How do we collaborate and build on each others’ knowledge to create the most amazing Oakland Wiki ever? Although we have a Conflicting Oakland Wiki Philosophies page, best practices remain to be determined for a number of community issues:

  • How should we use tags?
  • How much should we copy from elsewhere?
  • How serious should we be?, etc.

The humble editor creating this page believes that Oakland Wiki is vast and contains multitudes, and it would be fantastic if we could hash those multitudes out in a nice entry like this one - not necessarily to arrive at a single understanding or agreement on a course of action, but to engage with the issues in long form.

If you have any questions on whether Oakland Wiki has a specific functionality, how to do something, etc., drop by the Oakland Wiki Help Desk.


Brevity || Tags || Pages about Living People || Creative Commons & Image Usage || Districts: Police vs. City Council || Keyword/Tag Ambiguity || Front Page CSS/Design || Resources Directory || Neighborhood Tags || City docs & © ||

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Writing Great Entries

What makes a great entry? Here are some pointers:

  • Links! Internal links to other entries on the wiki are one of the main ways that we create really great entries. A reader should be able to go from your entry to another entry to keep learning more. We encourage every entry to have at least one link to another entry. Find out how to add links to an entry.
  • Original text: The best articles move beyond copypasta to original perspectives, thoughts, anecdotes, and synthesized text from multiple sources.
  • Original images: While there are many lovely images on the internet (very few of which are public domain or CC-BY licensed and therefore usable on this wiki. Check our more info about our copyright policy.), great entries have images you’ve taken.
  • Maps: Add a map. Every entry can have a map. Although this may not be appropriate for every topic, maps provide a lot of additional information. Find out how to add a map to an entry.
  • Tags: Add tags! Tags are a great way to make pages more findable. Tags allow you to group entries based on the entry’s shared characteristics with other entries. Good ideas for tags include what kind of thing it is (ex: church, restaurant), where it is (ex: the specific neighborhood), and what topic it would fall into (ex: history, redevelopment, vegetarian-friendly). Find out how to add tags to an entry.
  • References/Sources/External Links/News: This makes the wiki big, fat, and robust. When information is well-sourced and provides a reader with a way to learn more, this improves the quality of our work.


Look how long this page has already gotten. Localwiki’s software does not allow for structured outlining or levels of disclosure, so to “take in” a page, someone (i.e. you and me) must sit there and read (or at least, skim) the damn thing. This is a fast-growing wiki, and past a certain point, all those words will start clobbering us, oppressing eyes and minds. Not suggesting omitting details – say as much as you ought; just that, for quality’s sake, succinctness has virtue. [Update: in lieu of over-sweating this, I added page navigation] Mike



How do we use them? What are they for? Localwiki has some instructions about tags. We have the beginning of a discussion about tags in the taxonomy page and on the history of this entry. Please move the discussion here:

Fig. 1: searching by tags (hypothetical, for now)

  • I’ve developed a sense of how tags should be used, but it’s less “personal preference” than what I’d imagine pretty much anyone concluding, were the theory similarly explained to them. Rather than recommend one approach, I’d prefer to show the advantages of various ones. In any case, Localwiki’s instructions are OK but a bit misleading, in that certain key details are glossed over: you’ll see them if you already know to look, but they won’t jump out from what’s there. I don’t blame the writer, though – it’s hard to avoid presumption when one is unaware of it. So you see why I might feel this ain’t gonna get resolved in a few lines! – Mike
  • Okay, I see the point of view to not tag if a tag only goes back to the page you are already on ... was thinking more of historic people such as Julia Morgan who has many pages on which she appears. From now on will attempt to follow the logic and only ‘tag’ historic folks with broad significance. ~ JL
  • I’m doing my best to go along with what seems to be consensus about (not) using proper names on pages, but in adding citations today, I’m finding it immensely helpful to have names tagged on East Bay Express pages like this. I’ve been toggling back and forth for an hour trying to add references to wiki pages. Just saying. -gk
  • Part of our tag “problem” (such as it is), seems to be that currently we really only have half a feature – we can add tags, but (for now) not really use them the way they’re best used (i.e., search on them and only them). I asked Phil about a search mode like this (see Fig. 1) and he replied, “oh, no worries – the regular searchbox searches bothtags and keywords.” B-but … they’re sort of opposite! At that point, I figured, better let it ride for now – long term, this will all work itself out; I’d just hope to save people wasted effort / frustration – since it’s usually the best folks who sweat the tiniest details. – Mike
    • Mike, that makes some sense- tags aren’t always the same as keywords (ie: if the person I’m looking for is a council member that i know lived at the camron-stanford house, but i can’t remember the house’s name, i don’t want a keyword, i want the council member’s name- is that what you mean?). i don’t even really understand how our search works- does boolean work? i just view tags as another way to search, and if it helps one person (ME, dammit!) can’t we be inclusive? but i’m not pushing it, i’m more than happy (and have been trying to) go with the flow.-gk
    • ok, so i’ve been eliminating tags that are self-referential on pages that i’m working on (ie: where the tag matches the title.) is that what we’re sorta agreeing on?


