Tag: Wikidata

Witchy Wikidata – a 6th birthday celebration event for Halloween

Wikidata is turning 6 years old at the end of October 2018“the source for open structured data on the web and for facts within Wikipedia.” so we are hosting a birthday celebration on Wednesday 31st October 2018 in time for Halloween in Teaching Studio LG.07, David Hume Tower, University of Edinburgh.

Wikidata is a free and open data repository of the world’s knowledge that anyone can read & edit. Wikidata’s linked database acts as central storage for the structured data of its Wikimedia sister projects.

Using Wikidata, information on Wikipedia can be queried & visualised as never before. The sheer versatility of how this data can be used is only just beginning to be understood & explored.

In this session we will explain why Wikidata is so special, why its users are so excited by the possibilities it offers, why it may overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the project to watch and how it is quietly on course to change the world.

Pumpkinpedia

What will the session include?

  • An introduction to Wikidata: what it is, why it is useful and all the amazing things that can be done with structured, linked, machine-readable open data.
  • A practical activity using the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database where you will learn the ‘nuts & bolts’ of how to use and edit Wikidata (manually and in bulk) and help shape the future of open knowledge!
  • A practical guide to querying Wikidata using the SPARQL Query Service.
  • Cake and Wikidata swag to take home.

Who should attend?

Absolutely anyone can use Wikidata for something, so people of all disciplines and walks of life are encouraged to attend this session. Basic knowledge of using the internet will be needed for the practical activity, but there are no other pre-requisites.

Anyone interested in open knowledge, academic research, application development or data visualisation should come away buzzing with exciting new ideas!

NB: Please bring a laptop with you OR email ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk at least 24 hours ahead of the event if you need to borrow one.

Please also create a Wikidata account ahead of the event.

Programme

  • 10:45 – 11:00: Welcome, Tea/Coffee, Registration
  • 11:00 – 11:30: Introduction to Wikidata – what is it, and why is it useful? – Dr. Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Co-ordinator for Wikimedia UK.
  • 11:30 – 12:30: Introduction to SPARQL queries – Delphine Dallison (Wikimedian at the Scottish Library and Information Council).
  • 12:30 – 13:00: Break for lunch
  • 13:00 – 14:30: Witchy data session – Ewan McAndrew (Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh).
    • Manual edits practical – adding data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database to Wikidata.
    • Mass edits practical – adding data in bulk from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database to Wikidata.
    • Visualising the results
  • 14:30 – 14:45:– Close and thanks.

Book here to attend.

If coming from outside the University of Edinburgh then book your place via Eventbrite here.

North Berwick witches – the logo for the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Wikidata in the Classroom and the WikiCite project

The following post was presented by Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, at the Repository Fringe Conference 2018 held on 2nd & 3rd July 2018 at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

 

Hi, my name’s Ewan McAndrew and I work at the University of Edinburgh as the Wikimedian in Residence.

My talk’s in two parts;

The first is part is on teaching data literacy with the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database and Wikidata.

Contention #1:  since the City Region deal is there is a pressing need for implementing data literacy in the curriculum to produce a workforce equipped with the data skills necessary to meet the needs of Scotland’s growing digital economy and that this therefore presents a massive opportunity for educators, researchers, data scientists and repository managers alike.

Wikidata is the sister project of Wikipedia and it the backbone to all the Wikimedia projects, a centralised hub of structured, machine-readable, multilingual linked open data. An introduction to Wikidata can be found here.

I was invited along with 13 other ‘problem holders’ to a ‘Data Fair’ on 26 October 2017 hosted by course leaders on the Data Science for Design MSc. We were each afforded just five minutes to pitch a dataset for the 45 students on the course to work on in groups as a five week long project.

The ‘Data Fair’ held on 26 October 2017 for Data Science for Design MSc students. CC-BY-SA, own work.

Two groups of students were enthused to volunteer to help surface the data from the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database, a fabulous piece of work at the University of Edinburgh from 2001-2003 chronicling information about accused witches in Scotland from the period 1563-1736, their trials and the individuals involved in those trials (lairds, sheriffs, prosecutors etc.) which remained somewhat static and unloved in an Microsoft Access database since the project concluded in 2003. So students at the 2017 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data was exported into Wikidata with attribution, linking back to the source database to provide verifiable provenance, given multilingual labels and linked to other complementary datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved?

There were several areas of interest: course leaders on the Data Science for Design MSc were keen for the students to work with ‘real world’ datasets in order to give them practical experience ahead of their dissertation projects.

 “A common critique of data science classes is that examples are static and student group work is embedded in an ‘artificial’ and ‘academic’ context. We look at how we can make teaching data science classes more relevant to real-world problems. Student engagement with real problems—and not just ‘real-world data sets’—has the potential to stimulate learning, exchange, and serendipity on all sides, and on different levels: noticing unexpected things in the data, developing surprising skills, finding new ways to communicate, and, lastly, in the development of new strategies for teaching, learning and practice.”

Towards Open-World Scenarios: Teaching the Social Side of Data Science by Dave Murray Rust, Joe Corneli and Benjamin Bach.

Beyond this, there were other benefits to the exercise. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, has suggested a 5-star deployment scheme for Open Data (illustrated in the picture and table below). Importing data into Wikidata makes it 5 star data!

By Michael Hausenblas, James G. Kim, five-star Linked Open Data rating system developed by Tim Berners-Lee. (http://5stardata.info/en/) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Number of stars Description Properties Example format
make your data available on the Web (whatever format) under an open license
  • Open license
PDF
★★ make it available as structured data (e.g., Excel instead of image scan of a table)
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
XLS
★★★ make it available in a non-proprietary open format (e.g., CSV instead of Excel)
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
  • Open format
CSV
★★★★ use URIs to denote things, so that people can point at your stuff
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
  • Open format
  • Data has URIs
RDF
★★★★★ link your data to other data to provide context
  • Open license
  • Machine readable
  • Open format
  • Data has URIs
  • Linked data
LOD

Importing data into Wikidata makes it 5 star data!

Open data producers can use Wikidata IDs as identifiers in datasets to make their data 5 star linked open data. As of June 2018, Wikidata featured in the latest Linked Open Data cloud diagram on lod-cloud.net as a dataset published in the linked data format containing over 5,100,000,000 triples.

Over a series of workshops, the Wikidata assignment also afforded the students the opportunity to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. It also motivated student volunteers to surface a much-loved repository of information as linked open data to enable further insights and research. A project that the students felt proud to take part in and found “very meaningful”. (The students even took the opportunity to consult with professors of History at the university in order to gain even more of an understanding of the period in which these witch trials took place, such was their interest in the subject).

Feedback from students at the conclusion of the project included:

  • “After we analysed the data, we found we learned the stories of the witches and we learned about European culture especially in the witchhunts.”
  • “We had wanted to do a happy project but finally we learned much more about these cultures so it was very meaningful for us.”
  • “In my opinion, it’s quite useful to put learning practice into the real world so that we can see the outcome and feel proud of ourselves… we learned a lot.”
  • “Thank you for inviting us and appreciating our video. It’s an unforgettable experience in my life. Thank you so much.”

As a  result of the students’ efforts, we now have 3219 items of data on the accused witches in Wikidata (spanning 1563 to 1736). We also now have data on 2356 individuals involved in trying these accused witches. Finally we have 3210 witch trials themselves. This means we can link and enrich the data further by adding location data, dates, occupations, places of residence, social class, marriages, and penalties arising from the trial.

The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to and leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge.

 

Descendents of King James VI and I, king during union of English and Scottish crowns

And we can see an example of this semantic web of related entities, or historical individuals in this case, here in this visualisation of the descendants of King James I of England and James VI of Scotland (as shown in the pic above but do click on the link for a live rendering).

