Wikipedia: the internet’s favourite website for information
As Wikipedia celebrates its 17th birthday this month, we are once again asking our colleagues to help share some fact-checked knowledge to Wikipedia as part of the global #1Lib1Ref campaign (1 Librarian adding 1 Reference) and help assert that facts, not alternative facts, matter.
The campaign runs from January 15th to February 3rd 2018. Everyone is welcome to participate (it is a global open platform after all).
Wikipedia is already the 5th most visited website, the largest reference work on the internet and the single greatest open education resource in existence today. And that’s with only 120,000 regular contributors. Of whom, only around 3455 are considered ‘very active‘ Wikipedians.
That’s the population of a village like Pitlochry curating the world’s knowledge.
Imagine if the 13,000 staff and 36,000 at the University of Edinburgh all contributed a little of their time and expertise to improving the free encyclopedia.
Imagine if ALL universities contributed.
Imagine if ALL libraries contributed.
While Pitlochry is near the famous 18ft ‘Soldier’s Leap’ at Killiecrankie (worth a visit)#1Lib1Ref is your invitation to take a small step to find out how everyone can help improve Wikipedia. Simply add 1 citation to 1 fact on Wikipedia that has been tagged as needing verified with a ‘Citation Needed‘ tag between now and February 3rd 2018.
87.5% of students report using Wikipedia for their academic work.
Used by 90% of medical students and 50-75% of physicians.
It is the place people turn to orientate themselves on a topic.
Did Media Literacy backfire?
“Too many students I met were being told that Wikipedia was untrustworthy and were, instead, being encouraged to do research. As a result, the message that many had taken home was to turn to Google and use whatever came up first. They heard that Google was trustworthy and Wikipedia was not.” (Boyd, 2017)
“Search is the way we live now” – Google and Wikipedia
Google depends on Wikipedia. Click through rate decreases by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed.
Wikipedia depends on Google. 84.5% of visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google.
According to 2011 figures in Hillis, Petit & Jarrett (2013), Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of the searches made using mobile devices.
Google’s ranking algorithm also has a ‘funnelling effect’ according to Beel & Gipp (2009); narrowing the sources clicked upon 90% of the time to just the first page of results with a 42% click through on the first choice alone.
This means that addressing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia will surface the knowledge to Google’s top ten results and increase clickthrough and knowledge-sharing. Wikipedia editing can therefore be seen as a form of activism in the democratisation of access to information.
Did you know that you can nominate Wikipedia pages to be included on Wikipedia’s front page (viewed 25 million times a day on average)? We did just that for the noted sociologist Mary Susan McIntosh‘s Wikipedia page which was created for International Women’s Day in March 2017. From not having a Wikipedia page at all to 7000 views in 1 single day.
Last week I attended the eighth Open Educational Resources conference (OER17) at Resource for London. Themed on ‘the Politics of Open‘. Little did we know when these themes were announced this time last year just how timely this conference would be.
Gamifying Wikimedia; Learning Through Play workshop. Jointly presented with Dr. Martin Poulter, Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Oxford). (slides). A fun-filled hour where we played a Wiki Race game (e.g. Youtube video example of a Wiki War) challenging participants to navigate, using only the wiki links in the body of a Wikipedia article from Open Educational Resources to Holloway Road in Wikipedia’s own version of ‘Six degrees of separation’. Other games we looked at were WikiShootme – a fun way of crowdsourcing pictures for notable locations without one online – and Citation Hunt (where participants are invited to find a reference to back up one statement on Wikipedia flagged as requiring one by the [Citation Needed] tag).
This last presentation outlined the work the Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh over the last fifteen months; the lessons learnt and the recommendations.
It was not recorded so here’s what I said:
Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected Campus
The Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh began in January 2016 so I am about to write my 15th month report this week. An infographic for the first 12 months is available to view at tinyurl.com/WikiResidency.
