GLAM-Wiki 2015: Thoughts, Excitement and Opportunities!

Since attending Kansas State for grad school and focused on developing my Digital Humanities skills, it has been a long time since I attended one of the movement-wide Wikimedia conferences; in 2011 I went to Wikimania Haifa,and in 2012 I attended Wikimania DC. At each, I found myself amazed by the breadth and impact of the various European Wikimedia outreach opportunities: the density of each chapter’s members, in part created, by the national boundaries of the various European languages, gives an environment that favours the development of  formal organizations that support professional relationships with large volunteer communities and outside partners. Similarly, as a movement event GLAM-Wiki 2015 felt like a very Euro-centric conference: only a small contingent of Americans, Australians and Canadians, two Southeast Asian contributors (representing Bangladesh and the Philippines), a handful of other Asian contributors, few African contributors, and a very limited representation of Latin American communities.

GLAM-Wiki has been an overwhelming catalyst in the European context for good historical reasons: the 19th century’s emphasis on colonial acquisition and reinvestment in public cultural education has created a densely packed and well-loved cultural sector. The overlap between dense and professional chapters and this amazing cultural sector has led to an amazing Wikimedia capacity for partnerships around cultural heritage. GLAM-Wiki 2015 highlighted a phenomenal breadth of projects with partners from Europeana to small British museums, from ethnographic museums in Poland to major national libraries that created a broad survey of the important work happening across the continent. In particular, Wikidata and projects like WikiProject the sum of all paintings caused quite a buzz, with everyone beginning to talk about the potential of such projects in shaping not only Wikimedia collaborations but the larger cultural heritage sector.

That being said, when community members shared experiences from other parts of the globe I found them to be even more spectacular and impactful projects that I was surprised to have not learned about on the global stage:

  • The team from Wikimedia Mexico talked about their weekly radio program focused on Wikipedia and a 50-hour editathon that they hosted at Museo Soumaya
  • The WikiAfrica team, represented by Nkansah Rexford Nyarko, talked about a Cape Town collaboration that activated a whole coalition of museums in the region, helping them distribute previously unavailable digital media
  • Marco Correa from Wikimedia Chile talked about how they preserved official speeches of Salvador Allende on Spanish WikiSource
  • Zach Pagkalinawan from Wikimedia Philippines highlighted their “Cultural Heritage Mapping Project” which captures photographs and historical data about

Such ambitious projects! More importantly, though, these projects are very exciting because they not only offer some of the best examples of innovation in the GLAM-Wiki community helping preserve and disseminate cultural heritage, but they were implemented in areas where the Wikimedia communities don’t have the level of professional infrastructure and density of cultural institutions as Europe. The growing opportunities are phenomenal: I would invite everyone to browse the schedule at https://nl.wikimedia.org/wiki/GLAM-WIKI_2015/Programme with an eye for the non-European GLAM-Wiki activities.

Opportunities for the Wikipedia Library

I have been transitioning out of my role as a Digital Humanities specialist at Kansas State University, and increasing my role as Project Manager for The Wikipedia Library where I am helping expand Wikimedia volunteer access to research materials and growing the impact of Wikipedia in library-focused research and discovery. In part, my attendance at GLAM-Wiki was to scope out various opportunities for The Wikipedia Library to find new volunteer leaders for branches and capture best practices in library outreach which we can disseminate through our Wikipedia Library branches. Several projects look like excellent opportunities:

  • At the National Library of Israel, they operate the main Reference Desk for Hebrew Wikipedia, supporting editors and readers in finding research materials and answering reference questions
  • The State Library of New South Wales has an organizational policy that allows for, and at times strongly encourages, Wikipedia editing that improves public knowledge about topics of importance to their holdings. Check it out at on their Glam-Wiki documentation
  • The Catalan Wikimedia community is working with hundreds of public libraries to leverage Wikipedia as an information literacy tool and to disseminate best practices for editing in their local communities.

Each of these programs deserve systematic documentation as part of The Wikipedia Library: they help fulfill our mission of getting resources to our editors and readers, they provide refreshing new approaches to GLAM-Wiki that most communities haven’t considered, and they scale without a huge amount of volunteer or professional staff investment.

At The Wikipedia Library, we are increasingly talking about how our team can partner with the GLAM-Wiki community to find these innovative approaches and distribute them to more language communities! Do you know of any under-documented projects in the Wikimedia community that could use greater investigation from The Wikipedia Library? Comment below!

