Building a LocalWiki Changebot

One thing that became obvious soon after becoming part of the Code for America family was the abundance of community-focused wikis – sites where anyone can contribute, intended to facilitate community around shared knowledge. Some cities have very successful and robust wikis (I’m looking at you, OaklandWiki), but others have some work to do to catch up.

During National Day of Civic Hacking last year in Lexington, OpenLexington (the local Code for America brigade) launched LexingtonWiki, which is built on LocalWiki. Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet gotten much traction, which is a huge bummer! The Lexingteam thought it might be cool to have Twitter notifications when a page on the wiki is edited/updated to try and publicize the wiki and get more folks editing. Turns out it’s a pretty easy thing to set up.

This is how we did it:

IFTTT stands for IF This Then That. It’s a service that allows you to combine internet services – in this case, a connecting a feed update to Twitter. People use IFTTT for all kinds of stuff: getting a text message every day with the day’s forecast, backing up their contacts to a Google Spreadsheet, or saving their Instagram photos to Dropbox.

Boom!

You have a LocalWikiBot. Recipes on IFTTT are triggered automatically every 15 minutes, so if you have a lot of edits, expect a flood of tweets on that mark. You can also set up your bot to have an action outside of Twitter: check out the full list of possible channels here.