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Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 10 March 2014

Open Education Week 2014 logoThe third annual Open Education Week (#openeducationwk) takes place from 10-15 March 2014. As described on the Open Education Week web site “its purpose is to raise awareness about the movement and its impact on teaching and learning worldwide“.

Cetis staff are supporting Open Education Week by publishing a series of blog posts about open education activities. Cetis have had long-standing involvement in open education and have published a range of papers which cover topics such as OERs (Open Educational Resources) and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).

The Cetis blog provides access to the posts which describe Cetis activities concerned with a range of open education activities. My contribution to the series covers Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK.


Open Education and Wikipedia: Developments in the UK

About This Post

As I explained in a post which asked “How Are You Using Wikipedia?” I will be giving a presentation on use of Wikipedia in the UK’s higher education sector at the Eduwiki conference to be held in Belgrade on 24 March 2014.

Since this post is published in a series on open education it seems appropriate to adopt open practices in the preparation of the talk. I am therefore ‘flipping’ my talk and have made my slides available on Slideshare (and embedded below)  in advance of the Eduwiki conference.The slides are accompanied by this blog post which summarises the key points I intend to make in the talk. I welcome comments which I may be able to incorporate in the talk when I deliver it in a few weeks time.  The availability of this blog post may also provide a complementary perspective on the slides which may be helpful in expanding on points which may not be obvious from viewing the slides in isolation.

A Wikipedia Approach to the Presentation

Opening slides for talkIt seems appropriate for a talk about Wikipedia which is being hosted by a Wikimedia chapter to adopt Wikipedia principles of openness and citation of sources in the talk itself.

The slides will therefore be available under a Creative Commons (CC-BY) licence. In addition the delivery of the slides will be available under the same licence, with recording or broadcasting of the talk being explicitly welcomed.

The slides themselves will be made available in advance. The slides will contain embedded links to resources mentioned in the talk or supplementary evidence or assertions made.

Slow Acceptance of the Value of Wikipedia in Higher Education

I will describe the initial resistance to  use of Wikipedia in higher education. However we are now seeing growing acceptance of its value with recent editing sessions for groups such as research scientists and librarians indicating the growing interest. Ironically the title of a talk at the LILAC 2014 conference  (“Wikipedia: it’s not the evil elephant in the library reading room“) suggests there is a need to address concerns that Wikipedia is an “evil elephant” which we may know exists but are reluctant to acknowledge. The title of an edit-a-thon session at the conference (“Improving the Information Literacy entry on Wikipedia: LILAC’s first edit-a-thon!“) again shows that this is a new area   Progress is happening, but Wikipedia, and especially updating Wikipedia articles, should not, yet, be considered a mainstream activities in higher education.

The Eduwiki 2013 Conference

The Eduwiki 2013 conference took place in Cardiff on 1-2 December 2013. This was the second such conference hosted in the UK. I have previously provided a report on the conference. In this post I will highlight two of the talks:

  1. Safe Use of Wikipedia in the Transition from School to University by Lisa Anderson and Nancy Graham, University of Birmingham.
  2. Introducing Students to Independent Research through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall, University of Portsmouth

These two talks addressed complementary aspects relevant to use of Wikipedia is higher education: how librarians can address information literacy by explicitly covering the strengths and weakness of Wikipedia and ways in which students can update Wikipedia articles as part of a formal assignment.

The presentation will go into more detail of the key aspects of these two talks. I should add that the slides used by Humphrey Southall in his presentation are available on Slideshare.

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

The funding of a Wikimedia Ambassador for the period July 2013 – March 2014 by the Jisc was a welcome development which demonstrated how a funding body was willing to fund an initiative aimed at encouraging take-up of Wikipedia within the UK’s higher education sector. The work of the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador has included delivering six sessions and supporting three edit-a-thons, a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing: the Wiki Way of Working and a project blog as well as a series of reports on the work.

Looking to the Future

Wikimania web siteThe Wikimania 2014 event will take place in London on 6-10 August 2014. As described on the event web site:

Education will be a key theme throughout the whole event, and while we will be honouring past achievements, this year Wikimania will always be looking forward to the Future of Education.

The key areas to be addressed at the event are:

  • Overcoming friction: “librarians and educators are starting to teach students how they can use Wikipedia effectively. Like any other encyclopaedia, students are being shown how to use the site to find the helpful links to primary and secondary sources that are precisely the material students should be citing in their research”.
  • Knowledge is produced, not consumed: “Instead of being passive receivers of information, students become the creators and curators of knowledge. Wikipedia becomes an opportunity, not a threat, to formal education, and the educators’ role becomes facilitating a shift from simply teaching answers, to teaching how to ask questions”.

These two areas reflect the topics of the talks given by  Lisa Anderson / Nancy Graham and  Humphrey Southall which I highlighted earlier in this post.

Since the Wikimania event is still inviting submissions (the closing date is 31 March 2014) I am not able to speculate on the issues which will be addressed  at the event. Instead I’ll give my thoughts on important areas which will build on existing activities:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers

The article goes on to explain how “the term “crowdsourcing” is a portmanteau of “crowd” and “outsourcing“. However the relevance of crowdsourcing is not widely appreciated in higher education, with the word “outsourcing” possibly leading to concerns due to its political  connotations. One of the significant deliverables from the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador project was the production of a Jisc infoKit on Crowdsourcing. Resources such as this should help to provide a better understanding of the theories behind crowdsourcing and its relevance to Wikipedia.

  • Promoting Wikipedia editing by ensuring there are well-trained trainers: Back in October 2013 an article entitled “The Decline of Wikipedia” argued that “The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage“. The article concluded:

But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

Participants at Training the Trainers course

Training the Trainers course, Cardiff, 1-2 February 2014. Licernsed under CC-BY-SA.

Concerns over the alleged “abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia” are being addressed. Wikimedia UK runs a Training the trainer course which aims to:

  • Recognise the importance of diversity in the training context
  • Respond appropriately to the needs of volunteer trainers
  • Understand the impact of different learning and communication styles when designing and delivering training
  • Use active listening to guide their interaction with participants
  • Give effective and appropriate feedback to other participants

I should add that I attended theTrainer the Trainers course which was held in Cardiff on 1-2 February. The accompanying image (taken from the Wikimedia Commons web site) shows the participants at the course.,

  • Maximising the pool of potential contributors: Last week an article in the Guardian pointed out that “It is thought that only around one in 10 of its editors are female“. In another article published the previous week in the Guardian entitled “Stop female scientists being written out of Wikipedia history Dame Athene Donald, fellow of the Royal Society & Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University went on to point out that “Many female scientists are either not there at all on Wikipedia or just [have] stubs.

