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Having An Impact Through Wikipedia

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 July 2010

Re-Discovering Amplified Events

A recent tweet from Miquel Duran (a University professor, researcher in quantum chemistry, fostering communication of science 2.0 and university 2.0) alerted me to a blog post on The ‘Amplified Conference’.

As this is a particular area of interest to me I read the post and thought “yes, I agree” with its summary of the benefits of an amplified event :

  • Amplification of the audiences’ voice: Audience members through the use of such social media technologies (such as Twitter) can create online discourse during the sessions in real-time
  • Amplification of the speaker’s talk: Widespread and inexpensive video and audio-conferencing technologies
  • Amplification across time: With low-cost technologies, presentations are often made available after the event, with use of podcasting or videocasting technologies
  • Amplification of the speaker’s slides: With social media lightweight technologies, (such as Slideshare) entire presentations can simply be uploaded, shared, and embedded on other Web sites and commented upon
  • Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies (such as Twitter) are being used not only as for discourse and knowledge exchange among conference participants
  • Amplification of collective memory: With the widespread availability of inexpensive digital cameras, photographs are often uploaded to popular photographic sharing services
  • Amplification of the learning: With the Web resources and social media technologies, following links to resources and discourse about the points made by a speaker during a talk propagates the learning which takes place at an event.
  • Amplification of the historical conference record: The ‘official’ digital resources such as slides, video and audio recordings which have been made by the conference organizers

I then thought that the words sounded familiar and, on rereading the Amplified Conference page on Wikipedia, I realised that I was reading words I had coined when I created the Wikipedia page in on 30 August 2008!

The blog post mentioned above linked to a previous post on Amplified Conferences in the Social Media World written by the author for Suite101.com. I found it interesting to compare the examples provided in the post with my Wikipedia article. I had written, for example,

Amplification of feedback to the speaker: Micro-blogging technologies, such as Twitter, are being used not only as a discussion channel for conference participants but also as a way of providing real-time feedback to a speaker during a talk. We are also now seeing dedicated microblogging technologies, such as Coveritlive and Scribblelive, being developed which aim to provide more sophisticated ‘back channels’ for use at conferences.

Amplification of a conference’s collective memory: The popularity of digital cameras and the photographic capabilities of many mobile phones is leading to many photographs being taken at conferences. With such photographs often being uploaded to popular photographic sharing services, such as Flickr, and such collections being made more easy to discovered through agreed use of tags, we are seeing amplification of the memories of an event though the sharing of such resources. The ability of such photographic resources to be ‘mashed up’ with, say, accompanying music, can similarly help to enrich such collective experiences.

The Suite101.com article had nicely summarised. It was perhaps surprising that the article hadn’t provided a link to the Wikipedia article which, I would assume, was a source resource – but this isn’t something which particularly concerns me. Indeed I did wonder that if Suite101.com has a policy that one shouldn’t cite Wikipedia entries (as may be the case in higher education) whether the author would be in a position to cite the resource? I have to admit that when I wrote the article I only cited Lorcan Dempsey’s original (brief) blog post and an article published by Paul Shabajee in the Times Higher Educational Supplement – the main body of the text was content I created in Wikipedia and had not published elsewhere (which perhaps I shouldn’t have done?).

Maximising Impact Using Wikipedia

Despite my uncertainty as to whether I should have first published an article described amplified conference which I could then cite (although I would then not have a neutral point of view!) discovering the reference to Amplified Conferences has made me appreciate the impact which an article in Wikipedia can have. Although I can’t find usage statistics for the page I suspect that the article will have been read my more people than have read my various peer-reviewed papers, blog posts, etc. (Can anyone suggest on ways in which this claim could be validated?)

I have previously suggested that Wikipedia should be used more widely across the higher education sector. Shouldn’t, where appropriate, the outputs of JISC-funded reports be included in Wikipedia articles? As an example consider the JISC-funded report on MODS: Metadata Object Description Schema [PDF]. This report, written in 2003, was commissioned by the JISC and is now hidden on the JISC Web site. meanwhile there is a brief entry on MODS in Wikipedia which, I would have thought, would have benefitted if the information provided if the JISC report had been included.

