Friday, 22 August 2014

More about Wikimania 2014, London

Lakeside at the Barbican

I am squashing two days of Wikimania into this blog post, because by this time the events and experiences have merged and blurred because there were so many of them. It was also the weekend, and  being awake, up and about, talking to people, exercising my brain and learning before 11am was quite challenging to the constitution.

Saturday started well with a session of learning to edit. I am not a very proficient Wikipedia editor and the few little articles I have written have been produced with technical help from people better at it than me. Time for me to get this sorted, I decided, so I joined the workshop being run by user Rexx. He was very good, and now I actually have a user page and some more confidence to write something entirely under my own steam. Because I am a librarian, not to mention an author of an academic paper or two, I thought it best to find out more about the latest version of Creative Commons licensing (4.0). I heard two talks on that, both from "The horses mouth", people actively involved in the development and writing the licenses. CC 4.0 is more eclectic, it encompasses the laws of many countries and the wording has become clearer. It is also easier to make attributions to licensed work.

I managed to catch most of Jack Andraka's presentation, I missed the start because I was deep in conversation with a member of the public at the Wikimedia UK stall. Jack is the young man that had an idea of how to develop a test for pancreatic cancer because he had read some science articles that were available for any member of the public to read  through Open Access. Jack was a very engaging young man and a very confident speaker. The surprising thing about him, though, was that he considered himself very ordinary and that young people in America are engaged in inventing new things. He looks up to friend of his who has built a nuclear reactor in his parent's garage. This made me think that there is something very wrong in the British educational system. perhaps we do not have enough faith in the intelligence and creativity of young people?

The high point of Saturday, however, came in the evening when there was a mini version of the Edinburgh Fringe, but in London, with a Wikipedia themed comedy night. The performers were not just excellent comedians, but academics, including Dan Schreiber, a QI writer, Simon Singh, writer and mathematician, Dr Steve Cross of University College London and  others so funny that I have forgotten their names. I found this entertainment particularly interesting because the other half and I attended a stand up comedy workshop earlier in the year, when I started writing a few stand up minutes about being an information scientist. Steve Cross set up academic stand up comedy (called Bright Club), to help spread public engagement with science.
The "Sculpture Court", a peaceful courtyard in the middle of the Barbican just right for blogging

Sunday started with the media, Bill Thompson of the BBC talking about the rise of social media and citizen journalism, although he started with a phrase suitable for the Wikipedia themed comedy night "Freedom's just another word for something left to edit". Bill explained that professional journalists used to be the people who wrote the first draft of history, but now people using social media, twitter, blogs, etc, have taken their place. This means that professional journalist now have to be in advance of the bloggers, making the 0th draft of history, A new model of journalism is emerging, a sort of collaborative joint account of the world's events. He compared the concepts and premise of the BBC as being similar to Wikipedia, there is no advertising and education is a major remit of both. Both serve the public interest and he stated that he considers the BBC archive of broadcast programmes being part of the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) community. The speech seemed to flow from one concept to another, but I think Bill's overall meaning was that the BBC is concerned with the free and open flow of knowledge, be it journalistic reporting over events, or of more educative and cultural programmes; science documentaries, well scripted drama's, promenade concerts, etc. and this is what Wikipedia is also concerned with.

The final  talk that I attended on Sunday was one about the worth of  face to face editing sessions. This was a panel discussion that appeared to be lead by a Wikimedia Foundation researcher who had found a great deal of difficulty getting Wikipedia editing trainers to report the sessions that they gave and to evaluate the impact of the sessions. Money is being spent on these sessions and it seems that most of the people who attend these sessions do not go on to becoming an editor, so is it worth doing? Some of the trained trainers in the room made the point that at least some more articles had been written or improved, which is always a bonus, that at least people know how to edit, and gaining more long term editors is not necessarily the point of doing the training. Other individuals said that they often show people how to edit Wikipedia in a less formal surroundings, because someone has noticed what they are doing on their laptops and want to know what to do. I used the analogy that the discussion was like educated people in the 6th century saying that they do not know why they bother to train boys to use quills and vellum to write and illustrate because few of them end up being monks and writing a decent illustrated manuscript. Meaning that it is the stimulation of literacy is important and that knowing how to do something does not mean that someone wants to do it all the time, or to a high degree of proficiency.