Losing Adrianne Wadewitz

I woke up this morning to an incredibly shocking email in my mailbox. I got an automatic update from HASTAC announcing the publication of this blog post: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2014/04/10/remembering-adrianne-wadewitz-scholar-communicator-teacher-leader . My co-author, wiki-friend, and mentor in thinking about Wikipedia in the Digital humanities was gone, having fallen in one of her favorite pass-times.

All day I have been shaking from the loss. It’s not that I knew her particularly well personally: we had mostly interacted through digital media and have only met in person at several Wikimedia related events. It’s that I know that the common mission we shared bridging Wikipedia and Digital Humanities community has gotten unimaginably harder. Her contribution was tireless and compelling and finding anyone to fill her shoes will be nigh impossible. This loss seems keen for me: as an aspiring communicator of that space, Adrianne was an incredible mentor and model. She had incredible energy and voice, travelling across the United States and the World to spread that vision. She actively delivered incisive critiques of Wikipedia, the general response of scholars in shaping that space, and the need to place Women, the humanities and the underprivileged into our public knowledge record.

Just a month ago, Adrianne and I were fighting through our rejection of a paper from an Academic journal on the place of history and historical process in Wikipedia. Today I control her intellectual property in that article, as we had yet to find another platform for publishing it. Moreover, we had talked about something beyond our research in that first article: beginning to really understand, through large scale analysis, how women and humanities are problematically represented in Wikipedia. Without her voice helping me hone and shape those ideas, and without her experience helping assuage the fears I have entering the larger academic community, I am feeling blinded. I need help, and gladly welcome collaboration to meet her goals. Hopefully, we can use this tragedy to find a way to dedicate more research to her vision.

My losses seem rather small when compared to the impact that she clearly had on her family, friends, students and colleagues near her. But I can’t help but think how many internet users, scholars and learners the world over will never understand what they lost with her passing.

Reporting Metrics on GLAM-Wiki Part 1

As I mentioned in a post earlier in the week, documenting and assessing the effects of a GLAM-Wiki partnership on a institutions digital presence is a critical step to GLAM-Wiki cooperations. There are a number of ways to take metrics related to Wikipedia. In this blog I am going to highlight a few and why they matter. If you would like to see a comprehensive list of tools that GLAM professionals can use to measure content on Wikipedia, check out this list of tools used by the GLAM-Wiki community.

Metrics are an important part of any project, because it allows whoever is coordinating that project to communicate to others exactly what happened. This is particularly important when working with academic or cultural institutions: their is always to much work in that space and not enough labor. Metrics allow academics and GLAM-participants to assess the ratio of effort to public impact. For this blog post, I will cover some of the most basic types of metrics used by GLAM-Wiki assessment: quality and number of articles and external links.

Blake task force and Article quality

One of the most common ways for Wikipedians to organize work and content is to create community projects where they can coordinate efforts. Projects for large swaths of material are called WikiProjects and for more specific subtopics, sometimes these WikiProjects will form task forces (check out this link for a list of WikiProjects on English Wikipedia). For this GLAM-Wiki cooperation, I created a William Blake Task force as part of WikiProject Poetry on English Wikipedia. One of the advantages of WikiProjects is that they allow users to know who is working on a content area and for participants to categorize. On Wikipedia, the community has developed an assessment system called the 1.0 assessment scheme to map out the importance and quality of articles on English Wikipedia.

When I first found out I would be doing an internship with the archive (as reported in an earlier post), I began tagging articles related to Blake within this schema. In doing so, I identified 150 pages related to Blake and his work (now 151 page because of the a new article). I assessed them according to the 1.0 criteria.  As you can see in the screenshot of the assessment graph below, many of these articles are lower in quality (starts and stubs are small starter articles on Wikipedia with little content or references while Featured articles are well referenced and thorough articles that undergo a review process) and many of the most importance articles related to Blake and his art (Blake’s biography and his main publications) could use focused improvement. By identifying these qualities, we can direct contributors that we enlist through the Education assignments, editathons and Wikipedia community content drives towards the articles that need the most work and are most important.  At the end of the internship, I will reassess how successful these activities are by documenting the changes in article quality and number.

