Documenting public art, on Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a number of articles listing public artworks (statues, murals, etc) in counties, cities and towns, around the world. For example, in Birmingham. There’s also a list of the lists.

Gilded statue of three men

Boulton, Watt and Murdoch (1956) by William Bloye.
Image by Oosoom, CC BY-SA 3.0

There are, frankly, not enough of these articles; and few of those that do exist are anywhere near complete (the best is probably the list for Westminster).

How you can help

I invite you to collaborate with me, to make more lists, and to populate them.

You might have knowledge of your local artwork, or be able to visit your nearest library to make enquiries; or to take pictures (in the United Kingdom, of “permanent” works, for copyright reasons — for otehr countries, read up on local ‘Freedom of Panorama‘) and upload them to Wikimedia Commons, or even just find coordinates for items added by someone else. If you’re a hyperlocal blogger, or a journalist, perhaps you can appeal to your readership to assist?

Practical steps

You can enter details of an artwork using the “Public art row” family of templates. A blank entry looks like:


{{Public art row
| image =
| commonscat =
| subject =
| location =
| date =
| show_artist= yes
| artist =
| type =
| material =
| dimensions =
| designation =
| coordinates =
| owner =
| show_wikidata= yes
| wikidata =
| notes =
}}

(change “yes” to “no” if a particular column isn’t wanted) and you simply type in the information you have, like this:


{{Public art row
| image = Boulton, Watt and Murdoch.jpg
| commonscat = Statue of Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, Birmingham
| subject = ''[[Boulton, Watt and Murdoch]]''
| location = Near the House of Sport – Broad Street
| date = {{Start date|1956}}
| artist = [[William Bloye]]
| type = statue
| material = Gilded [[Bronze]]
| dimensions = 10 feet tall
| designation = Grade II listed
| coordinates = 52.478587,-1.908395
| owner = [[Birmingham City Council]]
| show_wikidata= yes
| wikidata = Q4949742
| notes = <ref>http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/things-to-do/top-5-statues-birmingham-5678972</ref>
}}

Apart from the subject, all the values are optional.

In the above (as well as some invented values for illustrative purposes):

but if that’s too complicated, you can just enter text values, and someone else will come along and do the formatting (experienced Wikipedians can use the {{Coord}} template for coordinates, too). If you get stuck, drop me a line, or ask for help at Wikipedia’s Teahouse.

What this does

The “Public art row” template makes it easy to enter data, keeps everything tidy and consistently formatted, and makes the content machine-readable, That means that we can parse all the contents and enter them into Wikidata, creating new items if required, as we go.

We can then include other identifiers for the artworks in Wikidata, and include the artworks’ Wikidata identifiers in other systems such as OpenStreetMap, so everything becomes available as linked, open data for others to reuse and build new apps and tools with.

Posted in Birmingham, hyperlocal, Uncategorized, volunteering, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

United Kingdom parliamentary URL structure: change needed

In Wikidata, Wikipedia’s sister project for storing statements of fact as , we record a number of unique identifiers.

For example, Tim Berners-Lee has the identifier “85312226” and is known to the as “nm3805083”.

We know that we can convert these to URLs by adding a prefix, so

by adding the prefixes:

  • https://viaf.org/viaf/
  • http://www.imdb.com/Name?

respectively. We only need to store those prefixes in Wikidata once each.


HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT DSC 7057 pano 2

The in August 2014,
picture by Henry Kellner, CC BY-SA 3.0

The United Kingdom Parliament website also uses identifiers for MPs and members of the House of Lords.

For example, Tom Watson, an MP, is “1463”, and Jim Knight, aka The Lord Knight of Weymouth, is “4160”.

However, the respective URLs are:

meaning that the prefixes are not consistent, and require you to know the name or exact title.

Yet more ridiculous is that, if Tom Watson ever gets appointed to the House of Lords, even though his unique ID won’t change, the URL required to find his biography on the parliamentary website will change — and, because we don’t know whether he would be, say Lord Watson of Sandwell Valley, or Lord Watson of West Bromwich, we can’t predict what it will be.

