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Today I depart for Wikimania, the annual international user conference for the Wikimedia family of projects. I don’t know if there will be wifi on my flight, but it doesn’t matter, because I’ll be reading some Wikipedia articles anyway.

Packed in my carry-on is a glossy red paperback courtesy PediaPress, a really fascinating new publisher that prints books using wiki content. The team at PediaPress was kind enough to send me a book created from English Wikipedia articles.

Creating Your Wiki Book

Being a wiki enthusiast and editor myself, this was a book about Wikipedia, made up of Wikipedia articles. Pretty meta, right? If reading about Wikipedia or other wikis isn’t your thing, PediaPress has an extensive catalog filled with arts, culture, history and every other kind of reference.

For my bet though, the most interesting part of PediaPress is the ability to create your own custom book made up of whatever Wikipedia articles are important to you. Using the Book Creator tool, you can curate your own wiki book.

The Future of Publishing

This sort of personalized content is easy to get online but is less common in the print world. I think that what PediaPress is doing with . These inexpensive, easily modified books created from wiki content have potential applications more serious than amusing book nerds like me.

I certainly know educators who would love to hand their students a textbook they’ve custom tailored to fit the desired curriculum. Like all Wikimedia content, these books also show great promise in areas where either there are no traditional textbook publishers or where they are too expensive.

The PediaPress book is as nice as any paperback I ever bought locally or online, and is actually pretty meaty at more than 300 pages. The book arrived in good shape and is a pleasure to read, especially for those (like myself) that have held out against the e-book reader phenomenon. Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good book in your hand.

One of the advantages of a wiki is being able to watch Recent Changes. It’s a nice way to see what is happening, either to watch for vandalism, to help collaborate on articles, or to see who is active.

The problem is that Wikipedia’s recent changes list is that it’s crazy busy. There’s no way for one person to watch it. Wikipedia has a project devoted to tracking vandalism through Recent Changes, and there are even software tools written for this.

Some members in WikiProject Oregon watch for changes on Oregon-related pages. I use a large watchlist, but a more authoritative way to do it is to watch all 9135 articles in the project through the RecentChangesLinked function. It’s even on this blog- look at the upper right part of the page.

This list is maintained by keeping a list of every article in the project. WikiProject Oregon member EncMstr has maintained this list by hand (and using a hand-run vim script). I realized this would be a great use of the MediaWiki API.

A long story later, but the code is done, released under the Berkley license and available on GitHub. It runs on my personal server daily; EncMstr used to run it every few months.

Seeing the recent changes list more frequently allows us to watch the newest articles- another bot usually finds 1-5 new articles per day that are related to Oregon, and these new articles can result in a lot of collaboration between us.

So, to echo a fellow Oregonian reporter, “I, for one, welcome our robot overlords!”

-tedder

No, not the old New England shared space in the center of the village (AKA village green), but a sister project of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons. This is a place people upload photos with free licences to then be shared across the globe. The main point was to allow for a single repository for all images across all Wikipedias (English, French, German, etc.) that would allow for easy access between this different projects. That way the Germans could more easily find and use images of the US, and vice versa for US based editors and German images. Add the Germans certainly do use our images, such as one from an old house I took. Even the Japanese use it too, as the Hillsboro article has nine images of mine.

Oregon State Capitol Building

My picture of the OSC in Salem that I've seen in many places

But Commons has grown beyond this as site where many people and organizations go to find free content.  Encyclopædia Britannica in their article on Hillsboro uses one of my images, as do some foreigners with WES, and Worldnews.com used a fish image of mine among many other images they have used from Commons. Searching Google has turned up many for me, and many for others on Wikipedia/Commons. Other images include Erratic Rock State Park, Council Crest Park, the Martha Springer Botanical Gardens where someone used this image for talking about gardening, and these folks at the Mall Hall of Fame blog used three of mine and countless others from Wikipedia/Commons. And these are just the ones that have actually given credit, whereas many others fail to credit Wikimedia or the individual photographers. In fact this image of mine I have seen in a variety of places on the web, often without credit, but here the Associated Contentfolks properly attributed the image to me (those folks are also heavy users of Commons images). However, I think I am most proud of getting on OregonLive in the proper manner. Last fall I warned them about using my image of Lattice Semiconductor without proper attribution, and they took it down (would have been easier for them to just add the caption in the story). So its nice to see they learned their lesson.

Now, more importantly, what does this have to do with you? If you looked at some of the images, hopefully you liked some of them, but most are certainly not Pulitzer Prize winners. Some of my images could use some editing, and others filters, and other better lighting. But, hey, I don’t get paid for this. Anyway, Wikipedia gets free images which helps illustrate articles, and I get a sense of satisfaction/ego boost seeing my work around the world. And you can too! So, if you do not already have a Commons account, I encourage you to sign up for one and start uploading your images. If you need ideas for what to take a picture of, here is a list of images already needed. And who knows, maybe in a month or so your picture of a Bigfoot trap might make the front page in Mongolia.

 

 

 

Pete_handsThis is a big day for WikiProject Oregon.

While we are a truly collaborative effort among a diverse group, it’s no doubt that this project owes a great deal to the hard work of Pete Forsyth. Pete has been instrumental in the organization of WikiProject Oregon, especially in public outreach work. This very blog was his idea to begin with.