I should say that the reason for the title of the talk, Lo and Behold, is because I am massive fan of Werner Herzog and the film that bears the name. Potentially the subtitle for this talk could have been ‘a year of chaos, hostility and murder’. Thankfully, the reverse was true.
But the residency has also, at its heart, been about making connections. Both across the university’s three teaching colleges and beyond; with the city of Edinburgh itself. Demonstrating how staff, students and members of the public can most benefit from and contribute to the development of the huge open knowledge resource that are the Wikimedia projects. And we made some significant connections over the last year in all of these areas.
But first some context as to how this came to be. In 1583 the University of Edinburgh came to be then a short time later in 2001 Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia was established.
In 2011, ten years after Wikipedia first launched, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by the vice president of Oxford University of Press acclaiming that ‘Wikipedia had come of age’ and that it was time Wikipedia played “a vital role in formal education settings“.
In 2013, two years after this article was published, Scotland got its first ever Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland, Ally Crockford. Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching & Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, invited both Ally Crockford and the newly installed Wikimedian in Residence at the Museums and Galleries Scotland, Sara Thomas, to hold an editathon during the university’s February 2015 term break. This editathon, themed on Women, Science and Scottish History was to help recognise and celebrate the achievements of the Edinburgh 7, the first female medical students in Britain, with new and improved Wikipedia pages. At the event, Melissa Highton invited Professor Allison Littlejohn to conduct some research to see if there was actually some formal and informal learning going on at these Wikipedia editing events. This research was then shared later that year at the Wikipedia Science Conference organised by the Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Library, Martin Poulter.
Happily the research bore out that there was real merit in having a Wikimedian in an education setting because there was indeed informal and formal learning going on at editathon events. Up until this point all the residencies had tended to be GLAM oriented (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) so Melissa was quite bold in arguing for a Wikimedian on a university-wide remit. And I’m pleased to say that calculated risk worked out.
To raise awareness of Wikipedia and its sister projects
To design and deliver digital skills engagement events such as editathons (groups of staff & student editors coming together to edit Wikipedia pages on a focused theme – both inside and outside the curriculum)
To work with colleagues all across the institution to find ways in which the University – as a knowledge creation organisation – can most benefit and contribute to the development of this huge open knowledge resource.
But how to go about serving the university as their newest resource? Wikipedia in education is well established elsewhere but we were in slightly uncharted territory at the university so I could have been sat twiddling my thumbs for the year; waiting for take-up that may never have come (although I don’t think for a moment this would have happened). I could also have been treated as a snake oil salesman peddling the educational equivalent of fast food.
If I had been I would have been given short shrift. Thankfully, this ancient university is a thoroughly innovative modern one and among its 36,000 students and 13,000 staff there are a great many proponents of Open Knowledge.
I have never been busier.
The trick, if there was one, was to get colleagues to see there was a link between the Wikimedia projects and the work they were doing; to see there was a shared mission; to recognise that both were knowledge producers and, for want of a better word, ‘ideas factories’. And that collaborations between the university and Wikimedia could be fruitful for both sides. More than the sum of their parts. That involved engaging people in the conversation. Getting in the room. Because once in the room, colleagues could see the connections and did start to look at Wikipedia differently.
One of the biggest factors in the residency’s success was the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface, making editing so much easier and more akin to using WordPress and Ms Word through its drop-down menus.
But we had to get people in the room first of all to give it a go. That’s why the ‘edit-a-thon’ model proved particularly successful. Hosting an event on a particular theme for editors to come together and create or improve Wikipedia articles on that theme.
So we’d fit in with other events already happening in the academic calendar and stage our own when people were likely to be able to attend. Be it a Women in Espionage themed editathon for Spy Week; a Festival of Samhuinn event for Halloween to improve articles about those passed away; or Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate Women in STEM; inviting colleagues from STEM subjects, English, History, Scottish Studies and more to come take part in these events.
We’d also draw in other institutions like the National Library of Scotland and the University of Sheffield’s Centre for the Gothic in our Robert Louis Stevenson Day event themed on Gothic writers.
