Is Monmouthpedia The Future Of Wikipedia?

from the wheels-within-wheels dept

One of the central questions the Wikipedia community grapples with is: What exactly is Wikipedia trying to achieve? For example, does it aspire to be a total encyclopedia of everything? What is the appropriate level of detail?

As might be expected in a community made up of volunteers, feelings run high over these apparently dry questions of philosophy. Just as there are free software and open source factions that work together for a common cause, but eternally snipe at each other over details, so the Wikipedia community harbors two groups that agree to disagree on what is the proper scope for the project: the deletionists and the inclusionists. Here's what Wikipedia itself has to say on them:

"Deletionists" are proponents of selective coverage and removal of articles seen as unnecessary or highly substandard. Deletionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire that Wikipedia be focused on and cover significant topics – along with the desire to place a firm cap upon proliferation of promotional use (seen as abuse of the website), trivia, and articles which are of no general interest, lack suitable source material for high quality coverage, or are too short or otherwise unacceptably poor in quality.

"Inclusionists" are proponents of broad retention, including retention of "harmless" articles and articles otherwise deemed substandard to allow for future improvement. Inclusionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire to keep Wikipedia broad in coverage with a much lower entry barrier for topics covered – along with the belief in that it is impossible to tell what knowledge might be "useful" or productive, that content often starts poor and is improved if time is allowed, that there is effectively no incremental cost of coverage, that arbitrary lines in the sand are unhelpful and may prove divisive, and that goodwill requires avoiding arbitrary deletion of others' work. Some extend this to include allowing a wider range of sources such as notable blogs and other websites.
One particular area where the limits of inclusionism and deletionism are tested is local information. Should Wikipedia strive to provide the same level of detail about local information as it does about global facts? If so, how?

Maybe Wikipedia has found a way to do so without overloading the main encyclopedia: create a mini-Wikipedia devoted entirely to one location – in this case Monmouthpedia, about the Welsh town of Monmouth:

Monmouthpedia will be the first Wikipedia project to cover a whole town, creating articles on interesting and notable places, people, artifacts, flora, fauna and other things in Monmouth in as many languages as possible including Welsh.

We are very keen for local people to be involved in what ever way they would like. Computer skills are not that important, it’s the interest and the willingness to be involved, suggesting and writing articles, taking and donating photos and recommending good reference materials. If you speak another language it would be a great place to practice your writing skills and learn new vocabulary and grammar. There are a lot of opportunities for community involvement including teaching and learning of I.T skills, local history, natural history, languages and people of different ages working together.

The amount, detail and quality of the information we could create is amazing. The Council for British Archaeology has designated Monmouth as the 7th best town in Britain. Knowledge gives us context, it allows us to appreciate our surroundings more, Monmouth may be first place in the world to offer its tourist information in up to 270 languages.

Monmouthpedia will use QRpedia codes, a type of bar code a smartphone can read through its camera that takes you to a Wikipedia article in your language. QR codes are extremely useful, physical signs have no way of displaying the same amount of information and in a potentially huge number of languages.

Articles will have coordinates (geotags) to allow a virtual tour of the town using the Wikipedia layer on Google Streetview, Google Maps and will be available in augmented reality software including Layar.
There are a number of interesting facets to this project. The first is the direct involvement of local people. By limiting the range of the entries to one location it might prove easier to motivate new contributors – a perennial concern for the larger Wikipedia – and allow them to capture key aspects of a place they know well.

The use of QR codes in physical signage around the town will add a new directionality to the links between Monmouthpedia and the town it describes. Similarly, the geotags in the articles will allow text and images linked to geographical locations to be loaded automatically as people walk around with suitable apps on their smartphones. Obviously, once in place, that localized QR-coded infrastructure could also be exploited by other, quite different smartphone programs, to produce fascinating geo-informational mashups.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Monmouthpedia is that it creates a kind of fractal Wikipedia. That's important because if it functions well, it sets a precedent for a new, nested kind of Wikipedia whose entries can sometimes drop down a level to an entirely new Wikipedia-like resource about a specific topic. Maybe the ultimate test of Monmouthpedia's success will be when people start creating wikis about those same "places, people, artifacts, flora, fauna and other things" that will soon fill its pages – an Inception-like Wikipedia within a Wikipedia within a Wikipedia.

Update: see this comment from a Wikipedian involved with the project for some clarifications.

