A R T I C L E
Twelve Years of The Hamilton Music Wiki
By Ian Duggan, with Dan Satherley and Gian Perrone
The Hamilton Music Wiki, also referred to as ‘The Htown Wiki’, was first set up in April 2006; to put that into context, Wikipedia was only 5 years old at the time! Like Wikipedia, it is an editable ‘wiki’ site, but includes information on Hamilton bands, venues, events, musicians, releases and music stores, both past and present. Now almost 12 years old, the wiki currently contains just short of 2500 pages. I take a look at the history of the wiki, and talk to the initial instigators, Dan Satherley and Gian Perrone, about their inspiration for starting it, its intended purpose, and whether they thought it would still be going 12 years later!
Firstly, some background. Like Wikipedia, the Hamilton Music Wiki is encyclopaedic in style, aiming to provide articles that are informative of history, but also that are clear and concise. To date it contains entries on 650 bands, although a number of these are ‘stubs’; articles too short to yet provide encyclopaedic coverage of a subject. The site aims to avoid personal subjective opinion (for example, opinions on who a contributor considers was the ‘best’ band), although no doubt such things have slipped through the cracks in places. The content has come from a variety of contributors giving their personal memories, and from sifting through published articles and websites. Information on cover bands has largely been avoided, except for some in the ‘60s and ‘70s when these were commonplace, and original bands rare in the city. Further, 717 of the pages document albums, EPs and singles released by Hamiltonians and their bands.
First up I asked Dan and Gian, how did the wiki start?
Dan: Well... a few years after Justin [Moore; a.k.a. ‘Drift’] and I started the htown.co.nz site [a now defunct forum based website popular in the early 2000s, which focussed on Hamilton bands and gigs], it occurred to me there was a wealth of knowledge and information about the Hamilton scene that only existed in people's heads. You could read an old ‘Real Groove’ and ‘Rip It Up’ today and learn all about what was going on in Wellington or Auckland back then, but there would be nothing about Hamilton. I could be wrong about the exact sequence of events, but I think I may have mentioned setting up a wiki either in person or on htown.co.nz, and people seemed to like the idea? Or maybe it was just Gian. Either way, one of us created the original version of it on that crappy free wiki site [elwiki.com], before Gian moved it onto his own webspace.
Gian: I'm afraid that some of that is also lost in the fog of my memory. I remember distinctly feeling at the time that there was so much interesting musical heritage in Hamilton, and we were continually ignored by the culture at large. There was a sense that we might lose or forget that history, so it made sense to get it written down. I remember some kind of htown thread with a few people on it talking about how we could write down stuff we remembered about the interesting inter-connections between Hamilton bands. One of us, I don't remember who, proposed using a wiki. Dan set up the first version on that very flaky wiki hosting service that kept going down. I offered soon after to move it over to more reliable hosting.
The Hamilton Music Wiki was initially housed by a commercial wiki farm, ‘elwiki’, but from mid-2007 this site became less stable. It began to regularly go down for periods of days, eventually disappearing for a period of three weeks in August 2007, and the whole ewiki farm was even listed by Wikipedia as ‘dead’ during this time. In September 2007, in a window when the wiki became available, the entire htown wiki site was migrated to the current ‘expdev.net’ site, hosted by Gian. At the time the wiki housed over 1000 pages. The elwiki site became inactive for several months within weeks of the migration, and eventually became entirely inactive.
What was the inspiration and purpose for starting the wiki?
Dan: Funny thing is, I'd left Hamilton the year before [it started]! It took me a while to get used to living in Auckland, so it could have been a way remind myself of all the good times I had back in a town where I actually knew people!
At this point I should point out I am writing this as a non-neutral; I have been the primary contributor and administrator through most of the wiki’s history. I have spent many days sifting through old books, newspapers and magazines (particularly ‘Nexus’, the University of Waikato student magazine), as well as assorted band Facebook (and previously MySpace!) pages, searching for content. Like any wiki, however, ‘The Hamilton Music Wiki’ is a website that is developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content; I am extremely grateful to everyone who has ever adds new content, and hope that others will continue to contribute to it in the future.
I asked Gian and Dan, did they think the wiki would still be going 12 years later?
Dan: I did hope it would last. As I mentioned, it's a record of Hamilton's musical history. But I can't say I've contributed much at all in the last decade. It's hard to even pretend you're knowledgeable when there must be bands in Hamilton now that were in nappies when I left. Like the htown.co.nz site, even if I was there at the start, my contribution was largely peripheral. People like yourself have kept it alive and made it what it is.
Gian: I definitely had no idea that it would still be going, and I can't claim much credit for that! The fact that others (read: you) picked it up and did the work to really keep creating content, wading through the spam, and promoting it has really made it a success. I think my only hope originally was that we'd have some kind of community resource for all the interesting history, but it really grew into something encyclopedic and full of fascinating things, that I got to learn a lot about Hamilton's musical history!
Is the wiki finished? No! Interestingly, one of the criticisms I have seen of the site has been that it hasn’t included ‘x’ or ‘y’ band, or that not enough content of a bands history has been covered. The answer to that is that you can contribute it yourself! I never set out to be the primary contributor, and would love more than anything to see more people join in and add content where it is deficient. So, if you think any information is lacking, how do you contribute?
On the top of any page you will see an ‘edit’ tab; clicking on this will allow you to start typing. If you are unfamiliar with wikis, one of the quirks is that the coding can be clunky; nevertheless, if you add something without adding links and categories, rest easy that someone will come and tidy it up for you. A good tip, before editing, it is best to create a username and password, otherwise you will be prompted to answer a ‘catchpa’ question; most of these will be easy to answer for many people, but not always. This may be irritating, but it has severely cut down on vandalism on the site! Creating a login can avoid it, however. If you have any concerns with respect to editing, you can also make contact through the wiki’s Facebook and Twitter pages. These were started in 2014 and 2016, respectively, to not only to get the stories of the wiki out there, but also to encourage others to contribute.
The Hamilton Music Wiki: http://www.expdev.net/htownwiki/index.php/Main_Page
The Hamilton Music Wiki Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/htownwiki/
The Hamilton Music Wiki Twitter page: https://twitter.com/HtownWiki