We can also see the semantic web at play in the below class level overview of gene ontologies (505,000 objects) loaded into Wikidata, and linking these genes to items of data on related proteins and items of data on related diseases, which, in turn, have related chemical compounds and pharmaceutical products used to treat these diseases. Many of these datasets have been loaded into Wikidata, or are maintained by, the GeneWiki initiative – around a million Wikidata items of biomedical data – but, importantly, they are also leveraging from other datasets imported from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) among other sources. This allows researchers to add to and explore the direct and, perhaps more importantly, the indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge to help identify areas for future research.

 

Using Wikidata as an open, community-maintained database of biomedical knowledge – CC-BY: Andrew Su, Professor at The Scripps Research Institute.

Which brings me onto…

Contention #2 – Building a bibliographical repository: the sum of all citations

Sharing your data to Wikidata, as a linking hub for the internet, is also the most cost-effective way to surface your repository’s data and make it 5 star linked open data. As a centralised hub for linked open data on the internet, it enables you to leverage from many other datasets while you can still have  your own read/write applications on top of Wikidata. (Which is exactly what the GeneWiki project did to encourage domain experts to contribute to knowledge gaps on Wikidata through providing a user-friendly read/write interface to enable the “consumption and curation” of gene annotation data using the Wiki Genome web application).

Within Wikidata, we have biographical data, geographical data, biomedical data, taxomic data and importantly, bibliographic data.

The WikiCite project are building a bibliographic repository of sources within Wikidata.

“How does the Wikimedia movement empower individuals to assess reliable sources and arm them with quality information so they can make decisions based in facts? This question is relevant not only to Wikipedia users​ but to consumers of media around the globe. Over the past decade, the Wikimedia movement has come together to answer that question. Efforts to design better ways to support sourcing have begun to coalesce around Wikidata – the free knowledgebase that anyone can edit. With the creation of a rich, human-curated, and machine-readable knowledgebase of sources, the WikiCite initiative is crowdsourcing the process of vetting information​ and its provenance.” – WikiCite Report 2017

Wikidata tools can be used to create Wikidata items on scholarly papers automatically from scraping source metadata from:

  • DOIs,
  • PMIDs,
  • PMCIDs
  • ORCIDs (NB: Multiple items of data can be created simultaneously to represent multiple scholarly papers using one ORCID identifier input in the Orcidator tool).

Indeed, 1 out of 4 items of data in Wikidata represents a creative work. Wikidata currently includes 10 million entries about citable sources, such as books, scholarly papers, news articles and over 75 million author string statements and 84 million citation links in Wikidatas between these authors and sources. 17 million items with a Pubmed ID and 12.4 million items with a DOI.

Mike Bennett, our Digital Scholarship Developer at the University of Edinburgh, is working to develop a tool to translate the Edinburgh Research Archives’ thesis collection data from ALMA into a format that Wikidata can accept but there are ready-made tools that Wikidatans have developed that will automatically create a Wikidata item of data for scholarly papers scraping the source metadata from DOIs, Pubmed IDs and ORCID identifiers, allowing for a bibliographic record of scholarly papers and their authors to be generated as structured, machine-readable, multilingual linked open data.

Why does this matter?

Well…​the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) is a new collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data. Over 150 publishers have now chosen to deposit and open up citation data. As a result, the fraction of publications with open references has grown from 1% to more than 50% out of 38 million articles with references deposited with Crossref.

Citations are the links that knit together our scientific and cultural knowledge. They are primary data that provide both provenance and an explanation for how we know facts. They allow us to attribute and credit scientific contributions, and they enable the evaluation of research and its impacts. In sum, citations are the most important vehicle for the discovery, dissemination, and evaluation of all scholarly knowledge.”

Once made open, the references for individual scholarly publications may be accessed within a few days through the Crossref REST API.  Open citations are also available from the OpenCitations Corpus that is progressively and systematically harvesting citation data from Crossref and other sources. An advantage of accessing citation data from the OpenCitations Corpus is that they are available i n machine-readable RDF format which is systematically being added to Wikidata.

Because this is data on scholars, scholarly papers and citations is stored as linked data on Wikidata, the citation data can be linked to, and leverage from, other complementary datasets enabling the direct and indirect relationships to be explored in this semantic web of knowledge.

This means we can parse the data to answer a range of queries such as:

  • Show me all works which cite a New York Times article/Washington Post article/Daily Telegraph article etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me the most popular journals cited by statements of any item that is a subclass of economics/archaeology/mathematics etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me all statements citing the works of Joseph Stiglitz/Melissa Terras/James Loxley/Karen Gregory etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me all statements citing journal articles by physicists at Oxford University in 1960s/1970s/1980s etc. (delete as appropriate).
  • Show me all statements citing a journal article that was retracted.

And much more besides.

Screengrab of the Scholia profile for the developmental psychologist, Uta Frith, generated from the structured linked data in Wikidata.

 

Like the WikiGenome web application already mentioned, other third party applications can be built with user-friendly UIs to read/write from Wikidata. For instance, the Scholia Web service creates on-the-fly scholarly profiles for researchers, organizations, journals, publishers, individual scholarly works, and research topics. Leveraging from information in Wikidata, Scholia displays information on total number of publications, co-authors, citation statistics in a variety of visualisations. Another way of helping to demonstrate the impact and reach of your research.

Citation statistics for developmental psychologist Uta Frith, visualised on the Scholia web service and generated from the citation data in Wikidata.
Co-author graph for Polly Arnold, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh in the School of Chemistry visualised in the Scholia Web Service and generated from bibliographic data in Wikidata. Professor Arnold is the Crum Brown Chair of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh.

To  conclude, the many benefits and power of linked open data to aid the teaching of data literacy and to help share knowledge between different institutions and different repositories, between geographically and culturally separated societies, and between languages is a beautiful empowering thing. Here’s to more of it and entering a brave new world of linked open data. Thank you.

By way of closing I’d like to show you the video presentations the students on the Data Science for Design MSc students came up with as the final outcome of their project to import the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata.

Here are two data visualisation videos they produced:

Further reading

 3 steps to better demonstrate your institution’s commitment to Open Knowledge and Open Science.

  1. Allocate time/buy out time for academics & postdoctoral researchers to add university research (backed up with citations) to Wikipedia in existing/new pages. Establishing relevance is the most important aspect of adding university research so an understanding of the subject matter is important along with ensuring the balance of edits meets the ethos of Wikipedia so that any possible suggestion of promotion/academic boosterism is outweighed by the benefit of subject experts paying knowledge forward for the common good. At least three references are required for a new article on Wikipedia so citing the work of fellow professionals goes some way to ensuring the article has a wider notability and helps pay it forward. Train contributors prior to editing to ensure they are aware of Wikipedia’s policies & guidelines and monitor their contributions to ensure edits are not reverted.
  2. Identify the most cited works by your university’s researchers which are already on Wikipedia using Altmetric software. Once identified, systematically add in the Open Access links to any existing (paywalled) citations on Wikipedia and complete the edit by adding in the OA symbol (the orange padlock) using the {{open access}} template. Also join WikiProject Open Access.
  3. Help build up a bibliographic repository of structured machine-readable (and multilingual) linked open data on both university researchers AND research papers in Wikidata using the easy-to-use suite of tools available.

Wikimedia at the Open Educational Resources Conference 2018

Ewan McAndrew – Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh (Doug Belshaw, CC-0)

The 9th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy, OER18, took place at the Bristol Watershed Cinema on 18 and 19 April 2018. Its theme was ‘Open to All’ and it featured Wikimedia heavily in its programme.

