Innovative collaborative project puts Monmouth on the world map and provides access to almost half a billion people.
Ahead of New York, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Beijing and Berlin, the global digital age reaches a new landmark this week as Monmouth, Wales officially becomes the world’s first Wikipedia town on Saturday 19 May.
This world-first in information sharing will provide instant multilingual access to Wikipedia pages for smartphone users through data collection and recognition tools known as QRpedia codes. Wikimedia UK, the charity body that promotes Wikipedia and other wiki projects in the UK, has been working in partnership over the past six months with the town of Monmouth and local government body Monmouthshire County Council on the project, known as Monmouthpedia.
The Monmouthpedia project creates multilingual versions of Wikipedia pages, about every notable place, person, artifact, flora, fauna in the town of Monmouth and makes them instantly accessible to smartphone users in the town through the installation of QRpedia codes in key locations. The clever part, according to the Monmouthpedia team, is that QRpedia codes display the content in the user’s own language. So, if someone from France whose device is set to work in French scans a code, the Wikipedia content will display in French. The same applies to any language that has related content on Wikipedia.
Roger Bamkin, a Director of Wikimedia UK and co-creator of QRpedia,said: ”We’re delighted that Monmouth is becoming the world’s first Wikipedia town. Both the quality and quantity of the new Monmouth Wikipedia content is outstanding, reflecting the rich cultural, historical and natural heritage of the town. At last foreign visitors cannot only read information in their own language, but they can edit it too.”
The project has galvanised the local community of residents, businesses and volunteers who have teamed up with the Wikipedia community to create hundreds of new articles about Monmouth in 25 different languages, as well as improving hundreds of others and according to Wikimedia UK, helps to make this a truly global project as well as a very local one. With the focus on collaboration, many of those contributors taking part have never been to Monmouth, or even the UK.
John Cummings, the local project lead, said: “Wikipedia is all about working to share the sum of all human knowledge with everyone. Monmouthpedia has shown that whole towns can make a contribution to this effort. Because QRpedia codes can be accessed in different languages they have been used throughout the world. I think that giving free access to information in this way allow us to have a richer experience of the world around us.”
Becoming the world’s first Wikipedia town has attracted numerous benefits for Monmouth, including a boost to both local tourism and business alike. Kellie Beirne, Monmouthshire County Council’s Chief Officer for Regeneration and Culture said: “Monmouth has always been known in the UK as a great place to visit and do business. We very quickly realised that embracing technology and fantastic global community projects like this benefits everyone in Monmouthshire and we are delighted to be involved in something so innovative, creative and forward-looking.”
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has taken a keen interest in the project from its inception and the fact that the world–launch is in Wales has not escaped his attention: “I’m really excited by the Monmouthpedia project. Bringing a whole town to life on Wikipedia is something new and is a testament to the forward thinking people of Monmouth, all of the volunteers and the Wikimedia UK team. I’m looking forward to seeing other towns and cities doing the same thing!”
Since its inception the project has been the subject of intense global interest and has been covered by media from all five continents, partly because of its simplicity. According to Wikimedia’s Roger Bamkin it’s this simplicity that makes the project replicable in every town, city and village around the world, a fact that the team is keen to highlight.
Roger said: “We’ve shown in Monmouth that all it takes is a little creativity, energy and cooperation to put a town on the map and take it to an audience of 480 million people a month. Monmouth may be the first Wikipedia town but we’re hoping for many, many more to follow. Your town could be next, and we hope it is.”
For Wikimedia UK press enquiries please call Stevie Benton, Communications Organiser, on +44 (0) 20 7065 0993 or +44 (0) 7771 778 734. You can also email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
For Monmouthshire County Council press enquiries please contact Helen Reynolds at HelenReynolds@monmouthshire.gov.uk or on 01633 644 788.
For the Monmouthpedia project lead please contact John Cummings at email@example.com or on 07579 965 063.
Notes to editors
1. Wikimedia UK is the Wikimedia chapter for the UK. It works to support, develop and promote Wikimedia Foundation projects, such as Wikipedia. It does this by bringing together the Wikimedia community and by building links with UK-based cultural institutions, universities, charities and other bodies.
