Have you ever looked at an article on Wikipedia and thought, “this could really use some work”? With the free online course “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The Basics and Beyond,” offered through the School of Open, you have the opportunity to take the next step.
In the course, you will learn about both the technical and social underpinnings of this worldwide, volunteer-built resource, and how you can most effectively contribute to its vision to freely share knowledge. The six-week course will start its second round on 14 May (for those in the Americas) or 15 May (Asia/Australia).* Sign up here.
Sara and Pete, Communicate OER / Pete Forsyth / CC BY
While the course is free and open to everyone, it focuses on the topic of open educational resources (OER), and students work to improve relevant Wikipedia articles as part of their coursework. The first round of the course concluded last week. The course organizers, Pete Forsyth and Sara Frank Bristow of Communicate OER, had so much fun that they are diving right back in to facilitate a second round. Pete says,
“We learned a great deal in our first run: we were surprised by how few of our students knew about OER, but also how fully they embraced the topic. We hope you will agree, their efforts to improve the OER article have been successful: while there will always be room for improvement, today’s version of the article is much improved from the version prior to the start of our class.”
Several members of the CC community were proud to support this effort. In the first round, CC CEO Cathy Casserly participated in a panel discussion and CC Senior Project Manager Paul Stacey provided a review of the OER article around which the course participants shaped their improvements.
Creative Commons encourages you to take advantage of this opportunity to contribute to the world’s understanding of open educational resources and the open licenses that make them possible. Sign up for the upcoming course today. You can also participate in a future course or engage in other ways by reaching out to the course organizers at the same link.
If you would like to be notified when other “open” courses launch their second rounds, make sure you’re subscribed to the School of Open announcements list.
*If you’re in Europe or Africa, the synchronous course sessions will be in the middle of the night. You are welcome to enroll and watch the archived sessions each week; join the third round of the course, expected to launch in July; or watch for the self-paced version of the course, to be announced in early June.1 Comment »
Pete Forsyth lives and breathes wikis. He is owner and lead consultant at Wiki Strategies, and has extensive experience in working within online peer production communities, specifically the production of open educational resources (OER) using wiki-based web sites like Wikipedia. Forsyth was the Wikimedia Foundation’s first Public Outreach Officer and key architect of the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative, an innovative pilot project to support university faculty and students in the use of Wikipedia as a teaching and learning tool. With more than 17 million articles in over 270 languages, Wikipedia is the Wikimedia Foundation’s largest and most visible project.
Wiki as a Vehicle for Self-learning
Forsyth became interested in wikis in Oregon, where he was an editor and community organizer for Wikipedia. While he had long been interested in Open Source Software, he didn’t know how to code. “Wikipedia was a natural entry point for me,” he says, “because you don’t have to be a computer programmer to contribute.”
Forsyth spent five years creating and revising Oregon-related content on Wikipedia, and during this time a group of similarly-minded people came together to form a wiki project in the Portland area. “Portland is home of the wiki,” notes Forsyth, referring to its invention in 1994 by Ward Cunningham.
The participants in the Oregon wiki project helped each other navigate their way around Wikipedia, mastered the art of good reference, and pieced together a better sense of the history of the state. Being in that group allowed Forsyth to explore intellectual pursuits he might not have explored if Wikipedia wasn’t there as a vehicle to nurture them. “The process was in its own way every bit as educational as the college degree I earned,” he said.
The Public Policy Initiative: Open Content, Open Practices
The Public Policy Initiative (PPI) is designed to engage professors in public policy programs at universities across the U.S. to work with their students and the Wikimedia community to improve articles on the English-language Wikipedia as part of their course curriculum. Forsyth notes that the PPI aligns with a set of Wikimedia’s long term goals: it cultivates more Wikipedians, champions subject matter experts, and works toward improving the diversity of its contributor base. He says that the public policy arena has been an exemplary pilot initiative because it is such an interdisciplinary field. “Public policy cuts across so many areas, such as law, economics, and philosophy,” says Forsyth, “and keeping this project open to people with different kinds of backgrounds was an important design consideration.”