 

Lorna Campbell takes the stage for her opening keynote at OER18 (Own work, CC-0)

 

Anne-Marie Scott and Jason Evans supporting the EdTech Wikipedia editathon at OER18 (Own work, CC-0)

OER18 further builds on the advocacy work of the last seven years when Martin Poulter first presented on ‘Wikipedia and Higher Education: beat them or join them?’ back in 2011. An overview of Wikimedia UK’s growing engagement with the OER Conference over the years can be found on the Wikimedia UK site. A playlist of the recorded talks from the conference can be found on ALT’s Youtube channel while the Wikimedia related sessions are also hosted on CC-BY licences on the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper channel along with a recently uploaded playlist of 2018 videos of interviews with staff and students about the Wikimedia residency. A roundup of blogposts since the conference can be found on OER18’s site.

Data Science for Design MSc students’ feedback on the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database import into Wikidata. (Own work, CC-0)

 

Wikimedia UK at OER18 – Jason Evans (National Wikimedian for Wales), Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Oxford) and Hannah Evans, Programme Co-ordinator at Wikimedia UK. (Own work, CC-0)

Wikidata in the Classroom – Data Literacy for the next generation

Summary:

The University of Edinburgh are looking to support the development of a data-literate workforce over the next ten years to support Scotland’s growing digital economy. This therefore represents a huge opportunity for educators, researchers and data scientists to support students in this aim. The first Wikidata in the Classroom assignment at the university is taking place this semester on the Data Science for Design MSc course and two groups of students are working on a project to import the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata to see what possibilities surfacing this data as structured linked open data can achieve.

Wikidata in the Classroom

The New York Times described this current era as an ‘era of data but no facts’. Data is increasingly valuable as a key driver of the 21st century economy and is certainly abundant with 90% of the world’s data reportedly created in the last two years. Yet, it has never been more difficult to find ‘truth in the numbers’ with over 60 trillion pages to navigate and terabytes of unstructured data to (mis)interpret.

The way forward is clear.

  • “We need to increase the reputational consequences and change the incentives for making false statements… right now, it pays to be outrageous, but not to be truthful.”(Nyhan in the Economist, 2016)
  • ”This challenge is not just for school librarians to prepare the next generation to be informed but for all librarians to assist the whole population.”(Abram, 2016)

Issues at the heart of the information age have been exposed: there exists a glut of information & a sea of data to navigate with little formalised guidance as to how to find our way through it. For the beleaguered student, this glut makes it near impossible to find ‘truth in the numbers’. Therefore there are huge areas of convergence in developing information & data literacy in the next generation and developing Wikidata as a linked hub of verifiable data; fueling discovery and surfacing open knowledge through Google’s Knowledge Graph but, importantly, providing the digital provenance so it can be checked.

Meeting the information & data literacy needs of our students

The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region has recently secured a £1.1bn City Region deal from the UK and Scottish Governments. Out of this amount, the University of Edinburgh will receive in the region of £300 million towards making Edinburgh the ‘data capital of Europe’ through developing data-driven innovation. Data “has the potential to transform public and private organisations and drive developments that improve lives.” More specifically, the university is being trusted with the responsibility of delivering a data-literate workforce of 100,000 young people over the next ten years; a workforce equipped with the data skills necessary to meet the needs of Scotland’s growing digital economy.

The implementation of Wikidata in the curriculum therefore presents a massive opportunity for educators, researchers and data scientists alike; not least in honouring the university’s commitment to the creating, curating & dissemination of open knowledge. A Wikidata assignment allows students to develop their understanding of, and engagement with, issues such as: data completeness; data ethics; digital provenance; data analysis; data processing; as well as making practical use of a raft of tools and data visualisations. The fact that Wikidata is also linked open data means that students can help connect to & leverage from a variety of other datasets in multiple languages; helping to fuel discovery through exploring the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge. This real-world application of teaching and learning enables insights in a variety of disciplines; be it in open science, digital humanities, cultural heritage, open government and much more besides. Wikidata is also a community-driven project so this allows students to work collaboratively and develop the online citizenship skills necessary in today’s digital economy.

Data Science for Design MSc – Importing the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata

Packed house at the Data Fair for the Data Science for Design MSc course – 26 October 2017 (Own work, CC-BY-SA)

At the University of Edinburgh, we have begun our first Wikidata in the Classroom assignment this semester on the Data Science for Design MSc course. At the course’s Data Fair on 26th October 2017, researchers from across the university presented the 45 masters students in Design Informatics with approximately 13 datasets to choose from to work on in groups of three. Happily, two groups were enthused to import the university’s Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database into Wikidata (the choice of database to propose was suggested by a colleague). This fabulous resource began life in the 1990s before being realised in 2001-2003. It had as its aim to collect, collate and record all known information about accused witches and witchcraft belief in early modern Scotland (from 1563 to 1736) in a Microsoft Access database and to create a web-based user interface for the database. Since 2003, the data has remained static in the Access database and so students at the 2018 Data Fair were invited to consider what could be done if the data were exported into Wikidata, given multilingual labels and linked to other datasets? Beyond this, what new insights & visualisations of the data could be achieved?

The methodology

A similar methodology to managing Wikipedia assignments was employed; making the transition from managing a Wikipedia assignment to managing a Wikidata assignment an easy one. The two groups of students underwent a 1.5 hour practical induction on working with Wikidata and third party applications such as Histropedia, the timeline of everything, before being introduced to the Access database. They then discussed collaboratively how best to divide the task of analysing and exporting the data before deciding one group would work on (1) importing records for the 3,212 accused witches while the other group would work on (2) the import of the witch trial records and (3) the people associated with these trials (lairds, judges, ministers, prosecutors, witnesses etc).

At this current juncture, the groups have researched and now submitted their data models for review. Now the proposed data model has been checked and agreed upon, the students are ready to process the data from the Access database into a format Wikidata can import (making use of the Wikidata plug-in on Google Spreadsheets). Once this stage is complete, the students can then choose how to visualise the linked data in a number of ways; such as maps, timelines, graphs, bubble charts and more. The students are to complete their project by presenting their insights and data visualisations in an engaging way of their choice on the 30th of November 2017.

North Berwick witches – the logo for the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The way forward

The hope is that this project will aid the students’ understanding of data literacy through the practical application of working with a real-world dataset and help shed new light on a little understood period of Scottish history. This, in turn, may help fuel discoveries by dint of surfacing this data and linking it with other related datasets across the UK, across Europe and beyond. As the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft’s website states itself Our list of people involved in the prosecution of witchcraft suspects can now be used as the basis for further inquiry and research.“

The power of linked open data to share knowledge between different institutions, between geographically and culturally separated societies, and between languages is a beautiful thing. Here’s to many more Wikidata in the Classroom assignments.

Wikipedia in the Classroom – the Edinburgh Residency

Wikimedia at the University of Edinburgh
Reasons to engage in the conversation

With about 17 billion page views every month, it’s safe to say that most of us have heard of Wikipedia and maybe even use it on a regular basis. However, most people don’t realise that Wikipedia is the tip of the iceberg. Its sister sites include a media library (Wikimedia Commons), a database (Wikidata), a library of public domain texts (Wikisource), and even a dictionary (Wiktionary) – along with many others, these form the Wikimedia websites.

While the content is all crowd-sourced, the Wikimedia Foundation in the US maintains the hardware and software the websites run on. Wikimedia UK is one of dozens of sister organisations around the globe who support the mission of the Wikimedia websites to share the world’s knowledge.

Today, Wikipedia is the number one information site in the world, visited by 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 its commitment to transparency is an implicit promise of trust to its users where everything on it can be checked, challenged and corrected.