Pages about Living People (especially those we may have negative feelings about)

  • I’ve been “cleaning up” pages about OPD officers. I think it’s great we have these pages, and I think we need to tread really carefully. These are living human beings who deserve respect. Also, we have to be careful about oaklandwiki’s reputation and about CYA, legally. As much as possible, I’m trying to insert neutral language and references. Thoughts? -gk
    • Agree 100%. Maybe it’d be more interesting reading if I disagreed, but I mainly do history, yet still feel even long-dead people deserve evenhanded treatment (well, almost all of them, anyway!). So with the living, who might very well google themselves – best to be double careful. Make sure any allegations (especially of misconduct) are fully sourced, at the very least. It couldn’t hurt to write as though (to continue your OPD analogy) the officer were looking over your shoulder (heck, they probably are!). Opt for the high road. - Mike
  • I don’t go as far as Mike in that I don’t think that every accusation must be fully sourced. But I do agree that Bio Of living Person pages need to be moved closer to wikipedia standards, should be written (or rewritten) to use neutral language, and as much as reasonably possible things should be sourced. As for oaklandwiki’s reputation, in case you haven’t heard, OpenOakland and thus presumably OaklandWiki too are “the new radicals”. -- geekeasy
    • Muahahaha … You seem surprised. …? But seriously – maybe I should clarify – I mean sourcing less from an “authority” standpoint (a la wikipedia) as from a C.Y.A. standpoint. Most of us live in Oakland; the last thing we need is for OPD to start seeing us as a threat. So source, so you can say, “well, we didn’t make this up; we got it from here …” etc.
  • also, i forgot to mention one other thing that i have talked to mk30 about before: i think OW can be a great resource for LOTS of points of view, even if they’re not our own. if we adopt neutral language, we may be able to continue getting those pov’s. if we lean to one side or the other, we will alienate people. -gk
  • another note: this is not just about OPD- that’s just what’s “hot” right now. think city council, mayor, any public official. basically, anyone alive who may or may not want to be here. to put it all kumbaya-ey, they’re someone’s sister or brother or sister’s brother’s uncle’s cousin. plus, they might have a good lawyer.


Creative Commons and Image Usage

What’s Creative Commons? Can we use images here? Are all images okay, as long as they’re properly cited? Help! Discuss!

Hi everyone, the Copyright page should help go a lot of the way towards addressing these questions. Please feel free to add to it (especially if you have any more “common questions” that you think we should address). If you have any more questions about copyright or thoughts about how we can best inform our community about copyright issues, please add them here! - mk30
  • There are 6 different creative commons licenses. The most liberal of them allows commercial and non-commercial reuse, including editing, so long as the source is attributed. The most strict of them allows non-commercial use only in it’s original form (e.g. resizing is probably okay, but not cropping). So in general, there’s no problems whatsoever for us to use creative commons licenses with attribution. -- geekeasy
  • Thanks for starting this conversation! The wiki is licensed under the CC-BY 3.0 license, which means that everything we create here can be reused and modified by anyone as long as they credit the wiki. This also means that everything that we post should comply with the CC-BY license as once it’s posted here, readers will assume that it can be reused, modified, etc. We CAN quote content, but we should, if at all possible, steer clear of posting copyrighted images on the site. I have been meaning to create an entry for “Can I Use This Image?” or “What is CC-BY?” etc. Would love to discuss this more on the retreat. - mk30
    • clarification- as soon as we post something, it becomes CCBY? so if we steal (for lack of a better word) an image, it then become CCBY? if this is the case, i think we need to publicize this better- i think it’s a misunderstanding that we need to clear up. - greenkozi
      • Not quite. Any image published here retains its own license and copyright, it doesn’t change just because it’s posted. But if someone reading the wiki (which says at the bottom of every entry that everything on the wiki is CC-BY) uses an image thinking that it’s CC-BY when in reality it’s copyrighted to someone and NOT free for reuse, we could be getting into a lot of problems! Using copyrighted images also puts us at risk of being contacted by the person who actually owns the copyright to the image. Realistically, the biggest possible risk is that they ask us to take it down and the chance that anyone will even bother contacting us is very small. BUT, as we are discussing best practices, the real question is how do we do adequate education of our contributors to encourage them to use open access images? PS, if folks would find it helpful, I’d be happy to give a short intro to copyright, licensing, and what it means for the wiki during this weekend’s retreat. - mk30


