Welcome to the world’s first Wikipedia Town

cc by-sa 3.0 Dilly Boase

You’ve probably heard the saying, “In theory, Wikipedia shouldn’t work, but in practice it does.” Three of the things that contribute to make Wikipedia work are topic-specific WikiProjects (“let’s write about a town), Wikimedia chapters (“let’s organize throughout the United Kingdom”), and unique ideas (“let’s use QR codes to share content”). This week these three things successfully came together to create Monmouthpedia, “The World’s First Wikipedia Town” in Monmouth, Wales.

The idea for Monmouthpedia began at a TEDx talk in Bristol when John Cummings, an occasional Wikipedia editor, suggested from the audience that the UK Chapter use QR codes to “do a whole town.” That challenge was handed to Cummings when the Wikimedia UK chapter backed the idea. He then moved to his home town of Monmouth where he assembled an ad hoc group of supporters who wanted to participate, including the local County Council.

Click image for Monmouthpedia video

The project has taken six months of preparation, including a commitment by the town to install a free, town-wide wi-fi network (the first of its kind in Wales). On 19 May the entire town will be bedecked with banners declaring Monmouth as the first Wikipedia Town in the world.

The Monmouthpedia project uses QRpedia to allow visitors to scan QR codes that link directly to the Wikipedia article in their own language. Because of Monmouth’s efforts to provide free wi-fi and implement QRpedia, the town is likely the only place where a visitor can tour in Hungarian, Hindi, Indonesian, Welsh, or numerous other Wikipedia languages using QR codes.

A plaque on Monmouth Shire Hall

Much of the success of Monmouthpedia comes from its ability to capture the imagination of the Wikipedia community, which has embraced the town virtually. Wikipedia volunteers have contributed nearly 500 new articles in over 25 languages, as well as videos on topics such as the historic Chartists movement.

The project also has a long list of partners, including 200 businesses, several universities and nearly every school and community group in the area. Wikipedia has partnered with museums and other institutions before, as in Derby, but in Monmouth you will see over 1,000 QR codes on every school, every important building, and hundreds of shops. The County Council itself has a QRpedia code in its reception that takes you to their Wikipedia article.

Lest you think this is a passing interest, the town of Monmouth is in it for the long haul. Many of the QRpedia codes are printed on ceramic plaques that should last for decades. The information in articles is backed by the Wikipedia community and will be continually improved and expanded. Physical guides and maps will become outdated, but the Wikipedia articles will always be able to be updated. This potential for on-site access to up-to-date information in any language is what makes the Monmouthpedia model so exciting.

How long can Wikipedia defy the theory and continue to deliver free information to the planet in over 280 languages? We think the Monmouthpedia story provides a very optimistic outlook.

If you want to find out more, visit the Monmouthpedia website and take a look at the associated articles on Wikipedia.

- Roger Bamkin, Director of Wikimedia UK (Victuallers)

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5 Comments on Welcome to the world’s first Wikipedia Town

Steve Moss 4 months

Hi Neil, I saw your comment on the Monmouthpedia thread and wondered whether you ever experienced the scheme? I’m doing some research in the area, and would like to find people who would be willing to complete a brief questionnaire (linked below):
http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s.asp?sid=xjqxbr5ssf9f4ya464549

Many thanks,
Steve

Steve Moss 4 months

Hi, my name is Steve Moss and I’m a final year PhD student based in the University of South Wales, Caerleon campus. I’m currently investigating visitor experiences of heritage attractions in Monmouth, with particular focus on Monmouthpedia. If you have used the app, or have any experience of the project, I would be much obliged if you would be willing to answer a very brief questionnaire about your experience. Your input would be greatly appreciated. The following link will take you directly to the anonymous questionnaire:

Monmouthpedia: http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s.asp?sid=xjqxbr5ssf9f4ya464549

Furthermore, I am also researching both Monmouth/Nelson Museum and Shire Hall. if you have visited either or both of these, it would be very useful indeed if you could answer a few questions about you experience:

Shire Hall: http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s.asp?sid=65z6nbr37y64ocz464769
Nelson Museum: http://freeonlinesurveys.com/s.asp?sid=rkbf5aove11cp4w464883

If you would like more information about the project I am undertaking, or the surveys, please do not hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to oblige.

Email: stevemoss17@hotmail.com
Phone: 07792 416 258

Thanks for your time,
Steve

Neil Rathbone 2 years

A great project, and I would like to follow it if you have a mailing list or newsletter. I might even visit Monmouth just for this. I do though sense the potential to get over-hyped by wikipedia. People need to think about when a wiki is the right medium (eg. a ‘community’ project) and when something else (eg. simple CMS-backed web site with devolved but controlled authorship and editorial control) presents a better interpretive experience for the tourist and visitor. In my view QR code users are by their nature on the move and have little time, so want information presented succinctly and professionally. My physical-world analogy would be to ask if you would rather put up a smart tourist information panel (which volunteers may have authored) or a whiteboard and ask passers-by to put information at random? The attendant need to monitor and moderate wikis to prevent abuse and inaccuracy means that for me a wiki is the wrong back-end solution for a visitor application. You might have guessed that I am involved in building back-end platforms behind QR codes ;-) One free public one already enables anyone to set up and manage QR code linked landing pages from their mobile. See: q-action.appspot.com

Tilman Bayer 2 years

Last year, the city of Rennes, France celebrated the tenth anniversary of the French Wikipedia by putting up ten signs with Wikipedia articles in front of the objects they describe. The signs also included QR codes, but the scope of the whole effort appears to have been less universal than that of Monmouthpedia.

Rob Schnautz 2 years

Hasn’t this been done before already? I recall seeing somewhere that a city in the U.S. had done this, putting similar signs up all over the city at bus stops and in front of historical landmarks…where exactly it was escapes me, though.

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