When building databases, like Wikidata, this is all extremely unhelpful.

What we would like the parliamentary authorities to do — and what would benefit others wanting to make use of parliamentary URLs — is to use a standard, predictable type of URL, for example http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/1463 which uses the unique identifier, but does not require the individual’s house, name or title, and does not change if they shift to “the other place”.

If necessary they could then make that redirect to the longer URLs they prefer (though I wouldn’t recommend it).

I’ve asked them; but they don’t currently do this. In fact they explained their preference for the longer URLs thus:

…we are unable [sic] to shorten the url any further as the purpose of the current pattern of the web address is to display a pathway to the page.

The url also identifies the page i.e the indication of biographies including the name of the respective Member as to make it informative for online users who may view the page.

I find these arguments unconvincing, to say the least.


Screenshot, with Watson's name in the largest font on the page

There’s a big enough clue on the page, without needing to read the URL to identify its subject

Furthermore, the most verbose parts of the URLs are non-functioning; if we truncate Tom’s URL by simply dropping the final digit: http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/tom-watson/146, then we get the biography of a different MP. On the other hand, if we change it to, say: http://www.parliament.uk/biographies/commons/t/1463, we still get Tom’s page. Try them for yourself.

So, how can we help the people running the Parliamentary website to change their minds, and to use a more helpful URL structure? Who do we need to persuade?

Posted in annoyances, ideas, open data, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

HLF licensing requirement considered harmful

This morning I attended a very interesting presentation on the availability, in the United Kingdom, of grant funding from the (HLF), for digital heritage projects. I’ve previously worked as Wikipedian in Residence or as a Wikipedia consultant on HLF-funded projects*, helping to disseminate knowledge and content generated by those projects via Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons and via Wikidata.

Badge reads 'Birmingham Socialist A.R.P. Canteen fund' and has a drawing of ARP wardens being served at a mobile canteen

This fantastic image of a World War II badge was taken by Sasha Taylor during a Wikipedia editathon I ran as part of my HLF-funded residency at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. Because Sasha was a volunteer, he’s not bound by HLF rules, so was able to use a CC BY-SA licence, and I was then able to add the image to Wikipedia articles. With an NC restriction, I couldn’t have done so.

As part of the presentation, it was proudly pointed out that the HLF’s current terms of funding include:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) for the life of your contract with HLF, unless we have agreed otherwise

However, I’m really irked by this. I’ve written previously about what this means and why Wikipedia and its sister projects require content to be under a less restrictive licence, allowing for commercial reuse (briefly: people are allowed to reuse content from Wikipedia in commercial situations, for example in newspapers, or in apps which are sold for use on mobile devices). Others — have — written about why the NC restriction can be harmful.

Of course, mechanical copies of out-of-copyright works should be marked as such, and no attempt to claim copyright over them should be made.

In response to my question, it was confirmed that the terms prohibit less-restrictive licences, even if those doing the work wish to use them.

[Admittedly there is a work-around, which is to dual licence as both CC BY-NC and a less-restrictive version; which technically meets the letter of HLF’s requirement, but is actually nonsensical.]

I can see no earthly reason why HLF would insist on prohibiting a less restrictive licence, if the bodies they are funding choose to use one. If I’ve missed something, I’d be grateful for an explanation.

The phrase “for the life of your contract with HLF” is also nonsensical, since such licences are both indefinite and irrevocable.

I would like to see the above wording changed, to something like:

All digital outputs must be… licensed for use by others under the Creative Commons licence ‘Attribution Non-commercial’ (CC BY-NC) or a less restrictive licence (e.g. CC BY, CC BY-SA, or CC0), unless we have agreed otherwise

Better sill, HLF could mandate an open licence, unless agreed otherwise.

How about it, HLF?

* If you’re bidding for HLF funding and would like advice about including a Wikipedia component, please drop me a line#.

