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Wiki Club: using Wikipedia as platform to shout about Scotland’s Heritage

Friday, April 10th, 2015

This article was first published in Archaeology Scotland’s membership magazine and is reproduced with kind permission. Written by Doug Rocks-Macqueen, Cara Jones, Jeff Sanders and Leigh Stork.

We all use (and love!) Wikipedia, but we are sometimes frustrated by the quality of the content on the Scottish Archaeology pages. We decided to do something about it and in Spring 2014, the Edinburgh Archaeology Wiki Club was born! Our aim is to meet up once a month and gradually improve the content of Wikipedia pages on Scottish archaeology. As archaeologists, we are regularly required with our work to go and visit archaeological sites in Scotland and are able to take lots of photographs that we are then able to upload. We are also familiar with a lot of the sites, are used to dealing with archaeological information, and have access to good data. We felt that we couldn’t complain about the quality of Wikipedia if we didn’t do something about it ourselves!

However, let’s go back to our first meeting. We were fortunate that Wikipedia provided two Wikipedians-in-residences (Pat Hadley and Ally Crockford) for our initial meet up. They were able to supply us with instructions, do’s and don’ts, and guide us through our initial steps of editing. Both have become a point of contact and support for our group, helping us to tighten up our wiki-editing skills. It is worth noting that (at the time of writing) there are currently two Wikipedians-in-residences in Scotland, and they are here to help you! One great aspect of Wikipedia is how supportive it is as an organisation. One of us (Doug) was funded by Wikipedia to go to the 2014 Wikimania in London and was able to bring back new skills and knowledge to share with the group. Wikipedia takes its contributors seriously and helps support them when they can.

So why do we do this? Well, for one, we are fairly like-minded people who believe passionately that knowledge should be accessible to all, and one way to help disseminate this knowledge is by using an established digital platform (Wikipedia) that is utilised by so many. Wikipedia is one of the top ten visited websites in the world – think about how you use Wikipedia in your daily life – for example to plan your holiday (“ahh I can see that there is an Neolithic Chambered Cairn near us”) or to find out more about your favourite TV programme (“hmmm how accurate really is 10,000BC?”).  Go a step further and think about how you could possibly use Wikipedia to encourage visitors to actually visit your local heritage, sometimes by simply adding a photograph (“my goodness – those ramparts look amazing, I must go see that site”).

How easy is it to edit Wikipedia? There are strict rules involved with editing or creating Wikipedia pages – you have to declare any potential conflict of interests on your biographical page, and (when adding text) you must also reference reputable source material. That said, it is actually an easy thing to do and if you get stuck there is a whole army of online advisors out there who are more than happy to help. It is also a fun thing to do once a month – whether you are a group of friends or perhaps a community heritage group.

What is next for our group? Well, we are still learning, but as a group (and some of us are better than others!) we are learning together (i.e. Cara takes a lot of photographs on her travels…Doug helps upload them!). We have two fringe events scheduled at national conferences this year where we hope to help other archaeologists engage with Wikipedia and we have also had enquiries through social media from other archaeologists keen to create a Wiki Club in their area. Watch this space…or rather, Wikipedia page.

Go further

Check out one of our earlier Wikipedia entries on Leckie Broch – can you help improve it?

You can learn more about the Wikipedian-in-residence project at http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedian_in_Residence

See Doug Rocks-Macqueen blog (www.dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com) for several articles on Archaeology and Wikipedia.

If you would like to learn more about what we do or if you would to set up a Wiki Club in your area, please get in touch with Cara on twitter @carajones82

Altmetrics and Wikipedia

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Altmetric logo‘Impact’ is a perennial concern for organisations, including Wikimedia chapters. Showing that what you’re up to makes a difference: contributing to free knowledge.

