The following letter inviting residents of Jackson Heights to share their knowledge of the neighborhood on the Jackson heights wiki was sent today.
Fellow Jackson Heights Residents,
This is a somewhat long message, so I’m going to summarize it here for those who’ve been awaiting this email and know what to do: wiki.JacksonHeights.nyc is now ready and waiting for you to share what you know about the neighborhood. (For reasons explained below, the Home page is not editable, all others are.)
The Somewhat Long Message.
The Jackson Heights wiki exists. It’s in the earliest of days – in biblical terms, a tad past separating the light from the dark. So far there’s not a whole lot to see, maybe 50 pages or so, some of which are stubs – starter pages needing polish and additional detail before they possess real meaning. To give a feel for what’s there now, I’ll describe two existing pages.
Holmes Airport – I’ve lived in JH for 38 years and had never heard of Holmes Airport until I did a Wikipedia search for Jackson Heights. I learned that Holmes took up almost a quarter of the neighborhood from 1929 to 1940, when LaGuardia Airport opened and ran it out of business. Beyond the page’s raw information, take a look at the Questions, Resources & Possibilities section where several article additions and an Augmented Reality project are described. The page is an example of how our past can be fodder for our future, or put another way, how to build a mountain out of a molehill. (Is your home on the same spot where Amelia Earhart christened the Goodyear blimp Resolute at Holmes in 1932 ?)
The wiki’s Home Page is here. As noted above, this is the only page that can not be edited by the general public. The existence of this solitary “no changes” page provides an opportunity to bring up the need for a formal governance process. For the wiki (I’ll talk about the JacksonHeights.nyc website below), we’re starting out using similar editorial policies and processes to those used on Wikipedia. But because its a neighborhood wiki and not an encyclopedia, we’re going to need to make some changes. There are a lot of sensitive questions about “appropriate content” that need to be answered. Our governance page looks at that and how we make decisions about the wiki policies.
Why The Wiki?
We began our effort with the belief that Jackson Heights is built upon the shoulders of those who preceded us. And we see the wiki as an information archive of where we’ve come from, what we’ve done, and what’s here now. As well, a neighborhood wiki should detail resources and stories on how things got and get done.
We hope to get all meaningful neighborhood information together in one place and arrange for permanent availability. And there’s no realistic way to do that other than through a massive neighborhood-wide collaboration using wiki software.
Wikipedia’s managed to get over 5 million pages in the English language encyclopedia. How many contributors do we need to capture the detail of our neighborhood is unknown. But there are 100,000 residents here to help with the task – plus former residents, visitors, and well wishers – and our wiki software is a most powerful tool.
What can you do today? Here are some suggestions, some easy some difficult.
Start a page for an organization you belong to, or improve an existing page about it. Got a memory about a store you loved that is no longer with us (Caffe Greco!), start a page. Write about your building and perhaps some famous past residents (but before writing about current residents, we need to have a conversation about privacy – see the Governance and Appropriate content pages). I recall hearing that former Assembly member Ivan Lafayette had a proposal for an improved local transportation system – if you know anything about it, create a wiki page for it. Are you Cuban, Thai, Indian, or Nepalese? Create a page about your culture’s arrival and impact on Jackson Heights.
Simpler is to copy and past a page from Wikipedia. There are lots. Take a look at the Fifth Avenue Bus Company page. This page was clipped from Wikipedia and posted as a new page on our wiki. It needs to be reorganized and refocused about its role here. Eventually the page might have local photos and remembrances of its impact on JH. It will be a slow build process. Every wiki page is a collaboration that will change over time. For now, just get something started.
Fixing up existing pages is also quite worthwhile (that’s what most Wikipedians (Wikipedia editors) do. Correct spelling, choose a better word, find a reference, update, reorganize, these are all necessary and worthwhile tasks.
If you’re ambitious, follow up on a theme. For example, I started with a copy and paste from Wikipedia of Travers Park. Next I created a page for Thomas Travers from that page and a bit of googling. Next I added pages for Rory Staunton Field and the Staunton Foundation. Added links to other parks, and have stopped “parking” for now.
If you’re not interested in pagemaking, perhaps the policy area is of interest. Take a look at the Governance process and Appropriate content pages. These require a good deal of help. They are key to the wiki’s success. If we get these areas right, there’s a good likelihood we’ll succeed.
Finally, if you’ve got an idea or a gripe, I’m reachable via the below.
Final, final. If none of this appeals to you, forward this to a friend who might be interested.
The wiki is part of the Jackson Heights Initiative. It was begun by Connecting.nyc Inc., a NYS nonprofit that emerged from a resolution passed from our local community board in 2001. Connecting.nyc applied for and received the city’s license to operate the JacksonHeights.nyc domain. Our goal is to get the wiki and related digital resources in operation, (e.g., the JacksonHeights.nyc website), and transition control to a locally controlled nonprofit within the next couple of years.
The JacksonHeights.nyc website is not ready for viewing yet, remaining in the unimproved state we received it in from the city. Our next message will focus on plans for it. Until then, share your knowledge on the wiki.
Director, Connecting.nyc Inc.
Interim Director, JacksonHeights.nyc
Jackson Hts., NYC