The University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK – shared missions.

Wikimedia at an ancient university

The Edinburgh residency

In January 2016, the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK partnered to host a Wikimedian in Residence for twelve months. This residency marks something of a paradigm shift as the first in the UK in supporting the whole university as part of its commitment to skills development and open knowledge.

Background to the residency

The University of Edinburgh held its first editathon – a workshop where people learn how to edit Wikipedia and start writing – during the university’s midterm Innovative Learning Week in February 2015. Ally Crockford (Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland) and Sara Thomas (Wikimedian in Residence at Museums & Galleries Scotland) came to help deliver the ‘Women, Science and Scottish History’ editathon series which celebrated the Edinburgh Seven; the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university.

Timeline of the Wikimedia residencies in Scotland to date. The University of Edinburgh residency was the first residency in the UK to have a university-wide remit. Martin Poulter was Wikimedian in Residence at the Bodleian Library before beginning a 2nd residency at the University of Oxford on a university-wide remit.

 

Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal for Online Learning at the University of Edinburgh.

“The striking thing for me was how quickly colleagues within the University took to the idea and began supporting each other in developing their skills and sharing knowledge amongst a multi-professional group. This inspired me to commission some academic research to look at the connections and networking amongst the participants and to explore whether editathons were a good investment in developing workplace digital skills.”Melissa Highton – Assistant Principal for Online Learning.

This research, conducted by Professor Allison Littlejohn, found that there was clear evidence of informal & formal learning going on. Further, that “all respondents reported that the editathon had a positive influence on their professional role. They were keen to integrate what they learned into their work in some capacity and believed participation had increased their professional capabilities.”

Since successfully making case for hosting a Wikimedian in Residence, the residency’s remit has been to advocate for knowledge exchange and deliver training events & workshops across the university which further both the quantity & quality of open knowledge and the university’s commitment to embedding information literacy & digital literacy in the curriculum.

Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh – shared missions

Edinburgh was the first university to be founded with a ‘civic’ mission; created not by the church but by the citizens of Edinburgh for the citizens of Edinburgh in 1583. The mission of the university of Edinburgh is “the creation, curation & dissemination of knowledge”. Founded a good deal later, Wikipedia began on January 15th 2001; the free encyclopaedia is now the largest & most popular reference work on the internet.

Wikimedia’s vision is “imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge”. It is 100% funded by donations and is the only non-profit website in the top ten most popular sites.

Wikipedia – the world’s favourite site for information.

Addressing the knowledge gap

While Wikipedia is the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, not everyone does. Of the 80,000 or so monthly contributors to Wikipedia, only around 3000 are termed very active Wikipedians; meaning the world’s knowledge is often left to be curated by a population the size of a village (roughly the size of Kinghorn in Fife… or half of North Berwick). While 5.4 million articles in English Wikipedia is the largest of the 295 active language Wikipedias, it is estimated that there would need to be at least 104 million articles on English Wikipedia alone to cover all the notable subjects in the world. That means as of last month, English Wikipedia is missing approximately 99 million articles.

Less than 15% of women edit Wikipedia and this skews the content in much the same way with only 17.1% of biographies about notable women. The University of Edinburgh has a commitment to equality and diversity and our Wikimedia residency therefore has a particular emphasis on open practice and engaging colleagues in discussing why some areas of open practice do have a clear gender imbalance. In this way many of our Wikipedia events focused on addressing the gender gap as part of the university’s commitment to Athena Swan; creating new role models for young and old alike. Role models like Janet Anne Galloway, advocate for higher education for women in Scotland, Helen Archdale (journalist and suffragette), Mary Susan McIntosh (sociologist and LGBT campaigner) among many many more.

Pages created at Women in Red meetings at the University of Edinburgh editing sessions.

That’s why it is enormously pleasing that over the whole year, 65% of attendees at our events were female.

Sharing knowledge

The residency has, 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.

Inviting staff & students from all different backgrounds and disciplines to contribute their time and expertise to the creation & improvement of Wikipedia articles in a number of events has worked well and engendered opportunities for collaborations and knowledge exchange across the university, with other institutions across the UK; and across Europe in the case of colleagues from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine working with research partner labs.

Wikipedia in the Classroom – 3 assignments in Year One. Doubled in Year Two.

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. Contributing to Wikipedia can also help demonstrate research impact as there is a lot of work going on to ensure that Wikipedia citations to scholarly works use the DOI. The reason being that Wikipedia is already the fifth largest referrer of traffic through the DOI resolver and this is thought to be an underestimate of its true position.

Not just Wikipedia

Knowledge doesn’t belong in silos. The interlinking of the Wikimedia projects for Robert Louis Stevenson.

Introducing staff and students to the work of the Wikimedia Foundation and the other 11 projects has been a key part of the residency with a Wikidata & Wikisource Showcase held during Repository Fringe in August 2016 which has resulted in some out-of-copyright PhD theses being uploaded to Wikisource, and linked to from Wikipedia, just one click away.

Wikisource is a free digital library which hosts out-of-copyright texts including: novels, short stories, plays, poems, songs, letters, travel writing, non-fiction texts, speeches, news articles, constitutional documents, court rulings, obituaries, and much more besides. The result is an online text library which is free to anyone to read with the added benefits that the text is quality assured, searchable and downloadable.

Sharing content to Wikisource, the free digital library, and linking to Wikipedia one click away.

Wikidata is our most exciting project with many predicting it will overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the dominant project. A free linked database of machine-readable knowledge, Wikidata acts as central storage for the structured data of all 295 different language Wikipedias and all the other Wikimedia sister projects.

Timeline of Female alumni of the University of Edinburgh generated from structured linked open data stored in Wikidata.

 “How can you trust Wikipedia when anyone can edit it?”

This is the main charge levelled against involvement with Wikipedia and the residency has been making the case for re-evaluating Wikipedia and for engendering a greater critical information literacy in staff & students. 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 published secondary sources. In this way it is reframing itself as the ‘front matter to all research.’

Wikipedia has clear policy guidelines to help ensure its integrity.

Verifiability – every single statement on Wikipedia needs to be backed up with a citation from a reliable published secondary source. So an implicit promise is made to our users that you can go on there and check, challenge and correct the verifiability of any statement made on Wikipedia.

 

No original research – while knowledge is created everyday, until it is published by a reliable secondary source, it should not be on Wikipedia. The presence of editorial oversight is a key consideration in source evaluation therefore, however well-researched, someone’s personal interpretation is not to be included.

 

Neutral point of view – many subjects on Wikipedia are controversial so can we find common truth in fact? The rule of thumb is you can cover controversy but don’t engage in it. Wikipedians therefore present the facts as they exist.

Automated programmes (bots) patrol Wikipedia and can revert unhelpful edits & copyright violations within minutes. The edit history of a page is detailed such that it is very easy to revert a page to its last good state and block IP addresses of users who break the rules.

What underlies Wikipedia, at its very heart, is this fundamental idea that more people want to good than harm, more people want to create knowledge than destroy, more people want to share than contain. At its core Wikipedia is about human generosity.” – Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation in December 2016.

This idea that more people want to good than harm has also been borne out by researchers who found that only seven percent of edits could be considered vandalism.

 

 

Wikipedia in the Classroom

Developing information literacy, online citizenship and digital research skills.

The residency has met with a great many course leaders across the entire university and the interactions have all been extremely fruitful in terms of understanding what each side needs to ensure a successful assignment and lowering the threshold for engagement.

Translation Studies MSc students have completed the translation of a Wikipedia article of at least 4000 words into a different language Wikipedia last semester and are to repeat the assignment this semester. This time asking students to translate in the reverse direction from last semester so that the knowledge shared is truly a two-way exchange.

