Open as a Question; Wikimedia as Example (not Answer)

Wikimedia Foundation
Wikimedia Foundation

It’s much more than an encyclopedia.


Find locations that need photographs added to WikiData.

Listen to Wikipedia
Listen to Wikipedia

Visualize and hear in real time the activity of Wikipedia being changed

WikiProject Murder Madness and Mayhem
WikiProject Murder Madness and Mayhem

Was introducing Wikipedia to the classroom an act of madness leading only to mayhem if not murder?

A simple question indeed. Why open? We will explore this through exploration and activities with perhaps the most successful open endeavor ever- the Wikimedia global movement, which you may know mostly through Wikipedia. There is much more to it than an encyclopedia.

The goals of this movement are clearly stated:

Wikimedia is a global movement whose mission is to bring free educational content to the world.

Through various projects, chapters, and the support structure of the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia strives to bring about a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

And the Wikimedia name indicates that it’s built upon maybe one of the humblest, simplest, yet most powerful open technologies- the wiki, a web site where anyone can edit any page. It’s inventor, Ward Cunningham, borrowed the name for the small buses that ferried travels at the Honolulu airport.

Obligatory WIki Photo

Obligatory WIki Photo flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Wiki means “quick” in Hawaiian; Cunningham’s WikiWikiWeb reflected the meaning of “very quick”, in that it was very little effort to collaboratively build content.

In looking at the most well known part of this movement, Wikipedia naturally defines itself in its own form:

Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, written collaboratively by the people who use it. It is a special type of website designed to make collaboration easy, called a wiki. Many people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making thousands of changes per hour. All of these changes are recorded in article histories and recent changes.

Wikipedia is self-managed by editors, volunteers who maintain it’s neutral viewpoint approach:

The goal of a Wikipedia article is to create a comprehensive and neutrally written summary of existing mainstream knowledge about a topic. Accordingly, Wikipedia does not publish original research. An encyclopedia is, by its nature, a tertiary source that provides a survey of information already published in the wider world. So we require that information be verifiable in reliable external sources. Ideally, all information should be actually cited to reliable sources. When adding content and creating new articles, an encyclopedic style with a formal tone is important. Instead of essay-like, argumentative, or opinionated writing, Wikipedia articles should have a straightforward, just-the-facts style.

In our activities we will examine the workings of Wikipedia and the broader Wikimedia system, to gain an appreciation for how these practices produce an outstanding volume of knowledge. We will also explore the valuable parts of Wikimedia outside of the encyclopedia.

Furthermore, we will look specifically at the information and gaps in the Spanish language version of Wikipedia, and how UDG might develop strategies to deploy it’s own expertise in Mexican culture, science, and art to make Wikipedia even a better resource.

But first, let’s start with a discussion of our present perspective of Wikipedia.

Pre-Workshop: Contestar

The debate around Wikipedia for educators often is– it is credible?

Consider too the Five Pillars of Wikipedia:

  1. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. “It combines many features of general and specialized encyclopedias, almanacs, and gazetteers.”
  2. Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view “We strive for articles that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence in an impartial tone. We avoid advocacy and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them.”
  3. Wikipedia is free content that anyone can use, edit, and distribute. “Since all editors freely license their work to the public, no editor owns an article and any contributions can and will be mercilessly edited and redistributed.”
  4. Wikipedia’s editors should treat each other with respect and civility. “Respect your fellow Wikipedians, even when you disagree. Apply Wikipedia etiquette, and don’t engage in personal attacks.”
  5. Wikipedia has no firm rules. “Wikipedia has policies and guidelines, but they are not carved in stone; their content and interpretation can evolve over time.

Consider the issues of Wikipedia by discussing this to via Contestar, where one of our questions is:

[Open as a Question] What is your perception of Wikipedia as an academic tool?

Please share your thoughts by replying to this question and/or in replying to anyone else’s responses.

