Tag Archives: GLAMWiki

What have I been up to, lately?

I really ought to blog more often (cobbler’s children’s shoes and all that…), but in the style of a back-to-school, what-I-did-on-my-holidays essay, here’s a round-up of some of my recent activity. And inactivity.

In June, I suffered a detached retina, and had to undergo emergency eye surgery. This happened again, in the same eye, a couple of weeks later. My eye is recovering well, but I’m likely to need a further operation for the resultant cataract, at some point in the future. Thanks to everyone who expressed good wishes.

The first detachment happened around the time I was speaking, twice, at the WikimediaUK AGM in Lincoln. There’s a video of my talk on Wikipedians-in-Residence.

I subsequently received a grant from WikimediaUK for a digital recorder to assist with my project asking Wikipedia subjects to contribute recordings of their spoken voices.


Institution of Civil Engineers - One Great George Street - Library

My picture of the Institution of Civil Engineers’ library

Following my surgery, I was laid up for a few weeks, but managed to get out and help at a couple of local Social Media Surgeries (thanks to Si Whitehouse and Steph Clarke, who acted as my chauffeurs). As my recovery progressed, I also visited London, and ran a Wikipedia editathon at the prestigious and historic Institution of Civil Engineers.

Shortly after my first operation, the Museum Association published a series of case studies (some behind a paywall) of collaboration between Wikipedia and British GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), including one about my work as Wikipedian-in-Residence at the New Art Gallery, Walsall, which is freely viewable.

I also took the train to Shrewsbury, to teach Shropshire County Archives staff there to edit Wikipedia. At the “Skill Share Jamboree“, where ‘hacktivists’ came together to share practical knowledge in a number of disciplines, I taught a session on recognising garden birds, and another on how to edit Wikipedia.

The BrewCamp meetings which I and a small group of friends run in and around Birmingham, to allow public sector activists to meet and discuss digital engagement topics, were successfully spun off by us and local collaborators into Dudley (as “BostinCamp“) and Stafford (as “OatCakeCamp“), and will no doubt both now develop independent lives there.

I helped launch the “Best by West Midlands” white paper and website, including case studies of social media use in local government. One of the case studies was about my work as Wikipedian-in-Residence with Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service. At the launch, I ran a discussion session for the attendees, on “trust in social media”, with a subsequent on-line write-up.


Library of Birmingham - interior 2013-08-28 - 34

Inside the Library of Birmingham, in the week before opening

I was kindly invited to a preview of the new Library of Birmingham, where I took a lot of photographs, which are now available on Wikimedia Commons, under an open licence, and so freely available for reuse.

More recently, I attended State of the Map, the annual international OpenStreetMap conference. I volunteered to “captain” some of the sessions, acting as timekeeper, but was honoured to be asked to chair the main strand for all three days, introducing keynote and other speakers from Japan, the USA, Australia, Indonesia and across Europe. Not only was it a great opportunity to catch up with friends, and to learn, but I was able to find people to work collaboratively on a number of tasks, such as automating links from OSM to Wikipedia, which I’ll be writing about soon.

The very next day, I was back at the New Art Gallery, Walsall as the MC for “GalleryCamp13”, the inaugural unconference for people working at or with, or simply interested in, art galleries. I also spoke there, about my Wikipedian in Residence work. There’s a Storify post about the event.

I’m now working on a number of other projects, about which more in the future, and am available to help your organisation to understand Wikipedia and open content, or social media more widely, or to plan and host (un) conferences.

Day 9 (Thursday) in Washington DC

Thursday was the first day of Wikimania proper, and I arrived at George Washington University by bike. The day began with keynote speeches. Sad to say, while Jimmy Wales is clearly a confident and proficient speaker, the content of his talk was quite uninspiring. The talk on increasing Wikipedia’s diversity, and in particular attracting more female contributors was far more interesting and thought-provoking. We all have a duty to do more in this regard.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into either of the first two sessions I wanted to, at first, as both rooms were packed to overflowing. Clearly, larger rooms should have been available. However, as the crowds thinned, I did manage to hear the end of the first GLAM session.

I was then interviewed on camera, for a Wikimedia promotional video. Though only seconds are likely to be used, I was questioned under bright lights for over half an hour, after first being subject to a makeup session, “to cover up blemishes”. Cheek — I don’t have any!

I then found two of my female friends, both upset that only male-fit T-shirts were left available to them, due to under-ordering. So much for doing more to increase diversity!

After lunch, I took my seat for a set of GLAM presentations, only to be asked to facilitate the session, with just a couple of minutes notice. The non-arrival of one speaker and technical issues with another’s laptop left me having to fill time, so I took the opportunity to again proselytise about QRpedia (thankfully, the audience were mostly different to that I’d spoken to on the previous day).

