Navigating the informational expanses of the World Wide Web can be daunting at times, and localized information isn’t always easy to find online.
But mechanical engineering senior Rory Aronson has taken it upon himself to make this experience smoother — at least for San Luis Obispo residents.
This past June, Aronson created wikiSLO, a localized, Wikipedia-like database for all things San Luis Obispo. The website currently features pages for topics ranging from “Fun Cal Poly Classes” to “SLO Tease Burlesque Troupe.”
Other pages on the site serve broader functions, such as “Lost and Found,” where people can post pictures and descriptions of lost pets or belongings.
All kinds of information and communication are welcome on the site, Aronson said.
Aronson said the site is based on a similar website specific to Davis, Calif. called DavisWiki, which has become a popular resource for that community.
In an effort to extend the benefits of a local database to other cities, the founders of DavisWiki, Philip Neustrom and Mike Ivanov, launched LocalWiki, a website that offers the open-source, open-content software needed to create a community wiki.
Aronson said he spent an all-nighter downloading the software and converting an old computer into a server.
“Now the computer is just in our bathroom, running the software and all the content,” Aronson said. “And anyone in the world can go to wikiSLO.org and connect to that computer in our bathroom.”
So far, Aronson and his friends have generated a large portion of the content on wikiSLO. However, Aronson said it’s easy for anyone to get involved.
“All you have to do is visit the site, go onto any page and press ‘Edit,’” he said. “You don’t need an account. You don’t need a password and username. You can do it anonymously.”
This weekend, Aronson will host a wikiSLO “write-a-thon” at his house in hopes of significantly expanding the information on the website. Attendees will be encouraged to add to the site by creating pages as well as adding and editing existing pages.
The “write-a-thon” will be sponsored by Code for America, a non-profit organization that organizes online civic service, as part of the organization’s Race for Reuse competition.
“It’s a friendly competition to get as many cities and people active online for civic engagement as possible,” Aronson said.
He said the competition is more about meeting one’s own goals than winning anything.
The “write-a-thon” is scheduled to last from 1 to 10 p.m. on Saturday and will take place at Aronson’s home, 880 Upham St. He said the event is open to the public, and he encourages as many people as possible to attend.
“The more people and the less I know these people, the better,” Aronson said. “And I want people of all ages and of all backgrounds and of all lengths of time that they’ve lived in SLO to come here and talk about their experiences. That’s what makes it cool: finding out something new.”
David Liebig contributed to this article.