And in our third year of running the History of Medicine we have colleagues sharing Open Knowledge from across the university and beyond including the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons (Glasgow), the Surgeons’ Hall Museums, the Lothian Health Service Archives and more.
So once people were engaged and their curiosity piqued then we could begin to show how the other Wikimedia projects link with Wikipedia and how information literacy is improved through engagement with Wikipedia.
Ultimately, what you wanted attendees to get from the experience was this; the idea that knowledge is most useful when it is used; engaged with; built upon.
And that housing knowledge in silos, of any kind, be they Wikimedia projects or university repositories, is missing a trick when that knowledge could be engaged with and built upon.
That’s why in the Wikimedia universe, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Wikipedia article has a link to his out-of-copyright longer works on Wikisource, the free content library. It also links to images related to RLS hosted on Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. And it has a link to the Wikidata page on RLS where all the machine-readable structured linked data about RLS is kept.
And, in terms of raising awareness of these sister projects, we have had a showcase about Wikisource, the free content library, which has resulted in some digitised PhD theses being uploaded and linked to from Wikipedia, just one click away. Sharing open knowledge.
We have also had a number of Wikidata showcase events as Wikidata represents the bright future of the Wikimedia projects. Machine-readable, language independent, this central hub acts as a repository of linked structured data for all the Wikimedia projects and the wider internet beyond. This means the data from the largest reference work on the internet can be queried, analysed & visualised as never before.
And that’s the thing. Wikipedia doesn’t want you to cite it. It is a tertiary source; an aggregator of articles built on citations from reliable secondary sources. In this way it is reframing itself as the front matter to all research. And should be understood as such.
Another important factor is the work Wikipedia is doing with Altmetric and Crossref to ensure more permanent DOIs are used as citations which can then be tracked for impact. Wikipedia is now the number 5 most prolific DOI referrer according to Crossref… and even that is thought to be a gross underestimate of its actual standing.
The new Content Translation tool, developed in the last two years, has made a big impact as it allows one Wikipedia article to be translated, using machine translation to take all the formatting across paragraph by paragraph to create a new article in a different language Wikipedia. Thereby building understanding.
And this is something our Translation Studies MSc students were motivated to address as they could see exactly how knowledge was unevenly spread throughout the different language Wikipedias.
Similarly, one really important factor was this idea of taking ownership to help redress areas of under-representation and systemic bias on Wikipedia. In this way many of our Wikipedia events focused on addressing the gender gap.
Less than 15% of women edit Wikipedia and this skews the content in much the same way with only 16.85% of biographies about notable women. Given that the gender gap is real and that a lot of institutions will be undertaking initiatives as part of their commitment to Athena Swan, the creating of new role models for young and old alike goes a long way to engage people in helping to address this issue.
That’s why it is enormously pleasing that over the whole year, 65% of attendees at our events were female.
Over the course of this same year, Fake News has come to the fore. For Wikipedia editors this is nothing new as they have been combatting Fake news for years. Evaluating sources is core skill for a Wikipedia editor.
In fact, all the skills and experiences that universities and PISA are articulating they want to see students imbued with at this moment in time are ones that Wikipedia assignments help develop. And that’s not just hot air. The assignments we have run this year actually have delivered on these.
As a result of colleagues seeing connections with, and benefits of, a Wikipedia assignment we have run three Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments and three online assignments.
We have a case study of students in Reproductive Biology Hons. researching and writing new articles about reproductive health such as High-Grade Serous Carcinoma and thereby improving their research & communication skills and contributing their knowledge to the global Open Knowledge community. This is set to run for its third year this September.
We have a case study of students on the Translation Studies MSc course translating 4000 words from one language Wikipedia to another using the Content Translation tool as part of their Independent Study module; thereby getting much-needed published practice in translation. This has been such a success that we have continued for a second semester and Edinburgh University Translation Society are also publishing their own Wikipedia translations now too.
