Supporting the University of Edinburgh's commitments to digital skills, information literacy, and sharing knowledge openly

Month: February 2016

History of Medicine Wikipedia editathon 16-18th February

Following the successful editathon session on ‘Women, Science and Scottish History‘  that the University of Edinburgh ran with the assistance of the National Library of Scotland’s Wikimedian in Residence, Ally Crockford, during Innovative Learning Week in 2015, the UoE is running a brand new one for Innovative Learning Week 2016 on Tuesday 16th February to Thursday 18th February which Sara Thomas (WiR at Museums & Galleries Scotland) and I are hosting at room LG.07 in the David Hume Tower Building, George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JX.

I Want You For Wiki CC-BY-SA

I Want You For Wiki


Feedback from attendees at last year’s editathon event:
“Fantastic week, one of the geeky best. Had a great time at the #ILW2015 #ILWeditathon, researching the #Edinburgh7”
“Shared delight in learning new things about the period & these people”
“Day 3 of #ILWeditathon and I’m getting hooked!”


The topic is on the History of Medicine on this occasion. It covers medical terms not currently covered on Wikipedia as well as historic Edinburgh locations which have played a large role in the history of medicine. It also broadens out to cover notable personages in the history of medicine such as the infamous Burke & Hare grave-robbers as well as the intriguing case of James Miranda Barry and continuing our work on those female pioneers of the medical profession such as ‘the Edinburgh 7’ whose stories continue to be under-represented on Wikipedia.

"A complete delineation of the entire anatomy engraved on copper" - Thomas Geminus

“A complete delineation of the entire anatomy engraved on copper” – Thomas Geminus CC-0

Here’s the event described in brief:

Unravel myths, discover truths and re-write the Wikipedia pages of Edinburgh’s infamous medical figures including gruesome body-snatcher William Burke and intriguing alumni Dr. James Miranda Barry. Come join us for all the fun and gain digital skills, learn how to edit Wikipedia, explore our history and harness the power of the web for public engagement.


There will be refreshments (inc. free lunch if you wish to edit in the morning and afternoon sessions), guest speakers, online materials to work with, physical materials to work with including, hopefully, the letter written in William Burke’s own blood. We’re also looking for some buildings associated with Edinburgh’s role in the history of medicine to be photographed and uploaded to Wikicommons.

You can attend one day or multiple days (or just half a day) if you so desire. Either in person or remotely joining in.

 by the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. UofE Innovative Learning Week 2015 editathon UofE Innovative Learning Week 2015 editathon CC-BY-SA

University of Edinburgh Innovative Learning Week 2015 editathon CC-BY-SA

It’s open to all: new and experienced editors; UoE staff & students; members of the public. You’d be very welcome. Training will be provided in each session.

Full details on how to register for the event are on the event page here:

I have also now setup the Wikipedia Project Page for the University of Edinburgh residency with details of what it involves & what I’ll be up to including upcoming & past Wiki editathon events. The link to the Project Page is here:

If you have any questions regarding the event, the residency or about collaborating on any projects then feel free to get in touch.

Hopefully see you there!

Editing Wikipedia is easy with Visual Editor

I recently found myself chatting with a software engineer friend of mine about the Wikimedian in Residence project at the University of Edinburgh. He proclaimed two things that he felt were ‘acknowledged truths’ which everyone understood about editing Wikipedia.

  1. “You can’t add to Wikipedia. Wikipedia already has EVERYTHING in the entire world within it so there is never any need to add anything more to it.”
Wikipedia's Quality and Ratings scale

Wikipedia’s Quality and Ratings scale – Screengrab from Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA)

As this graphic shows Wikipedia has a ‘Quality and Ratings‘ scale which shows the sheer quantity of English Wikipedia articles (over 5 million) but tellingly only a fraction are deemed of such high quality that they can be the ‘featured article’ (FA) on Wikipedia’s front page. Indeed as the second Pi chart shows (above right), over 50% of the articles on Wikipedia are short ‘stub’ articles (the red ‘stub class’ section).

Hence, while Wikipedia has sought in its first 15 years to achieve the ‘sum of all human knowledge‘ it is not quote there yet. Not quite.

The quantity of articles is there but the quality can certainly be improved. Which is why partnerships between Wikimedia UK and institutions like the University of Edinburgh are so important for both communities. The quantity and quality of Wikipedia’s content is improved by the process of knowledge exchange and the partner institution’s knowledge & expertise is successfully curated & disseminated throughout the world utilising a medium with unparalleled reach and influence.

Screengrab from ‘How to work successfully with Wikipedia’ WMUK GLAM Booklet 2014 (CC-BY-SA)

Screengrab from ‘How to work successfully with Wikipedia’ WMUK GLAM Booklet 2014 (CC-BY-SA)

The second thing my software engineer chum said was:

2. “Editing in Wikipedia using the markup programming language is easy.”

