Springtime's inch-thick coat of pollen has vanished from my car, the Cistern's grass is trampled with another year's graduates, and I can park, eat, and shop downtown freely and unfettered. That's right, y'all: The kids are gone, and the city's mine again!
But just because you're heading back home/working an offshore oil rig/following Panic for the next three months, that doesn't mean that you have to abandon Charleston entirely. At least consider leaving behind your extensive knowledge of the city for others to learn from. As of this spring, there's a perfect way to do just that.
Charleston, it seems, has a wiki.
What's a wiki, you ask? You've heard of Wikipedia, obviously. That's a kind of wiki, but hardly the only one — just one of the biggest. Think of a wiki as collaborative online site chock full of information, news, history, statistics, and other resources, to which anyone can contribute what they know, with the addition of links, pictures, audio, and video to further explain a topic. It's self-policing, and the contributors themselves are the editors — with a transparent and permanent history of every change, to keep everyone accountable and everything above-board.
Local tech professionals Brian Muller and Matthew Gregg started the Charleston Wiki Project (www.charlestonwiki.org) in the hopes that it "will provide a place for Charlestonians to start a body of knowledge about local places, people, and events."
The wiki boys make a great point about how this site can become an unbiased, candid, uncensored, and incredibly useful place to get the most current info on all things Charleston.
"It's primarily for Charlestonians," says Muller, who's part owner of a local tech company called Butterfat. "The goal is to build up a community of contributors who will add to this collective knowledge about the Lowcountry. All content is entirely contributed by users, and anyone can be a user. It's essentially a limitless blackboard that anyone can write on, adding knowledge about the world around them — specifically, Charleston. Other users can then refine that knowledge, fixing mistakes or adding content."
Eventually, with enough people contributing regularly, the site could be the most comprehensive resource on Charleston that exists in a single place. And not just for the "official" version of Charleston. Anything and everything in the city could have its own entry: downtown's worst flood-prone areas, Byron and his colleague the high-stepper, the cheapest area gas prices, regular vendors at the Farmers Market, Kwadjo Campbell's rap sheet, an overview of downtown parking spots, a comprehensive, current list of bookstores, coffeeshops, restaurants, and bars.
"The types of categories will be entirely shaped by the backgrounds and interests of the people who create articles," Muller explains. "I'm hoping there will be enough people from diverse backgrounds to create categories not just for the people with business or political goals, but rather for the users themselves."
The 100 or so entries that comprise Charleston's baby wiki at the moment include topics as diverse as Marion Square, Farrahman, CARTA, the CofC Cistern, and Kudu Coffee (where the idea for the Charleston Wiki Project was apparently born).
Checking out the site and adding or editing things is a snap. You just need to register to create a login name and password, and you can then add "wiki editor" to your resume.
Share your insider knowledge of our town with everyone else. But do me one favor — don't mention the metered parking spaces behind Vickery's. That's my place, y'all.