Wikimania Recap: GLAM-Style


Last week I was thrilled to attend Wikimania, the annual international conference of the Wikimedia community that was held this year in Haifa, Israel.  We were excited to have the GLAM-Wiki initiative as a track throughout the entire conference, but for me, it was most poignant to experience how the many tools, programs, and strategic plans are all so intertwined to promote the same mission: sharing the sum of all human knowledge on a global scale.

During the conference, the sensationalized claim that “Wikipedia is dying” resurfaced again in the press.  This came out of a statement from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales that the main languages in Wikipedia are losing editors — a well-known fact that is a top priority for the Wikimedia Foundation. Wales reacted to this press during the closing plenary, declaring, “Wikipedia is NOT dying.” Rather, the quality of many topics has become so high that only experts could contribute further information. This isn’t a bad thing.

Nonetheless, editor retention, or creating a positive environment in which new editors can thrive, is an important concern for Wikimedia. A number of features have been developed with the aim of making the Wikimedia community more welcoming. The new WikiLove feature, for example, is an easy way for editors to show appreciation for one another. This feature is perhaps the most heavily debated as many fear that the “socialization” will push Wikipedia into Facebook territory.

Wikimedia Foundation Board Trustee Kat Walsh stated, “Adding features to make it easier to thank people doesn’t make Wikipedia more like Facebook, it makes it easier to do what you’d do in everyday life.” The take away point: Be human.

Another important topic was the issue of the “gender gap,” or the lack of women editors present in Wikimedia. With only 13% female contributors, the foundation is highly interested in reaching out to women.

Looking back on the conference, what I’ve come to realize is that the GLAM movement can speak to each of these issues:

  • GLAMs have the experts. Museums house the hard-to find-resources and specialists that can fill in the details that are beyond the scope of average editors. Lowering the barriers to new editor contributions will facilitate our ability to connect with these experts.
  • GLAMs have the tools. Through the GLAM movement, we pilot easier, more practical ways for museums to contribute content to Wikipedia — and we continually document these with case studies that can be adapted for other museums.
  • GLAMs have the women. The cultural sector is made up of a significant number of women who, when given practical methods for becoming editors, will be an important factor in closing the gender gap.

Benoit Evellin, Wikipedian in Residence at the Palace of Versailles, stated, “[The GLAM movement] will win when museums are contributing content on their own.” The Wikimedia Foundation’s push to humanize the editing experience will have an important impact on potential contributors in the GLAM sector. Considering these efforts, Wikipedia has never been more alive with possibility.

Visit Wikipedia Weekly for a podcast (pictured) that features me and three other Wikipedians in Residence discussing the future of GLAM.

flickr Photos: Top by Niccolò Caranti, pictured: Jimmy Wales. Bottom- “GLAM 2011 Wikipedians in Residence” by fuzheado; pictured, left to right: Liam Wyatt, British Museum; Lori Byrd Phillips, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis; Benoît Evellin, Wikimédien en résidence au Château de Versailles; Sarah Stierch, The Smithsonian Institution

One Response to “Wikimania Recap: GLAM-Style”

  1. [...] it’s not accurate because ‘anyone can edit it’. It’s difficult to support this claim and as Jimmy Wales said recently the decline in Wikipedia editing activity is partly because many entries are now so accurate that [...]

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