 

The Translation MSc assignment

World Christianity MSc students undertook an 11-week Wikipedia assignment as part of the ‘Selected Themes in the Study of World Christianity’ class. This core course offers candidates the opportunity to study in depth Christian history, thought and practice in and from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The assignment comprised of writing a new article, following a literature review, on a World Christianity term hitherto unrepresented on Wikipedia.

When you hand in an essay the only people that generally read it are you and your lecturer. And then once they both read it, it kind of disappears and you don’t look at it again. No one really benefits from it. With a Wikipedia assignment, other people contribute to it, you put it out there for everyone to read, you can keep coming back to it, keep adding to it, other people can do as well. It becomes more of a community project that everyone can read and access. I really enjoyed it.”Nuam Hatzaw, World Christianity MSc student.

The World Christianity MSc assignment.

Reproductive Biology Honours students in September 2015 researched, synthesised and developed a first-rate Wikipedia entry of a previously unpublished reproductive medicine term: neuroangiogenesis. The following September, the next iteration was more ambitious. All thirty-eight students were trained to edit Wikipedia and worked collaboratively in groups to research and produce the finished written articles. The assignment developed the students’ research skills, information literacy, digital literacy, collaborative working, academic writing & referencing.

One particular deadly form of ovarian cancer, High grade serous carcinoma, was unrepresented on Wikipedia and Reproductive Biology student Áine Kavanagh took great care to thoroughly research and write the article to address this; even developing her own openly-licensed diagrams to help illustrate the article. Her scholarship has now been viewed over sixteen thousand times adding an important source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community.

It was a really good exercise in scientific writing and writing for a lay audience. As a student it’s a really good opportunity. It’s a really motivating thing to be able to do; to relay the knowledge you’ve learnt in lectures and exams, which hasn’t really been relevant outside of lectures and exams, but to see how it’s relevant to the real world and to see how you can contribute.” –Áine Kavanagh.

The Reproductive Biology Hons. assignment.

Following a successful multidisciplinary approach, including students and staff all collaborating in the co-creation & sharing of knowledge, the residency has been extended into a third year until January 2019. Twenty members of staff have also now been trained to provide Wikipedia training and advice to colleagues to help with the sustainability of the partnership in tandem with support from Wikimedia UK.

While also ensuring Wikipedia editing is both embedded in regular digital skills workshops, demystifying how to begin editing Wikipedia has been a core focus of the residency, utilising Wikipedia’s new easy-to-use Visual Editor interface. Over two hundred videos and video tutorials, lesson plans, case studies, booklets and handouts have been created & curated in order to lower the threshold for staff and students to be able to engage with the Wikimedia projects in the years ahead.

The way ahead

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. Since that article, the advent of ‘Fake News’ has engendered discussions around how best to equip students with a critical information literacy. For Wikipedia editors this is nothing new as they have been combatting fake news for years and source evaluation is one of the Wikipedian’s core skills.

In fact, there is increasing synchronicity in that the skills and experiences that universities and PISA are articulating they want to see students endowed with are ones that Wikipedia assignments help develop. The assignments we have run this year have all demonstrated this and are to be repeated as a result. The case for Wikipedia playing a vital role in formal education settings has never been stronger.

Is now the time for Wikipedia to come of age?

If not now, then when?

Course leaders at Edinburgh University

Postscript: All three assignments from 2016/2017 are continuing in 2017/2018 because of the positive feedback from staff and students alike.

These are being augmented with collaborations with:

  • two student societies; the History Society for Black History Month and the Translation Society on a Wikipedia project to give their student members much-needed published translation practice.
  • Library and University Collections to add source metadata from 27,000 records in the Edinburgh Research Archive to Wikidata and 20+ digitised theses to Wikisource
  • a further three in-curriculum collaborations in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health and Anthropology MSc and Data Science for Design MSc.
  • the Fruitmarket Gallery and the university’s Centre for Design Informatics for a Scottish Contemporary Artists editathon.
  • A Litlong editathon as part of the AHRC ‘Being Human’ festival.
  • The School of Chemistry for Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate women in STEM.
  • the University Chaplaincy to mark the International Storytelling Festival.
  • Teeside University to run a ‘Regeneration’ themed editathon.

As we have shown, there are huge areas of convergence between the Wikimedia projects and higher education. The Edinburgh residency has demonstrated that collaborations between universities and Wikimedia are mutually beneficial and that Wikipedia plays a vitally important role in the development of information literacy, digital research skills and the dissemination of academic knowledge for the common good.

That all begins with engaging in the conversation. Building an informed understanding of the Wikimedia projects and the huge opportunities that working together create.

Planting the seed and watching it grow.
Reasons to engage in the conversation
Wikipedia's front page 11 May 2017

Did you know – Mary Susan McIntosh

Did you know that that sociologist, feminist, and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights Mary Susan McIntosh was deported from the U.S. in 1960 for speaking out against the House Un-American Activities Committee?

Mary Susan McIntosh (1936–2013) sociologist, feminist, political activist and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights in the UK. A 1974 colour photograph from her time as a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. CC-BY-SA
Mary Susan McIntosh (1936–2013) sociologist, feminist, political activist and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights in the UK. A 1974 colour photograph from her time as a Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. CC-BY-SA

Yesterday this ‘Did You Know‘ fact was on Wikipedia’s front page. The front page is viewed, on average, 25 million times a day.

Mary’s page was only written in March during our International Women’s Day event here at the University of Edinburgh by one of our attendees, Lorna Campbell (read Lorna’s blog article on Mary here).

While her page has only been live on Wikipedia for two months, Mary’s page has now been viewed in excess of 7000 times because a) editors were motivated to address Wikipedia’s gender gap problem where less than 15% of editors are female and less than 17% of biographies are of notable women and b) we felt Mary’s story was important enough that it should be shared on Wikipedia’s front page and introduced to an audience of up to 25 million.

Did you know you could do that? Nominate a page newly created in the last seven days, or significantly expanded on, to be included on Wikipedia’s front page in this way?

View the guidelines for Did You Know here.

The Wikimedia residency at the University of Edinburgh has been as much about demystifying the largest reference work on the internet as anything else so here are some other things I feel are worth knowing in the spirit of ‘did you know‘?:

 