The characterization of Wikipedia as an open educational resource platform is at once completely obvious and also a departure from many of the traditional OER delivery mechanisms. While Forsyth agrees that Wikipedia is as valuable an open educational resource as any encyclopedia, he thinks that open educational practices (OEP) is where the value of the Public Policy Initiative really shines. He believes that the really transformative outcome enabled by the technical and legal innovation of wikis and open licensing is the process of being able to collaborate with a broad group of people quickly and seamlessly. “By participating in that kind of community,” says Forsyth, “the student is learning skills from the process itself, rather than extracting information from a particular resource.”
Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia sites represent the largest collection of CC licensed works on the web. Forsyth believes that a project like the PPI–and Wikipedia itself–couldn’t exist without easy-to-understand open licensing. “Users clarifying their intent to work openly is the most important thing,” he says. “The existence of Creative Commons opens up a new avenue for individuals and organizations to do things in the public interest.”
Forsyth thinks that Creative Commons should attempt to provide more clarity about the consequences to using different CC licenses. “I’m not excited about the noncommercial condition,” he admits. “It all boils down to clarity, and attaching a noncommercial condition onto content immediately creates exceptions to that clarity.” He notes that many people new to open licensing are initially drawn to the more restrictive licenses, but don’t realize until later that the content they are licensing is incompatible with Wikipedia or other projects they’d like to engage with.
Public Policy Initiative Ambassadors
In addition to partnering with interested faculty, the Public Policy Initiative involves members of both the university (via campus ambassadors) and the Wikimedia community (via online ambassadors) to provide assistance and guidance. Bonnie Mccallum volunteers as a campus ambassador for a participating class at Montana State University, where she is a web services technician at the University Library. Mccallum, who had no previous experience in creating or editing Wikipedia articles, teamed up with Mike Cline, a seasoned Wikipedian, to assist Professor Kristin Ruppel in her course on Federal Indian Law and Policy. While Mccallum and Cline worked as on-site campus ambassadors, various distributed online ambassadors helped mentor students on the ins and outs of editing Wikipedia.
“There was relatively little available on Wikipedia about the content taught in the course,” said Mccallum. Professor Ruppel had the graduate students create a new article around the general topic of the course, stepping through the process of publishing and defending their articles on Wikipedia. The undergraduate students were responsible for editing articles that were already on Wikipedia. One example of an article worked on by the students is the Native American Languages Act of 1990.
Mccallum notes that Professor Ruppel believes participation in the PPI is a more worthwhile writing exercise for her students than cranking out a term paper. Ruppel feels that her students had to learn how to collaborate and communicate in a neutral voice, and learn how to monitor issues and discuss changes with other editors. Mccallum said she’ll be continuing work with the PPI next year, and was excited that there were so many women participating in the project. There are a few things that she’d like to change for next year. She notes that some of the students got hung up on the technical issues around editing wikis, so they’ll be structuring that course module differently next time around.
Mccallum proudly recounts a story passed on by one of the older students in the course, who has a child in middle school. The child’s teacher discouraged her students from using Wikipedia at all. However, after the boy had gone back to the teacher and showed her how his mom was using and contributing to Wikipedia in her graduate school course at MSU, the teacher softened her position. According to Mccallum, those ‘it might not be so bad after all’ moments seem to become more common as teachers learn about the varied uses for teaching via Wikipedia.
Public Policy Initiative as a Bridge
Sometimes open source projects find it difficult to break into the mainstream, especially within the traditional higher education space. Forsyth says that one reason why the PPI has been initially successful in getting buy-in from faculty is because they tailored the project to the existing goals of the educators. He says that working with existing incentive systems as much as possible and providing support to faculty is an important baseline to making the project successful. Also bubbling around recently is the idea that a condition of tenure might be participating in an online community or contributing to a collaborative project like Wikipedia, in addition to the traditional publishing venues. “It will be a gradual shift,” says Forsyth, “but the reality today is that both teachers and students need to possess the cultural fluency and information literacy skills to engage online.” He thinks that these traits will come to represent a set of important skills that students will need to master in any field. “I believe that in time, tenure processes will come to reflect that.”
Forsyth thinks the Public Policy Initiative is well on its way. “Professors are the experts in educating their students, and with a little nudge and some support, they can do great things with a tool like Wikipedia,” he says. So far, the PPI has turned out to be an enlightening exercise and productive process. As it’s seed funding winds down this September, the Public Policy Initiative will continue to transition from a staff-led to a volunteer-led project. The PPI aims to expand its reach of the Ambassador program to work with faculty and students in other countries, languages, and topic areas.
