Over the last few months, I’ve been in discussion with the BBC, encouraging them to make some of their content available under and open licence so that it can be used on Wikipedia. As an experiment, they’ve agreed to open licence a selection of audio “snippets” of notable people talking, from certain of their radio programmes. I uploaded the first three yesterday to Wikimedia Commons. For example, you can listen to the voice of former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson.
This is part of a wider project which the BBC launched today, in which they will not only be donating many more such extracts, but using them and the corresponding metadata, added to Wikidata by volunteers (an example of crowdsourcing), to identify other recordings in their archives, by the same speakers.
They explained how I inspired the project:
Back in 2012 Andy Mabbett published a blog post requesting open-licensed, open-format recordings of the voices of Wikipedia subjects for Wikimedia Commons. The request went on to become the Voice Intro Project and some examples can be found here. In September Andy talked about the project to the Wikimedia UK blog:
The idea is to let Wikipedia readers find out what the people we write about sound like [..] It’s great that we can hear the voices of people like Gandhi and Alexander Graham Bell, but what about all the other historic figures, whose voices are lost forever? We shouldn’t let that happen when we have the technology and resources so easily available. Sure, some of our subjects are known for media appearances, but those aren’t necessarily available globally nor under an open licence.
Andy’s original post was spotted by Tristan and passed around R&D. Our first thought was, “we’ve got lots of voices”. Our second thought was, with some adjustment this could be a useful hook for institutions like the BBC and beyond with large, digitised audio archives but sparse metadata and no way to know who’s speaking in them.
As part of the project, I’m helping them to run an event, “Speakerthon”, in London, on Saturday 18 January 2014, 10am – 5pm, where volunteers will be invited to help select and upload more audio files – and of course to add them to articles. There will also be a free guided tour of the venue, Broadcasting House. The event needs to be on BBC premises, as we’ll have exclusive access to their internal systems, to extract high-resolution audio. There’s an Eventbrite page for the event, where you can sign up. I hope to see some of you there.