This may well be true. Using the markup language is not that difficult when one considers other programming languages out there but, of course, a software engineer would feel ‘markup’ was easy to use. Other people without the same degree of programming experience may not necessarily feel the same degree of confidence.

This is why Wikipedia’s introduction of the new ‘Visual Editor‘ interface is a HUGE leap forward in allowing would-be editors from all backgrounds to edit with confidence. The new interface has taken years to develop and implement and makes editing so much easier. It is a WYSIWYG interface (What You See Is What You Get) so makes the days of considering the foibles of programming language when creating/editing Wiki articles a thing of the past. Instead, using the Visual Editor makes editing Wikipedia much more like using Microsoft Word or WordPress.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s a short clip to introduce Visual Editor.


Modern Scottish Women editathon – National Gallery of Modern Art

Modern Scottish Women editathon

Modern Scottish Women editathon

I was invited by Sara Thomas, Wikimedian in Residence at the Museums & Galleries Scotland, to attend an edit-a-thon she was hosting on Saturday 23rd January at the National Gallery of Modern Art to mark their new exhibition entitled ‘Modern Scottish Women’.

Loaded with the cold though I was, I trooped along and was rewarded with a guided tour upon arrival.

Modern Scottish Women

Modern Scottish Women

The exhibition of work by Scottish women artists concentrates on painters and sculptors. It covers the period from 1885, when Fra Newbery became Director of Glasgow School of Art, until 1965, the year of Anne Redpath’s death.

The editathon event page is here: Modern Scottish Women edit-a-thon

After the tour, Sara ran through the steps involved in how to edit Wikipedia and explained that it is a lot easier to work with with Wikipedia now that the ‘Visual Editor’ interface makes editing in Wikipedia as easy as using Microsoft Word or WordPress.

According to Sara’s Edit-a-thon event page:

In a 2011 survey, the Wikimedia Foundation found that less than 10% of its contributors identify as female while only 15% of the English Wikipedia’s biographies are about women. As a result, content is skewed by the lack of female participation.

The event will focus on expanding or improving Wikipedia entries for the artists exhibiting in Modern Scottish Women, and to provide an expanded context for their work and practice.

Following the training, everyone was enthused to correct this lack of female participation on Wikipedia.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

While I was personally keen to add information to some of my favorite artists’ Wikipedia pages (Joan Eardley, Hannah Frank) it seemed clearly more important to create a new Wiki article on Beatrice Huntingdon whose work was overlooked completely by Wikipedia.

After a couple of hours and a couple of coffees, my careful research, like my fellow Wiki editors at the edit-a-thon, had produced a brand new article on Wikipedia on Beatrice Huntingdon and corrected this sin of omission.

Overall, the National Galleries of Modern Art were terrifically welcoming hosts & were very enthusiastic to make sure the artists in their exhibition received the acknowledgement on Wikipedia that they deserved.

Cold or no cold, it was a successful afternoon and everyone went home feeling ‘mission accomplished’.

Vicks Inhaler

Vicks Inhaler

Open Knowledge meetup at National Library of Scotland

On 19th January 2016, I attended my first ‘Open Knowledge‘ meetup at the National Library of Scotland.

Link here: Open Knowledge meetup at NLS

In an informal friendly setting, with a lovely assortment of sandwiches, nibbles and drinks I was able to observe an equally lovely assortment of Open Knowledge initiatives espoused by the evening’s speakers including:

Jeremy Darot on Edinburgh Open Data Map. Utilising lots of cool data to populate OpenStreetMap. Data like planning projects, schools, GP surgeries, shops, catchment areas, air quality, green belt areas & much more besides. Phew!

Jeremy Darot

Jeremy Darot

Also, the University of Edinburgh’s own Professor Richard Rodger outlined the MESH project (Mapping Edinburgh’s Social History): 60,000+ properties mapped accurately by physically walking past taking a note of every garden, wall and business with the ambition to create the most accurate city map in Edinburgh.

Then there was architect Akiko Kobayashi on fabulous project: open source house designs on Commons  which can be digitally fabricated & assembled easily.

Akiko Kobayashi

Akiko Kobayashi

Lastly, the National Library of Scotland’s own Fred Saunderson enthused about NLS’s Open Data Publication plan to publish 3-star open data (14 datasets in 2016, 8 more in 2017).

Fred Saunderson - NLS

Fred Saunderson – NLS

All in all, a great night of Open Knowledge initiatives. More please!

Wikipedia at 15 – Happy Birthday!

Jimmy Wales cuts the cake - By Gordon Joly (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jimmy Wales cuts the cake – By Gordon Joly (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last month marked 15 years since Wikipedia first began. A number of excellent articles came out at this time assessing Wikipedia’ impact and its relevance going forward.