# That might lead to someone paying me. Some would argue that that means I can’t use a NC-restricted image on this page.

Posted in annoyances, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Public Keys in ORCID Profiles

My friend Terence Eden is knowledgeable (and blogs wittily and accessibly) about IT security issues. He’s also a vociferous advocate of PGP, a computer program for the encryption and decryption of data and communications. At my suggestion, he just registered for an ORCID iD (it’s 0000-0002-9265-9069), and the first thing he did was to include a link to his PGP Public key in his ORCID profile.

ORCID Profile for Terence Eden

That’s the first time I’ve seen this done.

Perhaps more people should include links to public keys in their ORCID profiles? Maybe ORCID could consider a separate parameter for this (or is the “websites” section of the profile adequate)? What do you think?

But whatever you do, when you link to your PGP public key from your ORCID profile, don’t use Bit.ly!

Note: I’m Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID. An ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) identifier is a nonproprietary alphanumeric code to uniquely identify scientific and other academic authors and content contributors — like an ISBN, but for people.

Posted in ideas, ORCID, Wikipedia | 2 Comments

Matching ORCID and other authority control identifiers in Wikidata BEACON

Further to my previous post on finding ORCID identifiers used in Wikidata & Wikipedia, Magnus Manske has released another useful gadget. “Wikidata BEACON” is a new tool that matches individuals’ (or other subjects’) entries in two different authority control systems. One of these, of course, can be ORCID.

For example to find people who are listed in Wikidata, and have an ORCID identifier recorded there, and who also have, say, a VIAF identifier, or a MusicBrainz artist profile, choose one of those properties, then the other, from the two drop down menus, then select “Get BEACON data”.

screenshot

Screenshot of Beacon, with ORCID and VIAF identifiers selected.

The result is returned as a pipe (“|“)-separated list, with the middle of the three columns being the Wikidata ID (in the format “Qnnn“) of the item concerned. (For the technically inclined, the format is BEACON, used to enable third party data re-users to automate the conversion of identifier values into web links. You can see the part-URLs, to which the values must be appended, at the head of the results page, labelled #PREFIX and #TARGET)

So, Bill Thompson, for instance, appears as:

4426461|Q4911143|0000-0003-4402-5296

showing respectively, his VIAF (4426461), Wikidata (Q4911143), and ORCID (0000-0003-4402-5296) identifiers

A query can also be made in the form of a URL, for example this one:

https://tools.wmflabs.org/wikidata-todo/beacon.php?prop=496&source=214

in which “496” is from Wikidata’s code for an ORCID identifier and “214” for a VIAF identifier.

Another example is:

https://tools.wmflabs.org/wikidata-todo/beacon.php?prop=661&source=373

which shows the identifiers of chemicals in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ChemSpider database and the matching Wikimedia Commons categories.

Similarly:

https://tools.wmflabs.org/wikidata-todo/beacon.php?prop=827&source=345

matches the BBC and Internet Movie Database (IMDb) identifiers of television programmes.

Beacon is a good illustration of the way in which Wikidata has become a hub linking disparate datasets about people, and other things; as described by Andrew Gray in “Wikidata identifiers and the ODNB – where next?“.

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Finding ORCID identifiers used in Wikidata & Wikipedia

As you may know, I’m was appointed Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID in June this year.

I’ve previously written a guide to using ORCID identifiers in Wikipedia.

A new tool, ‘Resolver‘, by my friend Magnus Manske, who has awesome coding skills, and is generous with them, allows you to find whether a particular ORCID identifier is used in (and thus in one or more Wikipedia projects, in any language).

By entering the property “P496” (the Wikidata property for an ORCID ID) and the ORCID ID value (the short form, e.g. “0000-0003-4402-5296”, not the full identifier, “http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4402-5296”) into Resolver, the relevant Wikidata page, if any, is retuned. At the foot of that page are links to Wikipedia articles (again, if any).

Resolver screenshot

An ORCID identifier query in Resolver

Alternatively, you may compile a URL in the format https://tools.wmflabs.org/wikidata-todo/resolver.php?prop=P496&value=0000-0003-4402-5296 – which will automagically redirect.

Note that this works for articles, but not identifiers used on Wikipedia editors’ user pages, which have no Wikidata equivalent.

