Wikipedia and other knowledge-sharing systems

24th January 2019, British Dental Association, London W1G 8YS

Wikipedia globe with tools

The theme of NetIKX’s 2019 programme is Opening Up: what can we do to make sharing easier without making life more difficult? For the first meeting of 2019, we were delighted to welcome Andy Mabbett, an experienced Wikipedia editor and former Wikipedian in Residence at several organisations, to speak on all things wiki-related. Andy began by asking how many of us had used Wikipedia – predictably, every hand in the room went up, but when he went on to ask how many had edited Wikipedia, only a small number of positive responses followed. Andy acknowledged that the culture of Wikipedia can seem intimidating to newcomers, but events such as ‘editathons’ can help to encourage people to start out. Translation of articles is also a skill in demand – there are now over 300 Wikipedias in various languages.

Wikipedia is part of a family of projects undertaken by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organisation. Underpinning all of these is Wikidata, a free and open knowledge base which is both human- and machine-readable. As each Wikidata entry has a unique identifier, information can be updated once to update multiple Wikipedias. Wikipedia data can also be interlinked to other open data sets using an API. There are also tools for data visualisation and a user-friendly interface for building a SPARQL query. Of particular interest to those working with bibliographic data is Wikicite, a bibliographic database within Wikidata.

After the break, participants split up into groups for the syndicate session, following the usual NetIKX format, but with the added twist of a ‘case study witness’ visiting each group in turn to facilitate a discussion around a particular knowledge-sharing system. We heard case studies from the commercial and public sectors and discussed the various aspects of knowledge sharing, both social and technical, which could be supported by such systems.

This was an informative and lively seminar, which hopefully has encouraged some of us to become more involved in contributing actively to knowledge-sharing systems such as Wikipedia. A collection of the tweets from this seminar can be found on Wakelet. The next seminar in this season, scheduled for 20 March 2019,  continues the theme with a discussion of open data.


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