It’s a familiar topic if you’re a researcher and can affect whether you get funding. It’s one thing to be able to say that your article has appeared in a journal with a circulation of 10,000 copies but that doesn’t necessarily show that it has influenced people. Ideally you want to see people talking about your research, sharing it with other people, and using it to inform their own work. This is often done by counting how many times an article is cited in other publications, but misses out the likes of social media and newspapers. Altmetric.com measures the digital impact of articles, and recently announced that they are now including Wikipedia in their statistics.

This is a significant step. Wikipedia is the 6th most visited website in the world and receives about 500 million unique visitors every month. Not only is it one of our first sources of information in the digital age, it is read on an incredible scale. If your work is being used there, it is reaching far more people than would otherwise be possible.

So why is the inclusion of Wikipedia something to celebrate?

In short it’s another step towards recognising the reach and importance of Wikipedia and might encourage academics to interact with it. Already groups are considering Wikipedia as part of their outreach work when applying for funding. The Atlas of Hillforts Project of Oxford University’s school of archaeology specifically mentioned Wikipedia in terms of data dissemination and received £950,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. One more incentive might help people get involved and it creates a positive feedback loop. The better quality information Wikipedia has, the more likely academics will be to improve it.

Importantly, this move might help encourage open access. Researchers and academics generally understand conflict of interest issues, so the key way of making it more likely that Wikipedia will cite your work is to make it available to as wide an audience as possible through open access.

Overall any initiative which might increase the quality of Wikipedia in the long run and improve its reputation is surely a good thing.

Wikimedia and UNESCO team up to share the world’s culture

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

By John Cummings, Wikimedia volunteer

I have been working with the Sector for External Relations and Public Information unit at The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to make images from their archive available on Wikimedia Commons, the media site for all Wikimedia projects including Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is the most used educational resource in the world and the Wikimedia projects receive over 21 billion page views per month. This includes users from an amazing project called Wikipedia Zero which provides over 400 million people in 35 countries completely free access with no data charges to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects on their mobile phones.


Mobile data costs are a significant barrier to internet usage. We created Wikipedia Zero so that everyone can access all the free knowledge on Wikipedia, even if they can’t afford the mobile data charges.

Wikipedia Zero


UNESCO shares many goals with the Wikimedia movement, together we can make available an amazing amount of the world’s significant cultural and educational material available to everyone on the planet – global content for a global audience.



In today’s increasingly diverse societies, UNESCO continues to accomplish every day its fundamental humanist mission to support people in understanding each other and working together to build lasting peace.

UNESCO: Learning to Live Together

UNESCO works to create inclusive knowledge societies and empower local communities by increasing access to and preservation and sharing of information and knowledge in all of UNESCO’s domains. Knowledge societies must build on four pillars: freedom of expression; universal access to information and knowledge; respect for cultural and linguistic diversity; and quality education for all.

UNESCO: Building Knowledge Societies



Knowledge should be free: Access to information empowers people to make rational decisions about their lives. We believe the ability to access information freely and without restrictions is a basic human right. Our vision requires that the educational materials we collect and create together be free for others to use and reuse. Our work also depends on free and open formats and technologies.

Share with every human being: The Wikimedia movement strives to include every single human being in our work by making our knowledge resources available and providing the venue for all people to share their knowledge. We prioritize efforts that empower disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, and that help overcome barriers to participation.

 Wikimedia Movement Strategic Plan Summary: What We Believe

Open knowledge for all: The vision of Wikimedia UK. We work to make as much open knowledge available as we can and remove barriers to access for as many people as possible. 

Wikimedia UK


I am currently applying for a Wikimedia Foundation grant to work as Wikimedian in Residence for UNESCO with the aims of moving further towards making open licensing the standard for scientific, cultural and educational organisations and engagement with Wikimedia common practice. During the residency I will:

  • Train UNESCO and its partner organisations staff to contribute to Wikimedia projects including creating and improving content receiving 100,000,000 views per year on Wikimedia projects.
  • Making 30,000 images, audio files, videos, data and other content files from the archives of UNESCO and its partners available on Wikimedia projects
  • Create a model and resources to encourage other UN organisations and their partner organisations to engage with Wikimedia.

