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Archive for the ‘Wikis’ Category

The Failure of Citizendium

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 December 2011

Remembering Citizendium

A few days ago I read Steve Wheeler’s post on Content as Curriculum? having being alerted to it by Larry Sanger’s post on An example of educational anti-intellectualism to which Steve provided a riposte in which Steve argued the need to Play the ball, not the man.

From the blog posts I learnt that Larry Sanger is a co-founder of Wikipedia and, as described on his blog is the “‘Founding Editor-in-Chief’ of the Citizendium, the Citizens’ Compendium: a wiki encyclopedia project that is expert-guided, public participatory, and real-names-only”.

I have to admit that I had forgotten about Citizendium but the little spat caused me to revisit the Web site. While searching I came across a discussion entitled Why did Citizendium fail? and yes, it does seem that this “endeavor to achieve the highest standards of writing, reliability, and comprehensiveness through a unique collaboration between Authors and Editors” has failed. But although we often talk about success criteria, it can be more difficult to identify failures. How then, can we describe Citizendium as a failure?

Experiences With Citizendium

A few years ago I signed up for a Citizendium account. In order to register you need to provide your real name and include “a CV or resume … as well as some links to Web material that tends to support the claims made in the CV, such as conference proceedings, or a departmental home page. Both of these additional requirements may be fulfilled by a CV that is hosted on an official work Web page“.

I registered as I felt that if Citizendium became successful being an author could provide a valuable dissemination channel for those areas in which I have expertise. In particular I had an interest in helping to manage the Web accessibility entry in Citizendium. However I found that I did not have the time – or inclination – to edit this article. Looking at the article today it seems that the “page was last modified 09:25, 10 January 2008” and “has been accessed 221 times“. It is perhaps good news that the page has been viewed so little as it is not only very out-of-date but is also poorly written. It also seems that there have been no content added to the Talk, Related Articles, Bibliography or External Links pages or the also no entries

In comparison we can find that the Web Accessibility entry in Wikipedia has been edited 575 times by 277 users. There were also 10,911 views in November 2011.

Discussion

Perhaps there may be those who could argue that Citizendium isn’t a failure, but has a valuable role to play in a particular niche area which is not being addressed by Wikipedia. But how can this argument be made when Citizendium’s aim to “endeavor to achieve the highest standards of writing, reliability, and comprehensiveness through a unique collaboration between Authors and Editors” results in entries such as this one on Silverlight vs Flash:

With the rocket development of Internet, the techniques used for building web pages is improving all the time, which not only brings people more information but new experience of surfing on the Internet. Many techniques have been applied to enrich the web page these years, from totally the plaintext in early 90′s, first to web page with pictures and then that with embedded sounds. Later, Sun Microsystems proposed Java Applet, which was popular for not long time until being conquered by Adobe Flash.

Back in March 2008 the Citizendium FAQ asked the question:

How can you possibly succeed? Wikipedia is an enormous community. How can you go head-to-head with Wikipedia, now a veritable goliath?

The solid interest and growth of our project demonstrates that there are many people who love the vibrancy and basic concept of Wikipedia, but who believe it needs to be governed under more sensible rules, and with a special place for experts. We hope they will join the Citizendium effort. We obviously have a long way to go, but we just started. Give us a few years; Wikipedia has had a rather large head start.

Three and a half years later it seems clear that in the battle between the online encyclopedia “governed under more sensible rules, and with a special place for experts” has been unable to compete with the “vibrancy and basic concept of Wikipedia“.

I’m pleased that Steve Wheeler’s link to Larry Sanger’s blog post helped me to remember my initial curiosity regarding the more managed approach to gathering experts’ knowledge provided by Citizendium and demonstrated the failings in such an approach. Let’s continue making Wikipedia even better is my call for 2012.

Posted in General, Wikipedia, Wikis | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Microattributions, Wikipedia and Dissemination

Posted by Brian Kelly on 9 September 2011

Microattributions Session at #SOLO11

One of the sessions I attended at the SOLO (Science Online London) 2011 event held in London last week addressed the role of ‘microattributions’ in science (note that there isn’t a specific page on the SOLO11 Web site which I can link to so I have created a Lanyrd page about the Microattributions breakout session).