So, what I think about the conference as whole? I thought that the community village was a great opportunity to find out what is going on in different parts of the world, with Wikipedia chapters and with open access organisations as a whole. I thought the discussions interesting and thought provoking, and being the sort of person who considers that information and knowledge should be as free as the air that we breathe I felt inspired by the people who are fighting hard to make it that way. I also found it exciting that it was a gathering of people from all over the world who had come together peacefully with a common interest and made me hope that even in troubled times World Peace may just be a possibility.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Day two of Wikimania,

The second day of Wikimania found me working at the Wikimedia UK stall in the Community Village. This was a selection of stalls where the various Wikipedia “chapters” from around the world, the different projects of Wikipedia and allied open source organisations had a chance to sit, give away food, such as stroopwaffles, and talk to people about what they do. This Community Village was situated at one of the main entrances to the Barbican Centre and was in an area open to the public. This meant that there were many people looking at the stalls who knew little about Wikipedia and then could find out a great deal more. I spoke to a number of people who wanted to know more about Wikipedia, about editing and about the activities of the Wikimedia UK, such as the woman who had just come to drop off her library book who entered a lively debate between me and a young man form America who couldn't understand the difference between England and Britain or the librarian from the Feminist library wanting a woman to teach a group to edit Wikipedia; an interesting opportunity to improve the representation of notable women in Wikipedia. As well as giving out information, leaflets and free beer mats, I was able to listen to some of the talks. These are two that caught my attention.

 Andy Mabbett outlined his work of recording the voices of living people who have articles in Wikipedia and adding the recorded voice as a small roughly 10 second sound clip. The purpose is to have a historic record of their voice and a canonical pronunciation of their name. He advised that it is important to keep the message neutral, eg not let them say “hello Wikipedia” so that the recording can be used in other places. Andy needs some help in doing it because locating the people is difficult. So if you know a person with a Wikipedia article could you record their voice for Wikipedia? There is a page of instructions on how to do it Techies amongst you will understand this, but I don’t, apparently you must use an ogg or flack file, not Mp3. Some people in the hackathon are working on a website to record and add things to the relevant article in order to make it easier.

Zillah Watson of the BBC, found out what Andy was doing, because she was working with the research section of the world service radio archive. Amongst other things they have worked out how to identify individual speakers from their voice, automatically. They wanted a library of voices, sample and clips, so they have added them to Wikipedia. This is the first time the BBC has released files from their programs with an open licence. In consequence the project has added new articles of people to Wikipedia that had the voices, but not the articles, as well as adding voices to existing articles. The BBC project is still running.

The idea of keeping someone's voice for posterity appears to be a means to give an emotional depth and reality to the life a person. The human hearing seems to pick up so many nuances, and just from a few voice snippets people in the future may think things like, "Jimmy Wales sounds like a good guy" or "Stephen Fry sounds really friendly".

Peter Murray-Rust is a Doctor of Chemistry working in Cambridge University who has been a Wikipedia editor for many years and is a passionate advocate for Open Access, Open Data and open science in general. He believes that Wikipedia is the future of science and is currently entering into a collaboration with WikiData. He has been running a project to find a means of machine reading PDF files, and that is because he wants to extract facts from scientific papers, which unfortunately are published as PDFs. His project has managed to do this, and Peter has chosen to add the data generated this way to WikiData. I think that it is a significant breakthrough to be able to machine read PDFs, that would make searching the content of things on the internet so much easier. More can be read on the project website  

In the evening I met up with the other half, sorry, I haven't mentioned that he was also there, in fact he is the real Wikipedia editor in out household, I only dabble, and as he had arranged to go out for a drink with some other editors that he either knew, or that he had stumbled upon during the day, and I wanted to see the ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London commemorating the start of WW1,(  we led off an expedition of various nationalities, including Dutch and Australian, to the Tower, stopping at a Pizza Express for food and drink on the way back.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Wikimania 2014, now in London

Can you imagine a tropical paradise in the centre of a Metropolis, a place of exotic plants, water and laptops?... Laptops? what are they doing there? Well, that is the scene that I have just encountered at the Conservatory of  the Barbican Centre in London at Wikimania, the phenomena that is the annual global celebration of the Wikipedia community.

