, and let it roll. With 1.3 Million articles just in the English version, there's no stopping it now. As far as I can tell, this is the most comprehensive summary of human knowledge ever created. And the participation is amazing. As of today, nearly 2 million people have registered for an account, and you don't technically need an account to make edits. Hit Recent Changes, and you'll see that most of the people are logged in, but IP addresses are there as well. Wikipedia is a global community project to collect information about our culture. That's participation.

So, how do we translate that into the realm of politics? Pete Ashdown, the Democratic candidate for US Senate against Orin Hatch launched his wiki site on September 1st, 2005, and I launched in to help as soon as I found it in December.

Then I saw the Open Letter to the Blogosphere by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia and Wikia. July 4th, 2006. That's a date that will live in memory for a while. Again, I launched in, and there's no escaping now.

Campaigns Wikia is the beginning of something new. It's still small, but we're building a solid foundation. We want to pick up where Wikipedia leaves off when it comes to the discussion of issues and political candidates, and we want to focus our attention on finding a way to get people involved. Not just in campaigns, not just with candidates, but with the global community that exists already but isn't self-aware. It's that self-awareness that we're striving for.

Create an account, check out the Voter Guide and the Electoral Calendar. Do some research on something you see missing, and post it. dKosopedia is another place you can help. Issuepedia is along the same lines, but focused on Issues. More Perfect invites us to edit legislation, post ideas and even suggest changes to the US Constitution. MediaWiki, the software engine that drives these sites, is only one of many.

The blogosphere is up and running. What's next? The wikisphere.

Let's roll!

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