[CCing to list for possible discussion generation]
On Wed, Mar 29, 2006 at 05:25:33PM +0100, M.B.Gaved wrote:
A. Your Open Guide
1. How would you describe the Open Guide you work on to somebody who wanted to find
out about it?
The Oxford Guide is a city guide to Oxford that anyone can edit and
update, which hopefully gives it a more unbiased and refreshing look at
Oxford than all the many commercialised guides full of adverts and no
opinions. This does make it less complete but if you help contribute
you can make it better and more comprehensive!
2. Who is the anticipated audience for your Open
Guide? Who are your users right now?
Ideally all and sundry, from residents of Oxford to visitors at all
levels of technical familiarity, but at the moment most of our users
I suspect are the more technically oriented. It's difficult to know
how much use casual web surfers make of our guide, because although we
do have lots of Google juice and are high hits for lots of places in
Oxford, we don't get any feedback from most of these users.
3. What do you see as the purpose of the open guides?
(feel free to get philosophical!) e.g. how is it different from other wikis/city guides?
Partly already answered in question 1 I suppose. The main thing is that
an Open Guide is freely editable and reusable which gives people the
power to do cool things with the content and reuse it in ways we haven't
considered before. The fact that we store structed metadata also has a
large role to play in this - people use our RDF feeds as sources for
other bits and pieces. This is where OpenGuide wins over generic wikis.
Of course, lots of this isn't just down to the OpenGuides software
itself, but the fact that in general permissive Creative Commons
licences are used.
Aside from that, the fact that an Open Guide generally has no commercial
bias is appealing. It means that it is much more likely that reviews and
comments relating to an establishment are unbiased, although you do get
the occasional blatant self-promotion with faked-up reviews -- these
generally get moved off to one side by regular users/editors along with
semi-sarcastic comments to the effect that it's probably self-promotion.
4. Are there rules and regulations users must follow?
How about your admin team (e.g. how do you make decisions)?
Yes, we have rules on the scope of the guide to stop it being filled
with "off-topic" material that would belong better in a more general
resource, and we have guides to formatting names and so on that ensure a
Ultimately though we don't treat them as wholly prescriptive and the
emphasis is on contributing content, so we don't mind that much if
people get something wrong - the editors and admins of the guide are
there to tidy up stylistic points. The same goes for admin - the handful
of people who help me deal with page deletions and so on apply their own
B. Your role in the Open Guide
1. How did you come to be involved in the Open Guide?- can you tell us what you do?
I think the Oxford Guide was the first Open Guide to run with real data
and started out (for maybe a few hours) just being a pub guide before we
realised it should be more generic. At this time Kate Pugh was writing
OpenGuides in order to replace the generic Grubstreet wiki for London.
For a while I was just a user but I now maintain the software,
coordinating releases, doing bug triage, and bits of development with
the smallish team of active developers.
2. What was your goal when your Open Guide (or your
involvement in it) started? What are the current goals?
Originally we wanted to replicate an old pub guide that had been
maintained as static pages on the University's web space and which had
disappeared. This collection has now been resurrected indepedently but
having this initial collection meant that we had a good way to
kick-start the guide into life and provide it with a purpose. Nowadays
it is self-sufficient and has grown in to something much bigger than it
started out, with with over 700 pages of content. The current goal is to
become "comprehensive" in some sense. This may never happen, but it is
always something to work towards, and in the meantime, the guide
3. How long do you see yourself being involved in your
I guess when if I leave Oxford I'll play a smaller role but will
probably still run it and do some of the admin bits.
4. Have people used the Guide in any ways you
didn't expect? (and has 'vandalism' been a problem?)
It certainly wasn't expected that it would grow as much as it did, so in
a sense. Spam has been a major problem in the past 6 months; in
particular spammers have been targetting a flaw in the codebase which
allows HTML to be embedded in node names. Coupled with auto-creating
index nodes, this allows spammers to create large number of nodes
linking to spam.
I've solved this crudely with a moderation script, but this is probably
the major weakness in OpenGuides at the moment. Ivor has worked on a
spam-filtering plugin for CGI::Wiki which we should be able to integrate
to alleviate this problem.
C. Publicity and outreach
1. Do you publicise your Guide? How?
Not much active publicising at the moment really. I do like to drop in
relevant references to the guide whenever I can (eg when I'm
recommending a pub in a mailing list post :) and hopefully this
increases local mindshare. There has been discussion about getting
business cards printing and depositing them in venues, perhaps in a
"this venue featured in ..." context, but this hasn't quite happened
D. Future of the Guide
1. How successful do you think the project is? Which goals have been met? Which remain
I think the success of the project to date speaks for itself. It's grown
slowly but surely and I think it will continue to do so. There are many
many improvements to the software that will let it grow further and be
The goal of engaging with the non-technical user (if it ever existed) is
probably some way to being fulfilled; we probably need someone to
concentrate on the user interface issues in the software/templates.
2. How long do you see the project going on for?
I hope it goes on for a long time. It's three years old now and I don't
see it going away any time soon.
3. If someone told you they were planning to start an
Open Guide, what advice would you give them?
A fair amount of dedication is necessary to kickstart a guide. Be
prepared to spend time populating the guide with initial entries,
developing the local policies, visual appearance, introductory text,
categorisation policies, and licensing; these are all needed to
attract the casual contributor to the guide.
Once the guide looks like a guide that can be worked on rather than a
blank sheet of paper, encourage your tech-savvie local contacts to
contribute. The technical aspects of running the site aren't really the
important ones but taking responsibility for the quality of the content
is. You need to be a moderator and editor to some extent. Subscribing to
the RSS feed in your chosen feed reader is *highly* recommended. Spend a
few minutes each day viewing every edit and making sure it's neat and
complies with your local policies.
Dominic Hargreaves | http://www.larted.org.uk/~dom/
PGP key 5178E2A5 from the.earth.li (keyserver,web,email)