The Metafilter model
How we will know we're successful? I think the best way to approach this is to examine other sites. I'll rely on my old favorite, Metafilter, for inspiration. Now, Metafilter isn't a wiki, and isn't specialized like our site will be, but it's a highly successful community site that draws hundreds of thousands of users. I think we can draw some lessons from the Metafilter model.
First, the navigation is clear, easy to find and simple to navigate. When the site requires participation, the authors have provided thorough, concise directions that guide EVERYONE through, not just those who are familiar with the internet. Second, there's quality control happening, which I think is applicable to our site, as well. Matt Haughey's (Metafilter creator) goal was to gather the "best of the web," and while not everyone agrees, Metafilter has interesting, intelligent content. It's a filter, which is an important concept for us. We don't want every single scrap of 35W information on our site; we want the most accurate and pertinent. I think it can be tempting with sites like this to make an encyclopedia, but I think we serve our audience best if we filter the information.
Metafilter's also successful because everyone has a voice. Now, this is difficult to police, but I think if our audience feels like they can contribute or participate somehow, they'll feel more engaged and more likely to return to the site. Whether this is through editing the wiki or uploading videos or providing additional research, I think audience participation is essential, especially with a topic like this. Disasters feel universal, and if we're especially gearing this to a UMN audience (as suggested in the Moodle), then the site will feel even MORE personal. A wiki, in its purest form (as I understand it), belongs to everyone.
We'll know we're successful when we have a clean, coherent, interesting and engaging product - not just by our standards, but by our visitors', as well. We have an organized task list and game plan - as long we stay focused, we'll have a successful site.