URLs to the Institution

One of the easiest ways for an institution to report it’s reach and presence on Wikipedia, as well as the internet more generally, is to determine how many urls lead towards different parts of their website. For English Wikipedia, a contributor who works for the Library of Congress, Ed Summers, created a tool called LinkyPedia which maps out how often links get used on English Wikipedia. According to the tool, currently, the Blake Archive has 110 links to its pages across 56 Wikipedia pages (not all of them articles). This is a small number of URLs considering how important the Blake Archive is as the primary Academic source of Blake images and transcription on the web. Anyone who researches a Blake poem or publication will likely find their way to the English Wikipedia article on the topic, and, if links to the authoritative Archive records are not available, they may not realize that the archive exists or can provide them support. This is a problem for students, researchers and Blake scholarship more generally: the free authoritative materials from the Blake Archive can easily be ignored for someone unfamiliar with the project. Adding links that meaningfully help readers connect to this outside source, as long as its not simply link spam, fulfills both Wikipedia’s mission of helping individuals access free knowledge and the Blake Archive’s mission in increasing use of their reference resources produced through almost two decades of institutional funding and grants.

Links on other Wikimedia projects are also important. For the Blake Archive, the most important links will be from Wikimedia Commons. Because the high resolution scans from the Blake Archive have been available for free on the internet since 1996, Wikimedia contributors have been downloading the images and uploading them to Wikimedia Commons because of their public domain status. Many of these images have been accompanied with a URL that provides the source of these images, properly accrediting the Archive for making them available. Though the MediaWiki software allows searching for the use of URLs, the report it generates doesn’t account for multiple URLs on a page thus allowing you to count the number of pages. To create a data similar to Linkypedia’s I ran two different tools to create metrics for links on Wikimedia Commons: first, running the built in tool, I discovered that their are 710 links to the Blake Archive; next, using the tool AutoWikiBrowser, I ran another report which reported 644 distinct file pages using those urls. On Wikimedia Commons, their are 2287 images related to William Blake, thus the report suggests that the Blake Archive is the source of over 1/4 of Blake images already in use across Wikimedia Projects. Already, in my initial survey of those images, I have discovered other Blake Archive scans without proper metadata attributing their source; this suggests that a significantly larger portion of those images are from the Blake Archive.

These metrics about link data have allowed me prioritize a particular activity that should improve my internship’s public impact: adding appropriate links and metadata to English Wikipedia and Commons. By adding links to the William Blake Archive and the institutional webpages of those institutions that hold the physical Blake objects, images will be accredited to their producers and readers will be affiliated with direct channels to free academic sources.

Coming soon

In my next blog post (or two), I will talk about the tools available for tracking page views, use of images on the family of Wikimedia projects, and how the Archive’s website metrics can be compared to Wikimedia projects to help improve public access to the materials.

Meanwhile, I would like to encourage everyone interested in William Blake or GLAM-Wiki to help improve content related to Blake on English Wikipedia. For things to do, check out the list of potential projects at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Blake#To_do . If you need help learning how to edit, check out http://editathon.org/ .

Semester starts, and collaboration expands!

William Blake in Conversation with the Astrologer John Varley - the Right - by John Linnell (cropped, contrast increased) from Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:William_Blake_in_Conversation_with_the_Astrologer_John_Varley_-_the_Right_-_by_John_Linnell.jpg

William Blake in Conversation with the Astrologer John Varley – the Right – by John Linnell (cropped, contrast increased) from Wikimedia Commons 

Today is officially the first day of the semester, and already good news for my internship and the Blake Archive collaboration! I was very pleased this weekend to get a message from User:Dmitrismirnov, a Wikipedian mostly active on Russian Wikipedia, saying that he had created a new English-language article on William Blake’s series of pencil and black chalk sketches called “Visionary Heads“. The series of sketches were inspired by late night meeting John Varley, an astrologer, during the later part of Blake’s life. The sketches depict visions of historical figures whom appeared to Blake in visions, as if sitting for a portrait. You should check out the article, or even contribute more information to it! The article is by no means complete, but that’s part of what makes Wikipedia so empowering: at least the information is out there for those who didn’t know about the sketches and we can know expand and improve that content as opportunity becomes available. If you know something about the Visionary Heads, or would like to learn more by researching them, why not edit the page! It’s fairly easy to contribute, simply create an editing account and begin writing. If you find yourself with questions or concerns, we also have community spaces, like our Teahouse, which can help new editors figure out how to use the site.

Speaking of the synergistic effects of social media: my blog has brought me in contact with a librarian of the National Library of Medicine, who has worked with Blake’s scientific illustrations of which the library holds a copy! Hopefully we can find some form of collaboration to improve the public awareness of these materials through Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other platforms! I am very excited to learn more about their collection and works as we follow up on that conversation.

Both of these experiences, just in the last couple days, demonstrate just how empowering Wikipedia and GLAM Cooperations can be for bringing together people of varied interests to work on knowledge that they are passionate about. Wikipedia’s global reach, from Kansas to regions speaking Russian, and ability to bring public relevance to institutions, like the Blake Archive, Kansas State’s Beach Museum and the National Library of Medicine, ensures a digital gathering place for physically distanced individuals.