So it’s with great joy that we get to wish him luck as he heads on to a new opportunity in San Francisco as the Public Outreach Officer for the Wikimedia Foundation. For those not familiar with it, the Foundation is the non-profit that helps run Wikipedia and countless other free culture projects.

As his work with WikiProject Oregon clearly shows, Pete has a gift for reaching out to the public on behalf of Wikipedia. While all of us devote our free time to editing the free encyclopedia, Pete is one of the slightly rarer individuals who work outside the wiki to educate the public about the Wikimedia movement.

Now he gets to do that not just for Oregon and Wikipedia, but for the whole of the Wikimedia Foundation. Congratulations Pete!

If you haven’t heard, Geocities is closing on October 26, 2009. This is almost two weeks away. For many, this is an end of an era. Geocities has played host to a lot of unique content that you cannot find elsewhere on small niche websites created by individuals and small organizations. Many of these sites were created in the late 1990s and early 2000s when web hosting was much more cost prohibitive. Geocities offered an alternative to that problem. As people’s interests changed, as time went on, they stopped updating their pages for a variety of reasons.

Geocities continues to be a treasure trove of the arcane information. Fan communities, genealogy communities, history communities, sports fans, school groups are going to lose a lot information.

Fan communities are going to lose their history: What did those Passions sites look like back in the 1990s? They were sprayed with purple back grounds. Sailor Moon sites were image heavy and had a lot of fancy html for their time.

Genealogy groups are going to lose hand written lists of people buried at small town cemeteries, people’s family trees and other types of records that people compiled using offline sources. For people looking for information

The history community is going to lose a lot of original research in many areas including fan communities, sports, military, women’s studies and more.

Geocities was home to a thriving sports community. People created websites for their clubs, wrote the history of their teams, etc. Some of this information never migrated to new official sites for those organizations or to other resources for the sporting community. Australian Rules Football, underwater hockey and handball are three sports communities that are going to be hugely hurt by this.

There have been four really visible efforts to try to preserve this history that I am aware of. They are:

There does not appear to have been any push for trying to preserve information of local interest in many communities. It would be fantastic if people in Oregon would go through the 43,200 plus pages that mention Oregon on Geocities and try to identify pages that have information that cannot be found elsewhere, screencap this information or otherwise save it to another location. As time permits after Geocities close, it would then be fantastic to integrate the saved information in to articles on about Oregon on Wikipedia and other wiki projects. Some topics that might be of interest for people in Oregon that are covered on Geocities but not as well as they could be on Wikipedia include GLBT activism in the state, information on historical buildings, information on state fauna, and information about clubs located in the state. If it isn’t saved in some form before October 26, 2009, this information may be lost forever.

This week, I was interviewed along with several other WikiProject Oregon members for the Wikipedia Signpost, a newsletter for the Wikipedia editing community. Reporter Cryptic C62 asked some thoughtful questions, and gave us a great opportunity to talk about our work and why we think it’s important. We were asked about our outreach efforts outside Wikipedia, our collaboration in person and on this blog, and about possible policy changes like flagged revisions and tightening the reins on anonymous editing.

Read on for the full interview. (Please note, unlike most content on this blog, this interview is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.)

Interview from the Wikipedia Signpost

Here at the WikiProject Report, we generally conduct interviews with one interviewer and one interviewee. In this week’s issue, we bring to a special group discussion with five active members of WikiProject Oregon. For those readers who live outside the United States, Oregon is a US state in the Pacific Northwest region. Although the state has a population density of only 35.6 people per square mile, the project has more than 50 active members and 15 featured articles. Here to discuss the project are PeteforsythAboutmoviesEncMstrSteven Walling, and Esprqii.

1. While many projects have weekly or monthly collaborations on singular articles, most of WikiProject Oregon’s collaborations feature two or more articles. This process has generated at least 29 DYKs and 4 GAs. Why do you use a double collaboration system, and why does it work so well?

EncMstr: I’m not sure how two was chosen, but it works very well. Usually they are complementary—for example a biography and a piece of legislation—so if one article or task is somehow unappealing then the other is likely to be more interesting. (See here for previous collaborations of the week (COTW).) If the number of active members continues to increase, perhaps the right number would be three at once. I doubt the COTW is responsible for the majority of DYKs and GAs—it’s more often something that comes up on the project talk page that strikes a chord with several people. The best examples of this are Johnson Creek (Willamette River) and Cannabis in Oregon.
Esprqii: I think taking a rational approach to the collaborations has been a key part of it. For example, before the weekly collaborations started, we spent a long time rating every single article in the project both in terms of importance and in terms of quality. That left a matrix that showed, for example, which articles were of top importance but were still only stubs. Those were the first articles we collaborated on, and today, if you look at the matrix, there are no articles in that category.
In addition to the rational process, we maintain a wish list of future projects, which inevitably include pet projects of various members of the project. You can’t very well ignore it when your pet has the spotlight! Aboutmovies, who manages the whole collaboration process, has been very crafty about mixing up the rational and the irrational to make it fun, get a lot of people involved, and get a lot of good work done.
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I’ll be on the radio tomorrow morning with Oregon Encyclopedia editor Bill Lang, discussing our respective online encyclopedia projects and how we engage with the people of Oregon.

Hope you can listen, and call in with questions! Check out producer David Miller’s excellent post introducing the show. And for those out of state, you can listen online (or check the post after the show for an audio archive).

Tomorrow morning:

Friday May 8, 9-10 AM PDT
Oregon Public Broadcasting
91.5 FM in Portland

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