I was chosen as one of two QUT students from IT43 to attend a Wikimedia workshop at the State Library of Queensland on Monday, May 16th. Craig Franklin, QLD representative, and John Vandenberg, Wikimedia president for Australia, taught the session at The Edge.
We began with an overview of 10 Simple Rules and the 5 Pillars of editing, then learned how the Wiki family of sites is interconnected. There's a single sign-on, so once you've registered, you can add content across all the wikis.
During the training session we edited some scanned text. The Wiki software uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to read and interpret scanned documents, but it's not perfect. Faded or antiquated fonts are more difficult to process, and human eyes are needed to proofread, with a second volunteer to verify the initial proofread. In these types of content pages, the "original" copy is retained alongside the plain text, for reference and as added value. A historical document or early print edition of a book, for instance, is notable for its format and not just its content.
What do you think of WIkipedia? Do you use it or run in fear? Craig and John assured us that Wikipedia's collective knowledge is growing and has become more reliable than when it was first started up. Some high-profile pages, for example Katy Perry's entry, are locked so that only certain accounts can make changes - this has cut down on malicious edits. The upload and naming policies aren't exactly strict (in fact, you're encouraged to BE BOLD!) and it seems more people are becoming part of this amazing worldwide knowledge network.
What astounded me was the woman in the workshop who had no background knowledge or Wikipedia at all. It's certainly not new, so I assumed anyone who'd spent any time online would have come across it and known its basic principles. But when we were editing pages of the scanned book, she noticed an earlier edit and asked, "Who is that?" and I just shrugged and said, "Some guy." She was astounded that he wasn't a professor, or a writer, or a vetted expert in the field. She just didn't understand, until that moment, that Wikipedia was literally the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit. I'm glad she came to the workshop and hope she is able to use her new skills in her work!
It was neat to edit the scanned book and learn more about OCR. I wish the workshop had been more advanced because I might end up teaching a session on wiki editing myself, along with Katya, the other participant from QUT.
So, Wikipedia, Wikimedia, etc... bane or blessing of your existence?