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

Tag: Visual Editor

Wikipedia in Education: If not now then when? #OER17

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.

I presented 4 sessions at the conference:

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

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.

A year of chaos, hostility and murder? Au contraire…

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.

Today, Wikipedia is the number one information site in the world with 500 million visitors a month; the place that students and staff consult for pre-research on a topic. And considered, according to a 2014 Yougov survey, to be trusted more than the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph and Times. Perhaps because unlike the secret algorithms of Google and Facebook, on Wikipedia everything is out in the open. Its commitment to transparency is an implicit promise of trust to its users where everything on it can be checked, challenged and corrected.

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“.

A timeline of Wikimedia residencies in Scotland (and Martin Poulter’s work at the University of Oxford).


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.

The University of Edinburgh residency began in January 2016 and its remit was threefold:

  • 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.

Shared missions


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.

The Visual Editor interface


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.

The Edinburgh editathons


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.

Edinburgh Gothic – Pic my Mihaela Bodlovic (CC-BY-SA)

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.

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK – shared missions.


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.

RLS and the Web of Knowledge

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.

Thomas Jehu’s PhD thesis is now digitised and transcribed to Wikisource, one click away from his Wikipedia page.


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.

Further, by tidying up and putting citation data in Wikidata, as 2 million plus citations now are, it means we can also have a central bibliographic repository of linked citation data allowing the data to be queried in any number of ways.

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.

The Front Matter to All Research

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.

The uneven spread of knowledge between the 295 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.

Redressing 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.

Role models like Janet Anne Galloway, advocate for higher education for women in Scotland, Helen Archdale (suffragette), sociologist and LGBT campaigner Mary Susan McIntosh among many many more.

Changing the way stories are told

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.

The skills Wikipedia assignments help develop

 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.

Anyone can teach Wikipedia in the Classroom.

Teaching with Wikipedia is even easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface

We have case studies for the World Christianity MSc Wikipedia literature review assignment; balancing up a hitherto Western-oriented field with new articles from perspectives in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South East Asia and more.

Reproductive Medicine undergraduates – September 2016 (CC-BY-SA)

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.

The approach taken

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:

  • Making learning engaging and accessible.
  • Building on prior knowledge.
  • Sharing good practice.

What’s next?

We have a number of big events planned including a Celtic and Indigenous Languages Wikipedia Conference and a Swahili translate-a-thon to look forward 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.

Making the residency sustainable

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.

Wikipedia comes of Age


  1. The new Visual Editor is super easy to learn, fun and addictive.
  2. Anyone can edit Wikipedia BUT there are checks and balances to help revert unhelpful edits in minutes. (Only 7% of edits are considered vandalism).
  3. Wikidata – query, analyse & visualise the largest reference work on the internet. Add your research data to combine datasets on Wikidata.
  4. WikiCite – tidying up the citations on Wikipedia to make a consistent, queryable bibliographic repository enhancing the visibility and impact of research.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Develop students’ information literacy, digital literacy & research skills.
  9. Share your research & library collections’ material to Wikipedia the right way and open it up to a global Open Knowledge community of millions demonstrating impact with detailed metrics.
  10. Fake news is prevalent. Engaging with Wikipedia helps develop a critical information literate approach to its usage and to other online sources of information.

Wikipedia vs. Fake News

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?

In conclusion

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?

Wikipedia in Education: 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.

Reflections on the Wikipedia assignments (video).

The feedback from the assignments this year has been really positive – from both staff and students.

Wikimedia UK at OER16 Conference 19-20th April 2016

The 7th Open Educational Resources Conference, OER16: Open Culture, will be held on the 19th-20th April 2016 at the University of Edinburgh.

The vision for the conference is to focus on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies for learning, teaching and research. The conference will be chaired by Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, and Lorna Campbell, OER Liaison at the University of Edinburgh and EDINA Digital Education Manager.


And there will be a strong Wikimedia UK presence at the event.

By Robin Owain (WMUK) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Evans by Robin Owain (WMUK) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Evans  is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales.  He is also a professional genealogist with a wealth of experience in researching all aspects of Welsh family and local history. This residency will contribute towards the NLW’s aim of providing ‘Information for All’ and in turn will draw people back to the services and collections of the Library. Information about previous, ongoing, or future Wikipedia-National Library of Wales collaborations are updated regularly on the National Library of Wales project page.

Jason has worked closely with the Library to release over 15,000 images into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons and has held dozens of public events at the Library and through out Wales. Working closely with other cultural partners in Wales the aim has been  encourage and facilitate increased open access across the sector by affecting policy change. Jason has also set-up and run a number of successful Wikimedia projects with the Library’s dedicated volunteer team.  The residency is increasingly focusing on Wikipedia in the education sector and he has made steps towards embedding a Wikipedia based projects into the Welsh curriculum for 16-18 year olds and has proposed a series of talks for sixth form students about using Wikipedia responsibly. He has also helped  several universities to use Wikipedia as vehicle for outreach and gender equality projects.


Martin Poulter By Ziko (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Poulter by Ziko (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Poulter

From April 2015 to March 2016, Martin Poulter was the Wikimedian In Residence at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. The project page is at Wikipedia:GLAM/Bodleian. From June 2013 to April 2014, Martin was the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador running a project to explore overlaps between Jisc, Wikimedia, and academia in general. A certified Lead Trainer for Wikimedia UK in Membership Development and a trained Campus Ambassador as part of the Wikipedia Education Program, on English Wikipedia Martin has more than eleven thousand edits, mainly in the area of psychology. Martin also has hundreds of edits on Wikibooks, a thousand on Wikisource, and thousands of edits cataloguing scientific images on Commons.

