Fake Omaha Project Central


Comprehensive FAQ

« FAQs 1-10

11. What do the big map and the project have to do with each other?


A hallmark of Fake Omaha is its realistic context. By telling stories and applying solutions in a place – even if it's a fictitious place – we are moving good ideas one step closer to reality.

Imagine you're from Chicago and you read about a great triumph in Salt Lake City. The story out of Salt Lake City will come with some precise details: names of businesses and organizations, vivid descriptions of people and places. Reading from thousands of miles away, those details are practically "fiction" to you. They are not part of your own reality. Nonetheless, they set the story in a believable context. With these details, you have a frame of reference to understand and appreciate the story.

This is how we present Fake Omaha. An actual city with actual life. Not part of the reader's reality, but part of someone's reality. This technique is central to our delivery: we don't talk about nebulous, broad-stroke improvements to the education system. We give windows into specific programs, implemented by leaders with names, at schools with names along streets with names. Our transit system has numbered routes, a system map and fully developed schedules. Our city administrators crunch realistic numbers regarding tax rates and techniques for providing various services.

The map is where these ideas unfold. It's the spatial backbone that brings it all together. It also challenges participants to consider the practical and logistical elements of an idea – matters often overlooked in a wholly abstract setting.

12. Do you consider this an academic project?

Not so much.

To be sure, we have a cautious respect for academia. We've read our fair share of reports and journals. They give decent overviews, they cite all the right precedents and, in recent times especially, they have placed a dizzying emphasis on data. These studies, however, often miss the mark. They fail to account for the nuances, the drama and the emotions peculiar to each city. These are major forces – even if they're hard to quantify.

To avoid the pitfalls of an academic approach, we work backwards. We illustrate our ideas through street-level artifacts and anecdotes – inner-city teens who seize real opportunities, residents who enjoy safe and lively neighborhoods, bus routes that offer adequate service levels, small businesses that have mutually beneficial relationships with their communities.

After we've defined a result, we then pencil in the technical details – the factors and conditions that allow our results to happen. We use tools such as spreadsheets, timelines and other staples of real-world decision-making. Occasionally, we'll even produce something that resembles an academic report.

Our prime objective is execution. We don't churn out slick-but-vague recommendations and hope that they come true – not for Fake Omaha, not for any city. We do what it takes to achieve the result – whatever form that might take. Maybe, just maybe, some of our output could come to life in the real world. It is certainly our intent to develop it to that degree of detail.

13. Has the project been commissioned?

No. Fake Omaha is an independent effort.

We launched Fake Omaha in 2003 as an outlet for our passions – and a punching bag for our frustrations. The total cost of materials and resources used for Fake Omaha is estimated at $4,500 to date. There has been no attempt to tabulate the amount of time invested.

We've had a few bites from professors, publishers and curators to share parts of Fake Omaha. In general, we are very happy to accommodate these requests. Lending out elements of Fake Omaha – the map, the basic context – is totally consistent with the spirit of the project.

We are always interested to expand the utility of Fake Omaha. The Support section of this website outlines ways to integrate Fake Omaha as a part of other projects.

14. Is this a colossal waste of time?

You're entitled to your opinion.

Some have dismissed Fake Omaha as a useless act of arrogance, mental masturbation or wasted bandwidth. We understand the cynicism, given the bookshelves full of studies, the cacophony of self-appointed experts and the actually-implemented projects that fell short of their promises.

At no point do we claim to know everything. Already, planning Fake Omaha has taught us volumes about what we don't know. But these gaps have turned into fascinating, in-context chances to learn new things. For instance, to lay out a realistic airport, we needed to find out appropriate runway lengths. To prepare maps and flyers, we needed to learn graphic design tools. Or take this website – not a template, but hand-coded xHTML and CSS created "in-house". These are real skills for a fake city. And in many cases, they are readily applicable in real life.

We should note that all of Fake Omaha is a work in progress. As the project evolves, we'll make the necessary tweaks to keep our setting as realistic as possible. As we do that, we'll see new linkages and fresh ideas pop up all the time.

Even if no part of Fake Omaha ever crosses into reality, we already see it enriching our real-world responsibilities and passions. It has become, without a doubt, a worthwhile, encouraging experience for everyone involved.

15. I'm interested! Will my idea fly in Fake Omaha?

It will if you're serious about it.

Fake Omaha is an open-ended, user-driven project. As described, we have several key interest areas. We are delighted to see ideas from those realms and beyond.

To participate, you have to know your stuff. We don't care where you attained your knowledge – to us, the field is as valuable as the classroom. What we do ask is that you bring extremely detailed, carefully considered ideas. They should touch multiple layers of your issue. For example, if you have a passion for education, don't come to us saying "Fake Omaha should have good schools." Rather, show exactly how you'd create that – right down to class sizes, teacher recruitment guidelines, community involvement plans, funding mechanisms, so on.

And be prepared to have fun with it. Real stories of real change are rich with colorful characters and unexpected twists. Certainly, Fake Omaha is not a screwball comedy. But you'll have the chance to explain your ideas through individuals, groups and actions – we invite you to take cues from the outrageous episodes sometimes seen in real life. You're even encouraged to concoct very slight exaggerations to help prove your point. The difference is, you'll find a way to overcome resistance and implement your innovative ideas.

You may also wish to contribute to a secondary layer of Fake Omaha. Say you have an innovative concept for a restaurant. We'd love to spotlight it. Bring us a menu, an identity and a rough business plan – we'll give you space anywhere in the city to open up shop. And your ideas will show up here as though they're in action.

We're happy to help you flesh things out – particularly as they relate to the basic community guidelines, the context and the map. Visit the Participate section for more information.

16. Why would I participate in Fake Omaha?

Because you care. And you're knowledgeable. And you want to shout it from a rooftop.

We can't promise that anyone will listen. But we can provide an outlet to showcase your ideas and your talents. Remember, almost everything in Fake Omaha is presented as though it's real. At a glance, many artifacts from Fake Omaha could easily be mistaken for real pieces from real entities. Who knows? If someone stumbles across your contribution, it could be your ticket to a real opportunity.

We regret that, in real life, our passions frequently take a back seat to endless obligations of the routine. Of course, we place a high value on hard work, relationships, all that good stuff. But what if we had more time to pursue our passions? The world would be a better place if more of us felt comfortable enough to follow our hearts – with no particular incentive of a high grade or a fat check.

A lucky few have the chance to work their love and love their work. Fake Omaha attempts to offer some semblance of that – at least for those with a zest for strong cities and good leadership. There's no compensation involved. But there's real value. This is a chance to unpack your imagination, show off your capabilities and take a new angle on what you love.

17. So where can I see the "artifacts" of Fake Omaha?

Right here!

As this website expands, it will contain windows into Fake Omaha. These will include raw, uninterpreted artifacts such as annual reports, news stories, retail paraphernalia. Additionally, we will include reactionary pieces from bloggers and onlookers. As it all takes shape, we will create a timeline to help sort out the most important events.

Moving artifacts from the drawing board to the website will be a gradual process. Remember, Fake Omaha is no one's full-time occupation. Bear with us as we put the puzzle together. Check the Explore section for some samples.

If you're particularly curious about one subject, please ask us!

FAQs 18-22 »