What can I put on Commons?

A strange log, completely devoured by worms. One wonders how it go where it is.

I never quite know what to upload to Wikimedia Commons. They say it accepts files that provide knowledge and are instructional or informative, but that seems so broad. Can I, for example, upload the photo above? It’s just a log that I thought was interesting because it’s so worm-eaten, and so neatly cut at each end (and the further end has two S-shaped steel hooks embedded in it), but it it within the scope of Commons? I’ve no idea. I suspect that it’s not, because it’s not a very good photo and it’s not of interest to anyone other than me. I could upload it, and it might stay there for a while, but surely someone will come along at some point — perhaps years down the track, when I’m no longer interested in it — and do away with it?

So I figure I’m better off uploading it here, where it can stay and be safely ignored by the world. I do just wonder, though, whether much the same line of reasoning can be used for very many photos that might be suitable for Commons. Actually, I don’t wonder it: I do not upload much there because I think what I’ve got to offer really does mostly fall into the same category as this log photo.

So I’ll stick to my own wiki, for now. Plenty of work for me on Wikisource, anyway…

Freopedia advertising

Screenshot of the announcement in the Gazette, with fuzzy borders.
This week’s Gazette has an announcement about Freopedia and the editing sessions we’re holding at the Fremantle Library.

(That QR code, by the way, goes to http://www.fremantle.wa.gov.au/home/List_of_News_and_Media/November_2012/Help_promote_your_city; the code illustrating that article is for ‘Nastco stock photos’.)

Relatedly, here’s an interesting article from the Smithsonian Institute about why it’s nice to edit Wikipedia with friends, and in libraries.

Don’t Write Code (write descriptions of things)

I wish I didn’t know how to code.

For a programmer, the solution to every problem is to write more code.

But sometimes, all that is needed is to write proper words. To explain things and explore them through prose.

Not to remove oneself to the meta-realm of trying to understand the general structure of the problem and model it accordingly. (And then build something that resembles that model, and hope that the people using it see through the layers back to what the buggery’s trying to be done!)

Just write some nice, verbose, rambling blather about what it is and how it works and where we’re trying to go from here. Nothing too technical, and hopefully actually interesting to read. At least, linear, in that old-fashioned way of real writing. Interesting is probably too much to aim for… just words, then.

I was reading Phoebe Ayers recent post about the task of archiving the Wikimedia Foundation’s material. My first thought was “what sort of database/catalogue would be useful for this sort of thing?” Which is quite the wrong question, of course. There’s a whole world of wikis (both instances and engines) out there, perfect for this sort of variably-structured data. (If there’s one thing that constantly amazes me about Wikipedia it’s the fact that so much structure and repeated data is contained in what is basically an immense flat list of lone text files, and that it does rather work! The database geek in me shudders.)

I think a basic tennent for archiving physical and digital resources is that each object, and each grouping of objects, needs to have its own web page. In most cases, I use this both as a catalogue entry for the object or group, and as a printable coversheet to store along with the physical objects (or, in the case of digital-only objects, to be a physical placeholder or archive copy, if they warrant it).

The other thing I try to stick to is that a fonds and its catalogue (i.e. a pile of folders/boxes and the website that indexes them and adds whatever other digital material to the mix) should be able to be shifted off to someone else to maintain! That not everything should live in the same system, nor require particularly technical skills to maintain.

I know that there’s a dozen formalised ways of doing this stuff, and I wish I knew the details of them more thoroughly! For now, I’ll hope that a non-structured catalogue can work, and continue to write little printable English-language wiki pages to collate in amongst my folders of polypropylene document sleeves. And I’ll keep checking back to en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Subject:Library_and_Information_Science for instructions on how to do it better…

QRpedia generator

I’ve been tinkering with a QRpedia ‘plaque generator’ (freo.org.au/qrpedia) that takes a list of Wikipedia page names as input and spits out a printable set of QRpedia codes with ‘Wikipedia’ written across the top, and the article name below the QR code. The printing is a bit wonky, perhaps, but works good for me in Firefox: prints four to a page when scaled to 70% or thereabouts. (Why I’m trying to use HTML for this I do not know… at least it was quick to build… if it doesn’t work, let me know. There was a problem earlier this morning with the formatting of the links, that’s fixed now.)