It started Friday and I am attending as a Wikimedia UK volunteer, helping out at the Community Village where there are stalls from the various Wikimedia chapters from over the world. I will be sending out a few blogs about the event over the next few days. The opening ceremony last night had a few speakers, Ed Saperia who was the initiator and motivator for bringing Wikimania to London; Jon Davies, the Chief Executive for Wikimedia UK, the body who organised the event together with the Wikipedia Foundation; Lila Tretikov the new CEO of the Wikipedia Foundation and of course, Jimmy Wales himself. They set the scene of why Wikimania came to London, how it has been organised, and they all emphasised the power of Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales endeared the crowd by telling us that Wikimania is a gathering of  "A bunch of geeks like us…" who together are making Wikipedia "as good as well possibly can be". There was an emphasis of  the Wikipedia opposition of “right to be forgotten”, as introduced by European legislation against Google and the statement that Wikipedia hardly ever has been asked to take down articles about people because generally they are fair and accurate articles. The point about this issue that was not stated is that search engines such are Google are indiscriminate about the things that appear there, but there are so many levels of editing and moderation, that a certain amount of censorship of articles occur before they are generally read. For example, if an editor wrote something slanderous about an individual, or added something spiteful, untrue or exaggerated, then the general rules of proving the veracity of the article apply and these statements will be removed. On the other hand, if an individual has a chequered past that they do not wish to be exposed it will be perfectly legal to add facts about their previous life to Wikipedia it can be done in an objective manner. Jimmy believes that Wikipedia is really really powerful and should have an influence on open policies.

The most thought provoking keynote speech, however, was Salil Shetty Secretary General of Amnesty International, who talked about their principles and the similarity in the main tenets of  Amnesty International and Wikipedia. Amnesty International was started in the 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer to campaign for the human rights of individuals. They are carrying on fights against the death penalty and torture across the globe. They do not take money from governments or corporations so that they can preserve their impartiality. Members are from Europe and N America, and Amnesty international know that they need more in India and S Africa, the developing world. Therefore, staff are moving out to these other world.  It is  mainly a letter writing organisation but it has started to use modern technology to help detect where there are problems in the world, for example,  a panic button app for those under threat; satellite imaging to look at prison camp development and oil spills, so that they can give independent evidence of in humanities. 

Here I am at the Wikimedia UK stall, holding a Welsh flag with Robin from the Welsh Wicipedia.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Looking at my collection of Bookmobile and Children's Mobile Library Alerts

It may seem that I have totally abandoned children's mobile libraries and have switched camp to Open Access, and certainly the Full Time Job gets in the way of doing just what I want to do, but amongst the intellectual bother of writing papers, applying for permanent jobs and not getting them and keeping OpenDOAR ( as up to date as I can, I am still gathering as much information as I can about children's mobile libraries. Here is a link to an article in an American local paper about a mobile library that was axed and has been re-instated. Strictly it is a general bookmobile, but the staff comment about the importance of reaching out to children, amongst other groups that are hard to get into a static library. The staff feel that running the library is worthwhile if it gets children reading.

Here is another example of an American bookmobile bringing books, excitement and literature and literacy to children as this Author/Attorney remembers.

It does make me wonder whether she would just be an attorney if she had not had her imagination stretched by the visit of the bookmobile.

Just for good measure today, here is a link to another blog about the potted history of bookmobiles across America. I have added it here as somewhere safe to keep it!

I will write some more posts when I have finished trudging through my accumulation of alerts and picked out the best ones.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Library Camp 2013

Yet again another amazing experience at Library Camp. This is the third national Library Camp that I have attended and each time I have come home full of enthusiasm and hope for the profession, re-energised and glad to be a librarian. Each time is different, with people coming up with a huge variety of subjects to discuss. This morning the first session started with two children's stories and we swapped suggestions for good stories to read aloud at story-times. We talked about using picture books to help older but less secure readers to enjoy and practice their reading skills. We also thought about the stories that help children with emotional literacy. It was a session that could have gone on for hours.

I was facilitating the next one, and I wanted to publicise that open access repositories are a source of available information and data that anyone can read and use. As it turned out the people who came to the session were well aware of repositories and it turned into an interesting and illuminating discussion about getting the information onto repositories in the first place and the problems associated with young researchers wanting to make their work open, but there eventually being and establishment barrier that prevents it happening.

Lunch was great, provided mainly by the un-delegates (well, if it and un-conference than we must be un-delegates!) This year, "Cake camp" was accompanied by "Snack camp" , with savory items. I took along some home baked Pizza. I think that the concept of pizza always tasting better the morning after must be totally true. I baked the Pizza last night and by the time I got to the snack table, it had all vanished! After lunch I attended a session about digitisation because I wanted to find out more about the process and how hard or easy it is. Once again we had an in-depth conversation not merely about the process, but the consequences of putting work and images on line, and the problems of machines trying to convert characters into text.