Police Districts v City Council Districts

  • maybe this is a style guide issue, but i would like to propose that for tagging purposes we use “police district 5” and “district 5” for police district and city council district respectively. reasoning: police districts and strategies change all the time while city council districts require major charter changes to shift. thoughts? -gk
  • It would be really nice if the OPD would make our jobs easier by just using the same districts as the council. But lacking that, I think that when the vast majority of Oaklanders say “District 3” they refer to City Council District 3, so I’m just fine with the tagging standard you proposed. - geekeasy
  • Keep in mind that City Council District 3 is also OUSD District 3 (yes, the District has districts), and the boundaries are the same. E.g., Jumoke Hinton Hodge represents District 3 on the OUSD Board, just as Lynette Gibson McElhaney represents this District on the City Council. -- NAParish
  • If I may add another unfortunate problem with the word “district,” sometimes when people refer to districts they are referring to redevelopment districts. You can see them here. This is a historic designation as the Oakland Redevelopment Agency no long exists, but many sources from before 2012 will use this term. ALSO, Gene has ”planning districts” on his custom maps page. These are based on the Greenstreets planning districts, but it’s not clear to me whether these districts are still in use and if so, by which agencies, etc. Gene, any ideas? - mk30
    • if we want to talk even MORE confusing, we also use districts here to talk about things like “fruitvale district” and “dimond district”. as we start using “district” more, including the ones you’re talking about, i think we’ll just have to come up with some consistency. ugh. -gk


Keyword/Tag Ambiguity

  • HISTORIC”—on oakwiki, both signifies things which no longer exist, and indicates things of historical significance (which may or may not survive). Although Gene among others has tackled this discrepancy via tags like “past building”, a clear way to differentiate the two meanings is still needed.
  • LANDMARK”—similarly, can mean “something visible enough to be used for navigation” while also referring (or not) to a thing’s legal/social “protected” status (especially combined with the word “historic”). –Mike
  • we have a lot of pages tagged “historic.” I’m not quite sure what “historic” means, especially since we also have tags that are much more accurate/ specific: “historic building,” “historic business,” “historic person,” etc. I’d like to propose using those instead, and/or the history tag. thoughts? -gk
  • Thanks for starting this discussion. Gene’s earlier tagging made me think of this as well. I think we need a clearer way to indicate when something no longer exists. For example, “historic landmark” could refer to a landmark that’s notable because it’s historic, or it could refer to a landmark that used to be a landmark and no longer exists (how I was using it, but I recognized that it was not ideal). “Past building” is a good step, but I wonder if we can come up with other ideas to pick from a few. - mk30


Front Page CSS / Design

I’m not sure if this is the right place to discuss this, but there don’t seem to be any general discussion on layout pages.

The front page looks okay at full width, but then looks progressively worse as the browser width is reduced and the test spills out of the box with the image background. I considered trying to fix it myself, but I don’t have access to modify the css.