The concerns regarding lack of female involvement in Wikipedia editing are illustrated by the photograph of the participants at the Training the Trainers course, with the only woman in the photograph being the course trainer.

However such concerns, together with concerns regarding the lack of content about noteworthy females, are being addressed. In March there are no fewer than six events which are addressing these issues: Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thon; Women’s Art Practices editing eventWomen Archaeologists editing eventScottish Women in Contemporary Art Edit-a-thon and Scottish Women in Computing Edit-a-thon.

As well as the need to increase the pool of female contributors to Wikipedia there is also a need to make it easier for people with disabilities to create content in Wikipedia.  The Accessibility of the Wikimedia UK website project focus is on making Wikipedia resources more accessible for people with sight problems; hearing problems; mobility problems and cognitive impairments. However in conjunction with the WikiProject Disability project which aims to “co-ordinate the improvement and creation of articles related to Disability” we might expect to see edit-a-thons being organised which aim to provide people with disabilities with the the skills needed to contribute to Wikipedia.

Education Strategy

I’ve given a brief view of various Wikipedia developments within the UK’s higher education sector and provided suggestions on further developments which would help to take Wikipedia beyond the early mainstream adopters and become more embedded within the higher education sector.

WMUK education strategyBut such issues need to be consider at a strategic level. Wikimedia UK are working on an Education strategy but, as illustrated, this is currently under development. As might be expected in a Wikipedia environment user input into the process of development of the strategy is encouraged, with the Education Strategy talk page currently having brief sections on:

  • OER university model
  • Primary and Secondary schools
  • Language learning
  • Theory of Knowledge

Would anyone like to contribute further suggestions for the development of Wikimedia UK’s education strategy?


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How Are You Using Wikipedia?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 28 February 2014

My Involvement With Wikipedia

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

I signed up to Wikipedia in 2004 in order to create an entry for my hobby: rapper sword dancing. I saw the value of the service in providing a easy-to-use content creation tool which would benefit from crowd-sourcing content in order to maintain the content. However such ease-of-use and the crowd-sourcing model, in which anybody could edit the content, was initially not appreciated by many in the educational and library sectors. So although I created a small number of articles related to my professional interests (including Amplified conference and Microattribution) and encouraged use of Wikipedia (in blog posts such as Having An Impact Through WikipediaHow Well-Read Are Technical Wikipedia Articles? and How Can We Assess the Impact and ROI of Contributions to Wikipedia?) I felt that such work was not appreciated as having value in promoting innovative use of technologies within the sector.

It was therefore only after having received notification of the cessation of Jisc funding for UKOLN, my host organisation, that I took advantage of our funder’s agreement that we could spend some time developing our professional skills to prepare for life after redundancy, that I became more involved with Wikipedia activities. This included joining Wikimedia UK and taken part in two Wikimedia UK events: the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day which provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop and participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop (see accompanying photograph), which provided me with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts.

Since leaving UKOLN I have continued by involvement with Wikipedia including taking the lead role in Facilitating a Wikipedia Editing Session at the SpotOn 2013 conference and attending the EduWiki 2013 conference. I will also be running a Wikipedia editing workshop session at the LILAC 2014 conference and supporting an edit-a-thon at the conference.

Such work is appropriate for my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, since my work encourages use of innovative practices as well as innovative technologies. Interestingly the value of Wikipedia is now being appreciated by Jisc who, in conjunction with Wikimedia UK, are funding a Wikimedia Ambasssador.

I’m pleased that this post has been funded and that Jisc are helping to promote take-up of Wikipedia and related Wikimedia services across the sector. I hope this will help in seeing active use of Wikipedia move beyond the early adopters and become mainstream.

What Else Is Happening in the UK Higher / Further Education Sector?

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador post has been funded from July 2013 to March 2014. There will therefore be a need to ensure that sharing of approaches taken to use of Wikipedia continues to take place after the funding for the post finishes.

The Eduwiki 2013 conference held in Cardiff 0n 1-2 November 2013 provided a valuable opportunity to hear about ways n which Wikipedia is being used across the broad educational sector. I was particularly impressed by talks on Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles on English Villages by Humphrey Southall and Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University by Lisa Anderson & Nancy Graham.

But what else is happening in the sector? I have to admit to a personal interest in this question as, as described on the Wikimedia UK blog, on 23 March I will be giving a talk at the EduWiki Serbia 2014 conference on educational use of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia tools in the UK. I would like to include further examples of work taking place which I am unaware of. If you are working in this area I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or get in touch. Thanks.


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Spotlight on Wikipedia: the Opportunities and the Risks

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 18 November 2013

 “Spotlight on the Digital” Meeting

Treasure chest image from the Spotlight on the Digital post

A post on the Spotlight on the Digital blog highlighted a ‘treasure chest’ of valuable services.

On Friday (15 November 2013) I attended a “Spotlight on the Digital” meeting at the Jisc offices in London. Spotlight on the Digital is a “collaboration between Jisc, RLUK and SCONUL to identify and disseminate fruitful approaches to make public funded digitized collections and their content items more discoverable for students and researchers (and the public more generally)“. As described in a blog post entitled Spotlight on the digital: how discoverable are your digitised collections? “The need for Spotlight emerged out of the concern that digitised collections are not as “discoverable” as they could be through the channels and devices most commonly accessed by users“.

After the introduction Martin Poulter gave the first brief presentation of the day in an agenda item titled “Infiltrating popular web destinations“. Martin, who is currently working as the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador summarised the benefits which can be provided by Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, but began by telling us how the title of the talk was misleading: rather than talking about infiltrating popular web destinations, providing information about scholarly and cultural resources using Wikipedia should be regarded as a means of celebrating the value, importance and significance of the resources.

I was pleased to support Martin’s brief presentation. I pointed out the need across the higher education sector to both highlight the benefits of Wikipedia and to provide advice and support for those who wished to contribute content to Wikipedia and other related services such as uploading images to Wikimedia Commons. However I also pointed out that there may be risks associated with using Wikipedia. But rather than ignoring such risks, those are feel that Wikipedia has an important role to play within the sector should be pro-active in documenting the risks and associated risk minimisation strategies. There is also, as Martin pointed out, a need to appreciate the risks of using conventional tools and services.

Risk Assessment and Risk Management

Back in 2008-2009 I was involved in the development of risk management strategies to assist those who wished to make institutional use of Web 2.0 services but were concerned about  comments such as “the services would not be sustainable“, “services were ‘walled gardens’“, “services were not available as open source“, “content hosted on Web 2.0 services could infringe copyright legislation“, etc. The proposed risk management strategies were initially described at an invited conference presentation given at the Bridging Worlds conference at the National Library of Singapore and subsequently published in the Program journal with a follow-up paper entitled Empowering Users and Institutions: A Risks and Opportunities Framework for Exploiting the Social Web” being presented at the CULTURAL HERITAGE online conference.