The JISC report does state that the copyright is held by JISC. This is a barrier to providing content in Wikipedia, which must be made available under a Creative Commons licence. But as JISC seek to be proactive in encouraging take-up of their deliverables under open access licences, I suspect this is not a fundamental barrier on allowing such content to be made available in a popular environment such as Wikipedia.

And with the growing interest in DBpedia (the Linked Data representation of Info boxes in Wikipedia entries) providing content in Wikipedia may also allow such content to be integrated in Linked Data applications.

Whilst I feel it would be inappropriate to mandate that the content of reports commissioned through public funding should be made available on Wikipedia, I do feel that this should be encouraged. What’s your view?


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

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11 Responses to “Having An Impact Through Wikipedia”

  1. Steve Bentley said

    I guess it depends on the content you’re thinking of, but I suspect that sooner or later you’ll run into problems with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_research (or at least some Wikipedian’s interpretation of it!)

    • Yes, I agree there are the potential barriers provided by Wikipedia policies. I guess I could have suggested that synthesis reports commissioned by JISC which summarise existing knowledge should seek to ensure that the findings can be made available via a wide range of channels such as Wikipedia.

      I think this gets around the No original research policy.

  2. Re: “The JISC report does state that the copyright is held by JISC. This is a barrier to providing content in Wikipedia, which must be made available under a Creative Commons licence.” You need to be careful not to mix up ‘copyright’ with ‘licensing’. Most CC content is copyright – you need to assert copyright in order to be sure you are able to apply a CC licence to the work. So the issue with JISC is not about copyright per se but about whether they are clear in using CC licences for their own content (or not). I agree that if they made material available explicitly under a CC licence then it would be clear that its re-use in things like Wikipedia pages would be allowed.

    On the more general point… Wikipedia is an encyclopedia not a publication route for vaguely academic content. I appreciate that I’m stating the obvious here! But it is worth stating because I think there are differences in expectations and so on. A while back we funded ALT to produce some ‘What research has to say about X’ type publications (covering topics related to e-learning) and we agreed that, experimentally, some of these would be made available as entries on Wikipedia. My understanding is that this was not an easy route to take… it required a different writing style, an acceptance that other people would modify/challenge the work (even challenging the existence of the content on Wikipedia at all) and so on.

    So… yes, I agree that putting effort into Wikipedia should be seen as a valid activity for (and output from) funded projects – but I think that’s not as simple as “take you stuff and put it into Wikipedia”.

  3. Matt said

    to be fair everything available on the JISC website is available under CC (albeit the most restrictive CC option available) and has been for some time – see http://www.jisc.ac.uk/aboutus/copyright.aspx

    while there is no doubt that entries on Wikipedia do increase the chances of the content being found and read (whether this counts as ‘impact’ I’m not so sure) as Andy says this doesn’t come without its own unique set of challenges and does require some careful thought – in my experience even the most seemingly entry on Wikipedia can become a time-sink!

  4. Martin Greaney said

    Hi Brian,

    It’s quite basic, but the tool at http://stats.grok.se/ might give you enough of an idea of the traffic to certain articles in Wikipedia.

  5. [...] Having An Impact Through Wikipedia [...]

  6. C4D UdG said

    Can a scientific meeting be amplified? (9gisem – v)…

    From 5 throgh 8 July we have organized the IX Girona Seminar, a scientific meeting organized by the Institute of Computational Chemistry of the University of Girona, that is held every two years in Girona. A few days ago we wrote a post in the #9gisem …

  7. [...] a recent post on Having An Impact Through Wikipedia I suggested that it would be useful if JISC-funded project work used Wikipedia as a means of [...]

  8. […] experiences of Having An Impact Through Wikipedia which I summarised in July […]

  9. […] Amplified conference and Microattribution) and encouraged use of Wikipedia (in blog posts such as Having An Impact Through Wikipedia, How Well-Read Are Technical Wikipedia Articles? and How Can We Assess the Impact and ROI of […]

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