I then diverted slightly by going to the session about the future of Cilip, and managed to say a lot of stuff, which I thought was thought provoking and interesting but seemed to give the impression that I had a negative attitude. Maybe I should have kept quiet. One phrase stayed with me, from one of the other un-delegates: "Industry Standard", and I think that Cilip as a relatively young incarnation of two older old organisations, is still trying to work out the clear cut, modern, professional weight that it should have. Finally, I went to the last session to listen, and find out about what open source software there is that can deal with library stuff, and learnt about various programmes, software and devises. There is also a rather wonderful device called Library box, which is like a portable server which you can load up with all sorts of wonderful e-documents and take it around with you for other people to access, like WiFi.

I do have two regrets, once again there were clashes of sessions going on, especially at the same time as I was doing mine, and I missed some topics that I would have loved to have attended. The other was that this year's Library Camp was in the brand new shiney Library of Birmingham, and I was so intent on the sessions and networking that I didn't get a chance to have a good look around it, or take any photos. I am a big fan of Library Camp, and the Un-conference style, it really demonstrates the intelligence, enthusiasm and range of people who work in all sorts of library sectors. Can I book for Library Camp 2014 now?          

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A really enjoyable lecture

Perhaps it is rather narcissistical of me to title this blog as a really enjoyable lecture, because the lecture that I writing about is the one that I have just given to final year graduates at Loughborough University. This has been the third time that I have given the lecture, about what public library staff do to enhance literacy, it seems to have become my annual contribution to the academic life in Loughborough. So what made it so enjoyable this time? I think it was the group of students who were so interested and responsive. It also gave me a chance to remember all the things I found out and learnt by doing the PhD. I have also looked up some new bits of research, just to make sure that I am giving out up to date information. I found the following two articles:

Understanding oral reading fluency among adults with low literacy: Dominance analysis of contributing component skills
Daryl F. Mellard, Jason L. Anthony, and Kari L. Woods

Inside the Letterbox: How Literacy Transforms the Human Brain
Stanislas Dehaene, Ph.D.

The Mellard, Antony and Woods article gives a nice summary of the skills needed to become a fluent reader and the Dehaene article is a very good account of what the brain does when you learn to read.

So any of the nice students have traced this blog, here is the link that I told you about and another one as well. and thank-you, I had a lovely afternoon. 

So far at Eduwiki 2013

Here I am in Cardiff bay at this year's Eduwiki conference, meeting up with people I know and making some new friends and interesting contacts. Wikimedia UK (or at least the Wikipedia in Education part of it) have some long term goals, such as acquiring more student societies, and getting more HE teachers to use Wikipedia to teach academic writing skills. Martin Poulter made a quotable quote by saying that Wikipedia is "a chance to pop open the bonnet of knowledge". It is a way that you can see the workings of the knowledge process, and some of the speakers today have shown how that process happens.  For example,  Humphrey Southall uses Wikipedia for teaching geography to first year students by making  stub articles better on an English village better. Students are first given a strict set of criteria to choose an article to improve; a set of websites that can be used, for example on place names; government statistics and the Doomsday book. Interpreting that information can become a good  exercise in statistical comprehension. Students are encouraged to put their article up on-line for the Wikipedia community to comment and contribute, and this also gives the lecturer an unique opportunity to see the students working not only through their own creation but also how they deal with the Wikipedia community. 

Students found that the Wikipedia editor comments were much more outspoken to those of their tutors, and they discovered how to deal with the stress of working in public.Humphrey wondered about the general benefits for Wikipedia and said that at least for the common reader there is now a standard set of good articles, but asked the question: is it good for the Wikipedia community? because it did cause a lot of work for some editors. Wikipedia editing is also being taught to students in France and Australia.  

Jean Frederic Berthelot spoke about working with PhD students in Lille as part of a wider post graduate programme with other French universities. All their PhD students need to do certain number of seminars and courses, and learning the use and editing or Wikipedia is one of them. The students create an account and add a banner to their userpage explaining that they are part of this course. The course teachers comment about the students' work via Google docs to keep them private and give students a skype call halfway through the course to encourage its completion. So far the outcome of the course has been lots of edits, but it seems not to have retained any of them as editors.