The risk management  framework involved documenting the following aspects of the proposed use of Social Web services:

Intended use: Rather than talking about Social Web services in an abstract context (“shall we have a Facebook page” for example) specific details of the intended use should be provided.

Perceived benefits: A summary of the perceived benefits which use of the Social Web service are expected to provide should be documented.

Perceived risks: A summary of the perceived risks which use of the Social Web service may entail should be documented.

Missed opportunities: A summary of the missed opportunities and benefits which a failure to make use of the Social Web service should be documented.

Costs: A summary of the costs and other resource implications of use of the service should be documented.

Risk minimisation: Once the risks have been identified and discussed approaches to risk minimisation should be documented.

Evidence base: Evidence which back up the assertions made in use of the framework.

It should be noted that it was pointed out that the framework could also be used with conventional tools and services which were procured and deployed locally; it would be a mistake to suggest that only Cloud services are liable to go out of business or be susceptible to changed terms and conditions.

Five years on from the initial paper there is now a much greater willingness to accept the value of Cloud services to support institutional activities, as is evident from Janet’s announcement earlier this year that “Over 18 million students and staff to benefit from faster, more secure cloud-computing” and the role that this Jisc service has in providing Cloud Services for Education Agreements which includes contracts for Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps in Education.

But this does not mean that risks have gone away. Rather, I would argue, there is a need to have a better understanding of such risks and ways of addressing the risks or even accepting some levels of risks. After all there may be risks in getting out of bed in the morning and driving to work, but we are prepared to accept such risks!

In the case of Wikipedia I would highlight the following risks, the likelihood of the risks occurring and approaches for risk minimisation (or acceptance).

Ref.
No.
Risk Likelihood Risk minimisation
1 Wikipedia service is not sustainable. Not able to answer. As a global company the Wikimedia Foundation is able to seek funding from ventures around the globe. It is also successful in having a high profile.
2 Other Wikimedia services, such as Wikimedia Commons, are not sustainable. Not able to answer. See above.
3 Content hosted in Wikipedia changes. Very likely, but a feature not a risk! Wikipedia articles can be changed rapidly, which can be advantageous. Note that risks in use of conventional text books, which cannot be updated easily, such be highlighted as a risk in use of conventional teaching and research resources!
4 Content hosted in Wikipedia is deleted. Possible in some areas. Articles published Wikipedia can be deleted. If articles are merged with existing articles or renamed, appropriate redirects will be provided. Articles could also be deleted if they are felt not to be noteworthy. However in such cases articles are unlikely to be used in an institutional context.
5 Wikipedia user interface (UI) changes. Very likely, but a feature not a risk! The UI for Wikipedia services can (and does) change. However this is the norm for online services.

I’d welcome comments on this risk register. I should also add that there are associated risks in failing to make use of Wikipedia and in the risks not taking place! There are many opportunities which Wikipedia can provide, although this post focusses on the risks.

Although formal risk assessment approaches may not normally be taken for daily activities, they are relevant in areas such as companies which are to be floated on the stock market. I recall in 1995 receiving a copy of the prospectus which was published (as is legally required, I understand)  prior to the IPO of Netscape.  The prospectus highlighted several risks for potential investors, not least the fact that the main competitor for the new company would be Microsoft; Netscape’s major product would be free, as would be the product from its main competitor and business success on the Web was by no means (in 1995) guaranteed. Despite such reservations, as described in Wikipedia:

Netscape made a very successful IPO on August 9, 1995. The stock was set to be offered at $14 per share, but a last-minute decision doubled the initial offering to $28 per share. The stock’s value soared to $75 during the first day of trading, nearly a record for first-day gain. The stock closed at $58.25, which gave Netscape, an unprofitable firm, a market value of $2.9 billion. The company’s revenues doubled every quarter in 1995. Netscape’s success (which crystallized the “Netscape Moment”) landed Andreessen, barefoot, on the cover of Time Magazine.

Might it be appropriate for organisations, such as the Wikimedia Foundation, to publish a risk assessment for its projects? This would appear to be aligned with Wikimedia’s culture of openness and transparency. It would also make people more aware of the risks in using other services, such as the risks of using Google services  which subsequently became ‘sunsetted’.

Posted in Wikipedia | 3 Comments »

Facilitating a Wikipedia Editing Session; the #solo13 Experience

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 11 November 2013

The Wikipedia Editing Workshop Session at the SpotOn 2013 Conference

@pixievondust tweet on the Wikipedia workshopThis has been my second extended week of conferences since I started work at Innovation Advocate at Cetis. As described in a post on my Reflections on the EduWiki 2013 Conference on Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 November 2013, I attended the EduWiki 2013 Conference. On last Friday and Saturday, 8 and 9 November I attended SpotOn 2013, the Science, Policy, Outreach and Tools Online conference. The conference provided a further opportunity to engage with use of Wikipedia, but this time as a facilitator of an hour-long Wikipedia editing workshop session. The conference organisers had asked me to ensure that the session was a hands-on session, with participants having the opportunity to create Wikipedia resources rather than listening to speakers talk about the potential of Wikipedia. The workshop session therefore provided me with an opportunity to facilitate a Wikipedia session for the first time. Earlier this year I attended the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day which provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop. This was followed by participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop, which provided my with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts. This time, however, I led the workshop and developed the accompanying materials, but I was fortunate to be supported by Toni Sant, the Education Organiser for Wikimedia UK as well as the Director of Research at the University of Hull’s School of Arts and New Media in Scarborough. I have an interest in expanding the community of Wikipedia editors. There will therefore be a need to expand the community of those who can train others in using Wikipedia. Therefore in this post I will share my experiences of facilitating a workshop.

Reflections on Facilitating the Workshop

The Eliot room used for the Wikipedia workshopOn the Friday I visited the Eliot Room, which we would use for the workshop. As can be seen from the accompanying photograph, the room layout was less than ideal for a hands-on session, in which Toni and myself would wish to mingle with the participants, helping them out with any problems they had. The layout also meant that it would be difficult for participants to share what they were doing with others. Fortunately during the lunch session when I was installing my slides on the room’s PC I met the two facilitators of the #solo13lego session on Making Research Useful: The Consequences of (Bad) Communication. The abstract for this session described how “In this workshop, we’ll be getting hands-on with Lego to explore how good and bad communication can impact on research utility and impact“. The facilitators were happy for the room layout so be changed with chairs being arranged in three circles so that the participants could more easily share what they were doing. As illustrated below. participants were able to follow the slides during the initial presentation but work collaboratively when they signed up for a Wikipedia account and created their user profile.