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 1:13am

    Deeply recursive Wikipedia: interesting idea, but unlikely

    Maybe the ultimate test of Monmouthpedia's success will be when people start creating wikis about those same "places, people, artifacts, flora, fauna and other things" that will soon fill its pages an Inception-like Wikipedia within a Wikipedia within a Wikipedia.
    This is a beautiful and interesting idea, but unfortunately, the fact is that the manpower necessary to build and maintain a deeply recursive structure like that would increase exponentially with its depth --- making it highly unlikely to succeed, except, possibly, on generational time scales.

     

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    TechnoMage (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 2:23am

    2nd largest Wiki is about World of Warcraft

    I remember reading (and don't feel like looking it up right now) that the 2nd largest and most detailed wiki other than wikipedia is the www.wowwiki.com/ site.
    I could see a lot of little wiki(the plural of wiki is ???) being setup and then having wikipedia link to them. This might not be possible right now, but I could see someone going to wikipedia and wanting the super detailed wiki pages of a local city.

    Wikipedia will need some way to send links outbound, or to incorporate other wiki info into itself, for the more focused wiki(s?). This could end up with wiki being almost a search engine if it becomes more of a portal than a source itself.

    I could see lots of scenarios where super detailed pages would be of interest. Someone looking for the 'right' combination of materials to combine in a video game to get the desired goal.... this might only be desired information by a small minority of the population, but those who would enjoy it would do so at a very high degree.

    Its not like there aren't already going to be websites with this information on it. Wikipedia/wiki media should look into ways to incorporate specialty wikis into the fold.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:01am

      Re: 2nd largest Wiki is about World of Warcraft

      There's this flash game called SlaveMaker and they got a wikipedia like site just for them. I don't think regular wikpedia users would search for that type of content if you know what I mean but there are several mini wikipedias out there for very specific topics. I also don't think they could be integrated to the main site since many of them are poorly managed but your remarks are important.

       

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      Designerfx (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 4:51am

      and it shows wikipedia's shortcomings

      wikipedia's so public, and politics within pages are so blatant (see microsoft pages vs google pages, look at the lack of a controversy section on micrsoft pages), and so easily abused, that people end up needing to make local wikis. This is kind of a good thing, except now how are you going to know if a wiki exists for a single area or not? Not everyone's going to think to look for them.

      Thus we have solutions that already exist for part of the problem: google, yelp, grubhub, foursquare, etc, but none are perfect.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 3:21am

    Ohohoh.

    Think how this micro-wikipedia could be integrated with alternative reality devices.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 3:45am

    This is a brilliant idea. Global wiki for the global things, local wiki for the local things. I wonder how they are going to link both (ie: if I search for an article that's in MMpedia on the global site will I find local content?).

    Worth following.

     

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    filceolaire, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 5:00am

    I edit Wikipedia a bit.
    The Inclusionists and the Deletionists have pretty much reached a consensus that information can be included if it can be confirmed by reliable sources. The argument now is about what is a reliable source and even there the gap is not that wide (though, of course, that doesn't make the arguments less vocal). Newspaper coverage is a reliable source to prove you exist and have done something interesting enough to have an article. Your blog can then be used as a reliable source for info like your date of birth. Books, TV shows, places are themselves Reliable Sources for info like their plot or location (except Bielefeld).

    The thing that is anathema to Wikipedia is Original Research - that wonderful thing you just discovered. Banning Original Research has been a very effective way of keeping crackpots off Wikipedia so it is a policy which is not likely to disappear anytime soon. If you have a wonderful new theory then get it published in a peer reviewed journal first and when we see how the rest of your field receive it we will consider including it.

    Monmouthpedia is a project to develop articles for wikipedia. It doesn't exist as a separate entity. There have been proposals for local history Wikis to collect and record the sort of local knowledge which isn't written down in Reliable Sources. Wikipedians in India and South Africa ran the Oral Citations project to look at how Wikipedians can help with this. If WikiMedia does this sort of Original Research it will be in a separate project however like Wikinews.org and if they can show they have taken the appropriate measures to make their information reliable then the various Wikipedias in different languages may consider using it for their articles.

     

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    mrtraver (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 5:35am

    This was MY idea!

    Those thieving pirates stole my idea right out of my head. I thought of this months ago for my hometown, but just because I never bothered to figure out how to implement it or find someone to collaborate with who could implement it is no excuse. Someone owes me! I now no longer have this idea and will suffer grievous financial distress.