Translation has been a massive part of the residency; communicating how both sides can benefit massively from one another. My approach has been based on my background. Teaching in the Far East helped me see how to engage learners through stimulating, engaging & accessible activities; graded to their needs. In this way, my approach with translating Wikipedia’s policies and guidelines into a way that educators can engage with has been to:
But my main task is to finish the residency in January 2018 leaving behind a sustainable way for involvement with Wikimedia to continue.
That, for me, is a mixture of People and Process. Identifying the people who are going to take this on and work with them to support others but also preparing enough materials so that the process of involvement is easy enough for anyone to pick it up and get started.
That’s why I’m working to embed this in our Digital Skills programme and have already trained 12 Wikimedia ambassadors to support the Wikimedia activities in their area of the university. That’s why I have created and curated 110 videos and video tutorials on the university’s Media Hopper channel. That’s why I’ve written up case studies and shared a reusable lesson plan on TES so anyone can teach Wikipedia editing. There is nothing worse than people struggling on their own to edit Wikipedia and becoming frustrated when they get told they are doing it the wrong way. Well, by sharing the right way and by showing how easy it now is I believe we can make this sustainable across Edinburgh and beyond.
Key learning points
Sharing good practice & working collaboratively is crucially important.
Creating a variety of stimulating events where practitioners from different backgrounds participate in an open knowledge community has proved to be a successful approach.
Wikipedia & its sister projects offer a great deal to Higher Education and can be successfully integrated to enhance the learning & teaching within the curriculum.
Areas of under-representation and systemic bias have proven to be extremely important motivators for participants.
Demystifying Wikipedia through presentations, workshops & scaffolded resources has yielded positive reactions & an increased understanding of Wikipedia’s important role in academia.
Reasons why other universities should also look into hosting a Wikimedian as part of their digital skills team.
The new Visual Editor is super easy to learn, fun and addictive.
Wikidata – query, analyse & visualise the largest reference work on the internet. Add your research data to combine datasets on Wikidata.
WikiCite – tidying up the citations on Wikipedia to make a consistent, queryable bibliographic repository enhancing the visibility and impact of research.
Wikisource – Quotations and images from long ago can still touch and inspire. Out of copyright texts such as digitised PhD theses can be uploaded & linked to from Wikipedia.
Content Translation – The new tool allows Translation Students to get much-needed published translation practice and help share knowledge globally; correcting areas of under-representation and building understanding.
The gender gap is real and working with Wikipedia helps address this as part of Athena Swan initiatives; creating new roles models for young & old alike.
Develop students’ information literacy, digital literacy & research skills.
Fake news is prevalent. Engaging with Wikipedia helps develop a critical information literate approach to its usage and to other online sources of information.
So there’s your summary of why you too should engage with Wikimedia. 10 good solid reasons why the cost of a Wikimedian, as just one more digital skills trainer among all your others, is peanuts compared to what the university as a whole can benefit out of the experience. Indeed, staff and students are already consulting Wikipedia for pre-research purposes so why not ensure gaps in representation and inaccuracies are addressed? Because if not you then who?
I began by saying the Chronicle of Higher Education acclaimed “Wikipedia had Come of Age” way back in 2011. With Wikipedia now 16 (going on 17) and this being the Politics of Open, I’ll leave you with one final thought, has Wikipedia now come of age? Is now the time for Wikipedia in Education?
And, to paraphrase our First Minister, if not now then when?
But don’t just take my word for it, here are the staff and students who have taken part in Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments at the University of Edinburgh this year.
Getting citations into Wikipedia – can you spare 16 minutes to mark Wikipedia’s 16th birthday?
It’s been quite the week in politics this week. #CitationDefinitelyNeeded
On Sunday 15th January 2017, Wikipedia will turn 16 years old. How often do you think you have used the free online encyclopaedia in this time?
In this Google Talk, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director, Katherine Maher, speaks engagingly about Wikipedia’s humble beginnings in 2001, where it is now and, importantly, where it is going.