Since I am in the middle of preparing for the writing classes I teach as part of my graduate study, I will keep this blog post short! But what an exciting day: already my activities are paying off! Would you like to be part of that impact? How can I help? What do you need to know to better expand public knowledge about Blake or another subject?

The Common Trajectory of GLAM-Wiki Projects

Last week, I answered the questions “What exactly is GLAM-Wiki? This week I thought I would outline more of what GLAM-Wiki collaborations look like and some of the practical concerns that go into running the early stages of collaborations. I started this  discussion two days ago when I explained some of the concerns I focus on when giving outreach talks about Wikipedia. Today, I am going to outline what seems to be the common trajectory of GLAM-Wiki projects since Liam Wyatt’s inaugural residency at the British Museum. Having been involved in a number of collaborations as a volunteer, in my experience, these projects seem to take the following steps:

  1. A GLAM, or individual enthusiast within a GLAM, recognizes it wants to engage Wikimedia projects or Wikipedia because of their importance within the public’s perception of the internet (Wikipedia is the go to source for quick information, tops Google searches and is integrated into Facebook and other websites). In the case of my current internship, Mark Crosby, one of the faculty at Kansas State, was very supportive of my other Wikipedia and Digital Humanities activities, is an editor of the William Blake Archive and jumped at the opportunity to have me do an internship helping the Archive.
  2. A Wikimedian begins presenting ideas to the GLAM’s employees and other volunteers in order to rally support. As I reported in my last blog post, the presentation I gave at Kansas State’s Beach Museum is a good example of these outreach events. Because the Blake Archive is a digital project, I am doing mostly outreach at my current location, Kansas State University, instead of within the GLAM.
  3. The Wikimedia community alongside GLAM professionals begins to facilitate a cooperation by identifying what resources would best help support Wikimedia’s mission to provide free and open-licensed educational materials. For my current internship, we knew that almost everything on the website fits into Wikimedia’s needs: the William Blake Archive has mostly public domain media content because Blake died nearly 200 years ago, and the archive is clearly an authority on Blake, so can be used to reference related content on Wikipedia.
  4. Wikimedians, usually the Wikipedian in Residence, do an initial assessment of what content is already on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other Wikimedia projects and begins rallying support for the project at the GLAM and on Wikimedia sites ( I am in the process of gathering this information and support. I hope to talk about the statistics in an upcoming blogpost).
  5. The GLAM donates resources to the Wikimedia community (usually either physical space for volunteer activities, staff time, or digital materials such as scans or images). For right now, the Blake Archive supports both myself, as an unpaid intern, and Mark, as an editor of the project, working on Wikimedia activities under their name. Also, the Beach Museum provided me the space for the presentation two weeks ago and for an upcoming Blake Archive event, allowing my GLAM-Wiki outreach to become inter-institutional outreach as well.
  6. Wikimedia volunteers and GLAM volunteers leverage the resources to improve Wikimedia space by writing Wikipedia articles, illustrating articles with GLAM images or building other free educational content like textbooks, public domain ebooks, etc.
  7. Wikimedia content provides the public with better education and direction towards authoritative institutions. Furthermore, GLAMs can show donors, grantmakers, and other decision makers metrics that support their claims to they impacting public knowledge through one of the most used families of websites in the world.
  8. GLAM-Wiki volunteers and the GLAM employees assess the impact of the project and refine their approach so as to ensure better public impact of the GLAM and volunteer time.
Right now I am about to finish step 4 and ramping up steps 5 and 6 with the Blake Archive. In the next couple blog posts, I plan to outline a little bit more of what exactly I am doing for the Blake Archive to assess it’s impact on the Wikimedia movement, corral volunteer labor to improve William Blake content and generally improve public knowledge about Blake.

Presenting Wikipedia, Addressing Common Misconceptions

Me Presenting GLAM-Wiki at the Beach Museum on Thursday August 8
Credit: Greg Eislein, Professor of English, Kansas State University

Part of my GLAM-Wiki internship involves creating a network of GLAM-Wiki volunteers and supporters around campus and on Wikipedia to support my activities.The first step in creating support is to show people how to engage in Wikipedia. Two Thursdays ago, I gave a talk at Kansas States’s Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art titled “Thinking about Wikipedia and Academia” (Here is the Prezi) In the presentation, I tried to address some of the concerns many academics have about Wikipedia, directing my audience towards a more multifaceted approach to thinking about Wikipedia and its community. There were about fifteen people in attendance from different parts of campus at the talk. And I would call the talk fairly successful, and expect to have several more discussions with the attendees in the coming months (one of the professors is already planning a Wikipedia editing assignment). 

