Wiki of the Month February 2012
Image for Beachapedia
Statistics (2011/12/06)
Pages: 559
Users: 301 (4 active)
Categories: 35
Templates: 109
Forms: 3
Table of Contents

Beachapedia is a wiki that captures decades of experience and knowledge gained by Surfrider Foundation activists, scientists and staff through hundreds of environmental and educational campaigns on our coasts. By sharing this resource with the public we hope to provide tools and information to help communities make a positive impact on their local beaches.

Project history[edit]

As experts on coastal environmental issues we frequently get asked questions by our supporters and the public. About 10 years ago we decided to document and share all of the information that we were providing. That led to the creation of "Coastal A-Z", a basic HTML page on our website that listed definitions and links to article pages.

In our constant effort to provide tools to our activists we decided to migrate Coastal A-Z to a wiki in August 2010, renamed as Beachapedia. This provided a simple CMS for our staff and activists to create and edit articles. [1]

View of a typical page[edit]

Main Page

The main section of the site contains articles about coastal and ocean environmental issues based around Surfrider's areas of interest: water quality, coastal preservation, beach access, ocean ecosystems and surf protection.

State of the Beach[edit]

State of the Beach

We have also migrated our long-running State of the Beach report into Beachapedia. State of the Beach is our continually-updated assessment of the health of our nation’s beaches. It is intended to empower concerned citizens and coastal managers by giving them the information needed to take action. For over ten years we have been collecting information on beach access, surf zone water quality, beach erosion, beach fill, shoreline structures, beach ecology and surfing areas to get an understanding of the condition of our nation’s beaches.

Daily Coastal Factoid[edit]

Beachapedia also provides the platform for our Daily Coastal Factoid, which is displayed on the front page of the site and distributed through Twitter and RSS. Factoid archives go back over a decade with succinct quotes and links to articles of interest.

User community[edit]

Surfrider Foundation Chapters

The primary audience is Surfrider’s activists and volunteers. We aim to provide them with the scientific knowledge they need to address issues in their local communities. This information is also of great value to students and other members of the public interested in learning about the coast.

Use of SMW[edit]

For article pages, SMW is primarily used to provide links between translations of articles into other languages. The English page contains a "master list" of translations, and provides links to translation pages, querying each page for its language. Pages in other languages contain a series of queries, asking "What page am I a translation of?", getting the list of translations from that page, and then getting the language of each page that is a translation to build the list. In this way, the list of translations can be updated in a single location to ease maintenance

SMW is also used to display the Daily Coastal Factoid, with each factoid storing properties related to the date it is published/featured so that it can be displayed on the main page on the correct date via an #ask query. This information is also used to index and maintain an archive of the factoids.

Beachapedia also contains pages for Surfrider Foundation Chapters, and chapter templates store location data in addition to social media data and other relevant information. The location data is used by Semantic Maps to build lists of other nearby chapters on each Chapter page in addition to supporting a Chapter Search feature that can locate chapters within a specified radius of a given location.

The most interesting feature is Beachapedia's utilization of Bots to maintain/act upon data from SMW. An example is the Daily Coastal Factoids, which are sometimes queued up in advance of publication. A bot checks daily for a new factoid, and sends it out via other communication channels outside the wiki (specifically Twitter, but it can also send things out via email). The bot then updates the Factoid to mark it as having been sent out (a boolean SMW property).


For article pages: Translation information

Is Translation - boolean
Has language - string

For factoids: Date information, and whether or not the factoid has been sent out via Twitter

FactoidDate - date
FactoidHeadline - string
FactoidText - text
RawPageName - page
Transmitted - boolean

For Chapters: Location, State (if in the US) and Whether the chapter is in the US or International, links to twitter, Facebook, RSS and other information feeds.

BWTF - boolean
ChapterName - string
City - string
Description - text
Facebookurl - URL
International - string
Location - geographic coordinate
State - string
Website - URL
EmailThis - special property


Probably the most challenging hurdle was getting the data types right. The query language posed a bit of a learning curve, but is logically laid out, making adjustments relatively easy and straightforward.

On the whole, SMW has proved to be both easy to use, and powerful; allowing for information to be queried and extracted with relative ease. The problems have been more from unanticipated use cases and users attempting to use things in ways outside the original design rather from any inherent issues with SMW itself.


  • Semantic Forms is used to ease data entry and maintain consistent formatting.
  • Semantic Maps is used for both Mapping and querying of geographic data.
  • Widgets extension is used extensively, both for handling/displaying RSS feeds (via the Feed widget), and for displaying Facebook and Twitter feeds for Surfrider chapters.
  • UrlGetParameters is used to pass data to chapter distance queries.