  • Did you know that Wikipedia works with Turnitin to address issues of plagiarism and copyright violation using the Copyvio tool and that the Dashboard for managing assignments now offers Authorship Highlighting of students’ edits thereby making it easier to visualize and evaluate student work.
  • Did you know that Wikipedia does not want you to cite it? It is a tertiary source; an aggregator of articles with facts backed up from reliable published secondary sources. You can’t cite Wikipedia but you can cite the references it uses. In this way it is reframed as the digital gateway to further research sources.
  • Did you know that Wikipedia editing teaches source evaluation as a core skill hence Wikipedia education assignments help students combat fake news?
  • Did you know that Dr. Alex Chow at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity has developed a script to help assess the word count of Wikipedia articles for use with student assignments?
  • Did you know that only 7% of edits to Wikipedia areconsidered vandalism and that research has found that, unlike other parts of the internet, Wikipedia editing actually de-radicalises its editors of partisan political leanings?
  • Did you know you can learn:
  • Did you know that you can upload openly-licensed longer texts to Wikisource (the free content library) which are transcribed into 100% searchable HTML so that works such as Thomas Jehu’s digitised PhD thesis can be linked to, one click away, from his Wikipedia article or out-of-copyright texts such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s book on ‘Edinburgh’ (1914) can be enjoyed by new audiences?
  • Did you know that Wikidata, Wikimedia’s repository of structured open data, now has 3 million linked citations added to it which can be queried using the new Scholia tool – a tool to handle scientific bibliographic information? (The Scholia Web service creates on-the-fly scholarly profiles for researchers, organizations, journals, publishers, individual scholarly works, and for research topics. To collect the data, it queries the SPARQL-based Wikidata Query Service).
  • Did you know that you can now add automatically generated citations to millions of books on Wikipedia? Wikipedia editors can now draw on WorldCat, the world’s largest database of books, to generate citations on Wikipedia thanks to a collaboration between OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Library program.
  • Did you know that the latest estimates by Crossref show that Wikipedia has risen from the 8th most prolific referrer to DOIs to the 5th. And this is thought to be a gross underestimate of its actual position?
  • Did you know that Altmetric include Wikipedia citations in their impact metrics and that Altmetric automatically picks up on citations through Wikipedia’s citation generator?
  • Did you know that Wikimedia has received a $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to make a ‘Structured Commons’ to make freely-licensed images accessible and reusable across the web?
  • Did you know that releasing images through Wikimedia Commons can result in a huge increase in views with detailed metrics about the number of views these images are accruing? E.g. Images released by the Bodleian Library have accrued 218,460,571 views to date.
  • Did you know about the WikiCite initiative? Tidying up the citations on Wikipedia to make a consistent, queryable bibliographic repository enhancing the visibility and impact of research.
  • Did you know that thanks to the new I4OC initiative (April 2017) there exists a collaboration between scholarly publishers, researchers, and other interested parties to promote the unrestricted availability of scholarly citation data? Before I4OC started, publishers releasing references in the open accounted for just 1% of citation metadata collected annually by Crossref. Following discussions over the past months, several subscription-access and open-access publishers have recently made the decision to release reference list metadata publicly. These include: American Geophysical Union, Association for Computing Machinery, BMJ, Cambridge University Press, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, EMBO Press, Royal Society of Chemistry, SAGE Publishing, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley. These publishers join other publishers who have been opening their references through Crossref for some time.
  • Did you know that thanks to Wikidata you can now query, analyse & visualise the largest reference work on the internet? You can also add your research data to combine datasets on Wikidata.
  • Did you know that the University of Portsmouth have been running a Wikipedia assignment called Human Geography for the last five years where each student is assigned a different short stub article for a village in England and Wales, and asked to expand it to provide a rounded description of the place and, in particular, an account of its historical development?
  • Did you know that, so far, they have left Scotland untouched and so there will be many villages and towns in Scotland ripe to have articles created and improved?
  • Did you know that Wikivoyage is Wikipedia’s sister project and a Lonely Planet-esque travel guide? Students can write articles about their hometown area with bullet-pointed sections on ‘Things to do’, ‘Things to See’, ‘Things to Buy’, ‘Places to stay’ with Open Street Maps included and images added from Wikimedia Commons.
  • Did you know how students and staff at the University of Edinburgh have reacted to the Wikipedia in the Classroom assignments we have run this year? You can view a compilation of their feedback in this video.
  • Did you know that students can create entire textbooks, chapters of textbooks, on Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikibooks?
  • Did you know that every September the world’s largest photography competition takes place, Wiki Loves Monuments? Participants are encouraged to photograph and upload images of listed buildings and monuments to document our cultural heritage.
  • Did you know that the WikiShootme tool helps identify notable buildings in your area that require an image uploading?
  • Did you know that taking part in Wikimedia activities does not always require a heavy time component and that short, fun activities can also help: adding a citation through the Citation Hunt tool (“Whack-a-mole for citations”), playing the Wikidata game, adding images through WikiShootMe and FIST; taking part in fun Wiki Races (6 degrees of separation for Wiki links between articles).
  • Did you know that you can become a Wikipedia trainer with our new lesson plan and slide deck (available on Tes.com)?
  • Did you know that you can learn how to edit at our 90 minute training sessions and how to become a trainer at our 3 hour Train the Trainer events?
  • Did you know that I can deliver presentations and training as you require; be it on Wikisource (the free content library), Wikidata (the free and open respository of structured data), Wikimedia Commons (the free media respository), the Wikicite initiative, WikiVoyage (the free travel guide), writing articles for Wikipedia, adding your research to Wikipedia or something else entirely?

If you would like to find out more then feel free to contact me at ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

 

  • Want to become a Wikipedia editor?
  • Want to become a Wikipedia trainer?
  • Want to run a Wikipedia course assignment?
  • Want to contribute images to Wikimedia Commons?
  • Want to learn more about Wikisource?
  • Want to contribute your research to Wikipedia?
  • Want to contribute your research data to Wikidata?

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 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.

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?

Postscript

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- on the edge of OER17

The 2017 Open Educational Resources Conference (OER17) will be held at Resource for London on the 5th and 6th April. The conference theme is “The Politics of Open” and has never been more timely. Registration closes 16th March so don’t delay.

Once again, there is a strong presence of people associated with Wikimedia UK, as well as other Wikimedians. As Wikipedia edges towards 17 years old and we get ever closer to OER17, here’s a look at the presentations coming up from Wikimedia – on the edge of OER17.

Stevie Nicks. By User:SandyMac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stevie Nicks. By User:SandyMac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(Sadly there will be no Stevie Nicks.)

  • The conference is co-chaired by Wikimedia UK trustee Josie Fraser and Creative Commons Poland co-founder Alek Tarkowski.
  • Wikimedia UK Chief Executive Lucy Crompton-Reid is one of the keynote speakers.
    Lucy Crompton-Reid (CEO Wikimedia UK) – By Simoncromptonreid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Lucy Crompton-Reid has a career in the cultural, voluntary and public sectors spanning two decades, with a strong emphasis on leading and developing participatory practice and promoting marginalised voices. As Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK since October 2015, she has led the development of a new strategy focused on eradicating inequality and bias on Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects, with an emphasis on the gender gap and geographic bias. In the past year Lucy has given talks on equality and diversity at the Open Data Institute, Open Source Convention and MozFest, and recently spearheaded an international partnership between Wikimedia UK, Wikimedia communities around the world and the BBC, focused on closing the gender gap on Wikipedia. Lucy will be presenting: “Open as inclusive: Equality and Diversity on Wikimedia” at OER17.
  • Sara Mörtsell, Education Manager of WikimediaSE, will present on “How openness in mainstream K-12 education can advance with Wikimedia and GLAMs in Sweden” – This proposal addresses how mainstream K-12 education can transition to use and share open educational resources and play a part in the future direction of the open educational movement (Weller 2014). The presentation is based on practical experience of a one year OER project in 2016 with 230 students in K-12 education from both minority and dominant communities in the city of Stockholm.
    Sara Mörtsell. Pic by Jonatan Svensson Glad [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
    Sara Mörtsell. Pic by Jonatan Svensson Glad [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Stefan Lutschinger, an academic and Wikipedia Campus Ambassador at Middlesex University, will present on “Open Pedagogy and Student Wellbeing: Academic Confidence Building with Wikipedia Assignments“. Stefan’s talk talk will introduce the use of Wikipedia assignments in higher education, present a case study, discuss its benefits for students’ academic confidence building and propose a framework for evaluation and critical reflection. The evidence is based on the compulsory course module (level 6) ‘MED3040 Publishing Cultures’ of the BA (Hons) Creative Writing and Journalism degree programme at Middlesex University, Department of Media, developed in cooperation with Wikimedia UK and the Wiki Education Foundation.
  • Me in Mallaig after walking the West Highland Way and riding the Harry Potter train.
    Ewan McAndrew – Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh (Own work CC-BY-SA)

    Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian In Residence at the University of Edinburgh, is delivering a presentation on “Lo and Behold: Reveries of a Connected Campus: Reflections from the Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh”.  While there have been previous Wikimedia residencies based in UK cultural institutions focussing on opening up collections, five years have now passed since Grathwohl (2011) acclaimed Wikipedia had ‘come of age’ in formal education settings with Wikipedia still representing the oft-ignored “elephant in the room (Brox, 2012). Hosting a Wikimedian at a Higher Education institution to embed the creation of OER in the curriculum does therefore represent something of a shift in the paradigm. This presentation discusses one such residency and the lessons learnt from the first 15 months.