Wikipedia editing session

Photo by Toni Sant and available under a CC BY-SA licence.

As can be seen from the slides (which are available on Slideshare), only one slide provided reasons why researchers may wish to make use of Wikipedia; as Cameron Neylon had said in the “Wikimedia UK Annual Review 2012-13” (PDF format):

If you’re serious about ensuring public engagement in your research then you need to make damn sure your work can be incorporated into Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the most important engagement channel for your research.

After this, and the introductions for the facilitators and hearing about the level of Wikipedia expertise of the participants we then provided details of the task to be attempted during the session:

You will:

  • Create a Wikipedia account (go to http://tinyurl.com/SpotOnWiki and register!)
  • Create a user profile & add personal details (e.g. name, organisation, interests, …)
  • Add hyperlinks to (a) external Web sites (e.g. your organisation) and (b) Wikipedia articles (e.g. areas of interest)
  • Add simple formatting

We provided the following examples of user profile and suggested that participants could view the source of these profiles and copy markup of interest:

After just over half an hour into the session we found that most of the participants had created their use profile. I have created a Storify summary of the session which provides links to a number of the profiles which had been created:

David Freeborn's user profile

The accompanying screenshot illustrates a user profile which a relatively new Wikipedia user can create in about 30 minutes. The use of Twitter during the session was useful in providing useful feedback on the users’ experiences. In particular @pixievondust commented that:

This is a genuinely useful hands on session, thanks @briankelly! Lets see more unis running workshops like this!

with similar sentiments being echoed by @FunSizeSuze:

This session has done exactly what I hoped it would do – I now have increased confidence in getting involved in all things Wiki.

After we realised that everyone who had attempted to create a user profile had successfully done so the session concluded with discussions on strategies for creating new articles, the fundamental Wikipedia principles and details of other Wikimedia projects beyond the Wikipedia service. The slides used in the session are available on Slideshare and embedded below. In addition a recording of the live stream of the session is available on YouTube and also embedded below. I hope these resources and this description of how the resources were used will be of interest to others, especially those who may wish to train others on how to contribute to Wikipedia.

YouTube video:


Note: The Wikimedia UK web site has a page on the SpotOn London 2013 Wikipedia editing workshop which provides additional information about the workshop session. The following information has been included in this post for the sake of completeness 23 SpotOn conference delegates (10 female and 13 male) attended this session. We were also able to observe that there were 14 postgraduate students, while the rest were academics, researchers, or other non-students. The following attendees created new Wikipedia user accounts during the workshop:


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Reflections on the EduWiki 2013 Conference

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 5 November 2013

My First Event as Innovation Advocate at Cetis

EduWiki 2013 conference badgeOn Friday and Saturday, 1 and 2 November 2013, I attended the EduWiki 2013 Conference. This was the second EduWiki conference organised by Wikimedia UK; EduWiki 2012 was held at the University of Leicester in September 2012.

This was also my first event in my new role as Innovation Advocate at Cetis. As I mentioned in a previous post I only started at Cetis on Monday, so I had little time to become acclimatised to my new role! It was pleasing to receive messages of congratulations st the conference from a number of people at the event who had seen the announcement either on this blog, on my Facebook page or from my LinkedIn profile (incidentally footnote provides some speculation on the metrics for the numbers of responses to the announcement) . It does seem to me that Wikipedia could be of interest to Cetis, as an emerging technological resource which appears to be relevant to teaching and learning. Did the two days I spent at the conference confirm such views?

Thoughts on the EduWiki 2013 Conference

The first day of the Wikipedia conference began with the welcome to the conference being provided by Toni Sant (Wikimedia UK’s Education Organiser) , with the opening remarks on the conference given by Martin Poulter, the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador in a talk entitled “Where’s the Edit Button on this Textbook?“.

Welsh and Other Minority Language Wikipedia Sites

After the introductions, Robin Owain, the Wales Manager for Wikimedia UK gave a talk in Welsh with instant translation for English speakers via headsets. Robin’s talk provided the political and cultural context for the following keynote talk and made the links with Wicipedia, the Welsh language version of Wikipedia. “Wales is a small country. That’s our greatness. “Do the small things” is our motto” explained Robin, who went on to inform the audience that “Wales is the land of open content“. Such approaches to openness and doing small things, but doing them well has led to Wicipedia being the most popular web site in the Welsh language.

Welsh language Wikipedia:  usage statisticsit was pleasing to see that many of the speakers at the conference backed up their assertions with evidence. In Robin’s case we heard about the usage statistics for Wicipedia, as illustrated.

Robin Owain’s talk focussed on Wicipedia, which is unsurprising for the Wales Manager for Wikimedia UK. A wider context was provided by Gareth Morlain (@melynmelyn), the Digital Media Specialist for the Welsh Government. in his keynote talk on “Getting More Welsh Content Online” which highlighted how a public pressure resulted in Amazon changing their policy on providing Welsh language access to Kindle ebooks.

I was fascinated to learn about use of minority languages, such as Catalan, Basque, Galician, Welsh, Breton, Irish, Gaelic and Cornish, on the Web. I was particularly interested to note that Catalan appears to be punching above its weight. Since I have professional contacts in Catalonia I sent a tweet to Miquel Duran, a professor at Girona University, about this. It seems that his son is president of @amicalwikimedia which promotes Catalan Wikipedia. This suggests that small-scale advocacy can have a significant effect on the creation of articles on minority language Wikipedia sites. Since we heard how the number of Wicipedia articles need to grow by 400% for Google to take Welsh language seriously as a search language I hope that Robin Owain and others involved in encouraging take-up of Wicipedia are successful in their advocacy work.