These examples make me think that Wikipedia has become such a ubiquitous and everyday resource that students need to understand not only how to search  the articles, but to know how to edit and write an article.  Perhaps the aim of the exercise should not be to get more Wikipedia Editors, or to improve and increase article, because those are short term goals. Training students to correctly edit Wikipedia gives them the discrimination to be informed users of the encyclopedia able to appreciate the research that goes with a good article and the ability to realise when an article is not good. It is just like learning how to write a report, or an essay, or presentation. you may learn how to write an essay at school or university, but not need to write one ever again once, but you will have learn how to structure a narrative which is a transferable skill. Similarly, students may not write a Wikipedia article again, but will know how to write a concise, unbiased summary a valuable skill  in many situations.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

CMLs as an Educational Resource

This post explains another of my PhD Theories. I named it the theory of Resource, or Specialist Resource and it goes like this: "The highly specialist nature of its collections makes a CML a reliable source of literature and information." Well, obvious really. I expressed it slightly better in a previous wording of the theory "A children's mobile library is a source of expertise that is drawn upon by children's educators and carers to enhance their own skills and knowledge". Basically, a CML is an educational resource. I sorted the types of resource into three piles, Goods- the stock items of the CML, Human Resource- the CML operators and the Educational Environment- the general atmosphere found in a CML. Today I will deal with the goods, the physical items that individuals can borrow.

Firstly, the sort of things that I found inside CMLs were children's books, audio books on CDs, video tapes of children's films, book packs that included toys, and books for adults about childcare and teaching children. The items were chosen in different ways in the various library authorities, commonly by a middle manager or stock control team who may or may not consult the CML operators about which titles or genre to choose. I have already said a lot about that in my post on best practice. It may not surprise you that vehicles where the operators could influence what was on board had the most appropriate stock for their customers. Overall I found a wide variety of of book genre, style, subject and ability level, from board books to history books or  graphic novels to poetry, which meant that a child could find something relevant to their ability and personal taste.

I was surprised by the number of times that children told me that the thing that they likes best about the CML they visited, was the books. They said that they could find "the books that I like", which could be the latest range of Flower Fairy novels or books about trains. Meeting the diversity of children's needs is a way of getting them motivated to read, and offering them a large quantity to chose from means that they do not get bored with the selection. Interest increases motivation. I also found it really surprising that a CML can be the means of a vital supply of books to avid readers, children so highly motivated and skilled at reading that neither schools not parents can financially keep up with the high level of book consumption. CMLs are a godsend to the voracious reader. The more children read, the greater is their skill increased. The wide variety of books on a CML therefore contributes to reading motivation and therefore to better literacy.

Some of the children also explained to me that the books helped them "know more about things". The children were learning to become self motivated learners, they were gaining the competency of teaching themselves about stuff in which they were really interested. It is not easy to gather that particular skill in an environment that offers a limited learning opportunity, a classroom where the needs of an entire class must be considered in a lesson plan. It wasn't only the children who learnt things from the books; adults borrowed the children's books as well, to refresh their memory about certain facts before teaching a topic, or used the childcare books to help them deal with certain situations, like helping a child through bereavement. Adults also borrowed books to use as classroom resources, or as a guide to a craft activity to do together with the children.It is actually quite important that children see adults taking an interest in books because it demonstrates to a child that books are valued, valid and fun.

There is a diagram to add here, but it is on my old laptop which will need finding and leaving for a while as it installs update, so I will add it some other time.

So, CMLs are a source of a broad range of children's books which can be tapped into by children, teachers, carers, parents, grandparents to learn about the things that interest them. This increases their learning, no matter what age they are. Adults can pass on their learning to children and be role-models for the power of learning though reading.

Library on wheels brings joy in Vietnam - Passport -

For some reason I have found this link to an article tucked away in my blog drafts. I was actually looking for something else, a rather more profound half written post about one aspect of my thesis. I think I gathered it (this article) and did not post it because it was not about a vehicle, or mode of transport. I have re-read it, and I think that it is worth sharing because it  shows the variety of ways that books can be taken around to children for them to borrow. I think that the title of the article is misleading, the picture of the box does not show any wheels, and if there are any, then I think I would call them castors!.

Library on wheels brings joy in Vietnam - Passport -

It is also an example of children to be able to read books in their own language