How to Make a Geographic Wiki

In order to be a useful platform for collaboration, a wiki must provide a certain set of basic features including revision history, topic discussion, access privileges, and administrative workflow. Likewise a geographic wiki must implement these features, but in a distinctly cartographic manner. This talk focuses on a set of minimally acceptable features and illustrates how they have been implemented on Concharto, an online atlas of history and happenings that anyone can edit.

  • Geography, Text and Time: features on a map include the dimensions of time, space, and textual description.
  • Search: Enter a place, a time, and a text filter and click “search” or if you want to find out what happened on the map you are viewing, just hit search without filling anything in. All fields are optional. Search on the current map or the whole world.
  • Change history / Undo: It isn’t a wiki if you can’t view or undo changes. You can see both text and geographical changes and easily revert back to an older version. All changes are tracked!
  • Discussions/arguments: Discussion is the lifeblood of a good wiki. Did Napoleon really win the battle of Borodino 1812?
  • Administration workflow: Some things just don’t belong on the Atlas. Anyone can flag an event for removal and it will be reviewed and removed if necessary. Of course it is always better to correct the event if possible, but there are good reasons for removal. For example:
  • It is a duplicate of something someone else entered
  • It is not encyclopedic (see our policies)
  • It is totally fake
  • Scale and precision: Some things are known down to the street level while others can only be located to a general area. Authors must be able to provide precision “hints” to allow others to know how to use the data.
  • Access controls: An active collaborative environment has all kinds of contributors: Gnomes, Trolls, Bureaucrats, Stewards, Bots.
Photo of Frank San Miguel

Frank San Miguel


Frank San Miguel is the founder of Concharto, an encyclopedic atlas of history and happenings that anyone can edit. He was one of the original creators of Mapquest and has held leadership positions at a number of other internet startups in media and insurance (CondéNet, Channelpoint, Fusura). Frank is also the President/CTO of San Miguel Technology, LLC, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Delaware Department of Computer Science. His blog is at

  • Autodesk
  • Google
  • ESRI
  • Nokia
  • DigitalGlobe
  • Earthscape
  • LightPole
  • MapJack
  • MapQuest
  • MetaCarta
  • Microsoft
  • Poly9
  • Skyhook Wireless
  • TeleAtlas
  • Yahoo! Inc.
  • Zvents
  • BNet

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