Resolver works with other unique identifiers, too, such as VIAF, or BBC Your Paintings artist identifiers, and many more. If you want to know why that’s important, see Andrew Gray’s post, “Wikidata identifiers and the ODNB – where next?“. Resolver is not just for people, though. It will also resolve unique identifiers for other types of subjects, such as BBC programme IDs or ChemSpider IDs for chemical compounds.

Posted in ORCID, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using AutoHotKey macros to make typing – and life – easier

What things do you regularly type, over and over again? I’ll bet you’ve answered your name, email address, or your username(s) on sites you use regularly. Maybe also your postal address, phone number, or your job title and organisation.

For years, I’ve used a handy free windows app called AllChars, to type these things — and more — for me. For instance, I’d type /am, and it would magically change that to Andy Mabbett

12 Màquina d'escriure Underwood

You can’t use macros to paste text on one of these

I’d often use it, to type very long and complex template markup in Wikipedia:

<ref name="">{{Cite episode |title= |series= |serieslink= |url= |accessdate= 2014- |network= |station= |date= |season= |seriesno= |number= |transcript= |transcripturl= }}</ref>

which I could then populate with the relevant values.

Unfortunately, AllChars is extremely buggy under Windows 7 and subsequent operating systems; so much so that I found it unusable on both my parents’ laptop, and the shiny new machine I use in my recently-begun role as Wikimedian in Residence at the The Royal Society of Chemistry. (The Society has a very reasonable policy when it comes to allowing technically-literate staff to install software, licences permitting. Others take note!)

I’ve been looking for a replacement, and am absolutely delighted to have found AutoHotKey, which is easily configured to paste macros just like AllChars, and has many more features besides. Better still, it’s not merely free, it’s open source.

Here’s what I learned, in setting it up:

AutoHotKey uses scripts, one of which is loaded by default, and others can be loaded as required (say, just for writing about the taxonomic names of plants).

To make it type my name, I edited the script and added a line:

::am::Andy Mabbett

which is the most basic configuration. The two sets of colons are delimiters, and am is the string to be replaced. The replacement doesn’t occur until the user types a space, tab or return. I prefer to override that, making use of another feature, which is to add an asterisk after the first colon:

:*:am::Andy Mabbett

so that the string is typed without the space, tab or return — again mimicking AllChars’ behaviour.

Using that macro, however, interferes with typing words like “amicable”. Because all my AllChars macros began with \, and I have invested a lot of muscle-memory in them, I’m keeping that:

:*:\am::Andy Mabbett

so now I have a macro which works just like one in AllChars, and lets me type “amicable” without it triggering.

Another thing I learned is that some characters need to be escaped, using curly brackets (or “braces”). For example a hash:

:#:/fb::{#}fb

which types #fb

and even curly brackets themselves:

:*:\ac::{{}{{}Authority control{}}{}}

which types {{Authority control}}.

Line breaks are made using:

{enter}

I found these things by using the official AutoHotKey forum, where the users seem knowledgeable and helpful — my first query was answered promptly and effectively.

Once I’d worked all that out, it only took a few seconds find-and-replacing, and I had converted over 220 (yes, I was surprised, when I counted them!) macros from AllChars to AutoHotKey.

However, AutoHotKey isn’t only for pasting texts. It can be configured to carry out more complex tasks, such as opening and closing applications or windows, copying text from one and pasting it to another, and so on. I’m looking forward to learning more abut how to do that, and investigating the pre-written scripts provided by members of the AutoHotKey community.

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It was twenty years ago today…

According to Google, it was twenty years ago today, that I made my first comment in an on-line forum (that doesn’t link to my comment which, it seems, has escaped the archives, but to one which quotes it).

Champagne uncorking photographed with a high speed air-gap flash

It was a post to the then-active alt.music.pink-floyd Usenet newsgroup. It includes the obligatory typo (PInk) and an embarrassingly-mangled signature (I shared a dial-up account with my then boss, Graham). The content was relatively trivial.

