Posts Tagged ‘wikipedia’

Online Information 2007, Day 1, Tues 4 Dec

December 10, 2007

After battling the elements and the formidable forces of central London’s public transport system during the rush hour, I made it to Olympia for the Online Information 2007 conference.

The keynote address was made by Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia fame. He used the session as an opportunity to promote Wikipedia, and his new project, Wikia. I suppose this was fair enough as it was what he had been asked to do. I did feel that I was being given the hard sell a little bit, though. Anyway, the stuff on Wikia was probably the most interesting, with Wales characterising this project as a long tail database, as opposed to the collaborative encyclopaedia that is Wikipedia. The example he used of this was the difference between Wikipedia and Wikia when looking for information on the Muppets; the former throws up some 120 articles on this subject, whereas the latter throws up more than 15,000.

He also outlined the starts of a collaborative search engine, getting round Google’s editorialising search algorithm, and not relying on advertising for revenue, since it is a charitable foundation. It’s called wikiasearch, and looks extremely interesting. The most amusing part of the presentation was seeing Wales’ laptop background, which was a photo of him and Bono arm in arm, thumbs aloft.

The next session was entitled Library 2.0: Fact or Fiction? Unsurprisingly, the answer was a big fat FACT! The first speaker, Stephen Abraham, is very much a web 2.0 evangelist, and his presentation reflected this. It was full of “evolve or die” type stuff, as well as some rather dubious stuff about the supposed proclivities of the “Google generation”, a concept about which I am extremely sceptical (more on this in later posts). It also featured possibly the cheesiest Youtube video I’ve ever seen, a clip on web 2.0 set to the backing of Billy Joe’s dire “We Didn’t Start the Fire”- view it here, you have been warned. To be honest, I’m a bit sick of being told that librarians need to evolve or die because of the big web 2.0 paradigm shift – surely members of the profession have always evolved their skills? And surely this applies to all professions using information, not just librarians? And aren’t librarians generally very up to speed with all this stuff anyway? Whatever the answer to these questions, please don’t patronise me!

The second two presenters in this session were a lot more practical and useful, and less irksome. The first, Lars Eriksson, talked about an interesting Swedish project, called, designed to be a web 2.0 OPAC, creating communities around mutual interest in books or genres. The second was Philippa Levy from the University of Sheffield, talking about Sheffield’s new Information Commons building. She illustrated well the way in which new learning styles, new methods of collaborative learning and changing user expectations will have an impact on the way in which the traditional library evolves into something different.

After lunch, more sessions beckoned. The first was Tools, Technologies & Costs of Web 2.0. It was moderated by Ewan McIntosh, who asked for feedback live during the session via Twitter (my feed is here) or his blog. The first presentation was by Karen Blakeman, and seemed extremely basic. It was on web 2.0 services, i.e. blogs, RSS, Wikis and the like. Maybe I’m being presumptuous, but I would assume that anyone present at the conference would at least have a grasp of these basics. Some of the Twitter posts confirmed that I wasn’t the only delegate thinking this. The second presentation was on Newsgator‘s use of RSS, and was essentially a sales pitch, although it did cover the nuts and bolts of Newsgator pretty well (although I’ve never really been a fan of the service).

The final session of the day was on Web 2.0 In Action. The first presentation was an extremely prosaic examination of the way in which Vodaofone has implemented some web 2.0 functionality into its services. This might be useful for anyone looking to do the same for their multinational corporation, but wasn’t really useful for me. Next up was a presentation on the implemenation of a social network within an environmental consultancy, including introducing a blog from the CEO. This was interesting with regards to corporate culture, and the way in which something like a social network can democratise (or even disrupt) corporate culture by allowing feedback, dissent and critical self-examination.

The final presentation was from fellow law librarian Anne Welsh, talking about the uses made of web 2.o services, and the lessons learned from her previous position as an information officer for DrugScope. She very much emphasised that web 2.0 is not some mystical force, but provides some practical solutions to real-life problems, such as lack of time or funds, two pressing problems for anyone working in the third sector. Her Slideshare slides, with some very handy tips, can be found here.

So, the end of day one. The sessions were a mixed bag. All were competently delivered, but some were more useful than others, to put it mildly. Day 2 write-up to come soon.


The ethics of Wikipedia

March 1, 2007

I’m currently writing a Wikipedia post about the organisation for whom I work (which shall remain nameless, although I guess most of my readers will know). At least, I was until I saw this policy statement on Wikipedia’s guidance pages, advising those with a financial interest in a given organisation to refrain from writing about that organisation, to avoid accusations of bias. This is in keeping with Wikipedia’s stated aim of only including entries written from a neutral point of view.

This raises some questions. The first is the whether one can claim to ever truly be “neutral”- one always has a standpoint of some sort. The second is the use of Wikipedia for commercial purposes. No doubt I’m not the first person to be asked to write an entry on one’s own company, and there is something to be said for providing information to the general public on our organisation. But should an encyclopaedia really be turned into a directory of commercial organisations? I’m not sure, and I don’t think the “well everyone else does it, so why shouldn’t I?” argument washes. However, I’m fairly sure that I’m able to add some basic factual information about my organisation that would be entirely neutral, and would prove useful to information-seekers.

Any thoughts, anyone?

Of course, I could just admit to myself that Wikipedia is a communist, anti-Christian, anti-American, and quite possibly British plot, and use the totally bias-free Conservapedia instead.