Wikipedia in Higher Education

Although the first morning at the conference provided me with new insights into less well-known aspects of Wikipedia, it was use of Wikipedia in higher education which was of most interest to me. This was the subject of the session after lunch. Of particular interest to me was the talk by Humphrey Southall on “Introducing Students to Independent Research Through Editing Wikipedia Articles in English Villages“. Humphrey, a Reader in Geography at the University of Portsmouth and Director of the Great Britain Historical GIS, explained the approaches taken in a first year geography course which introduces the students to editing articles on Wikipedia. Rather than focussing on the IT aspects of using Wikipedia, Humphrey explained how the course requirements addressed both the needs to enhance students’ research skills and the need to respect Wikipedia’s culture of neutrality. The abstract for the talk describes how:

Each student on a large first year human geography course at the University of Portsmouth is assigned a different Wikipedia stub article, unedited for at least a year, about an English village. They are required to extend it “to provide a rounded description of the place and … an account of its historical development”. All villages are far from Portsmouth and students are banned from visiting them, so we emphasize that this is an exercise in finding, evaluating, interpreting and citing sources created by others, mainly online. All the villages are Civil Parishes, meaning that modern census data is available for them on the government’s Neighbourhood Statistics site, and historical census data are available on our own site A Vision of Britain through Time. Marks are given for the inclusion of required systematic information (completing the infobox); effective use of sources to create a sense of place; originality in use of sources; quality of layout and illustration; quality of referencing (do hyperlinks work?); engagement with other Wikipedia users (responding to comments!); and adherence to Wikipedia guidelines.

The second day of the conference provided another two interesting talks related to use of Wikipedia in higher education: Lisa Anderson & Nancy Graham provided a librarian’s perspective in a talk on “Safe use of Wikipedia in the transition from school to University” and Darren Stephens facilitated a workshop session on “Exploring the Education Program/Courses Extension for UK HEIs“.

Lisa & Nancy’s talk provided a rebuttal of Dave White’s talk which asked “What’s left to teach now that Wikipedia has done everyone’s homework?“. In this talk, which concluded the first day, Dave White proposed a variant on the first rule of the Fight Club. The first rule of Wikipedia in education is: “You don’t talk about Wikipedia and the learning black market“. The reason for this was based on Dave’s research which showed that although students feel that their lecturers don’t approve of use of Wikipedia, in reality they do use Wikipedia and use references obtained for Wikipedia articles – although they don’t necessarily read the references. There is therefore a learning black market based on content from Wikipedia which lectures must not be made aware of!

Lisa & Nancy’s talk described how librarians at Birmingham University appreciate that students will use Wikipedia, and therefore sought to ensure that students are made aware of best practices for using Wikipedia. They ensure their students are made aware of the history pages for Wikipedia articles; how easy it is to edit articles, which includes vandalising articles or adding errors, mistakes or deliberately incorrect or misleading content but also how such changes are normally spotted by Wikipedia volunteers which can remove such content.

I found this a useful talk on how a group of librarians are understanding how their users use Web resources and respond by engaging withe such realities. But Dave White’s evidence of student belief that use of Wikipedia is frowned upon by academics and librarians shows that further work needs to be done. One tweet summarised the talk: “Librarians’ attitudes to Wikipedia are changing @msnancygraham ”. But to what extent does this reflect the reality of how university librarians are informing their students (and staff) of the relevance of Wikipedia, I wonder? As I suggested to Nancy after her talk, perhaps gathering evidence across the sector would be useful for a paper at next year’s LILAC 2014 information literacy conference.

The final session I’ll comment on in this post is Darren Stephens workshop on “Exploring the Education Program/Courses Extension for UK HEIs“. Darren explained that the education extension installed on Wikipedia has had minimal take-up in the UK, with only two universities in England making use of it in the academic year 2012/13. The Education Program extension for MediaWiki adds features to Wikipedia to support classes of students editing articles, including structured Institution and Course pages and feeds of recent activity by students. However as we learnt during the workshop session, the extension is poorly documented and the software has a poor user interface. Comments that the software enabled staff to monitor how their students made use of Wikipedia to complete assignments also led to concerns regarding the privacy implications’ even if the software provides a dashboard which gives a window on publicly available information, there will still be issues regarding potential concerns that students have been required to make information publicly available and also that institutions may have policies which require student activities to be analysed prior to assessment.

Rod Dunican, Director of Global Education at the Wikipedia Foundation had opened the second day with a plenary talk on “Wikipedia in Education: Adventures in Learning“. I was fortunate to spend some time over lunch talking to Rod and hearing more about the Wikipedia Foundation and the Wikipedia Education Program. In my opening remarks in this posts I wondered whether the conference would confirm my feelings of the relevance of Wikipedia for the higher and further education sectors. I’m now convinced of the importance of Wikipedia in open educational practices. There will be a need to be able to provide further evidence of the value of Wikipedia (beyond the usage statistics which several speakers provided) and learn from the successes (and failures) of the early adopters.

I’ll conclude with a few tweets made during the conference.

Kate Fisher showed her enthusiasm for the conference and shared the actions she’ll be taking when she returns to work:

Thanks to @wikimedia for a great conference. Even more motivated to start a monthly Wiki Wednesday met up on our campus

but Terry McAndrew reminded us that there is still much work to do:

Very impressed with all the wikimedia available at but disappointed that HE makes too little use of it for developing

Finally Judith Scammell’s tweet makes me regret having to leave the conference before the final talk:

Thank you Wikimedia UK & spkrs 4 really interesting day fri. Sorry to miss today + musical ending!

I hope a video of the song which concluded the conference will be published!


Appendix: Archives of the Event

Storify summary of the Eduwiki conferenceanyone archiving #eduwiki tweets? Would that be a good idea?asked Simon Knight on the opening day of the conference. Although the question was directed at @wikimediauk I saw the tweet and immediately created a Twubs archive of the #eduwiki tweets. “That’s the power of the crowd – fixed in two minutes flat! #eduwiki” responded @wikimediauk . I agree, one shouldn’t have to wait for employees or officers of an organisation to carry out work which interests bystanders can do. That’ after all, can be regarded as the ‘Wikipedia way’.

In addition to the Twubs archive, I also created Storify archives of the tweets posted on day 1 and day 2 of the conference.

I should add that although I normally use Storify to curate an edited summary of event tweets published in chronological order, with tweets omitted if I feel they are of little value and annotations provided, such as links to speakers slides, in this case due to lack of time I published the full set of tweets in reverse chronological order. I did this shortly after the event was over so that an archive was available in a timely fashion, especially for others who may be wishing to publish a report on the conference. I would also add that the full archive may be of value to others who may wish to create an annotated story (e.g. of talks of particular interest). Again the process of publishing something incomplete which can be enhanced can be regarded as the Wikipedia way.


Footnote:
I was interested to see that I had received 94 ‘likes’ and 43 comments for the Facebook status update, 33 ‘likes’ and 12 comments on a LinkedIn update for my new job but only 16 comments to the original blog post.Might this suggest that Facebook and then LinkedIn are more effective than blog posts in alerting people to information such as a change of job, I wonder?


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Posted in Events, Wikipedia | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Supporting Use of Wikimedia Across the UK Higher Education Sector

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 17 July 2013

The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Wikipedia logo. Used with a CC-By licence from Wikimedia Commons.