So the questions I have are:

  1. Who can edit the css?
  2. What changes (if any) should we make to the layout so it resizes properly?
  3. Should we move to a layout which is less reliant on css so that the entire community has the ability to work on the layout of the homepage?
  • On that 3rd question I’m leaning towards “no” as I think the homepage design should only change very infrequently, but feel like it should be asked and discussed. (P.S. I apologize if this has all been discussed before). -- geekeasy
  • I’d say “no” on #3. Reliance on CSS is a good thing for making a website more responsive. Also, I don’t know current status, but local wiki is working on a more responsive design, at least with regards to image sizes. — ??
  • I examined that very bit of code earlier today, and it’s not using CSS anyway (except for the white background behind the text) – the text is laid out via a table (ugh). –Mike
    • Mike, actually there’s a stylesheet which handles the formatting of that table: oakland.css -- geekeasy
      • You are correct – there is CSS; what I meant is, beyond supplying the white background mentioned above, the CSS is mostly just sitting there … meanwhile, the underlying HTML is hideous (though this may be due to limitations of the localwiki CMS). Setting the background-repeat: of the “#page .welcome td” selector from “no-repeat;” to “repeat-y” would, however, probably fix your problem (as I understand it; also, I too lack access) – Mike


Resources Directory

Kicking off the discussion about how best to approach the question of sharing directory information for resources/social services in Oakland. This is also on 2013 Planning Notes 2.

  • State of resource listings as of 3/31/13: In 2012 we imported a list of youth service organizations that was provided by the City. This can be found at the Youth Services Directory. It is unclear how old that directory is (unclear how many of the organizations still exist and how much of the contact info is up to date). The directory also takes a broad approach to categorizing “youth” services and includes things that are also related to families, etc. We only imported the names of organizations. The rest of the info is in this google doc. We also have access to spreadsheets of other directories (elder services, etc.) from the city via this dropbox (can everyone access this?),, and (the city’s “data portal”). In 2012 we also met with a staffer at the Oakland Dept of Human Services who loved the wiki, but wasn’t sure how we could collaborate with their dept (aside from them providing data). They are (understandably) very strapped, but if we come up with a creative collaboration that would involve minimal time and effort on their part, they would be enthusiastic. Finally, we’ve just started the Resources entry and we have a basic inventory of existing directories in the Directory of Directories entry.
  • Issues in developing a resource/social services directory:
    • Ensuring that informating is findable and relevant to the person who needs services (huge lists of pages tagged “youth sports” are too difficult to wade through).
      • Organizing things by neighborhood tags will help!
    • Ensuring that information is up to date.
    • Deciding whether we want to encourage certain minimal information for resource listings or whether we should just let them develop like all other entries. The Youth Services Directory uses a huge table for every entry (see the example on the entry for A Better Way), but this is only because we received so much information from the city. Huge tables like this are probably not the way to go. I prefer to let the entries develop naturally - people tend to include addresses and phone numbers.
    • How to avoid manual data entry & avoid duplicating information on websites? This may be unavoidable.
    • Organization
      • Feel strongly that letting people have very free reign with tags will increase findability. Some duplication/overlap is okay and is probably helpful to increase the chance that people will find the entry.
  • Areas of opportunity:
    • We have the opportunity to contact organizations to let them know about their entry and encourage them to update their entry (we can also offer trainings, etc.)


Neighborhood Tags/Classifications

  • We have a neighborhood page that is based on this map (paste into the search bar on google maps), unless I’m mistaken. For the sake of clarity, I’ve been tagging things based on these neighborhoods. I search an address, see which neighborhood it pops up in, or if it’s on the border, which neighborhoods, and tag accordingly. Thoughts? -gk
  • That page also has districts that each neighborhood corresponds to, but they may not be the districts we are used to calling things. For example, “Chinatown and Central” is a district, as is “Central East Oakland.” Tagging gets a little more complicated when we start using districts. I think tagging things by district is a little more complicated as we may be tagging by “feel” rather than by district. Not sure this is bad, just that it’s not necessarily “accurate.” -gk
  • If a page has a map then there will (eventually) be the ability to include a list of pages that are /inside/ another geographic area, similar to how we include the list of tagged pages. So it will not be strictly necessary to tag all pages contained in a neighborhood with that tag, but it could possibly be helpful for other purposes. --philip

Thoughts on Copyright for City Material

  • didn’t want to add this to the copyright page because i’m not an expert and wanted to discuss first, but i found this on wikimedia: “In the state of California the California Appeals Court (with statewide jurisdiction) in County of Santa Clara v. California First Amendment Coalition has ruled that the government may not claim copyright on public records.[5] The California Public Records Act states that agencies with custody of “public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours” [6][7]I understand this to mean that all of Oakland’s public records are in the public domain. Sorry it took me so long to find this! -gk
  • Mystery solved. please see the copyright page.