Use of Microattributions in Wikipedia

The session began with Mike Peel (@Mike_Peel) showing how contributions to Wikipedia provided an example of a service which supports microattributions. Looking at an example which I am familiar with, a year ago in a post entitled How Can We Assess the Impact and ROI of Contributions to Wikipedia? I commented on the potential value of entries in Wikipedia with the example of Andy Powell’s update to the HTTP_303 entry. This entry has been viewed no fewer that 5,032 times in the past 30 days which I think illustrates Wikipedia’s strengths in providing outreach. However I hadn’t been aware that it was possible to view details of the contributions made to Wikipedia articles. Looking at the list of contributors for the HTTP_303 entry I find that Andy Powell is the top contributor, having made 7 updates – between 09.53 and 10:13 on 24 September 2010.

Looking at a more significant article, such as the Wikipedia entry for World Wide Web, we can see that the top contributor, Susan Lesch, has made 253 edits between March 2008 and July 2011. The next most prolific contributor, NigelJ, has made 127 updates followed by the Cluebot bot, which has made 70 automated updates (fixing vandalised updates to the article).

Mike Peel illustrated the importance of being able to identify significant contributors to Wikipedia in a story of Professor Gets Tenure With The Help Of His Wikipedia Contributions. The Wikimedia blog provided further information on the contributions which Professor Michel Aaij had made: “more than 60,000 edits, a couple of Good Articles, a Featured List, almost 150 Did You Knows“.

Microattributions in Scientific Research

Following Mike Peel’s very tangible example of both use of microattributions and the value that they can provide for an individual, Martin Fenner (@mfenner) described the origin of the term. As Martin described in a recent blog blog one of the first mentions of the term appears to be an August 2007 Editorial in Nature Genetics (Compete, collaborate, compel). Martin provided a definition of the term:

Microattribution ascribes a small scholarly contribution to a particular author.

and went on to describe how a paper published in March 2011 in Nature Genetics (Systematic documentation and analysis of human genetic variation in hemoglobinopathies using the microattribution approachconcluded that “microattribution demonstrably increased the reporting of human variants, leading to a comprehensive online resource for systematically describing human genetic variation“.

A Microattribution Article in Wikipedia

During the Microattributions session we heard of several other examples of microattritibutions including contributions to source code on software repositories such as Github.

During the session Mike Peel updated his personal page on Wikipedia with some of the ideas which were discussed. On the page Mike pointed out that there wasn’t a Wikipedia entry on Microattributions and invited volunteers to create a page.

I responded to this challenge and created the initial stub entry for the article, as illustrated.

In my initial draft which, following the suggestion provided by the article creation wizard, I created in my personal Wikipedia space, I included the other examples of microattributions which I mentioned above. However since I wasn’t aware of any significant publication which had documented use of the term in these contexts I defined microattributions in the context of its use in the Nature Genetics paper.

Making Use of Wikipedia in Other Areas

I don’t know if the Microattributions will remain in Wikipedia. It might be deemed to be not sufficiently note-worthy. Or perhaps it could be included in some other entry: what, for example is the relationship between a microattribution and a nanopublication – a term coined, I think, by Barend Mons.

However I am convinced of the importance of Wikipedia for defining scientific and technical terms and documenting significant issues related to their origin and use. Should funders, such as Research Councils and JISC, encourage funded projects to make use of Wikipedia as a dissemination channel which can help to enhance the impact of funded work? If this does happen there will be a need to understand best practices for creating and maintaining sustainable items in Wikipedia, including concepts such as NPOV.

I also feel it would be useful to be able to monitor contributions to Wikipedia across sectors, such as JISC-funded project developments. Although it seems that we can identify individual contributors I don’t know if it is possible to aggregate information related to groups of individuals. Since myself and Andy Powell both have profiles in Wikipedia, is it possible, I wonder, for statistical information about our contributions to be automatically gathered and analysed? I’ll leave that as a challenge to developers :-)


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Wikipedia, Wikis | 2 Comments »

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]

Posted in Web2.0, Wikipedia, Wikis | 11 Comments »

The Trouble With Wikis

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 December 2006

UKOLN hosted a workshop on “Exploring The Potential Of Wikis” in Birmingham on 3 November 2006. A summary of the workshop evaluation is now available; the comments on the workshop, the talks and the discussion groups give an indication of the interest there is in the institutional provision of Wikis.

