A first look at CloutWiki.

Mick Dumke at Clout City directs our attention to the newly-launched CloutWiki, from Mike Fourcher and Jay Paul Deratany. It does what it says on the tin — most Chicago-area politicians (including all aldermen) have pages describing their background, alliances, political leanings, etc., with more to come. I've often felt the lack of a resource like this for observers of local politics. There are a few implementation details with which one could quibble — for example, miscellaneous pages for groups, events, or concepts (e.g. Team Jan) are not collected anywhere, leaving the reader to stumble across them while browsing individuals' pages. At this early date, many politicians have no entry at all, though the site's creators make it clear that this is a work in progress, and incomplete. In the comments on Dumke's post, Hugh find fault with the citation of sources — facts are not cited individually, but only as a list of sources at the bottom of each entry, which can make it difficult to discover the basis for some of the more surprising statements. For example: As the liberal banner carrier in the City Council, [48th Ward Alderman Joe] Moore has regularly (and vocally) voted against Mayor Daley. I don't know where CloutWiki gets this or how it defines its terms; by my count, Moore has voted against Daley exactly twice this year (though vocally, to be sure), opposing the repeal of his foie gras ban and the children's museum in Grant Park.1 (Then again, by City Council standards, perhaps semiannual opposition is regular enough.)

A particularly nice touch is the licensing of the content under the GNU Free Documentation License — though this:

[Q:] This is great! I'm with a newspaper/a blog/the media and I'd like to use some of the content here.

[A:] We'd be happy to talk to you. Drop us a line at editor (at) cloutwiki (dot) org.

...makes me suspect it may have been chosen inadvertently or without an understanding of the rights it confers.

The name CloutWiki strikes me as a little disingenuous — the pages cannot be edited by readers, so as far as I can tell its only claim to wikihood lies in its use of MediaWiki as a publishing platform. While the frequent intemperance of Chicago political discourse perhaps makes this a wise choice, I hope the editors can find a way to provide a little transparency as to which submissions are accepted and rejected.

All in all, though, this is a great quick source of information and background that was often difficult to find online in the past.

1. I tried so very hard to write this entry without bringing Joe Moore into it, I really did. Today my restraint has failed me.

September 23, 2008