  • The artwork "Een vertaling van de ene taal naar de andere" / "A Translation from one language to another" by Lawrence Weiner. Placed in 1996 at the Spui (square) in Amsterdam. It consists of three pairs of two stones placed against each other. On each stone there is an inscription "A Translation from one language to another", in another language - Dutch, English, Surinam and Arabic. Author: brbbl (CC-BY-SA)
    The artwork “Een vertaling van de ene taal naar de andere” / “A Translation from one language to another” by Lawrence Weiner. Author: brbbl (CC-BY-SA)

    Ewan will also be giving a lightning talk on “Building bridges not walls – Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool”. Wikipedia’s new Content Translation tool offers an impactful means of sharing open knowledge globally between languages as it brings up an article on one side of the screen in one language and helps translate it, paragraph by paragraph, to create the article in a different language taking all the formatting across to the new article so a native speaker just has to check to make sure the translation is as good as it can be. This presentation will outline the successful models already employed in a Higher Education context.

  • Martin Poulter By Ziko (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Martin Poulter By Ziko (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Martin Poulter, Wikimedian In Residence at the University of Oxford, is giving a presentation on “Putting Wikipedia and Open Practice into the mainstream in a University”. OER Conference attendees are often part of a minority group of Open Education advocates in their institutions, and it is a hard challenge to change wider institutional policy and culture. This presentation will share lessons learned from experience in a UK university, using Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects as well as Open Access research publication as levers to encourage an open approach to education. The drive towards open access to the outputs of research, and open access to the collections of cultural institutions, are potentially powerful drivers for the creation of open educational content. This session explores how to push academic culture in that direction.
  • #1Lib1Ref - 1 Librarian adding 1 Reference
    Citation (desperately) needed. #PoliticsOfOpen

    Ewan and Martin are jointly giving a lightning talk on “Citation Needed: Digital Provenance in the era of Post-Truth Politics“.This session covers why the most important frontier of Wikipedia is not its content but its 30 million plus citations (Orlowitz, 2016) and the latest developments behind the WikiCite project after its first year. The WikiCite initiative is to build a repository of all Wikimedia citations and bibliographic metadata in Wikidata to serve all Wikimedia projects. The ultimate goal to make Wikipedia’s citations as “reliable, open, accessible, structured, linked and free as our Knowledge is.”(Orlowitz, 2016)

  • Gamifying Wikimedia - Learning through play (Pic from Ada Lovelace Day 2016 at the University of Edinburgh - own work CC-BY-SA).
    Gamifying Wikimedia – Learning through play (Pic from Ada Lovelace Day 2016 at the University of Edinburgh – own work CC-BY-SA).

    Ewan and Martin will also be running a workshop on “Gamifying Wikimedia – Learning through Play (Workshop)“. This workshop will demonstrate that crowd-sourcing contributions to Wikimedia’s family of Open Education projects does not have to involve a heavy time component and that short fun, enjoyable activities can be undertaken which enhance the opportunities for teaching & learning and the dissemination of open knowledge. Participants will be guided through a series of Wikimedia tools; running through the purpose of each tool, how they can be used to support open education alongside practical demos.

  • Wikimedia UK volunteer Navino Evans is giving a workshop on “Histropedia – Building an open interactive history of everything with Wikimedia content“.
    By Wittylama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Navino Evans and Histropedia. Pic by Wittylama (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Histropedia is a web application aiming to create free interactive timelines on every topic in history using open data from Wikimedia projects like Wikidata, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons.All Histropedia timelines are published under an open licence, which means they can be reused and remixed for any purpose, both within Histropedia and elsewhere on the web. Tools like Histropedia provide an incentive for donating text, data and images to Wikimedia projects, as it can instantly be visualised in exciting ways without incurring any cost.
    Histropedia timeline of University of Edinburgh female alumni; colour-coded by place of birth and with language labels in Japanese, Russian, Arabic and English.
    Histropedia timeline of University of Edinburgh female alumni; colour-coded by place of birth and with language labels in Japanese, Russian, Arabic and English.

    It also shows how data becomes more valuable when it’s open, as it can be combined and compared with other data in a way that is not possible when kept in isolation. It’s our hope that Histropedia can play a role in getting more educational institutions to engage with Wikimedia content and other open resources, as well as inspire others to build innovative applications on top of the wealth of free knowledge that’s available. In this workshop, we will learn how to use Histropedia by completing a sequence of practical exercises to find, combine and improve content.

  • Alice White, Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library, will also in attendance running a Wikimedia session in the Lewis Suite.
    Alice White- By Zeromonk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Alice White- By Zeromonk (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
    Something for everyone there. Look forward to seeing you there!
Screengrab of Histropedia Wikidata Query Viewer (CC-BY-SA).

Histropedia – knowledge from Wikipedia visualised as dynamic timelines

Histropedia Timelines – In the (Saint) Nick of Time.

Can you spot Saint Nick in the below timeline of saints?

Screengrab of Histropedia Wikidata Query Viewer (CC-BY-SA).
Screengrab of Histropedia Wikidata Query Viewer (CC-BY-SA).

For today’s post, the Open Education resource we present to you is Histropedia – the timeline of everything.

Histropedia allows users to create visually dynamic timelines using structured data from Wikidata, articles from Wikipedia and images from Wikimedia Commons. It has in excess of 340,000 timelines listing 1.5 million articles from Wikipedia: including timelines on the Battles of World War One, the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, the Novels by Charles Dickens, Empires, Famous Artists, the filmography of David Bowie and many more.

This 1 minute 22 second video demonstrates how quickly & easily timelines can be put together using Wikipedia articles & categories to dramatically visualise events.

By way of example, I was able to create this Santa Claus in the movies timeline in a matter of minutes going from the 1900 movie, A Christmas Dream, by Georges Méliès right up to modern day with films like Trading Places (1983), Miracle on 34th Street (1994) and Arthur Christmas (2012). The published timeline is now available for others to view and add to as a free open education resource where each timeline event can be clicked on to take you through to the Wikipedia article to find out more.

 

histropedia-screengrabScreengrab of Histropedia timeline for Santa Claus in the movies. (CC-BY)

Further, now that the Histropedia now has a Wikidata Query Viewer option this means that the structured data can now be queried even further. For example, I was curious to find out more about Saint Nick so I was able to ask Wikidata to show me all the saints it had information about and show them on a timeline according to their year of birth and colour coded by their place of birth. Click here to view the result.

Screengrab from Histropedia Wikidata Query Viewer Tutorial – Timeline of University of Edinburgh female alumni colour-coded by place of birth and labelled in Japanese, Russian, Arabic and English (CC-BY)

Histropedia’s developers, Navino Evans and Sean McBirnie, joined us at Repository Fringe at the University of Edinburgh in August this year where we recorded a short video tutorial in order to demonstrate how to create a Histropedia timeline using their Wikidata Query Viewer – this time on female alumni of the University of Edinburgh; colour-coded by their place of birth and labelled in Japanese, Russian, Arabic & English (depending on whether the query could find an article in these 4 different language Wikipedias).

