With attendees including three Expert Panel Chairs, staff from the ICE Library and an ICE past President (logging in online from Scotland), the Institution of Civil Engineers’ Wikipedia workshop (post), which took place on Friday, certainly captured some influential eyes and ears. And presenter Andy Mabbett opened attendees’ eyes to far more than just the online “encyclopaedia that anyone can edit”. For example, we learned about:
- other Wiki projects, including Wiktionary, Wikiversity, Wikisource, Wikinews, and Wikimedia Commons – “the second biggest Wiki site after Wikipedia” and a database of over 12m freely usable media files
- the availability of Wikipedia in other languages, including a ‘Simple English’ version suitable for children, people with learning difficulties or people for whom English is not their first language
- a dead pigeon and a statue of King Kong (example articles started by Andy)
- use of geographic coordinates for location-specific Wikipedia articles – particularly relevant to civil engineering projects, of course – including use in OpenStreetMap (“the map anyone can edit”), Google Maps and augmented reality applications (eg: Layar)
- Use of openly-licensed content from other sources (eg: Flickr)
- QRpedia – a mobile-friendly way of enabling access to a language-specific version of a Wikipedia article through scanning a QR code (did you know Monmouth is the location of a wiki-project driven by QRpedia – generating, ultimately, 4000 QR codes linking to Wikipedia?)
- holding Wikipedia guest editor days or inviting a ‘Wikipedia editor in residence’ to improve the scope and depth of content about an organisation and its activities, and
- how to get civil engineering-related articles to feature on Wikipedia’s home page.
As anticipated, there was a lot of discussion about the accuracy of Wikipedia articles, about potential conflicts of interest, and about good practice as Wikipedia editors. The article about the ICE was used to illustrate areas where content might be improved (more in-line citations of references), where more content could be linked (eg: expanding the list of ICE Presidents), and where content from the ICE archives and library might usefully be added to the Commons to help illustrate or reference relevant civil engineering articles.
The challenge now is to build on this learning and the obvious enthusiasm of the core group of attendees (which included experts on structural engineering, health and safety, municipal engineering, offshore engineering, and water engineering), and getting more editors contributing to civil engineering content on Wikipedia. Potential next steps include:
- hands-on workshops on editing Wikipedia articles and creating and using Commons-based media
- briefing sheets for ICE members on good Wikipedia practice and relevant resources – including internally the online recordings of the workshop
- holding a Wikipedia guest editor day at One Great George Street (OGGS)
- marking many of the paintings and other images at OGGS with QR codes (potentially valuable to visitors when the ICE building hosts London Olympics media this summer).
Having helped organise this first workshop, I am hoping we can maintain some momentum and get at least one or two of the above steps completed in the next 2-3 months. In the meantime, if any other architecture, engineering or construction organisation (whether a membership body like the ICE or a private company) would like to know more about extending coverage of their discipline, history, people or activities across the Wiki projects, please let me or Andy know.