You can read about and support the application here.

A full set of images can be seen on my grant application or at Wikimedia Commons in the category: Images from the archive of UNESCO. These images can be used by by anyone for any purpose using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO license.

You are free:

  • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
  • to remix – to adapt the work

Under the following conditions:

  • attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
  • share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

Understanding Sustainable Agriculture Through Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

By John Cummings, Wikimedia volunteer

Wikimedia volunteer John Cummings has worked to make available on Wikipedia 2400 images of tropic agriculture research from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and 4000 new images of vegan food, all the images were originally posted on Flickr by people who share their content under a Creative Commons license.

“I want to give people a greater understanding of agriculture’s impact on the environment and of alternative diets that have a much smaller environmental footprint.”

Understanding the impacts of agriculture

The Priority Products and Materials: Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production report by the United Nations Environment Programme found that “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth increasing consumption of animal products. Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”

“Animal products cause more damage than [producing] construction minerals such as sand or cement, plastics or metals. Biomass and crops for animals are as damaging as [burning] fossil fuels.”

Edgar Hertwich, lead author of the report


Greenhouse gas emissions

A Worldwatch Institute study found that 51% of greenhouse gas emissions were produced by the livestock industry, more than the combined impact of industry and energy. Each year 58 billion animals are killed for food, the impacts of a diet that includes animal products will increase as the population grows, the UN predicts the world population will grow to 9.1 billion people by 2050

Species loss

New research by scientists at the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Zoological Society of London shows that populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have decreased by 50% since 1970. The study identifies food production as a major cause.

“We have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world, if we get [our response] right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future,”.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation, Zoological Society of London

The rate of species extinction is 1,000 to 10,000 higher than the natural state and the recent Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 shows “The average risk of extinction for birds, mammals, amphibians and corals shows no sign of decreasing.”

All images are available on Wikimedia Commons under the categories Vegan food and International Center for Tropical Agriculture.

English Heritage and the Archaeological Data Service: What does it mean to Wikipedia?

Friday, December 12th, 2014

In October, English Heritage made 84 of their publications freely available online through the Archaeological Data Service. The ADS has been running since 1996 and it brings together a huge amount of information from archaeologists in the UK. Amongst the gems on the site you can find copies of unpublished fieldwork reports (known as grey literature) and copies of journals such as the Proceedings of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland. These resources are freely available online. The release of the monographs by English Heritage adds to the rich tapestry of information already available.

Digitisation is not universal. Many archaeological societies would like to digitise their publications, particularly those which are out of copyright, but time and money can be difficult to come by. But progress is being made, and the ADS is a valuable resource to researchers.

The release was so popular the ADS server struggled to keep up with the demand.

But what does this mean for Wikipedia? These books aren’t just reliable sources, they are written by some leading archaeologists, the likes of Philip Barker, Francis Pryor, and Timothy Darvill. In many cases, these are the definitive works on a particular subject. The 1990 survey and history of Carlisle Castle should be the starting place for anyone looking for detailed information on the site. The account of the excavations at Beeston Castle are the most detailed available.

The breadth and depth of these books is tremendous, and cover prehistory right up to the 20th century. It’s not hard to imagine how they could be used in Wikipedia. The pages on Acton Court (224 words) and Camber Castle (265 words) are both very short, yet have entire books written about them. Battle Abbey (686 words), Wroxeter Roman city (698 words), and Bodmin Moor (1,037 words) could be a lot more detailed and during November was read more than 1,000 times. Even sites as well known as Hadrian’s Wall which have lengthy articles could benefit from the quality of information available.

Wikipedia has an important role to play, not just in helping people discover this information but in accommodating a general audience. These monographs are often technical, and Wikipedia can be an easily accessible bridge. By using these sources to improve Wikipedia, editors are also helping English Heritage and ADS spread this information and making it more accessible.