A brief rest at a fellow delegates’ neighbouring hotel was followed by a Metro ride to the Newseum, an interactive museum of news and journalism, for another reception, where I had an interesting chat about our comparative health care systems, with American doctor, Roy Poses, President of the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine, one of the session panelists, and chatted to a high-school student from Pennsylvania, who was attending Wikimania, chaperoned by her non-Wikipedian mother. Truly, a fascinating spectrum of people were attending, and made welcome.

Talking about GLAM, Wikipedia and QRpedia in Amsterdam and Hamburg

During the first weekend of December, I was in Amsterdam, at the invitation of Wikimedia-UK and Wikimedia-NL (two of Wikipedia’s many “chapters”, which support the work of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects). I was there — along with Wikipedians from 22 countries — to participate in GLAMcamp, an unconference about GLAMWiki collaborations, between Wikimedia volunteers and Galleries, Libraries, Archves and Museums (GLAMs), including my work as Wikipedia Outreach Ambassador to ARKive. Unlike most Wikipedia events, which are open, this one was an invitation-only event (though there was a public workshop on the Friday afternoon), so I was flattered to be invited.

I was asked to lead a workshop about QRpedia, the project with which I’m involved, which puts QR codes into GLAMs, linking to Wikipedia articles, but detects the language used by the GLAM visitor’s mobile device and serves them an article in that language or offers the alternative languages or a Google translation if none is available. Did you know Wikipedia exists in 272 languages? How many museums do you know that can afford to offer interpretive material in so many languages? Or even a few?

A square barcode

This QRpedia code links to the Hindi article about Qrpedia — but if you scan it with a phone set to use another language, such as English, guess what happens..?

Feedback about QRpedia was positive, and I was told of its use in India, though I’m still awaiting details. The biggest areas of concern expressed were the availability of statistics, so I was delighted to be shown this QRpedia stats tool created by the project’s developer Terence Eden; and the need to provide unique URLs for institutions, so we can distinguish, say, requests for the article on the industrial revolution from a museum in Amsterdam from one in Birmingham. We’re currently holding a consultation on how best to create custom URLs for that purpose, and input from museum colleagues would be especially welcome.

While at GLAMcamp, I also gave a brief talk on my work deploying , which aroused quite a lot of interest, and I’m now in discussion with representatives of a couple of non-English Wikipedias, who are looking to deploy them.

Our venue was Mediamatic, which doubles as an art gallery, and had an exhibition in progress about fungi. They kindly agreed to allow us, durng the event, to deploy the Netherlands’ first QRpedia code, on an exhibit about .

People using mobile phones to scan a QRcode, displayed above specimens of a fungus

Wikipedians from various countries queue to scan the first QRpedia code in The Netherlands

Of course, it wasn’t all work, and we managed to fit in two backstage museum visits, to the (whose staff were particularly accommodating) and , as well as some good meals and some local snacks, including broodje kroket, the moreish stroopwafel and the seasonal delights of banketstaaf, kruidnoten, and gevulde speculaas — all traditionally eaten on Saint Nicholas’ Day, the final day of my stay, when visits.

We also spent an evening at “Boom Chicago” an hilarious comedy improvisation show, delivered by US/Canadian crew, in English. And guess who they decided to pick on?

paunchy white male in blond wig, comedy glasses and massive false red beard

Boom Chicago: I have no idea who this is supposed to be…

Sarah Stierch kindly videoed “my” guest appearance, complete with references to an answer I gave earlier in the evening, when I was asked to name a profession, and replied “Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker “.

After my QRpedia presentation, I was surprised and delighted to be asked to repeat it — four days later, in Hamburg, Germany! A very quick turnaround by Wikimdia-DE, who kindly funded my trip, meant I was able to book flights immediately upon my return to Birmingham — flying out via Zurich and back via Copenhagen. Spending my first, brief, visits to Switzerland and Denmark wholly inside airports, was bizarre.

So, a few days after Amsterdam, I found myself delivering a localised version of my presentation to staff from the various museums that make up the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg (Foundation of Historical Museums of Hamburg), as well as enjoying a tour of the Hamburgmuseum and even a little birdwatching (my German bird list now includes Grey Wagtail, Fieldfare, Peregrine and Buzzard, among more common species) But best of all, we were able to deploy Germany’s first QRpedia code at the museum.

Young white woman scanning a QR code using a mobile phone

Martina Fritz of the Hamburgmuseum scans the first QRpedia code in Germany

So, two national firsts for QRpedia, and five airports in five countries, in five days for me. I have to say, much as I enjoyed it, speaking about Wikipedia in Dudley a few days later wasn’t quite so glitzy!

My thanks to everyone involved for making the two trips both possible and memorable, and especially Peter Weis in Hamburg, who sacrificed two days of his own time to make sure I was kept entertained. I came away from GLAMCamp with renewed enthusiasm for working with the GLAM sector, and a bunch of new friends and contacts with whom I can share tips and requests for advice and assistance.