I’ve picked two such articles:

The Oxford Internet Institute on Wikipedia’s Ongoing Search for the Sum of All Human Knowledge

The LSE’s Impact Blog on Wikipedia Amplifying Impact Of Open Access

The University of Edinburgh Library also marked the occasion by taking part in Wikipedia’s #1Lib1ref campaign.

There are apparently over 350,000 articles marked with ‘citation needed’ in the English Wikipedia so the library staff spent a little time on Wikipedia’s birthday (15th January) to see if they could help clear some of these tags by using the ‘Citation Hunt’ tool to identify the articles and then added citations using reliable sources such as journals, books and official websites.

The University of Edinburgh’s library blog on #1Lib1Ref

The Wikipedia Library explains the 1Lib1Ref campaign

In all, 32 new citations were added. A fine morning’s work.

By Halibutt (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Getting Started – What the residency involves


As this role is a fairly new and interesting-sounding job title, I thought I should intimate what this year-long residency will involve.

In short, I am to facilitate a sustainable relationship between the University and Wikimedia UK to the mutual benefit of both communities.

You're so Venn: Where the Wikimedian in Residence sits between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh.

You’re so Venn: Where the Wikimedian in Residence sits between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh.

To do this, I will be an advocate of open knowledge and deliver training events & workshops which will further both the quantity & quality of open knowledge and the university’s commitment to digital literacy.

Areas of convergence between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh's missions.

Areas of convergence between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh’s missions.

More practically, this will involve arranging & delivering skills-training sessions which will fit in with and, importantly enhance, the learning & teaching within the curriculum. I will also stage events outside the curriculum which will draw on the university’s, and Edinburgh’s, rich history & knowledge.

Editathons will be a large part of this, however, there are numerous ways where staff & students can get involved & directly contribute their knowledge & expertise to develop Wikimedia UK’s diverse range of projects, including: Wikipedia; Wikivoyage; Wiktionary; Wikispecies; Wikiquotes; Wikisource; Wikiversity; Wikibooks; Wikinews;  Wikimedia Commons; Wikidata; Mediawiki; Wikimedia Labs and more besides. (

Wikimedia UK's diverse range projects

Not just Wikipedia: Wikimedia UK’s diverse range projects (above).

If you would like to know more about how our main open knowledge project, Wikipedia, fits in with academia then these two recent articles make very compelling reading:


Alternatively, I am based in the Learning, Teaching & Web Services Division within the Hugh Robson Link Building on George Square, Edinburgh,  and am very happy to chat to you about the residency.

Contact details

Contact details

Indeed, should you wish to discuss collaborating on any projects then I would be only too glad to hear from you.

Wikimedia, Open Knowledge and The University of Edinburgh

 “Curiouser and curiouser,” said Alice.

Screenshot from ‘Alice in Wonderland’. By Walt Disney (Original Trailer (1951)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


“The time has come,” the Walrus said. “To talk of many things.”

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Exactly one month has flown by since I started my year-long residency at the University of Edinburgh as the new Wikimedian in Residence and I have not stopped to collect my thoughts. The starting of a new blog seems a good place to begin.

In starting this curiously titled new role at the University of Edinburgh, I am reminded how far we have come since I first began my undergraduate course at the University of Glasgow; when mobile phones and the internet were still very much in their infancy and social media (like blogs) and Wikipedia were still all to come.

This is now my third blog; following my WordPress blog (on film, tv & book reviews) and my travel blog covering my travels from Seoul (South Korea) to Glasgow (UK) via Canada, North America and South America. Like millions of others, I also have a Facebook account. It chose recently to ‘share a memory’ with me of the time, six years ago, I sat in the gardens outside Vina Undurraga, Santiago, Chile. In seeking to illustrate my first post with a picture to introduce myself, and until I can get a new picture taken of myself in my new surroundings, this picture seems a good one.


At Vina Undurraga, Santiago, Chile.

Prior to this picture, I had just completed two years’ teaching in Japan & South Korea and I had the option to return directly home to the UK or my employers would also pay for me to fly the equivalent distance elsewhere and I could indulge my curiosity and take the scenic route home.

I chose the scenic route.

The picture shows me mid-trip in Chile after visiting Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Peru and Bolivia and Chile. I had just visited the observatory at Cerro Mammalluca (with the best conditions for stargazing in the world), stood next to a Moai statue from Easter Island, visited Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaiso and I had a trip traversing the Andes into Patagonia to look forward to.

It reminds me how rich and interesting the world is and how wonderful it is to share knowledge and experiences. I was able to travel from country to country, experience new cultures, stop off at libraries, museums, art galleries, see many natural wonders, learn new languages and read terrific books, travel guides and articles on Wikipedia in-between stops.

New York 410

At the Natural History Museum, New York.

Since that time, as an English, History & Media teacher, I have been an advocate for lifelong learning and for Open Knowledge; for looking outward to the world and pooling & sharing our knowledge & experiences. In this way, I can think of no better role than a collaboration between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh to do just that.

Time to roll my sleeves up and get started…

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