Work has already begun: an IP has visited many of the relevant articles and added the publication available through ADS and English Heritage as a source, but there’s plenty still to do. So browse through the list and see if something catches your eye. Maybe you can be the one to make a difference to the reader.

Who writes Wikipedia’s health and medical pages and why?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

By Nuša Farič, UCL, Centre for Health Informatics & Multiprofessional Education (CHIME)

Half of the editors working on Wikipedia’s 25,000 pages of medical content are qualified medics or other healthcare professionals, providing reassurance about the reliability of the website, according to our newly published research results. Those editors, who are contributing their time for free, are motivated by a belief in the value of Wikipedia, a sense of responsibility to help provide good quality health information, and because they find editing Wikipedia supports their own learning.

Wikipedia is known to be a go-to place for healthcare information for both professionals and the lay public. The first question everyone asks is: but how reliable is it? In a new study, just published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, we took a different approach. We wanted to know more about the people behind the medical pages on Wikipedia, what background do they come from, whether they have specific interests in health and what drives them to contribute to Wikipedia. Because getting health-related content on Wikipedia right is about more than getting the facts correct. It’s about how the information is presented, how topics are covered and what perspectives taken. You can read the paper here.

I’m at the beginning of my research career and I’m very proud that my first published paper is on Wikipedia and Wikipedians. I did this study over 8 months as part of my Master’s course in Health Psychology at UCL. The project was with Dr Henry Potts, a senior lecturer at UCL’s Institute of Health Informatics, who is also a long-time Wikipedian as User:Bondegezou.


In the study, we randomly selected a set of health-related articles on Wikipedia and invited people contributing to those pages to complete a questionnaire and a follow-up interview. We received 32 replies from 11 different countries, namely the UK, USA, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia and Colombia. In that snapshot of time (July-September 2012) the editors of health-related articles were predominantly men (31 out of 32), ranging in age from 12 to 59 years. 21 spoke more than one language.

Reassuringly, 15 were working in a health-related field, which included general medicine, cancer research, health psychology, health education, internal medicine, health advertising, regulatory affairs, pharmaceutical drug discovery, microbiology and medical publishing. The other half of the sample included individuals with particular health interests and students, including medical students.

72% of the sample were long-term contributors with 8 having contributed between 3-5 years, 10 between 5-8 years and 5 over 8 years. 90% contributed to other non-medical Wikipedia pages spanning architecture, astronomy, mythology, languages, history and art.

People edited health-related content on Wikipedia because they wanted to help improve content; they find that editing Wikipedia is a good way to learn about the topics themselves; they feel a sense of responsibility – often a professional responsibility – to ensure accuracy and reliability of health information for the public; they enjoy editing Wikipedia; they think highly of the value of Wikipedia. This process of inter-related value systems which drives contributing behavior is graphically depicted in our motivational model of contribution. This could be seen as Wikipedians internalising the principles of Wikipedia, the site’s Five Pillars, and that’s a key part of the social contract that makes the site work. Maybe there is a link between the idealism of many Wikipedians and the idealism of many in healthcare.

Even though we randomly selected health articles, we encountered the same editor accounts over and over. It became apparent that the core editor community number is small: it currently consists of around 300 people. Although this number is still clearly much larger than would normally be brought together to write a medical textbook!

We also observed the egalitarianism of Wikipedia: everyone has equal right to edit content if their claims are verifiable. While the high proportion of healthcare professionals provides reassurance about the accuracy of content, Wikipedia is a place of verifiability and not authority. Contributions from those who are not healthcare professionals are important too. Wikipedia’s focus on what is said rather than who is saying it has parallels with the peer review process that journal papers go through, a system that is often anonymous. Likewise, the evidence-based medicine movement, that has become dominant in healthcare, has worked hard to put research evidence above expert opinion.

