Arts & Culture / Mosaic / September 26, 2013

The Wikifire aflame: the inside story

Tom Fucoloro ‘08 is the creator of the WikiFire, an unofficial and disarming online “disorientation guide” to the college which he came up with as an independent study project in a graphic design class. The site functions to fill Knox students in on all the information they wouldn’t find in the college’s brochure, the antithesis of the parent-friendly content in the prospective student’s visit folder. Flipping through random articles can lead the curious browser into strange, often hilarious territory offering a history of Knox that is excruciatingly detailed.

Essentially, the quintessential Knox experience is on The WikiFire.

After doing his research on open source information, the backbone of Wiki sites, Fucoloro received a Richter Grant to help with funding and in 2007 the WikiFire saw the light of day, with new visitors rapidly contributing their “collective knowledge of the school” to the new database.

Early on, however, the poor writing and crude content wasn’t making the best first impression.

“They [site contributors] were throwing information all over the place, which is great, but somebody needed to organize it,” said Fucoloro, corresponding from Seattle, where he has run a blog on bicycling since 2010. “For the small pages it’s not really a big deal, but as they get bigger, the content needs to be pulled together.”

Fucoloro says the anonymous help with editing and moderating the individual pages has kept the WikiFire alight, and making sure the site doesn’t fall apart is just a matter of checking in every so often.

“That’s my problem, I’ll figure it out. If someone at Knox wants to take over, though, they should get in touch with me.”

Now, the WikiFire serves as one of the most complete compendiums on Knox culture.

It’s certain that Fucoloro shouldn’t hold all of the blame for the recent malfunctions of the WikiFire website. He chalks it up to a couple of virtual marauders taking advantage of the interface while he’s neglected the site.

“What I try to do is keep it from crashing. Recently there’s been some hacking problems but I haven’t been dedicating enough time to it to keep on top of the problem. It’s a little bit of whack-a-mole.”

Fucoloro knows how to deal with the technical malfunctions on the WikiFire, provided he has the spare time.
“I should probably fix that thing.”

As a student, Fucoloro was the Editor-in-Chief of the The Knox Student, participated in sound design for theatrical productions, played guitar in a band and founded the Hammock Club, a brief-lived extracurricular that involved students hanging hammocks on trees around campus and lounging to their hearts’ content. He recalls that the professional atmosphere of Knox “stuck”, especially his work with journalism on campus, and what he learned in creating the WikiFire made for an easy transition into maintaining the bicycling blog, his main source of income.

With these experiences under his belt, Fucoloro knows that the WikiFire, which has become a near-mythical staple in the Knox community, has also become easily accessible to the general student and that it still has great capacity to surprise and delight.

“My favorite page has to be the Flunk Day page. It’s fascinating to see the evolution of rumors and how people test theories that are supposed to be surefire but turn out to be not surefire at all, and it’s fun how Union Board gets involved too. The Survival Guide is comically matter of fact, a lot of dry humor that I like.”

Tags:  flunk day hackers Richter Grant The Knox Student Tom Fulocoro Wikifire

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