However as usage of Wiki software grows, some of the limitations become more apparent. Here are some of the issues which I have identified, which may not have been discussed at the workshop:

  • Navigibility: What does a Home button mean on a Wiki? Is it the home of the Wiki service (which could be a service for the entire institution)? Is it the home for an individual, who may have multiple sub-Wikis? Or is it the home page for a sub-Wiki area?
  • URI structure: Remember when institutions provided guidelines on URI naming conventions, such as UKOLN’s URI Naming Conventions For Your Project Web Site briefing document? Such guidelines addressed issues such as having a consistent approach to the capitalisation of words in URIs and conventions for separating words in URIs (with a ‘-’ often being preferred to an ‘_’ or a space). With Wikis you may find that the Wiki software imposes a URI structure, which may conflict with institutional guidelines.
  • Web site structure: A hierarchical URI structure can be useful for defining self-contained areas of a Web site. This structure can be exploited by tools such as off-line browsers. However the flat structure which many Wikis provide means that such benefits may be lost.
  • Standards: Do Wikis ensure that Web sites comply with HTML and CSS standards? A danger is that some may not.
  • Accessibility: Do Wikis allow authors to provide the structure and tagging needed to ensure that people with disabilities can access content held in Wikis using assistive technologies?
  • Device independence: Are Wikis which provide a rich user experience to authors and readers through use of AJAX technologies usable on platforms such as the Apple Macintosh? One Macintosh users at the workshop reported that the workshop’s WetPaint Wiki required use of a (non-existent) right mouse button in order to edit pages on the Wiki.

Are these show-stoppers? Should we put on hold our plans to deploy Wiki software until such issues have been addressed? Are there other significant problems with Wikis? Or can such limitations be outweighed by the benefits which Wikis can provide?

Posted in Events, Wikis | 2 Comments »

Reporting back from discussion groups

Posted by Brian Kelly on 20 November 2006

Over the past two years at venues with WiFi networks I’ve tried to make use of Wikis to support note-taking in discussion groups. This means that the discussions and recommendations can be disseminated across all participants and with the wider community – no need for the participants to frantically scribble down notes, or for my to take home flip charts, knowing that I’ll never get around to freeing the notes from the non-interoperable real world and transferring them to a digital environment.

However the feedback from several events shows that the final report back session seldom seems to work. The criticism seems to have been applied to last year’s CETIS conference, as this year the required the workshop session facilitators to sum up the discussion groups deliberations in one sentence or a single image, cartoon or equivalent.

This seemed to work well – and the notes are always available for browsing on the conference Wiki. I’ve suggested to my colleague Marieke Guy that we take a similar approach at IWMW 2007. Anyone reading this posting who plans on attending next year’s institutional Web management might like to give some thoughts on ways of summarising discussions in an informative, amusing or innovative way (a poem, a lyric, a movie tie-in, a mash-up, a video clip, …). Who knows, we may even provide a prize.

Posted in Events, IWMC, Wikis | 1 Comment »

“Exploiting The Potential Of Wikis” workshop

Posted by Brian Kelly on 6 November 2006

On Friday 3 November 2006 UKOLN held a workshop entitled “Exploiting The Potential Of Wikis” at Austin Court, Birmingham. I put together the programme, chaired the morning session and gave a talk in the afternoon. My co-chair, Steven Warburton of King’s College London gave the opening talk in the morning and chaired the afternoon session. The other speakers were Professor Henry Rzepa (Imperial College) and Phil Wilson (University of Bath). All of the speakers slides are available online.

There were about 80 participants at the workshop and the feedback seemed to be very positive. We’ll be analysing the feedback shortly and I’ll post a summary of the significant comments. In the meantime you can access the workshop Wiki, which was hosted on the Wetpaint Wiki service.

Posted in Events, Wikis | 1 Comment »