A little while ago, my friend and fellow Wikipedia editor Andrew Gray (he’s the Wikipedian in Residence at the British Library!) mentioned to me that Wikipedia could do with more sound files. We discussed recordings of music, industrial and everyday sounds (what does a printing press sound like? Or a Volkswagen Beetle? What do different kinds of breakfast cereal sound like when milk is added?), as well as people’s voices, so that we have a record of what they sound like.
Beethoven’s Trumpet (With Ear) By John Baldessari, at the Saatchi Gallery.
Photo by Jim Linwood, on Flickr, CC-BY
In the spirit of Wikipedia, all such recordings would be open-licensed, to allow others to use them, freely. They can then be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons (the media repository for Wikipedia and its related projects) in an open format, namely Ogg Vorbis (that’s like mp3, but without patent encumbrances).
So I’m working on a new initiative to provide short (under ten-second) open-licensed audio clips of examples of the speaking voices of notable people (i.e. people who have Wikipedia articles about them).
What To Do
As a pilot, I’m asking some of my (cough) celebrity friends to kindly record the following, or a variation of their choice, with no background noise:
Hello, my name is [name]. I was born in [place] and I have been [job or position] since [year]
(but without mentioning Wikipedia!) They can do that, in quiet room, with a modern mobile phone, or a computer.
[Stop Press: See update 4, below, for update regarding use of “Vocaroo”, to avoid this step]
Once they’ve done that, they can convert the file to Ogg Vorbis using this free tool and then upload it to Wikimedia Commons, with an open-licence, with no “non-commercial (NC)” or “no derivatives (ND)” restrictions, (e.g. CC-By or CC-By-SA), and add the category “Voice intro project”.
If that’s too much fuss, they can e-mail it, or its URL, to me (email@example.com), using common file formats like mp3 or .wav, stating that it’s under one of those licences, and CC the mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org to formally record the open licence. Then I or other Wikipedia editors will make the conversion.
Alternatively, perhaps, they can point to a suitable, open-licensed, example of their speaking voice, which is already online.
Anyone Can Help
If you’re not the subject of a Wikipedia article, you can still help, by recording and uploading to Wikimedia Commons audio files, as described above, of machinery or everyday activities and occurrences.
- A couple of Wikipedia article subjects have asked why they would do this. In short, so that there is a public — and freely reusable — record of what they sound like, for current and future generations. And so that we know how they pronounce their names.
- The uploaded files are now gathered in a Wikimedia Commons category. Thank you to the early contributors.
- I’ve been asked about multi-lingual recordings. The best thing would be separate files, one in each language, please.
- If you have a microphone on your computer (doesn’t work on iPhone/iPad), it’s possible to record directly into the Vocaroo website, and just email or tweet me a link. But you still need to agree to an open licence!