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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.

Comments

Jennifer, I agree with your post in that it is sometimes helpful to look at others work to get a sense of what works and what doesn't. We also want only accurate and pertinent information. It would be of no use to our audience to overload them with unecessary and unorganized information.

I agree with the examination of other sites. We should all take an hour or two and simply search the web for good and bad sites. Then compile a list so that everyone else can get an idea of what makes a good site and what makes a bad site.

Reading your entry, I realized I don't know a lot about the logistics and primarily, the administration of participatory entities like wikis. How is information filtered and the quality of input controlled? I know Wikipedia has a staff that performs these functions. How about Metafilter? I'm asking because I assume that we will not continue to oversee our wiki after the class is done. Can filtering and quality control be done automatically?