2. Wikipedia is the largest reference work ever created. It’s the sixth most visited website in the world, attracting around 480 million unique visitors every month.
3. The Wikimedia Foundation’s projects include Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikibooks, Wikispecies, Wikiversity and Wikimedia Commons.
Bristol is bidding to bring the international Wikimania conference to the city in 2013. Wikimania is an annual event attended by influential speakers, writers and users of wiki projects such as Wikipedia. Run by the Wikimedia Foundation, if Bristol wins the bid to host the the week-long event, it could welcome the likes of Stephen Fry, Cory Doctorow, Jimmy Wales, Clay Shirky, and Tim Berners-Lee.
Bristol’s bid was submitted on Friday and now there is an online campaign growing to gather support. The city is up against competition across the world, including Hong Kong and Surakarta. Rival bids closer to home are London and Naples, Italy. Bristol recently welcomed Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and also hosts the annual Festival of Ideas which attracts known writers and thinkers. Bristol’s bid promises that if successful, it will:
* Create a wide, generous and secure platform for the active involvement of community groups
* Build a bridge to the non-Wiki community (the Wikiless), inspire a new generation of volunteers
* Create a place and space where working relationships can strive, thrive and develop
* Spread the Wikipedia editing ‘privilege’ to involve more cultures, more women, more wisdom
* Enhance public understanding of shared, free and open source knowledge
* Celebrate and promote successful partnerships and Wiki achievements
This year’s Wikimania will take place in July in Washington DC.
To find out more visit the Bristol bid wiki.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has told Sky News he supports anti-greed protests taking place in London and across the world.
The creator of the online non-profit encyclopedia said he understood anger over bonuses being paid to the bosses of banks that have been bailed out with tax-payers money. “I do (have sympathy with the protesters),” he said. “You won’t find a bigger proponent of the free markets and capitalism than me.
“I think a big part of what people are protesting about… is when big companies are failing and they get bailed out and then the management pays itself a bonus out of money that was taken from us in taxes. “It’s outrageous. The idea that because you’re politically connected you’re able to get access to tax-payers’ money and take home a £4m pay cheque is just
Wikipedia was a child of the dot com crash. One of the reasons we were so innovative in terms of letting the community control things is that I had not money to hire anyone – Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales
Speaking to promote London’s Tech Entrepreneur Week in December, he also said others could follow the Wikipedia’s example. “Wikipedia was a child of the dot com crash,” he said. “One of the reasons we were so innovative in terms of letting the community control things is that I had not money to hire anyone. “In recession, there are a lot of great companies to be built” He added that he did not know the value of Wikipedia, saying: “Nobody really knows. A lot… a few billion, I’m not sure.”
Sponsored by HP Labs, Bristol Festival of Ideas, University of Bristol, Watershed, Bristol City Council – organised by Steve Virgin on behalf of Wikimedia UK
Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, gave a public lecture on the birth of Wikipedia at the University of Bristol in January, 2011, as part of the site’s 10th Birthday celebrations….this whole event was organised by the ‘editor’ of this site’s content – Steve Virgin – who is currently a Board Director of Wikimedia UK as well as a Director of Media Focus uk – a global media monitoring and evaluation consultancy.
Jimmy Wales: Co-founder of Wikipedia was speaking in Bristol yesterday
The co-founder of Wikipedia has said that he expects China to eventually abandon its internet censorship policies, in a speech in Bristol yesterday.
At the Victoria Rooms in the city centre, Jimmy Wales added that he was “proud” of Google for pulling out of China in protest of its policies of blocking “dangerous” information online.
Mr Wales was in the city to mark the 10th anniversary of the online encyclopaedia on Saturday. Wikipedia is now the fith largest website in the world, attracting more than 400million unique visitors a month with just 50 full-time staff members.
Around 300 people were at the Victoria Rooms to hear Mr Wales say that growth in the amount of English-language content had slowed, but that he was now focussing on increasing quality over quantity. He said he wanted Wikipedia to be of better quality than the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, and called on more academics from a broader range of people to contribute to the site.
He also attacked Apple for its stance over ‘app’ development and the need to gain permission from the computer giant to distribute apps and their coding.
