What I learned from Rex Hammocks Wikipedia post

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What I learned from Rex Hammocks Wikipedia post

The future of journalism and the print media business is a big, open question. Go to any conference and youll hear experts presenting on web strategies how to build traffic, how to design sites, how to leverage your content. You might run into me out on the circuit talking about a content-sharing model of publishing that leverages Web 2.0 technologies.

Content is the big magilla, the constant, and the one thing that all of us in print media think were pretty expert at.

What Rexs post does is show us how an entirely different content ecosystem is alive and well on the web, most wholly articulated in the collaborative, non-profit environment of Wikipedia.

If you forget what you think you know about Wikipedia and study this entry, you’ll see a resource in which every fact is cited by a link to its source (gee, what I’d give for such citation in a typical AP story). You will see news writing that eschews narrative and anecdote for timeline and statistics.

The default mode of information organization and dissemination for a wiki contributor is to cite and link. Each fact links out to another fact, and the web of links is vetted, reduced or enhanced by the collaborative work of contributors. The activity is process-focused and entrenched, as Rex points out:

Because the Wikipedia (and Mediawiki) community of extension and template developers have been practicing their craft for so long, there are pre-existing tables and charts (and processes and practices for their usage) that as soon as the event occurred, a page appeared that is recognizable to those who have ever seen a page that chronicles a similar event.

What can we learn from this? Rex suggests that to become the nexus, story-telling may not be the key art; aggregating, summarizing and linking information in a cohesive narrative may be.

There is so much to learn from this entry on Wikipedia.

Most major news-oriented websites have spent years trying to replicate online what story-telling is in print or broadcast. Even blogs do that.

During that same time, Wikipedia has shown us a different way — perhaps one that points to a better way for the web.

One of the premises Ive advanced with our content teams is that they can provide a critical service to their audience by constantly vetting, filtering and pointing to good resources on the web. The idea is to open the focus up and out. Rex is making the point that telling a story our traditional way of composing print content doesnt necessarily lend itself to this aggregation approach.

Wikipedia is a default resource. Amare Stoudamire of the Suns references it as he talks about the work he did to be renamed as a captain of his team.

Stoudemire said his reading list included books about ancient Chinese commander Sun Tzu and becoming a general, as well as Wikipedia entries on leadership.

Are these skills we need to build into our organizations and our work processes, I wonder? Should we have a model where each member of our team are building link libraries that become part of the institutional knowledge of our organization. And do we focus and enrich our storytelling by leveraging these link libraries to connect to other sources of knowledge?

Can we best engage the consumer and build a bond of trust by curating as much as reporting and creating?

Just suggesting it to teams isnt enough. A new process needs to be built, a new mandate put into place and new skills taught and acquired.


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