Dustin Kight

The Evolution of Input

Filed By Dustin Kight | January 26, 2008 8:41 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: blogging, Family Equality Council, gay families, Human Rights Campaign, lgbtq family, resource sharing, task force

Despite coming to the Bilerico Project through my work at the Family Equality Council, I try not to push my organization on this site. But it's a bit like the separation of Church and State -- hard to define and not always easy to maintain.

I'm going to make an exception to that separation today, because what I'm pushing could directly benefit many of Bilerico's readers, and will bring me to a larger point about the state of input and resource sharing in our movement

The Family Equality Council recently launched a series of wikis on our new site. I assume the savvier than average Bilerico readership will know what a wiki is. For those who don't, a wiki is a user-defined, editable web page. The most popular wiki (or wiki conglomerate) is Wikipedia.

The Family Equality Council wikis are aimed at providing up-to-date, accurate information to LGBTQ parents about LGBTQ family-friendly adoption agencies, schools, towns/vacation spots, places of worship, state laws, and health care professionals.

Similar work, in terms of providing this information, has been done by the Human Rights Campaign, The Task Force, and others. In fact, we included a good bit of this information when we first put the wikis up.

These organizations and others have done an admirable job with their greater than average (financial) resources in surveying and compiling friendly services for LGBTQ groups of all kinds, not just families. But we hope to expand on this work and give it a greater level of nuance by opening up our resources lists to user input.

There are, of course, obvious credibility issues with wikis, and in the case of an organization promoting the use of wikis, they have to be more constantly monitored by staff than other kinds of wiki sites.

Nevertheless, the (radical and powerful) idea is this: LGBTQ parents know best what their experiences have been with various service providers and other institutions that affect their lives around the country. They also know that when a principal, for instance, leaves a school the environment for LGBTQ families might immediately change there.

A static list, updated once every couple of years, would not reflect these important shifts. A user-updated list could.

We don't claim that the information on the wikis is verified by any Organizational Higher Power. We can't. But we are invested in putting the power of community and resource sharing in the hands of the real experts, the LGBTQ parents and family members we serve.

There will always be room for official lists, but there has to be room for informal networking, as well, and if organizations can aid in that process (and provide it a little more veracity than it otherwise might have) then more power to the organizations that try.

However, the success of wikis requires consistent user interaction -- the "organizational push" aspect of this post. I want as many LGBTQ parents and allies with relevant knowledge and information to participate in this project, especially as we attempt to get it off the ground.

I should be clear that you have to create a login on our wiki site to access the information and to edit the pages. This discourages general spamming as well as fallacious input. It also allows us to track edits, in the event that we feel the need to verify a specific piece of information.

I'm proud to be a part of bold projects like this in my work at the Family Equality Council. We, of course, aren't the only ones creating more interactive resources and communication tools for our members and/or constituents, however they be defined.

There are honest and dishonest ways to do create these resources -- and by create, what I really mean is adapting the work being done mainly by enterprising individuals and mainly on the web.

For instance, an organizational blog that doesn't allow commenting of any kind falls on the far right side, let's say, of the honest-dishonest scale. The beauty of blogs includes information sharing as well as information taking-in. If you want to post a press release on a blog, you should also want to hear feedback (or at least supportive statements) on that press release, as well.

Now I also believe that an organizational blog is necessarily an adaption of the blog form in its purest sense. It's unreasonable to think that an organization is going to use a blog, or open itself up to the use of a blog, in the same ways that an individual might.

For instance, the Family Equality Council Blog is open for comments without moderation. But we do keep an eye on things. And if people post offensive comments, for instance, we reserve the right to pull them down. But it's always a question and never an automation.

Now, taking my organizational hat off for a minute, I have to say that the slow move toward greater transparency, interactivity, and, quite frankly, vulnerability of our major organizations is SUCH a good thing for our movement, even if some organizations are taking longer to embrace this move on the more honest side of the honest-dishonest scale.

I thank you for indulging me in a little organizational plugging, and I hope those of you with relevant information will visit the site and help make these wikis a robust resources for LGBTQ families nationwide.

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Good luck with the venture, Dustin. I'll be sure to check it out! Can't wait to meet you in Detroit!

Sounds interesting, Dustin. I'll have to check it out as well.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 27, 2008 8:45 AM


Don't feel a need to apologize for promoting the great work of the Family Equality Council. Everyone gets in a few personal plugs here and you should feel free to as well.