Back in April 2013 the Jisc published a call for a Jisc ‘Wikimedia Ambassador’ residency. In light of my forthcoming redundancy (my last day is two weeks today!) I have been looking for new opportunities to continue working in the sector. This call was therefore of interest, especially in light of my long-standing interest in use of Wikipedia in higher education. I therefore submitted a bid based on:

I was very pleased to receive several letter of support from those who recognised my pro-active approaches to openness, my strong links across the sector, my experience in running events and my knowledge of the higher education sector in general and the Jisc community in particular.

However the bid was not successful. Although the evaluation panel “noted the strength of the proposal in terms of its academic focus and a sound methodology” they felt that “the lead consultant’s track-record as a Wikipedian to be insufficiently evidenced and that the link to the Wikimedia community was not sufficiently strong“. I would not disagree with these comments; although I have created and edited Wikipedia articles over an extended period I have little experience in training others to use Wikipedia.

I subsequently learnt that the successful bid had been submitted by Martin Poulter, University of Bristol. I have known Martin for some time (probably over 10 years) and am very aware of his in-depth expertise on Wikipedia and his active involvement in the Wikimedia UK community. I’m happy to give my congratulations to Martin.

Supporting Sectoral Use of Wikimedia

One of the main constraints which I felt the Jisc call had was its limitation to providing Wikipedia articles related to Jisc-funded activities. As the second paragraph in the call document (MS Word or PDF format) states:

The purpose of the training is to disseminate skills and knowledge leading to improved coverage and accuracy of articles relating to information produced by Jisc funded programmes presented on Wikimedia projects. 

My work as UK Web Focus has been primarily focussed on supporting the higher education sector, rather than working with Jisc projects and programmes (although I was involved in work such as providing a framework for the selection of standards for Jisc programmes, as well as Jisc development activities such as the JISC e-Framework and the JISC Information Environment).

WIkipedia workshop in Oxford

Sphingonet Wikiedia workshop held at the University of Oxford

However after submitting the proposal I realised that I would welcome the opportunity to engage more directly with the sector in encouraging greater take-up of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. I have therefore joined Wikimedia UK and taken part in two recent Wikimedia UK events: the Queen Victoria’s Journals University of Oxford editing day provided an initial opportunity to familiarise myself with the format of an editing workshop and this was followed by participation in a Sphingonet Wiki workshop (see accompanying photograph), which provided me with initial experience in working with other Wikimedia experts.

My bid for the Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador residency included strong support from a number of institutions who were looking for opportunities to embed expertise in use of Wikipedia within their institution, as well as ensure that relevant information about institutional activities is made available in Wikipedia, in ways which conform with key Wikipedia principles including the need for information to be provided from a Neutral Point of View.

During the summer I will be updating my skills in Wikipedia (and I intend to finish reading a book I purchased recently on How Wikipedia Works And How You Can Be A Part Of It. I then intend to offer a portfolio of training workshops based on the skills and expertise I have gained during my time at UKOLN, including training for a number of Social Web services including Wikipedia. If you have an interest, please get in touch.


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Posted in Wikipedia | 3 Comments »

Guest Post: Librarians meet Wikipedians: collaboration not competition!

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 3 April 2012

As part of the series of guest blog posts which describe how the higher education sector is engaging with various aspects of openness Simon Bains, the Head of Research and Learning Support and Deputy Librarian, The John Rylands University Library at University of Manchester, describes how the university library is engaging with Wikipedia.


It isn’t really news to say that the world libraries inhabit has changed almost beyond recognition in less than 20 years. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight it will be possible to make sense of the rapid technological change and resulting shift in behaviours which combine to challenge the collections, services and perhaps the very existence of libraries. Whilst we continue to live through this information revolution, we seek to make educated guesses at the next trend, respond as we can to the very different expectations of our user communities, and develop strategies to ensure we remain relevant and sustainable in challenging times.

Several trends in particular seem to me to have made a marked contribution to the seismic landscape disruption which has followed the invention of the Web:

  1. Transition to online from print – published content, particularly journals, being made available online and becoming, fairly quickly, the dominant delivery channel.
  2. Challenges to traditional models of publishing – the rise of the open access agenda, and a general trend towards widespread support for openness, not just for published material but for underlying data, with a view to fostering sharing, reuse and linking.
  3. The Social Web – interaction and conversation, sharing, tagging, developing personal networks for both social and business purposes. Publication is no longer primarily about dissemination, but about sharing, reuse and conversation.
  4. The development of large scale global public and commercial content hubs which have grown to dominate the ways in which information is published, discovered, and shared.

These, of course, aren’t entirely independent developments, and can instead be seen as components of an evolutionary (if not revolutionary) process which has brought us to today’s information landscape. Equally, it is clear that change continues, and recent challenges to traditional scholarly publishing models serve to underline that.

The creation of one of these ‘hubs’ is the focus of this blog post. In just a few years we have seen the very rapid ascendency of Wikipedia as the preferred starting point for the sort of reference enquiry that would once have been directed to a traditionally published encyclopaedia, or a library reference desk. Despite scepticism, it has become a hugely popular resource, with evidence to support the reliability of crowd-sourced factual information, as a result of strict editing policies and zealous, perhaps over-zealous, editors.

In 2007, whilst Digital Library Manager at the National Library of Scotland I was interested to read of a project to use it to make library collections more widely known, and this encouraged me to initiate work at to do likewise. Unfortunately, the timing was not good, as concern about the credentials of editors, and allegations about attempts to influence Wikipedia entries had resulted in very careful vetting, and an aversion to anything which even hinted at advertising, even from the cultural sector. Some forays into relevant Wikipedia entries in fact resulted in my web developer’s account being shut down, almost immediately. Somewhat discouraged, we directed our effort at the more welcoming global networks, such as Flickr and YouTube.

Since then, Wikipedia seems to have adopted a more mature stance, still managing entries very carefully, but recognising that partnership with organisations with information which enriches its entries is to be welcomed rather than resisted (although a recent verbal exchange with a Wikipedia editor makes me think that this is still somewhat dependent on the outlook of individual editors). I was very interested to see the creation of the concept of the ‘Wikipedian in Residence’ at the British Museum, although my move from the National Library back into HE required a focus on other priorities.

Advertisements for the Wikipedia Lounge in the John Rylands University Library

An interior shot of the John Rylands Library in central Manchester

My move to The John Ryland University Library at the University of Manchester coincided with contact from Wikimedia UK, who were now actively seeking partnerships with education institutions, recognising the mutual benefit of working with students, academics and libraries to foster more effective use of Wikipedia as a resource, to encourage content creation and editing by experts, and to link entries to relevant resources. As a Library at a major research intensive institution, with the additional responsibility of steward of an internationally important special collections Library, we were identified as a particularly valuable pilot partner. For our part, influenced very much by the sort of strategic thinking coming from organisations like OCLC, which encouraged libraries to collaborate with large information hubs, we were very enthusiastic about a partnership which would help us connect to a global network level hub, and also address the digital literacy agenda.