Current state and the future

Plenty of doctors and patients are still wary of Wikipedia’s use in healthcare, but other research has shown that Wikipedia is extensively used by patients, by medical students, by doctors and by health researchers. We would like to see more of those using Wikipedia becoming editors and there are several recent initiatives in that area. The more people are editing, the better Wikipedia gets… although we also have to help new contributors get used to Wikipedia’s rules. That balance, between increasing participation, improving reliability and maintaining the community, is a challenge for health-related editors as it is for Wikipedia in general.

Healthcare research has already seen a big shift to open access publications, journals that are free to read, so researchers and health practitioners are becoming open to the principles of Wikipedia. I believe strongly that everyone in the world deserves access to high quality healthcare information in the language of their choice. Wikipedia is the only viable method to achieve this goal.

nfaric{at}gmail.com (User:Hydra Rain)

What does Fraser Hobday tell us about notability on Wikipedia?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
The photo shows a football goalkeeper catching a ball during a game

Fraser Hobday in action

There has been an interesting story circulating on the internet this week about a young Scottish amateur footballer, Fraser Hobday, who had a longer Wikipedia article than Brazilian World Cup star Neymar. The article has since been nominated for deletion by the Wikipedia community and this case raises some interesting questions.

How do you decide what goes into an encyclopedia? It’s a tricky question and one Wikipedia and its millions of editors have debated since the site was created in 2001. What they settled on was the concept that to be included, a topic had to be ‘notable’. In short, a subject needs to “have gained sufficiently significant attention by the world at large and over a period of time”.

In many cases ‘notability’ is clear cut. Leaders of countries should obviously be included in an encyclopedia and will have innumerable people writing about them. The chances are your next door neighbour doesn’t have this kind of coverage. What happens when opinions differ on a subject’s ‘notability’? A discussion is opened, and Wikipedia’s writers voice their opinions.

We hope that by teaching people how to edit we can lessen the cases in which new editors find their articles deleted. Sometimes articles which should be included are deleted because an inexperienced editor is not fully aware of how ‘notability’ is measured. What Wikipedia looks for is independent third-party sources. Newspaper articles and books are great examples.

By and large, the people who fall foul of the ‘notability’ guideline are newer, less experienced editors. They may spend a great deal of time and effort crafting their article only to see it deleted. No matter how valid the reasons, and how understanding the people discussing the article are, feelings can get hurt. This is especially true when people are writing about people, especially as sometimes people end up writing about themselves. If you write about yourself or someone you know – though Wikipedia actively discourages this – it can feel insulting to be told that you are not notable. It is important to keep in mind that the discussions are not about the value or worth of a person, or whether they ‘deserve’ an article, but whether it’s the kind of thing which belongs in an encyclopedia.

A lot of people learn what goes into Wikipedia through trial and error. Wikimedia UK is a UK registered charity, and one of its branches of activity is training people how to edit. In part this involves the how-to aspect of these are the buttons you press to make changes. That’s the easy part. The more nuanced aspect is helping people understand what goes into an article, and what articles go into Wikipedia!

Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, but it helps to have someone friendly and knowledgeable on hand. If you’re interested in editing but haven’t taken the plunge yet, why not take a look at the charity’s event page and see what’s going on in your area?

And what of Fraser Hobday? There is a specific notability guideline for footballers – to be considered notable they must have played or managed in a strictly professional league, or played or managed a senior international. We hope that one day Fraser’s career will reach that point and his article can be reinstated. We wish him the very best of luck.

Using Wikipedia to open up science

Friday, October 24th, 2014
The image is a series of drawings showing various parts of a newly discovered animal species

A description of a new species of Brazilian Paraportanus, uploaded by Open Access Media Importer

This post was written by Dr Martin Poulter, Wikimedia UK volunteer and Wikipedian

As part of Open Access Week, I’d like to explore some overlaps between Open Access and what we do in Wikimedia, and end with an announcement that I’m very excited about.

We who write Wikipedia do not expect readers to believe something just because Wikipedia says so. We cite our sources and hope that readers will follow the links and check for themselves. This is a kind of continuous quality control: if readers verify Wikipedia’s sources, then bias and misrepresentation will be winnowed out. However, we do not yet live in that ideal world. A huge amount of research is still hidden behind “paywalls” that charge startlingly high amounts per paper.