To mark Wikipedia’s birthday, the Wikipedia Library are repeating their successful #1Lib1Ref campaign from last year. This global campaign “1 Librarian 1 Reference” (#1Lib1Ref) is to get Information Services professionals and educators adding citations to Wikipedia.
Events are taking place at the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and all over the globe from January 15th To February 3rd 2017 but here at the University of Edinburgh we are kicking things off by asking you to spare a mere 16 minutes to mark Wikipedia’s 16 years on Friday 20th January 2017. (You won’t even need to leave your desk).
Your 1,2,3 to taking part in next Friday’s #1Lib1Ref event.
Create a Wikipedia account ahead of Friday’s event. This 3 minute video shows what you need to do to setup your account. (NB: It is better if you do create an account at home ahead of time as Wikipedia limits the number of accounts that can be created from a single IP address within a 24 hour period to a mere 6 accounts.)
On the day itself – This 5 minute video demos what you need to do. Essentially using the Citation Hunt tool to find a Wikipedia page that is both missing a citation & that you are interested in helping out; and guiding you as to how to go about finding a suitable reference to fill that knowledge gap. NB: This post from the Biodiversity Heritage Library also illustrates the process too.
As you save your citation, please remember to add the hashtag#1Lib1Ref in your edit summary so that we can track participation in the event. We will announce these contributions on social media with the strengthening Wikipedia’s links to scholarly publications and celebrating the collective expertise of the world’s Information Service professionals (so any pics you can share with the #1Lib1Ref hashtag would be greatly appreciated).
This is a chance to create incoming links or citations from articles that are usually the top Google hit for their topic. Citations can be to paper or electronic sources, that you are interested in professionally or otherwise. If you can supply citations for topics or authors that are under-represented in Wikipedia, then all the better. In January 2016, librarians around the world made thousands of edits to Wikipedia, with publicity seen by millions of people. You can read more about last year’s event here.
“We live in the information age and the aphorism ‘one who possess information possesses the world’ of course reflects the present-day reality.” (Vladimir Putin in Interfax:Russia & CIS Presidential Bulletin, 30 June 2016).
To mark Wikipedia’s 16th birthday, and to assert that facts really do matter, let’s find Wikipedia pages we can help improve… and spend a few moments improving them with a reference (or two).
In the article, Dewey points out that “people’s ability to verify information….is something I think we really need to study and process as a society.”
Link decay and lack of digital provenance is a real issue following Google’s introduction of ‘Knowledge Panels’ and one which Wikidata, as an open-license, machine-readable knowledge base, seeks to correct.
Indeed “the primary issue with Google’s knowledge panels is that they aren’t terribly knowledgeable: They provide information but often leave out any context on where that information came from.”
That being said here are some unattributed facts gleaned from Google searches about the teams competing in Euro 2016 beginning tomorrow (in order of their FIFA ranking)…. with no possibility of their accuracy being verified as a result. Thanks goodness for Wikipedia!
Citation Needed – “Facts” about teams competing in Euro 2016.
Belgium – produces the greatest variety of bricks in the world. The word “gas” was proposed by Flemish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577-1644) as a phonetic spelling of his Dutch pronunciation of the Greek word “chaos”.
Germany – In Germany, the soft drink, Fanta, is actually the star ingredient of a popular dessert called Fantakuchen. Which translates to Fanta cake.
Spain – The official name of Spain is the “Kingdom of Spain.” Spain has also given the world the mop and bucket.
Portugal – The largest producer of cork products in the world.
England – In 1886, Sarah Ann Henley threw herself off Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge after a row with her boyfriend, falling 75 metres on to the mud bank below. She was saved by her billowing crinoline petticoats, which helped to slow her fall, and lived on into her eighties. The last ‘witches’ to be hanged in Britain were three women from Bideford in Devon, in 1682. There was no evidence against them, but other villages accused them of sending the devil to their enemies’ houses, in the form of a magpie and a tabby cat.