We have begun the engagement process, which we hope will develop into a substantial project which includes a ‘Wikipedian in Residence’. To date, we have hosted a ‘Wikipedia Lounge’, which saw academics and students meet Wikipedians to learn more about getting involved and creating content. This event attracted academics, students and librarians, and we have plans to repeat it. We are now in discussions with Wikimedia UK about setting up a 12 month pilot project which would see a Wikipedian in Residence based at the John Rylands Library, working with our curators, students and academics to expose our collections, encourage further research and learning, develop a network of Wikipedians at Manchester (we already have some), and place Wikipedia within our digital literacy strategy as a powerful tool which when used effectively can play an important part in University teaching and research. There are already a number of references to our collections in Wikipedia entries, e.g.in biographical pages such as that of the author Alison Uttley, which serve to demonstrate the very great untapped potential. Perhaps the best entry which focuses on a specific item on our collections is for the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, also known as the St John’s fragment (illustrated) which ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language.

Fragment of St John’s Gospel: recto

Of course there are concerns about Wikipedia: it may not be reliable; it can be used as an easy substitute for comprehensive research and study; it can be difficult to change erroneous content, etc. But to ignore it or dissuade students from its use reminds me of the approach that was sometimes taken in the face of the rapid rise of Google in the late 1990s. It is a battle we are unlikely to win, and so much more could be achieved by working with, not against, the new information providers, especially when so much of what we are about has synergy: open access, collaboration, no profit motive, etc.

It is early days for us in this engagement at the moment, but I have high hopes. And I’m sure that when we introduce our Wikimedia UK contacts to the wonders of the John Rylands Library, they will find it impossible not to see the obvious potential!


Simon Bains is Head of Research and Learning Support and Deputy Librarian, The John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester. You can see his Library Website staff page or follow him on Twitter: @simonjbains

Posted in Guest-post, openness, Wikipedia | 8 Comments »

The Failure of Citizendium

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) 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 (UK Web Focus) 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 :-)


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Posted in Wikipedia, Wikis | 2 Comments »

How Can We Assess the Impact and ROI of Contributions to Wikipedia?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 27 September 2010

On Friday Andy Powell tweeted about a sentence he had written. He had written:

303 See Other is one way of responding to a request for a URI that identifies a real-world object according to Semantic Web practice (the other being the use of hash URIs)[1].

I responded to Andy suggesting that “this might have been the biggest impact you’ve made!

The contribution Andy had made was to the Wikipedia entry for the HTTP 303 status code. Andy’s contribution to this brief entry was to add a “note about Semantic Web usage of 303 response to indicate real-world object being identified”.

My comment to Andy was based on the usage statistics for this entry – in August 2010 there had been 3,515 views of the page and over the past year there have been a total of 35,489 views as illustrated.

Now although the contribution appears modest it does amount to about a quarter of the full article:

The HTTP response status code 303 See Other is the correct manner in which to redirect web applications to a new URI, particularly after an HTTP POST has been performed.

This response indicates that the correct response can be found under a different URI and should be retrieved using a GET method. The specified URI is not a substitute reference for the original resource.

This status code should be used with the location header.

303 See Other is one way of responding to a request for a URI that identifies a real-world object according to Semantic Web practice (the other being the use of hash URIs)[1].

The addition makes it clear that the HTTP status code has an important role to play in Semantic Web usage – something that wasn’t mentioned in the original version. So if there are a further 35,000+ views in the next 12 months they may benefit from this additional information. And although there are much more detailed articles about use of the HTTP 303 status code in this context, such as “How to Publish Linked Data on the Web” the addition to the Wikipedia article has the advantage of brevity and the little effort needed to add the sentence.

In 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 disseminating their knowledge and went on to provide examples of how well-read technical articles in Wikipedia can be. But how would we assess the impact of such work and identify the return on investment?

In the case of the HTTP 303 article it appears that Andy created the first version of his update at 09.52 on Friday 26 September with the final version being published at 10.13. This suggests that the update took about 20 minutes to produce – although it should be noted that Andy pointed out that he “contribute[s] to wikipedia so rarely, it always takes me ages when i do“.

So can we speculate that 20 minutes work may provide a significant part of an article which will be read by over 35,000 people, based on current trends? And how does this compare with other ways in which 20 minutes of work? Is a blog post likely to have a similar number of readers?

I can’t help but feel that contributions to Wikipedia (by which I mean ‘sticky’ contributions which are not removed) may have a more significant contribution in certain areas that many other dissemination channels. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any incentives for such contributions to be made apart from the ‘Big Society’ approach of doing good on a voluntary basis in order to provide benefits to others. This approach, I feel, won’t scale. So shouldn’t we encourage contributions to Wikipedia as a dissemination activity which should be formally recognised?

My question, therefore. is should JISC programme managers encourage projects to contribute to Wikipedia and encourage the projects to report on successes they have doing this? And if you want an example of the outreach which can be gained through use of Wikipedia have a look at the August 2010 usage statistics for the Scientology article (158,845 visits in the month) – an article which Martin Poulter (a well-established contributor to Wikipedia who is ICT Manager at the ILRT, University of Bristol) has contributed to.


Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

Posted in Web2.0, Wikipedia | 10 Comments »

How Well-Read Are Technical Wikipedia Articles?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 8 July 2010

In a recent post on Having An Impact Through Wikipedia I suggested that it would be useful if JISC-funded synthesis reports, for example reports on emerging new standards, used Wikipedia as a means of enhancing access to such work. In the post I pointed out that “I can’t find usage statistics for the page [but] I suspect that the article [on Amplified Conference which I created] will have been read my more people than have read my various peer-reviewed papers, blog posts, etc.” In response to a request for examples of tools which provide usage statistics for Wikipedia articles Martin Greaney suggested thatIt’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“.

As Lorcan Dempsey suggested in a tweetThe Wikipedia article traffic stats site mentioned in your comments is quite interesting. wonder how reliable is“. I agree and thought I would explore what the statistics tell us about Wikipedia entries for a number of areas related to Web, metadata and related standards of interest to the JISC development community.

My survey was carried out on 6 July 2010. The following table provides a link to the relevant Wikipedia article, the data the article was created (with a link to the original page for the article), my comments on the article and the usage statistics for October 2009 and June 2010 (two dates chosen to observe any significant variations).

