Frankly, a lot of us were puzzled as we sat in a 2011 meeting, listening to the instigator, Stan Pokras, tell us about a concept he called “information advocacy.”
It was a new idea to us. Stan was inviting us to volunteer, but we were barely acquiring any grasp of the concept.
I wound up getting more deeply involved than most of the others. Soon, Stan told me another name for his idea. A “neighborhood librarian” would be somebody who would refer neighborhood residents to sources of just about anything they needed. Stan also told me about “city wiki” sites. I then understood that if a neighborhood librarian is to have a full supply of information, it would help to have a home online. Finally, a tangible project emerged: Wikidelphia.
For 11 years now, Stan and I have slowly built Wikidelphia up to scale. We have thousands of pages on subjects from all over the city.
The entries are categorized using mostly verb phrases such as “Is-Social Service,” “Does-Youth Development” or “Teaches-Art.” The category system includes a geographical infrastructure, so to speak, under the “Where” category. I’m especially proud of this feature, because a lot of work went into it. There’s now a category page for every Philly neighborhood, and each page includes a map. It has links to adjoining neighborhoods, too, so you can go “neighborhood hopping.”
Another feature is brought to you by the category “Using-Volunteers.” Most entries under this category have a direct link to where you can inquire about or sign up to volunteer for a local organization. There are currently 321 such opportunities on Wikidelphia.
One thing that has surprised me is how many museums Philadelphia has. Stop for a moment and take a guess how many! … Ready? Under our category “Is-Museum,” we currently have 92. A few are outside the city, but wow, Philly has a lot of museums!
Something that I had to get used to was the fact that Wikidelphia doesn’t have a standard page format. Stan wanted to make pages his way, and I wanted to have an unchanging format. We compromised. Stan formats pages his way, I format them my way, and when we get more editors on board, they’ll be at liberty, too.
Let me tell you something I thoroughly enjoy: To find new subjects, I look through a long list of Philly news sources every week. Much to my delight, sometimes I find a useful story about a place that has barely opened yet. It’s that new! Sometimes I find a story about a place that is still being planned, or it’s under construction.
For example, I saw a story about the Museum of the American Revolution many months before it opened. I started a page about it. Over the following months, I found more stories and added them to the page. By the time the museum did open, I already had a full page about it, including the history of its opening as told by journalists in a list of stories. I love it when this happens.
I hope you’ll find Wikidelphia helpful enough to visit it regularly. If you’d like to suggest a new page, our Main Page has a prominent link for that. At the top of the Main Page, you can “Request account” and become a volunteer editor. Unlike at Wikipedia, we’ll train you personally.