But even so, I had no idea where it would lead me. It was the first-step on a life-changing journey; being online effectively became my career, first as a website manager, then as a freelance consultant, and as a Wikipedian (and Wikimedian) in Residence. It greatly enhanced my life experiences, created opportunities for travel, and is the foundation of many long-lasting “” friendships, with people from all around the world.

So I’m using this anniversary as an excuse to ask you all to call for an open, fair and internet. Join the Open Rights Group or a similar organisation. Let your MP or other representative know that you support and oppose . Don’t let vested interests spoil what we have made.

And please, forgive my twenty years of awful typing.

Posted in about me, Pink Floyd, Wikipedia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wikimedian in Residence at the Royal Society of Chemistry

I’m pleased to announce that I have accepted the position of Wikimedian in Residence with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), a learned society and professional body whose roots go back to 1841 (see ).

Over the next year, starting 22 September, I will be helping my new RSC colleagues, and the Society’s members, to understand Wikipedia and its sister projects, and to contribute to making knowledge of chemistry, and related subjects, more freely available. The job is titled “WikiMedian”, because as well as WikiPedia, it covers those other projects, which are run by the Wikimedia community.

a room full of people at computers

Trainees hard at work at a previous RSC editathon, in
Burlington House’s library, at which I volunteered as a trainer.

This follows on from my previous Wikipedia residences with Wildscreen (on their ARKive project), with Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service, at the New Art Gallery Walsall, and with Lancashire County Council’s Museum Service (at their Queen Street Mill), plus shorter projects with a number of other institutions (including West Midlands Police, The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Black Country Museum, and more). I’ll continue to be Wikipedian in Residence at ORCID. The RSC have already integrated ORCID into their publishing workflow and the two organisations obviously share interests in research and academic publishing.

I’ll be working part time, partly from home, and at the RSC’s Cambridge base one day per week, plus travelling around the UK to various events. I’ll also enjoy spending some days at their palatial London HQ, at Burlington House. My work days will vary to suit the requirements of the post, and my other commitments.

The rest of the time, I’ll still be available, as a freelancer, for other work, not least relating to Wikipedia, and facilitating open space events (for example, I’m MCing GalleryCamp on 23 September). Do drop me a line if you think I can help you with that, or if you have an interest in my RSC work, or if you want to meet socially, after work, in Cambridge.

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Whatever happened to Henry Wheeler of Bath: tailor, naval signalman, and Desert Island Discs castaway?

Lately, I’ve been writing lots of Wikipedia biographies of people who have been “castaways” on the BBC Radio programme, Desert Island Discs.

A desert island. Probably not in the North Sea
Photo by Ronald Saunders, on Flickr, CC-BY

Of all the varied people — priests, writers, musicians and others —  that I’ve written about, one above all has intrigued me. Because I’ve found out less about him than any other, even though I have a full transcript of the programme.

That person is Henry Wheeler.

As I wrote on Wikipedia:

Henry Wheeler (born 1924 or 1925) was a naval signalman during World War II. The eldest in a family of six, he was from from Vernhan Grove in Bath, England, where his civilian role was as a tailor’s assistant.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1943, undertook his naval training at HMS Impregnable, went to France on the day after D-Day, and was later stationed in Rotterdam. While in Rotterdam, he had a romantic relationship with a Dutch woman, named Dine.

Shortly after the war’s end, he appeared as a “castaway” on the BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs, on 24 November 1945, at the age of 20. He was chosen to appear as he was serving on an unspecified “small island off the European coast” — the nearest thing available to a real castaway.

And that is pretty much all anybody seems to know about him. Was he real, or a propaganda fiction, or perhaps using a pseudonym? Did return home to Bath to resume tailoring? Or did he return to marry Dine, in Rotterdam? Does anyone at Vernham Grove remember his family? Are his descendants still alive in Bath, Rotterdam or elsewhere? Indeed, is he?

Update (5 September 2014): I’m indebted to to my fellow Wikipedia editor, Andrew Davidson, who discovered that the island was Norderney; to Anne Buchanan, Local Studies Librarian at Bath Central Library, for additional material, which has now been incorporated into the article, including the fact that Henry died in 2004; and to my Twitter followers who put me in touch with her. Thank you, all.

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