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The first thing to do: set up a wiki

I remember hearing Zack Rosen of CivicSpace starting his talk about the team that put together the Katrina people finder by saying “one of the first things we did was set up a wiki” and it really struck a chord.

As an effort like Senator Obama – Please, No Telecom Immunity and Get FISA Right gets up and going, there’s a huge amount of information flying by in email (I think it peaked at well over 50 messages/hour), and new people constantly joining who need to get up to speed. Collecting information on a web site makes everybody more effective … and doing it on a wiki means that lots of people can contribute, not just me.

I had just started looking at Seattle-based Wetpaint* for another project, and it seemed like a good match for this: decent site templates, an easy-to-use editor, and the ability to put discussion threads on each page. So I figured it was worth trying.

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Tales from the Net

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“An experiment in community information gathering”

I thought the Clinton Attacks Obama wiki was a great idea the first time I heard about it, and it’s steadily grown since then.  Here’s the welcome message:

This is an experiment in community information gathering. My name is Baratunde Thurston. I’m a comedian, writer and social media junkie. As a contributor for Jack & Jill Politics, I’ve seen the strong black community reaction to what looks like a pattern of race-themed attacks against Obama by Bill, Hillary and other members of her campaign. As folks have questioned the number and validity of these incidents, I thought I’d put together a place to keep track of them.

Blog posts are not good places to keep a running list, and I’m too busy to do it all by myself, so like a multinational corporation, I’m outsourcing this bad boy.

Not only does opening it up to the community means that sources any one person would miss keep flowing in, it’s an excellent use of the automatic list generation features available on most wikis, too.  Seeing the list of race-themed attacks that are being flung around really highlights how extensive the pattern is.  Baratunde’s also the Jack of Jack and Jill Politics (blogging as Jack Turner), and his The Clintons, Black folks, and America — a Reckoning gives some great perspectives that don’t usually make it into mainstream coverage.

The wiki’s starting to get some press attention and this’ll probably steadily increase, no matter whether or not the attacks stop.   And deservedly so: the general technique is something that supporters of candidates from any party can use to surface repeated uses of code words or images as part of smear campaigns.   Swiftboating will be a lot harder this year …

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