Speaking to Bristol24-7 after the event, Mr Wales confirmed he intended to keep Wikipedia as a free service for the world. “We are a charity with a mission to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet, and we aren’t deviating from that goal.”
Read the full interview…
1) What does the 10th anniversary of Wkipedia actually mean for you? Did you envisage how the project would have developed to this point when you started?
For me, the 10th anniversary is a celebration of our community, the thousands and thousands of people who have poured so much heart and mind into building this amazing resource that we all enjoy.
It’s also a celebration of what is to come: the building of Wikipedia in the languages of the developing world. I envisioned some of it. But there’s a lot that was surprising to me. One example: while Wikipedia was always envisioned to be global in scope, I never really grasped what that meant. I’ve learned so much about the world by traveling and meeting Wikipedia volunteers everywhere.
2) Why have you chosen Bristol as one of the locations to celebrate this event?
I was intrigued by the concept of a “Festival of Ideas” and we have a strong relationship with the city grounded in a meeting that we held in the city a few months ago to talk about fund raising with our local chapters. Additionally, we have a strong local community in Bristol and Steve Virgin, in particular, from the board of Wikimedia UK, was quite
instrumental in organizing everything for my visit.
3) Five years ago, as a news sub-editor, I was advised not to trust what was written in Wikipedia when checking facts in stories. Is this trust now unjustified and why?
My view is that this is not an appropriate use of Wikipedia, and that what we should use Wikipedia for, as journalists, is to discover what are the good questions to ask. What are the open questions on any topic? Let’s look at those.
4) Do you still worry and wake up in the night, wondering what has been added to Wikipedia?
No, we have a very strong community and they do an amazing job of monitoring.
5) Is Wikipedia as authoritative now as the Encyclopaedia Britannica etc? What areas need to be improved on?
In some areas we are, and in some areas we are not. My belief is that all areas of Wikipedia are subject to improvement – we are never satisfied with the level of quality. Academic studies have shown our quality to be similar to that of traditional encyclopedias, but I believe we can surpass them significantly.
6) Do you know what proportion of contributions come from learned experts… or do you think this even matters?
I don’t know the percentage, but I think it very much matters. It’s really important that people with expert knowledge continue to add information to Wikipedia.
7) I read that you are irritated by the perceived connection between Wikipedia and Wikileaks, but what is your position on the Wikileaks controversy of the last few months? Was Wikileaks right to publish the secret documents from the US government that it obtained?
Wikipedia has nothing to do with Wikileaks whatsoever. My opinion on it beyond that isn’t really important.
Looking at the bigger picture, how does the Wikileaks controversy, the Wikipedia project (and your refusal to bow to Chinese demands to sensor ‘sensitive’ information) and the general explosion in the public use of the internet to share information change the balance of power between the individual, and governmental and corporate organisations?
Obviously the Internet is a tool for massive empowerment of the individual. Everyone can now participate in the public dialog, and those who are thoughtful can gain a wide audience.
9) Do you think Wikipedia can remain a ‘free’ service supported by donations? And do you think information, as a rule, should be freely available?
I think that Wikipedia will remain free, yes. We are a charity with a mission to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet, and we aren’t deviating from that goal.
I think it is perfectly fine for some information to be free, and some information to be paid for. I’m not an extremist on this point.
10) What is your core belief of Wikipedia, the one you tell world leaders such as Russian president Dimitry Medvedev recently? How did Medvedev react – and what is the overall attitude (if there is one) of world leaders to the project?
I only met him briefly, but my experience with meeting world leaders has been a keen interest in Wikipedia and a general excitement about how it is a positive force in the world. That is to say, they react like human beings.
11) What next? How does the Wikipedia and overall Wikimedia project go forward?
We are focusing increasingly on the languages of the developing world, and in particular we are opening our first office outside the United States this year, in India. This small office is our first step to try to directly support the community in India with the specific local issues that they face in building the Indian language versions of Wikipedia.
12) As a small, independent online news outlet that is going up against the traditional media big boys, what advice would you offer me?
Engage your community in innovative ways. Not just comment boards at the bottom of the articles, but serious participation in the creation of the work.