Let's Build a Wiki

Apr 7, 2008
Norman, OK
Since it’s founding on January 15th, 2001 Wikipedia.com has grown to become the world’s largest encyclopedia. And of course the world’s largest encyclopedia has a lot of content related to meteorology and severe weather, but I had an idea – a Wikipedia clone that is focused exclusively on meteorology and severe weather. It’s an idea that some people might find objectionable, but I think not.

I have three thoughts as to why this is a good idea –

  1. When people are looking for answers to their questions they may try to find their answer from an online forum community. It’s likely that the question has been asked many times and answered – but the nature of a forum is interactive communication and as such most people will not search for their answer before starting a new thread. Wikis however encourage the use of the search feature – allowing people to quickly get the information that they are looking for. Wikis also feature a discussion (or “talkâ€￾) page for any additional debate related to the topic.
  2. The “StormWikiâ€￾ has the same architecture and fundamental design as Wikipedia (it uses the MediaWiki software) and thus it has the same potentials, but for a niche topic. Just as Wikipedia.com outgrew every printed encyclopedia, StormWiki can outgrow any printed collection of meteorological articles and become a single source of information for those interested in the specific discipline of meteorology – all indexed and easily searchable, and editable.
  3. Wikipedia has often brought along with it intense debate about various subjects, however the articles are written with neutrality. I personally believe that this is important for any scientific related study, or practice. I do not believe that a meteorological wiki is going to solve the climate change debate, nor should it, but it will without a doubt ignite vigorous open debate when creating such “hot topicâ€￾ articles and during the continuance of the editing processes. However, the articles must be kept “openâ€￾ and written from a neutral point of view.

I have secured the domain name “StormWiki.org,â€￾ and provided the seeding for the initial hosting and bandwidth. I have also taken the basic steps to install the MediaWiki software and provided it with a few additional features (not found on Wikipedia) for increased spam protection. As well as equipped it with a Google Maps plug-in that is easy to use and has some special syntax.

My initial thought is to basically just open the system up and let the control lay with the community that edits it, just as Wikipedia.org is operated. However, I am imposing one difference from the traditional wiki methodology and it’s something that everyone on StormTrack.org is already familiar with – you must use your REAL NAME as your user name.

Other than that – it’s open and free to anyone. You don’t even need to register to make edits to articles.

In its current state – there isn’t really any content in the StormWiki database – it’s an open book. I didn’t set the system up for me to write an encyclopedia – I set it up for the “meteorological communityâ€￾ to create a meteorology reference.

StormWiki’s users will decide on its structure, its features, its categories and its articles. This allows the project to evolve and develop on its own terms and with a methodology that is most practical.

That all being said – having a “StormWikiâ€￾ may be something that nobody wants to mess with. And, if that is found to be the case then it will go away. However, if there are others that believe in the usefulness of the StormWiki, and if it does in fact become a useful resource to people, then it will never go away.

One more thing – if the StormWiki catches on, there will eventually be a group of moderators who do have some special privileges. Those privileges basically just include the ability to “lockâ€￾ an article, or delete an article. This is part of the core software so that common pages (such as the main page) cannot be abused. I have not discussed this with anyone as of yet – so if you’re interested send me a message and let me know. Moderators will be more like a “stormwiki committeeâ€￾ and will also contribute to important future decisions about the project. For example – if this is project that people enjoy and it begins to grow, then the “committeeâ€￾ might discuss options for expanding the server resources, or relocating the wiki database to another hosting provider for greater bandwidth (but it's currently on a private server), etc… Other than those few privileges I want the system to be completely as open as possible, so that the system can be “self-governedâ€￾ by its own community.

Does anyone have an objection to our trying this out?

Brian Barnes
[email protected]
Brian, I definitely like your idea since Wikipedia's meteorology sections have been disappointing at best. For example, I recently noticed that you can't even find a simple supercell diagram on any of the relevant pages anymore. I'd sure like to hear their obscure reasoning for that.

I've often wondered why something like this doesn't already exist. I hope others like the idea and everybody runs with it.
Unless the wiki will be really well used and well moderated, I would strongly suggest closing edit ability to only those who register.

I've seen low traffic, poorly moderated wikis just turn into pages of personalized junk - mostly on the order of personal bookmarks and such.
Noted. I'm going to let it ride like it is for awhile and see what happens, if it appears to become a problem (and after I find some other people interested in having "Sysop" status then we'll probably do this if the majority agrees on it.

I'd really like to see the "community" self-govern, or self-moderate the Wiki - leaving it as open as possible. Articles that have been inserted without registration will be noted with the author's IP address - which can serve as a red flag that an article might need to be reviewed by an "editor" (any registered user who wants to edit the page).

The last few version updates of the MediaWiki software automatically include a "rel=nofollow" tag to ALL links - so if people try to insert a link for SEO purposes it won't do any good as search engine bots are told to ignore all outbound links.

However - I personally wouldn't have a problem if a special page was created for StormWiki contributors to list their name and website (or blog). I think that would be well deserved if they are contributing to the project. But, I think they should be confined to a single article and not having 500 "Here I am" articles and only a few real information articles. ;-)
Not sure what the trademark and copyright extent is for "Wiki". Be careful using the name....unless you checked on this already.
The AMS Glossary is great for strictly definitions, but a Wiki has the potential to go very in depth, with visual aids as well. I think this is a great idea if enough people contribute.
I have thought about a "weather wiki" for a long time now. I tried to use wikipedia but I found it hard to find some of the weather events and glossary terms I was looking for and thought it would be alot easier just to have a well organized "weather wiki". I worked on a few at other weather sites but when I am the only person interested then it becomes boring. I did however keep a detailed alamanac of the weatheer events for most of 2007. I would like to help you out and I will be sure to check out your site.
I think its a good idea, and a nice community idea, it might however get a bit overwhelming to oversea and moderate but it is only an unofficial sort of excyclopedia so i guess it will self police once it is up and running and will act as a quick reference guide and an FAQ for newcomers and oldtimers alike..
The site was slow for me. I think it is because of the radar.

It most likely was. That is provided just an example only - just to show new "stormwikiers' that it's possible to easily include a google map, and even reference a KML file.

Once it catches on that doesn't have to be on the front page. Also...once it catches on if the server I put the stormwiki on proves to be slow - everything can be fixed!