Austria – The Austrian flag is one of the oldest national flag in the world. It dates from 1191, when Duke Leopold V fought in the Battle of Acre during the Third Crusade. The Austrian funeral industry is said to be largest per capita in Europe.
Turkey – One way of protecting a newborn baby in Turkey is the placing of a tortoise under a baby’s pillow at night. It is believed the tortoise will protect the child. Turkey is also the largest grower of hazelnuts in the world; responsible for 80% of the world’s hazelnut exports.
Switzerland – in 2007, Switzerland accidentally invaded its neighbor Liechtenstein. Switzerland’s Anti-PowerPoint Party, or APPP, actually works to decrease the number of PowerPoints used in professional presentation, claiming that Microsoft PowerPoint and its other software products are actually economically harmful. The goal of the APPP is to be the fourth largest political party in Switzerland, and their motto is “Finally do something!” Nicknamed the King of the Alps, Ulrich Inderbinen climbed the Matterhorn a staggering 370 times, the last at age 90. The Zermatt-born mountaineer was the oldest active mountain guide in the world when he retired at age 94.
Italy – In 1454, a real human chess game took place in Marostica, Italy. Rather than fight a bloody duel, the winner of the chess game would win the hand of a beautiful girl. To commemorate the event, each September in even-numbered years, the town’s main piazza becomes a life-sized chess board.
Hungary – Mangalitsa pigs are a unique breed of pig that resemble sheep as much as pigs and are a little known Hungarian breed. They are the result of a 19th century Austro-Hungarian experiment breeding wild boar with a pig bred especially for lard. Called the Kobe Beef of pork, they are prized for their well-marbled meat. There are 60,000 Mangalitsas worldwide, with 50,000 being in Hungary.
Romania – Romania has the largest bear population in Europe (with about 60% in Transylvania)
France – In 1386, a pig was hung in France for the murder of a child. There is only one stop sign in the entire French city of Paris. French President Charles de Gaulle is included in the Guinness Book of World Records as surviving more assassination attempts—32—than anyone in the world.
Ukraine – Ukraine is one of the largest grain exporters in the world. Commas are used as decimal points instead of periods.
Croatia – Ivan Vucetic, criminologist and anthropologist, was born on the island of Hvar and was the pioneer of scientific dactyloscopy (identification by fingerprints), and his methods of identification are used worldwide.
Wales also known as Cymru – is part of the United Kingdom and well-known for its rich history and culture. Famous people from Wales include Richard Burton, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Tom Jones, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Shirley Bassey, Timothy Dalton and Charlotte Church.
Northern Ireland – Belfast Zoo is home to the only group of purple-faced langurs in Europe.
Poland – In Poland, bananas are peeled from the blossom end not the stem end.
Russia – Russians love cloakrooms – don’t expect to get very far without being asked to put your coat and/or bag in a cloakroom. The best are efficiently run by teams of baboushkas. It’s considered wimpy to lower the ear flaps on your Ushanka (fur hat) unless the temperature drops below -20C. Mikhail Gorbachev recorded an album of romantic ballads. Putin has a judo DVD.
Czech Republic – They don’t go in for turkey in the Czech Republic. During Christmas they eat carp. Usually bought a few days before and left swimming in the bath to keep fresh for the big day.
Ireland – Ireland’s most famous musical export is U2.
Slovakia – is not only a member of the European Union but also belongs to the Eurozone countries. In 2009, the Slovak Koruna (SKK) was retired from circulation after 16 years of using and replaced by a new currency – Euro (EUR).
Sweden – As of 2004 you can pay your Swedish taxes by sending an SMS message from your cell phone. All employers (as of 2004) are required to provide free massage. In Sweden IKEA is a cheap store, not a trendy store.
Albania – King Zog of Albania (ruled 1928-39) was the only national leader in modern times to return fire during an assassination attempt.
Fun facts… but without any digital provenance, how can one know any of them are true?
Current Wiki Projects – tidying up source metadata, creating consistent citations and signalling Open Access sources.