Here in the UK, a lot of progress is being made in opening up research, thanks to the policies of major funding bodies including Research Councils UK and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. This is a difficult cultural change for many researchers, but Wikipedia and its sister sites show that a totally open-access publishing system can work. These sites also provide platforms that give that greatest exposure and reuse for open access materials.

Open Access in the Broadest Sense

There is much more to open access than being able to read papers without paying. The OA agenda is about getting the full benefits of research, removing technical or legal barriers that restrict progress. You may sometimes hear about “Budapest” OA, referring to the 2002 declaration of the Budapest Open Access Initiative which said that open access would “accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.”


Castles in the digital age

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Clem Rutter’s photo of Rochester Castle (worth clicking to view larger)

When you spend time on one of the busiest websites in the world it’s amazing what patterns emerge.

A few weeks ago I was leafing through a borrowed copy of The Historian. It had been passed on to me because there was a piece about castles. As I leafed through its immaculately presented pages I was stopped by an eerily familiar photo. There was Rochester Castle on a beautiful sunny day, a sky blue backdrop, and the medieval cathedral peeking out behind.

That stopping power was important. For me at least, a good photograph makes me want to learn more, especially on Wikipedia where a plethora of links can drag you into a maze full of interesting twists and turns.

I knew where that snapshot came from. It was unmistakably the main photo on the Wikipedia article about the castle. I was also lucky enough to have met the man responsible for it. The photographer is Clem Rutter who has more than a decade’s experience of writing for Wikipedia, and apparently a decent photographer to boot.

It was an exciting moment of recognition, mixed with a bit of pride that The Historian was happy to use the picture. I decided to send Clem the magazine so he could see how good it looked in print, where it illustrated a piece by a professor of history. But this blog isn’t about the magazine. I want to say thank you Clem for taking that photo.

I hope you admire the picture as much as I do.

Have you been inspired to emulate Clem? Wiki Loves Monuments 2014 starts on 1 September, but you can take pictures in advance so go out and get snapping!

Free information, the internet and medicine

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

The image shows a small leaflet outlining the work of WikiProject: Medicine

This post was written by Vinesh Patel, a junior doctor and an alumnus of Imperial College, London

A new adventure for Wikimedia UK began this summer with a project in collaboration with Imperial College School of Medicine.

In a recent BBC article, Wikimedia UK highlighted the need for everyone looking for medical information to remember Wikipedia is simply an online encyclopedia, and nothing more.

A ganglion is a type of benign fluid collection that can form from fluid around tendons on your hand and some people used to claim it could be cured with a well judged thump with a Bible. However, evidence doesn’t support this practice. An encyclopedia with a similarly hard book covering would be judged by most laypeople today to be about as useful in solving such medical problems, and they would probably just see their doctor about a lump on their hand.Yet there seems to be a great tangle when the same information is put in an online encyclopaedia.

It is this tangle that is being explored by 3 groups of medical students, as they seek to edit selected Wikipedia articles within the field of medicine. 10 of them from different year groups are collaborating with senior academics to edit academic field they find interesting.

The format is they select a B or C class article from Wikiproject medicine and look to develop it over several months. They collaborate over several months to edit an article offline and then transcribe their work on to a WP page, having given notice they are going to conduct the edit on Wikipedia. One individual puts their work online after they . They receive help and guidance from senior academics. After putting their edits on WP they work with editors around the world to improve the article through normal routes of discussion on the talk page. The project is running from

The primary aim is to allow the students to develop their academic skills, but it is also hoped that the question of how free information on the internet is used in medicine will be given some practical answers. In future the program may be expanded to allow students to collaborate with students in developing countries. In fact, many students said the most inspiring aspect of the project is the potential to spread free medical information to their less privileged colleagues around the world, harnessing the possibilities of the internet.

Get involved