The ‘Pedia and Beyond

Here we explore an example of creating content in Wikipedia in an academic context, but also consider the other parts of the ecosystem beyond the encyclopedia

Based on Missing flickr photo by zigwamp shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license cropped and modified to create a wider gap; superimposed Wikipedia-logo-v2-en.svg Wikimedia Commons image licensed under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA) license. Final image by Alan Levine published under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA) license

If The Problem of Wikipedia is its Reliability…

… perhaps a response is to use it’s open design to collectively make it better? That is the premise of a platform created to increase the knowledge of the world.

As one of many efforts to participate in making Wikipedia better consider, consider a map that demonstrates a gap in Spanish Language Wikipedia:

Many Wikimedia projects start with identifying gaps in public knowledge, often using tools built into the system, and then devising a strategy to help fill those gaps.

In this case, the map is dynamically generated from the WikiData database that organizes a wealth of information that populates Wikipedia. Learn more about how this works from WikiData Basics created and openly shared by the University of Edinburgh.

Wikipedia Mexico (

Explore the organization and projects of the Wikimedia Foundation’s chapter in Mexico

“Imagine a Mexico in which all people have the possibility of accessing the sum of all knowledge, that is our commitment.”

Special Guest

Jon Beasley-Murray

Jon Beasley-Murray

Jon Beasley-Murray is a professor at the University of British Columbia, in the Department of French, Hispanic, and Italian Studies. He chairs chair UBC’s program in Latin American Studies. In the spring of 2008, Jon required his students in a Latin American literature class to research and write entire articles with the goal of achieving Featured Article Status. This pioneering work, known as Murder, Madness and Mayhem , led to his participation in the development of the Wikipedia Education Program .

The Sounds of Wikipedia

Listen to Wikipedia provides a visual and audio sensation of the current activity in Wikipedia generated by the data feed of it’s Recent Changes. Give it a listen:

Screenshot of Listen to Wikipedia on February 18, 2018

Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. You may see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell. You can welcome him or her by clicking the blue banner and adding a note on their talk page.

It’s rather mesmerizing?

For a comparison, with this site we can also listen to the activity happening in Spanish language Wikipedia:

Listen to the activity of the Spanish Language Wikipedia

What can you learn from this comparison? What might we do about it? Perhaps we can generate some sounds by creating our own accounts now!

New Wikipedia Users

  • Learn about the ways Wikipedia is organized; try to locate topics in your knowledge / interest area. Explore Wikipedia Contents (English / español)
  • Getting Started / Introduction to Wikipedia (English / español)
Edit your own user page

Learn More about Wikimedia/pedia

Open Activities

Scanning the Wikipedia Landscape

Scanning the Wikipedia Landscape

In this activity we scan Wikipedia for what is there in the content areas we know, what is not there, and showcase a range of ways you might consider contributing to it.
Contributing to Wikimedia Commons

Contributing to Wikimedia Commons

Editing Wikipedia articles is but one way to participate in its mission of creating shared knowledge. In this activity we learn to contribute media to Wikimedia Commons.

More Wikimedia Activities

  • Mozfest 17 Wikipedia Games includes a great set of activities to better understand how Wikipedia works (Anne Marie-Scott, Edinburgh University)
  • Everything is Connected (Wikimedia Labs) “is a knowledge game, relying on knowledge about the world in order to be solved. You get some pieces and have to figure out how they fit together. How they are connected. But unlike with a normal puzzle, whether or not two pieces fit together does not depend on the shape of the piece – afterall, all pieces are squares but it depends whether or not there is a known connection between them.” The game is based on information in WikiData
  • WikiData Basics (University of Edinburgh)
  • Powered by Wikidata, Histropedia (English only) includes over 300,000 historical timelines and an index over 1.5 million events that you can use to build new timelines.
  • The Wiki Game
  • Wikipedia: The Text Adventure (Text adventure style game by Kevan Davis)
  • Wiki Loves Monuments (an annual photography contest held in September aimed at collecting images of important cultural heritage)