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‘Wikipedian At Large’ Coming To The West Coast

Development West Coast (DWC) is bringing New Zealand’s Wikipedian at Large, Dr Mike Dickison, to the West Coast.

Mike will facilitate free workshops across the region to train people on how to become Wikipedia editors, as well as workshops for tourism operators on how to leverage Wiki.

While on the West Coast, Mike will also be improving Wikipedia's coverage of historic buildings, tramping tracks and cycle trials, West Coast art and artists, pounamu, threatened species and landscapes, and every town and settlement.

Mike spent a year as New Zealand Wikipedian at Large, supported by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation in the USA. He travelled from North Cape to Bluff, working with museums, research organisations, and libraries, and gave dozens of talks and hands-on editing workshops. He's been a Wikipedian in Residence for Lincoln University and is currently a Wikipedia consultant for the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies in Dunedin.

Mike says: “Wikipedia is a window to the world, and every place’s public face.”

Wikipedia is the 5th most visited website in the world, and the only non-profit in the top 10. Wikipedia articles are in the first few search results of any topic, if not the first result.

Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and the articles are written by volunteers; currently, about 250,000 dedicated editors (Wikipedians) around the world.

“Despite the lack of an editorial board, the coverage is usually very accurate, sometimes amazingly so, and there are teams of volunteers and software ‘bots’ that check the articles for accuracy and swiftly remove vandalism.

“Since it was launched in 2001, Wikipedia has been a great example of the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing,” says Mike.

But according to Mike, New Zealand has a Wikipedia problem.

“Our editor community is quite small, so in almost every area – towns, national parks, artists, endangered species – the coverage in Wikipedia is much poorer than an equivalent place, person, or thing in the UK or the USA.

“For example, the seaside town of Lyme Regis in Dorset, popular with fossil hunters, has similar tourist numbers to Fox Glacier. But the Fox Glacier article (150 words) is dwarfed by the Lyme Regis article (2600 words).

“The article on the Glacier itself is not much better and is dominated by coverage of fatal accidents. Someone planning their visit to New Zealand and Googling the famous Fox Glacier would not be tempted to stay and explore the area.”

DWC marketing and communications officer Aaron Rees says having Mike on the Coast presents a great opportunity to increase our region’s presence on Wikipedia.

“In partnership with our district libraries, we will be holding several workshops across the region for the public, as well as sperate workshops for our tourism and hospitality operators to help them leverage Wiki to boost their online presence,” says Aaron.

Mike says while Wikipedia itself is not a marketing tool for promoting businesses, there are different Wiki tools businesses can utilise, such as Wikivoyage and Wikimedia Commons.

Liz Burke says the Grey District Library is delighted to host Dr Mike Dickison for the public workshop on Saturday 12 September.

“Mike brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his training and a boundless enthusiasm for Wikipedia.

“The workshop he’ll be conducting at the Grey District Library will be a fabulous opportunity for those who are interested in learning how to become an editor for Wikipedia. Lunch will be provided, and we look forward to seeing a crowd of people curious about helping to develop Wikipedia entries about the West Coast,” says Liz.

For more information see: www.dwc.org.nz

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