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 6:28am

    Open Source - The Good and Bad

    "Open source" is a wonderful concept. This is especially true for Wikipedia since it allow people to create content. In fact, old mainline encyclopedias may have a lot disdain for certain content, so that it effectively "disappears" from the public consciousness. Wikipedia has the ability to keep obscure, politically incorrect, and fringe content alive. A good thing.

    What is troubling with "open source", as this post alludes to, is that there can be a lot of friction in terms of focus and future direction. This can lead to a lot of wasted effort.

    Back in 2010 Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, which had the rights to MySQL and OpenOffice. It appears, that as a result of this acquisition, that MySQL and OpenOffice have been "forked" into duplicate efforts (MariaDB and LibreOffice). Innovation is good, but progress can be stymied should egos and petty politics cause efforts to loose focus and even become paralyzed.

    (PS: I have NO knowledge of why this "fork" occurred, so I am not implying that egos or petty politics were the cause.)

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 8:25am

      Re: Open Source - The Good and Bad

      Let me give you a hint why they were forked -- Oracle is evil (read: litigious). A project with any link to Oracle is a liability. People jumped ship rather than take the risk.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 8:20am

    Yet another example of how Wikipedia is increasingly making itself irrelevant. Deletionists are the reason they're suffering from an utter lack of new editors, while politics, obsessive-compulsive editors and the administrative cabal drive out the ones that still dare to provide useful information. Oh, and let's not forget that 90% of all edits made on Wikipedia these days are automated. If that isn't an indication of how dead the project is I don't know what is.

     

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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 9:19am

    Then there's Davis Wiki.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Jan 5th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    I installed a private Wiki for my small business and it is heavily used as our corporate knowledge base. We add to it daily. At a minimum it is a shared contacts database but it is much more as well.

    I have also often thought that other wikis could and should layer upon Wikipedia, linking to it, but not expecting many if any links back. Ultimately, I expect many wikis to be similarly layered, the combination representing the variety of opinions, and the core, Wikipedia, representing our common sense.

     

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    Valdis, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

    It is already done in other cities also, e.g. there is similar local wiki site for Ogre city in Latvia: http://wiki.ogre.lv/

    I think any organizational entity can and should have his own wiki site (with CC other public content license) and then dedicated sites can follow their own policy, but wikipedia can copy some parts of it, if seems necessary.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 5th, 2012 @ 7:50pm

    wont the people in New Jersay be upset ?

     

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    Richard Symonds, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 9:26am

    This Article

    Glyn,

    I'm doing an awful lot of the work for the project (as a staff member at Wikipedia), and I'm afraid you've misunderstood what Monmouthpedia is.

    It's not a mini-Wikipedia for Monmouth, it's a project to write articles on Wikipedia about everything that Monmouth has. Interesting buildings, football clubs, rivers, local bands - everything that fulfils Wikipedia notability criteria. Think of it as hundreds of Wikipedians descending on Monmouth and completely documenting everything about the town and its environs.

    It's *not* going to be a separate wiki, and Wikipedia will *not* be splitting itself up into smaller wikis!

    Feel free to contact me about this: richard.symonds a/t wikimedia.org.uk

     

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      Lori Phillips, Jan 6th, 2012 @ 3:20pm

      Re: This Article

      I was about to write up a lengthy reply to this post, saying as much. I'm glad that Richard, who is much more closely involved in this project than I am, has stepped in to clarify. Monmouthpedia is using a sort of WikiProject model within the GLAM community (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) and is in no way separate from Wikipedia, which I personally believe would be a bad thing. Monmouthpedia will still need to adhere by Wikipedia's notability requirements and other such standards. As someone who has implemented QRpedia in a museum, I'm extremely excited about this new venture. Best of luck to those involved in the project!

       

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    Andreas (profile), Jan 8th, 2012 @ 6:28am

    Old idea

    There's hundreds of thousands wikis out there, and yes, some are not about TV series and facebook games. For instance the Stadtwiki of the german town Karlsruhe ( http://ka.stadtwiki.net/ ) has some 23.000 articles. Every venue, every street, every bus stop.

    I would love to see if wikipedia could downscale on local areas and specialist fields, so we don't have to deal with a hundred thousand seperate wikis and search engines.

     

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