Page Created Summary (subjective comments) Stats: Oct 2009 Stats: Jun 2010
Linked Data May 2007 Multiple concerns have been identified with this article. 5,423 8,102
HTML Jul 2001 Appears to be a well-written and comprehensive article. Includes info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 147,357 143,386
XML Sep 2001 Appears to be a well-written and comprehensive article. Includes info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 159,749 126,599
XSLT Feb/Jun 2002 Appears to be a very thorough and comprehensive article. Includes info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 7,160 18,938
RSS Sep 2002 Appears to be a well-written and comprehensive article. Includes a very brief info box so factual information is available in DBPedia. 7,160 (gaps) 18,938
AJAX (programming) Mar 2005 Appears factually correct . 98,629 90,300
SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) Sep 2004 Appears to be a very thorough and comprehensive article. 4,421 2,942
Z39.50 Oct 2004 Brief article which has been flagged as in need of improvements. 3,960 2,592
Search/Retrieve Web Service Feb 2004 Very little information provided. 506 462
Dublin Core Oct 2001 Appears factually correct though citations need improving. 7,013 7,501
METS (Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard) Sep 2006 Appears factually correct though citations need improving. 7,236 4,573
MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema) Aug 2006 Appears to be a reasonable although succinct summary. 546 583

Extrapolating from the usage statistics for the two dates it would seem that popular articles such as HTML and XML have an annual number of views of around 1,750,000 and 1,720,000 whilst an article on a less well-known standard such as METS has an annual number of views of around 70,0000. It is perhaps surprising, in light of the high viewing figures for METS that the annual viewing figures for MODS is around 6,700. Perhaps this is due to the name clash between the METS acronym and the Mets name used to refer to the New York Mets. However there isn’t, as far as I am aware, such scope for confusion with names such as HTML, XML, SAML, etc.

What conclusion might we draw from such statistics? I would suggest that if I had an interest in ensuring that users had a good understanding of what Dublin Core is about and had access to the key sources of information then contributing to the Dublin Core Wikipedia page would be a good way of achieving that goal – after all the estimated viewing figures of around 87,000 surely can’t be ignored.

Now Matt Jukes pointed out the potential difficulties of getting content into Wikipedia. But that is a question of ‘How we go about contributing to Wikipedia?‘ rather than ‘Should we?

Can we accept that the answer to the second question should be ‘Yes‘ so that we can explore ways of addressing the first question?

Posted in standards, Wikipedia | 11 Comments »

Having An Impact Through Wikipedia

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) 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 »

What Is JISC?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 22 August 2008

I recently noticed a referrer link to this blog coming from the Answers.com Web site. I’ve not visited this site before so I thought I’d visit and use the service to find an answer to a question. The question I thought I’d ask was “What is JISC?” And, as shown below, I found that “The Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) supports United Kingdom post-16 and higher education and research by providing leadership in the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in support of learning, teaching, research and administration. JISC is funded by all the UK post-16 and higher education funding councils.“.

What is JISC?

This answer is taken from the JISC entry in Wikipedia. Similar results are found by asking questions such as “What is UKOLN?” and “What is Bath University?” as well as for more general questions such as “What is research” although for questions such as “What is education?” the answers are drawn from a variety of sources, with the Wikipedia definition to be found after results from sources such as The American Heritage Dictionary, Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition and the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia.

What are the implications of this? The first, unsurprisingly, is that if information about your organisation or your areas of interest are available in Wikipedia, then the Creative Commons licence which is assigned to the material will help to ensure that this information is surfaced in multiple locations.

And perhaps more subtly, if you don’t use Wikiepdia, or you require that your students don’t use Wikipedia, you may find that you are inadvertently using information held by Wikipedia and made available via others services such as Wikipedia. In the search for JISC the top entry was clearly labelled as coming from Wikipedia, but in the example of “What is education?” the first set of references came from more traditional sources of information, and if you scroll down you may miss the citation details for the entry from Wikipedia.

My view is that providing information about your organisation of the topics you care about in Wikipedia will help to maximise awareness of and an interest such information. And failing to provide such information on the grounds that people shouldn’t use Wikipedia is mistaken. But if you do make use of Wikipedia you should be careful to provide an objective and encylopedia-like definition and avoid the trap of the entry sounding like an advertisement:

JISC entry in Wikipedia

Posted in Web2.0, Wikipedia | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

Wikimindmap

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 10 August 2007

A post on Mind maps & Wiki on the 2coach blog introduced me to the Wikimindmap tool.  This provides a visualisation of information provided on Wikipedia.

And a post on the Web2learning.net blog illustrates how a search for “Library” is displayed, but I was more interested in searching for my hobby in the analogue world – “rapper sword”.

Wikimind map for "rapper sword"

Although text on the home page implies that the service may not be sustainable (“Due to high request, WikiMindMap will soon be available as intranet solution. Please come back here to keep you informed.“) I was more interested in this service as an example of how making your data available for reuse by others (content in Wikipedia has a Creative Commons licence) and providing access to the data can allow applications to be developed which the original developed may not have considered.

My colleague Paul Walk mentioned this recently in a post on “The coolest thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else“.

Is this interface of use?  Perhaps it may be considered somewhat gimmicky – but I do wonder if this type of graphical interface to an encyclopedia might provide accessibility benefits?

Posted in Web2.0, Wikipedia | 2 Comments »

Wikipedia – Can We Provide Open Access For Training Materials?

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 12 March 2007

Melissa Knighton, who works on the Staff Development Unit at the University of Leeds, and I took part in a workshop at ITCP held in Trieste a couple of years ago. So I was interested to rediscover her Elgg blog recently. Her posting on Wikipedia – a resource for learning and teaching? described a staff development course on the role of Wikipedia in learning and teaching. Further exploration of the Elgg blog service at the University of Leeds led me to a posting on Wikipedia: What the critics say by Angela Newton, the Information Literacy Team Leader in the Library at the University of Leeds. Angela’s posting summarises Wikipedia’s strengths and weaknesses – issues which, I’m sure, will be addressed more fully in the staff development course.

But how much time and effort will be spent in duplicating the development of similar materials across the library and information sector? The Library sector, in particular, should appreciate the benefits to be gained by providing open access to resource, and such benefits need not be restricted to research publications – Creative Commons licences can also be used with document and training materials. This is an argument I made in a paper on Let’s Free IT Support Materials! which I presented at the EUNIS 2005 conference.

Which will be the first Library to provide a Creative Commons licence for its documentation and training materials? And have a Creative Commons logo on slides used in training courses? Or is this already happening?

Posted in openness, Wikipedia | Leave a Comment »