This OER video tutorial has now been viewed a thousand times and is available to view on the university’s Media Hopper channel on a CC-BY license.

To find out more about Histropedia, you can read this article from the Wikimedia UK blog but why not have a go yourself!

Hot Topics and Cool Cats – Wikimania 2016 (22-26 June)

 

Wikimania
Wikimania

The annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sister projects was held in the alpine town of Esino Lario in the province of Lecco, Northern Italy, this year.

It was my first but I am led to believe that this year’s venue, and this year’s conference in general, was quite different from the ones in years gone by; certainly the rural location was quite different from the Hilton Hotel in Mexico City in 2015 and the Barbican in London in 2014.

This time Wikimania really was going outdoors.

IMG_20160626_145606141

Listen to a podcast roundup of Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario, Italy, recorded on a bus after the Wikimania conference.

There was another gathering going on the day I left for the conference however: the EU referendum vote. Given that I was due to catch a 7.45am flight from Glasgow Airport on the day of the EU referendum, I left my vote in the hands of my girlfriend to vote on my behalf. (The thunder storms that delayed the flight from landing at London Heathrow should have been a portent for the political turmoil to come.)

IMG_20160623_095927957

However, I was in good spirits despite the delay and, even when the consequence of the London storm was that I missed my bus connection from Milan airport to Esino Lario, I was busy contemplating how it might be nice to spend a bit more time travelling by train from Milan Central to Varenna-Esino. Fortunately, I found myself in the same boat as Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia UK, who had been on the same flight. A quick chat with a terrifically pleasant Italian gentlemen at the Wikimania greeters’ table at the airport and a taxi was arranged to take us both the rest of the way to Esino Lario.

While we waited, and our charming Italian saviour checked our names off his list of expected delegates, we were told the sad tale of one particular delegate who earlier in the day had been told that his name definitely wasn’t on the list and would he mind checking the FIVE pages of names on the list himself to see that was the case. Perplexed, the man had taken one long look at the list and replied, “But I’m Jimmy Wales.” (Needless to say, I think he probably made it back to Esino Lario okay after that, especially after a few selfies were taken with the volunteers from the local high school.)

IMG_20160624_200214814_HDR

A picturesque drive through Alpine country to Esino Lario in the company of Lucy’s incredibly entertaining, but incredibly dark, sense of humour and I got settled into the family-run hotel I was to spend the next four nights in. Once registered, I was able to wind my way through the narrow cobbled side streets to meet with my fellow Wikimaniacs at the central reception area.

IMG_20160626_132528842

The experience of the first night’s good-humoured chats were typical of the whole conference; here were Wikimaniacs from all over the world ostensibly divided by different backgrounds, languages & cultures but who were all united by their passion for working collaboratively & sharing open knowledge through Wikimedia’s projects.

So it was with some shock that I discovered the next morning that the referendum result had been that the UK had chosen to turn its back on working together as part of the EU. It just ran contrary to everything that Wikimania, and Wikimedia in general, was all about. Consequently, Jimmy Wales in his keynote address at the opening ceremony could not help but address this seismic decision back home in Britain. Clearly emotional, Jimmy Wales referenced the murder of his friend Jo Cox MP, the EU referendum & Donald Trump, when he asserted that Wikipedia was not about the rhetoric of hate or division or of building walls but rather was about building bridges. Wikipedia was instead a “force for knowledge and knowledge is a force for peace and understanding.”

IMG_20160626_202639634_HDR

The focus of the programme for Wikimania 2016, therefore, was on Wikipedia as a ‘driver for change’.

Watch Jimmy Wales’ keynote address here

Of course, I couldn’t get in to see the keynote in person. The venue, the Gym Palace, could only hold around six hundred people and with around 1200 Wikimaniacs, plus curious townspeople attending too, the venue and the wi-fi soon because saturated. Hence, a great many people, myself included, got turned away to watch the keynote opening ceremony via the live stream at a nearby hall. Unfortunately, the one thing that everyone had been worried about prior to the conference occurred; the wi-fi couldn’t cope and we were left with a pixelated image of the opening ceremony that got stuck in buffering limbo. Little wonder then that a massive cheer went up when the young Esino Lario volunteers put on a Youtube clip of Cool cats doing crazy things’ to keep the audience entertained while they desperately tried to fix the live stream.

IMG_20160624_165556099

The town of Esino Lario itself only has a population of around 760 inhabitants so the people of Esino Lario really did invite the 1000+ Wikimaniacs into their homes and I can honestly say that we were treated extremely well by our hosts. The hope is that the experience of hosting Wikimania in such a small town will have an enormous impact on the local economy & a legacy such that their young people, who worked as volunteers to help run the events and made sure we were well looked after in terms of espresso & soft drinks while we walked in the heat of the afternoon sun from venue to venue, may hopefully look to careers in tech and become the next generation of Wikimedians.

The rest of the conference brought no further technical problems and everyone seemed to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, and stunning views of the surrounding Alpine mountains, to learn & share both in formal presentations and informal discussions in-between times. There was also a preponderance of egalitarian community discussions to determine how each project should move forward which were recorded on Etherpad discussion pages (I made good use of these during the few days I was at the conference to follow real-time discussions at several venues at once.)

IMG_20160625_104730115_HDR

The ticketing system for meal times was a hit too as it meant you were allocated to a certain venue at a certain time so that you couldn’t stay in the same clique & always encountered new people to chat to over a delicious plate of pasta. The evening events – chocolate tasting, cheese & wine, evening hikes, line dancing, a live band, a falcon playing a theremin – all allowed for further discussions and it was a real pleasure to be able to learn through ‘play’ in such relaxed surroundings.

IMG_20160624_174940075

In terms of content, Wikidata proved its growing importance in the Wikimedia movement with a number of sessions threading through the conference and I was also pleased to see Open Street Map and Wikisource, the free content library, garnering greater attention & affection. The additional focus on education, especially higher education, with sessions on Wikipedia’s verifiability, the state of research on Wikipedia and the tidying up of citations was terrific to see. Overall though, it was great to see further focus on translation between Wikipedias and on areas of under-representation: on the gender gap and on the Global South in particular. As one session put it, there is only one international language: translation.

Watch all the talks at Wikimania 2016 on their Youtube channel

IMG_20160630_120448

In a nutshell, the weather was hot, the espresso was hot and the whole town was a hotbed of ideas with people on every street corner discussing the projects they were working on or wanted to find out more about. #Brexit was the hot topic of conversation too but it felt a million miles away; completely unreal & counter-intuitive when the fruits of cross-border collaboration were there for all to see at every turn. People I had encountered only in the online world I was finally able to meet in the flesh and warmly discuss past, present & future collaborations. It was especially pleasing to be able to meet the Wikipedia Library’s Alex Stinson and my Edinburgh Spy Week: Women in Espionage editathon collaborator, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight from WikiProject Women in Red, who deservingly had just been made Wikipedian of the Year for the work WikiWomeninRed had done in helping to address the gender gap. Warm hugs and warm handshakes about working together was what Wikimania meant to me.

IMG_20160625_173701811

Boarding the bus for the airport home on the Monday morning, I was able to listen in on Andrew Lih’s (author of ‘The Wikipedia Revolution’) roundtable discussion with the Wikimedia Foundation’s James Forrester and Cambridge University’s Wikimedian, Deryck Chan, about their reflections on Wikimania 2016 (as it was recorded as a podcast on the bus at the table of seats nearby).

Listening to their summary of proceedings while I looked out the window at the rolling Alpine foothills & waterfalls proved a nice full-stop to proceedings as it confirmed what UNESCO Wikimedian in Residence, John Cummings, had told me first and many, many others had said since… this was the best Wikimania ever.