In addition, Martin invented the EduWiki Conference (based on an original drink with Fabian Tompsett) and the Wikipedia Science Conference.

Sara Thomas By Lirazelf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sara Thomas By Lirazelf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, the national development body for the Scottish museums sector.  She’s also an event manager and social/digital media trainer with experience in both the private and third sectors.  Since January 2015 in this part time role she’s worked with around 80 cultural institutions to provide training, facilitate content upload and generally advocate for the use of open knowledge in a museums context.  She’s trained 280 new users of Wikipedia, run 16 editathons, 20 training sessions and spoken at 25 seminars, workshops and conferences, taking in museums, libraries, and universities.  A backstage pass event at Glasgow Museums brought some of the lesser-seen elements of Kelvingrove Museum, Kelvin Hall and the Riverside Museum to the Commons; an editathon dedicated to rent strike organiser and activist Mary Barbour contributed to the campaign for greater recognition of her work; and a recent series of editathons with the National Galleries of Scotland created biographies of key Scottish female artists missing from Wikipedia.

In the last two months of the project Sara will be working with Groam House Museum in Rosemarkie, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Women’s Library and Govan’s Hidden Histories to bring Scotland’s rich cultural heritage to a wider audience.

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Lucy Crompton-Reid

Lucy Crompton-Reid joined Wikimedia UK as the new Chief Executive in October 2015, and is working with the staff team, board of trustees and wider Wikimedia community to develop a new strategy and business plan for the charity and to help shape the work of the programmes team. She will also be driving forward the organisation’s advocacy, communications and fundraising activities, and engaging new strategic partners. Lucy has worked in the cultural, voluntary and public sectors for nearly two decades, with past experience including senior roles at Arts Council England, British Refugee Council and the House of Lords. Most recently, she was Chief Executive of the national literature charity Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry and spoken word. Throughout her career, Lucy has had a particular focus on widening participation, and brings a strong commitment to access, learning and public engagement in her new role at Wikimedia UK.


Me in Mallaig after walking the West Highland Way and riding the Harry Potter train.

Me in Mallaig after walking the West Highland Way and riding the Harry Potter train.

Ewan McAndrew (yours truly)

An MA graduate in English & Modern History from the University of Glasgow, Ewan McAndrew went on to study Software Development at Glasgow Caledonian University before moving abroad to teach English. Ewan has taught in Japan, South Korea & Singapore which, in turn, has allowed him to travel throughout Asia, Australia, North America & South America.

A PGDE English & Media teacher for the last few years, Ewan has taught in various parts of Scotland and worked increasingly with heritage institutions, most recently with the Glasgow School of Art’s Archives team on their WW1 ‘Roll of Honour’ project.

Ewan is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Previous editathons have been on the ‘History of Medicine’ for Innovative Learning Week 2016, ‘Art & Feminism’ (with the National Galleries of Scotland & Sara Thomas), ‘Women in Art & Science’ for International Women’s Day 2016 and ‘Women in Espionage: Fact & Fiction’ for Spy Week 2016  in partnership with the English Literature and History departments at the University of Edinburgh.

Wikimedia at OER16

Sara Thomas, Lucy Crompton-Reid and Martin Poulter will all be presenting sessions at OER16.

The programme for OER16 (with details of these sessions) can be found here: OER16 website.

In addition, the following sessions will also be available to OER delegates.

1)      Wikipedia Training 1.20-2pm 19/04/2016

Editing Wikipedia has never been easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia as easy as blogging or utilising MS Word. A 2014 Yougov survey found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.

One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.

Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.

Full training will be given – just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!


2)      Wikipedia Editathon 2-3pm 19/04/2016 – Women in Art, Science & Espionage

Did you know that only 16% of biographies on Wikipedia relate to notable females?

Once training is completed, why not join us for an editathon to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Women in Art, Science & Espionage to put these skills into practice & help redress the balance?

Contributing to Wikipedia during an editathon can be about creating an entirely new page on Wikipedia (250 words minimum backed up by at least 3 references) or as simple as adding a citation or an image to an existing article or even just fixing a typo. Full training will be given at 1.20-2pm so feel free to join us for the editathon afterwards from 2-3pm or drop in to ask us questions about Wikipedia & its sister projects.

Just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!


3)      Ask a Wikimedian: Drop-in clinic 1.20-2pm 20/04/2016

OER16 has a number of Wikimedians attending in Ewan McAndrew (Wikimedian in Residence for University of Edinburgh), Sara Thomas (Wikimedian in Residence for Museums & Galleries Scotland), Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University) and Jason Evans (Wikimedian in Residence for the National Library of Wales).

This lunchtime session will allow you to ask questions about their experiences & seek advice, be it on working with Wikipedia or its sister projects.


4)      Wikisource Demonstration: 2pm-2.25pm 20/04/2016

Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University) will demonstrate how to get the best out of Wikisource. Wikisource is a multilingual project, started in November 2003, to archive a collection of free and open content texts. It is not only a superior format for storing classics, laws, and other free works as hypertext, but it also serves as a base for translating these texts. At the beginning, source texts in all languages (except Hebrew) were all on one wiki. However, Wikisource now has several editions in many individual languages.

NB: Please bring a laptop of tablet with you to allow you to navigate around Wikisource.


5)      Wikipedia Editing Training: 2.25-2.50pm 20/04/2016

Editing Wikipedia has never been easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia as easy as blogging or utilising MS Word. A 2014 Yougov survey found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.

One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.

Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.

This will be a truncated training session from the one offered on 19th April but will introduce you to the basics of utilising the new Visual editor interface – just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!


Hopefully see you there and you can meet the gang!

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

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