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National Library of Australia catalogue incorporates Wikipedia text into author pages

The National Library of Australia catalogue has started incorporating Wikipedia text into author pages, e.g. Donald Knuth.

Screenshot of the author page for James Spigelman (cf. Wikipedia article)

As anyone who has tried to parse wikitext or even Wikipedia’s HTML will know, it’s not an easy task. Looks like the NLA needs to work on scrubbing references and ignoring disambiguation pages.

To see if they were caching data or pulling it live, I made a minor edit to the intro of James Spigelman and reloaded the NLA author page. To my surprise the change I had just made was updated, meaning they are pulling data live. (They are also pulling thumbnails from Commons, as in the Knuth bio, although the link to the image page has not been preserved.)

I suppose the NLA’s requests are like a fly on the back of Wikipedia, but still, it may not be a particularly good idea.

(via the Australian Wikipedians’ Notice Board)

01 November, 2008 • ,


Powerhouse Museum takes part in Flickr's "The Commons"

Flickr’s The Commons rolls on. First it was the Library of Congress, this time it’s the Tyrrell Collection from the Powerhouse Museum (“science+design”) in Sydney. There’s only 200 images released so far (unlike the 2000-odd released by LoC), but the promise of 50 more to come each week, AND (geogeeks get ready), maply goodness!

In the screenshot above, the pink dots represent images by the Powerhouse Museum. You can zoom in and out of the map; clicking on a pink dot brings up that image’s thumbnail. You can also click on the greyed-out thumbnails in the strip in the lower half of the screen, and see the corresponding pink dot highlighted on the map.

Possibly Flickr has had all this map stuff for a while. :) I may have missed it. At any rate, the ‘neat’ factor comes from having more than one dot any given map, and also the contrast between today’s map data and photographs from 100 years ago.

Originally I was going to just link to this, but I had a browse through it and found so many cool images that I’m sure have no counterpart on Wikipedia, that I wanted to give it some more space. Panning for gold. Woolshed. Trams down King Street. Bondi Beach in your Sunday finest. Cutting down a tree you couldn’t even reach around. They’re all c1900.

There’s also dozens of photos of landmark Sydney buildings and streets. It would be a fascinating project for someone to try and take a photo from the same position today.

Now if only Flickr would hurry up and add “No known copyright restrictions” to its API…! Then we can slurp them up all the more efficiently.

12 April, 2008 • , , ,


Library of Congress & Flickr: that should have been us

Some big news this week is a deal between the Library of Congress and Flickr in something they’re calling The Commons, “ The Library of Congress Pilot Project”. LoC says:

We are offering two sets of digitized photos: the 1,600 color images from the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information and about 1,500 images from the George Grantham Bain News Service. Why these photos? They have long been popular with visitors to the Library; they have no known restrictions on publication or distribution, and they have high resolution scans. We look forward to learning what kinds of tags and comments these images inspire.

This is a great initiative on their behalf. As a public institution they should be applauded for seeking to make their collections more accessible and more useful. They are indeed a leading example for other cultural institutions to look to and hopefully take inspiration from.

It’s also a very smart move on Flickr’s behalf. It inspires warm fuzzy “public good” feelings, and let’s face it, Flickr does have the best interface for social image management, and tagging is awesome fun.

But when I read this announcement I had a bit of a feeling of being stopped in my tracks. Library of Congress and Flickr? Why wasn’t it Library of Congress & Wikimedia?

Wikimedia Commons users have long recognised the value of the LoC’s collections and there are literally thousands of their images hosted on Commons.

Sharp-eyed Lupo also reminded me of this piece in the Wikipedia Signpost, July 2006:

Wikimedia Foundation representatives met this week with officials from two major institutions regarding the issue of access to archival materials. The United States Library of Congress has expressed interest in including Wikipedia content as part of its archive collection, while also indicating that it could make a sizable amount of its own material available for use on Wikimedia projects. […]

Wikimedia interim executive director Brad Patrick, accompanied by Danny Wool, Kat Walsh, and Gregory Maxwell, met with representatives from the Library of Congress this week to discuss sharing information, sources, and media. The Library, one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, has offered access to nearly 40 terabytes (approximately 10 million items) of digital information. “That there would be a moment’s hesitation to cooperate fully with the Library of Congress is beyond my comprehension,” said Patrick. “I’m glad that we are moving in this direction.”

Indeed… so what happened in the last eighteen months?

Brad Patrick and Danny Wool have left as staff; Kat Walsh is now on the WMF Board (I’m not sure if she was then), and Danny and Greg are still active within Wikimedia even if not as much as they once were. So not all of the connections from that time have moved on. But whatever they were thinking might happen clearly didn’t happen.

It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to make this happen. More importantly, I hope we will be able to pull our shit together and not miss such opportunities in the future.

There are three aspects:

One is on the organisational side, in terms of positioning ourselves as the partner for these kinds of ventures, public-interest and smart in collectively managing huge media sets. I don’t know how we’re doing on that front. It looks like 18 months ago we weren’t so great at following through, but at lot can and I imagine has changed in those 18 months.

The second is the software side, where we are not the best prospect. Right now Flickr probably does have a better set-up. I can only repeat my request that WMF hire more software developers and put some priority on functionality relating to media-management. It may take a year or two of serious improvements before we provide anywhere near the kind of usability that Flickr does.

The third is the community side, in terms of do Wikimedians welcome these kind of ventures. And for once this is actually the easy part. For Wikimedia Commons I feel pretty confident in saying we would rejoice to receive this kind of news.

It is a bit of a kick up the proverbial.

18 January, 2008 • , , ,

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I was reading a brochure from my local council when I was surprised to find my eye drawn to the word wiki. Surely not! But there it was:

The WikiNorthia project aims to capture life in the north of Melbourne – what people are doing now, as well as what they did in the past. Using Wikis, as a social networking tool, engages people in telling their stories, gathering a rich collection of social history. Learn about Wikis and the forthcoming WikiNorthia project as part of the Talks on Moreland series.

Well, the talk was a month ago, but maybe I will give them a ring and see where it’s at. Sounds a bit similar to the iCommons iHeritage project.

Meanwhile, how cool is this library, the Yarra Plenty? Wikis, Facebook and LibraryThing – gets my vote. :)

21 November, 2007 • ,


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