The generator has come out of an idea to install QRpedia plaques around Fremantle, for the interest of tourists and — more importantly, I reckon — locals. It’s good to know a bit about one’s home, I think, and if anyone gets even more interested, they can get involved and add more info and articles. Today, the (other) local rag rancite a story about this idea. They didn’t quite understand the bit about how these codes will link to Wikipedia, unfortunately.

Wiki Wednesday

Because I never make the time elsewhere to get anything done, I have decided to schedule in an hour or so — just a tiny bit of time, but regular (and here I am, for the second time) — every Wednesday afternoon at the local library, to focus on Wikimedia stuff. Not that I’m very active, and who knows if I’ll succeed in getting anything done; but I’d like to. There’s a whole number of things I want to work on. This plan for QR codes in Freo is spurning me on for one, but today it’s just Geffrard that I want to focus on…

The Geffrard was a ship that sunk south of here in 1875, and my great-great-great-uncle was her master at the time. We (my mum and me, that is; she’s become rather a dedicated genealogist in the last year!) are gathering more and more sources, and soon there will be enough to write something up (whether notable or not, I dunno). Right now, we’re transcribing the inquiry into the shipwreck on Wikisource. So I’ll get cracking on with that…

* * *

Power point in the Freo library with a sign hanging over it prohibiting use for personal equipmentExcept! :-( Except that the library’s wifi seems to be failing me, and (worse) my battery is flat and this place doesn’t provide a single power point for laptops. I think that’s a shame. I mean, I know there’s some arguments around about libraries being places for books, and quiet reading, and whatnot… but really, I’d far rather they were places of general learning and exploration and intellectual inquiry and… well, y’know… all that. It seems that a library full of laptops (and this one, tonight, is just that; I counted eight just now when I went looking for power) is a pretty great thing; certainly on a par with a library full of noisy children (and this one is also that). So, are they just looked on as ‘distractions’? Or we don’t want the place filled up for twelve hours a day with pauper uni students looking for free wifi and some warmth? Or is there some OH&S ruling lurking somewhere? If I had my power cable tested and tagged, would that let me in?! Surely, nerding it up in libraries should be encouraged — it’s far cheaper, if nothing else, than the library service supplying all of these computers itself.

Anyway, don’t let me rant on about that. I’ll get back to preparing some scans of our captain’s Masters Certificate for upload to Commons, and I’ll be back next week with a full battery!

Wikisource now exports

Wikisource has begun, at long last, to be able to produce export formats for its books. PDF and Epub have been made available in the last week or so, the first via the WMF-wide book creator tool (which has just started supporting the <pages /> markup that is used on Wikisource to assemble transcribed books) and the second thanks to a script from Italy.

Another Wikimedia meetup

There’s to be a Wikimedia meetup this weekend; hurrah to that. How better to rekindle (and why did Amazon have to steal that word?!) the passion for helping write and build Encyclopaedias, Dictionaries, Libraries, Newspapers, Textbooks, and Universities — than drinking beer on a Saturday afternoon?! None! I say, none at all.

Wikipedia meetup in Freo

(I might be two days late with the birthday wishes, but that’s only because I’ve been too busy partying…)

On Saturday afternoon more than a dozen Wikipedians turned up to Little Creatures to raise a toast to ten years of Wikipedia. There was beer, t-shirts, discussions of intricacies of Wikipedia (none of which, for once, had to be prefaced with an explanation of what the flippin’ deal is with editing), and a broadside infiltration from — of all things — a Reddit crew who had heard about the free swag.

So happy birthday to Wikipedia, and thank you to everyone who came on Saturday for rekindling my enthusiasm for all this. I’m excited about the possibilities for some sort of collaboration between the Fremantle Society and Wikimedia projects. (More on that, later.)