Edit title above; add new material here!


Thoughts on structure of dates in page titles

Example: "Feb 10 2013 Safe Oakland Speaker Series: Robert Wasserman" or "2013-02-10 Safe Oakland Speaker Series: Robert Wasserman." (A better example would be one that has the full month in the title)

  • Pros of first way: easily searchable on OW for those who know the month that an event occurred. Ex: I know that I attended a Safe Oakland event in February but don't know which. I search by "February." If I understand right, OW's search works by title and then tag, so it would be important to have "February" in the title as I'm unlikely to search for 2013-02, even as a pretty advanced searcher. Pros of the second way: I believe it's better for search engines. (Someone else chime in here!) -gk
  • A few thoughts: I just ran some tests, searching separate entries for a unique word (“grommet”) in the title, body, and tag, but also a backup unique word (“woid”) in the body of all 3 tests. Searching on “woid” appears to return hits by their articles’ creation order (!), while searching on “grommet” returns 1) the tagged version, 2) the title, and 3) the body version. Somewhere, I thought we had (or used to have!) a YYYY-MM-DD date best practice, for anytime chunks of info may need unambiguous sorting (i.e. chronological lists within articles, or when dealing, as I often am, with the “All Pages” page). Annual or Monthly repeating events do not necessary call for such a format, but one-time events (like the above example) definitely do. OW may only have ~3.5K articles today (2013-06-08) – but in time may be expected to have 5K–10K or even more, and we’ll be glad we took steps early to make things easy on ourselves. Trust that there is considerably more method to my (apparent) madness; however, further elucidation may have to be offline for the time being, and in any case I’ve only identified roughly a dozen articles currently subject to benefiting from being renamed anyway. -Mike
    • 2 questions: 1. renaming these isn't for SEO, it's for our ease?
    • can someone who knows how localwiki works clarify the searching for sure? Mike did this awesomesauce test, but I do remember someoen saying that the order was title - tag - content and that boolean didn't work... -gk
      • Oh! Oh! [jams hand in air] Pick me! I can actually answer!! 1) SEO is a Phil thing. My (Mike’s) only concern within the wiki, believe it or not, is human dealings; 2) Unless it works differently each time, I thought I just established that search order goes tag-title-content. And unless there was a major upgrade in OW’s backend while I was away, booleans still don’t work (though, to be fair, by now, they hardly need to: you've all managed enough creative workarounds that most times it seems no great loss … though it would be nice … sigh). -M
    • Here's an example from davis -  Searching-wise, I wouldn't optimize around that -- if search isn't working right we can always fix it to work the way people expect it to.  I would probably lean toward using human-readable page titles.  For instance, with Safe Oakland in February I'd expect to search for "safe oakland," and find a page called "safe oakland" that has links to the various safe oakland events over the past year rather than expecting to be able to directly search for "safe oakland feburary," which is much harder to dig up automatically -- as you say, it could be named 'february', '2013-2', etc.  I don't think there's much external (e.g. google) SEO different between the various date formats.  --philip
      • huh, maybe i made it up that the localwiki software searched a different way. i could probably verbalize this better than i'm writing this, but what i'm going for is that when i (or a user) knows something happened in february, it's nice to have february in the title both for a)ease of search, though maybe i've gotten that wrong and b) ease of use. i might not know what the thing i'm looking for is called, but if i know it occurred on groundhog's day, i'm going to search "february" and look for "february" in the title. that make any sense? :) -gk
      • ex: i pulled "february events" of off the "dan kalb listening session" event. with the tag, the event comes up in the top two for a "february" search. without it, it's way down there. Let's say i don't know dan kalb, but i know i went to a thing with my City Council Member in February. i would search key words and those would most definitely include "february." either we need to keep february in the title or someone (like me) needs to keep going through and tagging events by month (see discussion in email group). I think leaving titles as they are makes things a little more user friendly. -gk 

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