These types of outreach events really drive my interest in participating in the community. I have been editing Wikipedia intensely for about for five or six years now, and have accrued quite a few contributions to the various projects. However, when I think about my contributions to the Wikimedia/Wikipedia community, I most enjoy talking to people about Wikipedia. You would think Wikipedia is not a hard subject to talk about because almost everyone uses it. But that isn’t always the case: many people have concerns about Wikipedia and many of these concerns derive from misconceptions about Wikipedia’s function and format. When planning to present to groups like I did at the Beach, I try to address these misconceptions about Wikipedia, and I thought I would talk about a few here:

A Community Roles Map from a survey done by the Wikimedia Foundation around 2010? (If you can help me find where I got this image that would be great!)

A Community Roles Map from a survey done by the Wikimedia Foundation around 2010? (If you can help me find where I got this image that would be great!)

Ignoring Wikipedia’s Community

The first misconception, and one I always have to address, is that readers consider Wikipedia like a traditional print source, not seeing the dynamic change within Wikipedia created by it’s vibrant community. Changes happen every day, and the community has a lot of different functions and processes to do so. Generally, in my conversation, I try to show what the community does and how to see those community roles in order for my audience to see how radically different Wikipedia is then traditional print encylcopedias. In my presentation, I explain not only the complexity of the community (see the diagram on the right), but also how varied the different Wikimedia projects are, how to see the edits as they happen and the community review processes. Of course, examining talk pages and a history pages are important to understand the complex community interaction that occurs for every article. For this, I tend to point towards the article Stray Animals in Indian Airports, to demonstrate how principals of Verifiability create interesting content and how history pages allow readers to witness. I also, generally pull up the Featured article for the day, because they almost always have talk page comments. Both types of examples help explain community processes, and show the complex dynamics created by the software and values of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia and Authority

Treating Wikipedia like a traditional reference source also leads to the inevitable question “How reliable is Wikipedia?” This questions always comes up, because, up until a few years ago, almost all the press about Wikipedia used rhetoric that highlighted the project’s question-ability. This is even more important when talking about Academic relations with Wikipedia. I had several professors from around campus, and within Academia their authority is built on reliable information and authority created by peer review and a clear relationship to editorial oversight. However, Wikipedia is very different. Through it’s Verifiability principle, Wikipedia outsources to reliable sources the claim to authority. Instead when thinking about Wikipedia quality, it is more important to think about how it fulfills it’s core function as a Wikimedia project: creating free and open access educational materials. This is an important point to highlight, because it appeals to recent calls for academics to create public engagement with their research. Within this context, I also point out, that academics need to learn to ignore the need to be authoritative on Wikipedia, instead focusing on getting good enough information out to the public so that academia can create better public education. We should always approach Wikipedia as only having the opportunity to get better, rather then the more traditional model of knowledge publication which has a publishing date! I have a draft blog that will probably come out next week talking more about “Why Wikipedia matters for academia,” addressing some of the ways Wikipedia can enhance public academic impact.

Completeness

The last misconception that I always try to confront about is the idea that Wikipedia is complete: any contributor, knowledge expert or anyone with a serious hobby, will find Wikipedia has huge gaps that seem overwhelming. As a byproduct of the very skewed demographics contributing to Wikimedia projects, topics like the sciences and popular culture have been covered extremely well on Wikipedia giving an impression of completeness, but many areas of academic concern, such as the humanities or women’s history, have massive gaps. WhenI like to demonstrate these gaps by showing the navbox for topics related to James Fenimore Cooper. Most of Cooper’s works don’t have Wikipedia articles, even though he probably is one of the most extensively studied American authors of the early/mid-19th century. Clearly, we need some experts, or people who care to come in and fill in these types of gaps. In most of my talks, this is where I ask academics to intervene, and share with them some of the ways they can. GLAM-Wiki and the Wikipedia Education Program have created a number of tools and approaches to facilitate fixing these gaps; all Wikipedia requires to be more complete is an interested academic daring enough to try. Though gaps can be very empowering as Cory Doctorow points out, Wikipedia is an “an infinite supply of gateway drugs to engagement” with knowledge, its distribution, and its construction” they also harm public awareness about topics academics care about.

What do you think?

I hope these approaches to talking about Wikipedia are useful to all of you readers. These are by no means all of the misconceptions you run into when talking about Wikipedia. What other ones have you found? What problems do you encounter when talking about Wikipedia?