Forsyth is continuing his involvement in leveraging wikis within the education space, working to start the Center for Open Learning and Teaching (COLT), to be hosted at the University of Mississippi. The center will support the study and implementation of effective and open Internet-based learning practices in formal education. “As institutions of learning are engaging with concept of OER and online learning communities, they’re going to want to figure out how to update their practices, reap the efficiency benefits of ‘open,’ and stay relevant as education evolves,” says Forsyth. He notes that the goals of COLT include 1) setting up a cohort-based research network investigating open, online collaboration in education; and 2) establishing a teaching and learning center that would partially fund faculty salaries to explore OER and open collaborative practices in their classrooms and share what they’ve learned.
Forsyth believes that teaching and learning has very suddenly changed in only a few years. “The education system used to exist in a world in which information was scarce and access to information was hard to come by,” he says. “Now, learning something about any topic is easy, and universities no longer have a monopoly on how we educate ourselves.” Forsyth thinks that libraries, museums, governments, and news outlets still provide great value, but they’re gradually waking up to the idea that they now have to compete. He thinks that these changes should be viewed as an exciting opportunity, not something to be disregarded because they challenge the status quo. “We need universities to embrace the changing landscape, not erect walls trying to protect the role they’re used to playing.”
CERN Library releases its book catalog into the public domain via CC0, and other bibliographic data news
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research that is home to the Large Hadron Collider and birthplace of the web, has released its book catalog into the public domain using the CC0 public domain dedication. This is not the first time that CERN has used CC tools to open its resources; earlier this year, CERN released the first results of the Large Hadron Collider experiments under CC licenses. In addition, CERN is a strong supporter of CC, having given corporate support at the “creator” level, and is currently featured as a CC Superhero in the campaign, where you can join them in the fight for openness and innovation!
Jens Vigen, the head of CERN Library, says in the press release,
“Books should only be catalogued once. Currently the public purse pays for having the same book catalogued over and over again. Librarians should act as they preach: data sets created through public funding should be made freely available to anyone interested. Open Access is natural for us, here at CERN we believe in openness and reuse… By getting academic libraries worldwide involved in this movement, it will lead to a natural atmosphere of sharing and reusing bibliographic data in a rich landscape of so-called mash-up services, where most of the actors who will be involved, both among the users and the providers, will not even be library users or librarians.”
In related news, the Cologne-based libraries have made the 5.4 million bibliographic records they released into the public domain earlier this year, also via CC0, available in various places. See the hbz wiki, lobid.org (and their files on CKAN), and OpenDATA at the Central Library of Sport Sciences of the German Sports University in Cologne. For more information, see the case study.
The German Wikipedia has also used CC0 to dedicate data into the public domain; specifically, their PND-BEACON files are available for download. Since Wikipedia links out to quite a number of external resources, and since a lot of articles link to the same external resources, PND-BEACON files are the German Wikipedia’s way of organizing the various data. “In short a BEACON file contains a 1-to-1 (or 1-to-n) mapping from identifiers to links. Each link consists of at least an URL with optionally a link title and additional information such as the number of resources that are available behind a link.” Learn more from the English description of the project.1 Comment »
Last year, we kicked off our global case studies effort, inviting you to share your stories—individuals, projects, and companies who use Creative Commons for different reasons and to solve different problems. Through the CC wiki, we attempted to capture the diversity of CC creators and content by building a resource that inspires new works and informs free culture.
Thanks to your contributions, the Case Studies project has grown into an incredibly valuable resource. But like all wikis, the Case Studies wiki is evolving. Everyday, more people and projects are using CC, and existing projects are continuously making themselves over.
To keep up, we’ve made the Case Studies project easier to navigate and ultimately more useful and participatory for the community by revamping the portal and building a new rating system, implementing lessons we’ve learned from other successful wiki communities such as Wikipedia. What’s new:
- We used Semantic MediaWiki (an extension of MediaWiki) to organize quantifiable elements into a few common properties. Take a look at the case study for Cory Doctorow and you’ll see a new box on the right that provides an at-a-glance view of some of the project’s main properties. These properties are common to all case studies and their values can now be easily browsed.
- The ability to evaluate each case study by Page Importance and Page Quality. We drafted an Evaluation Guide with some basic criteria for what determines whether a case study is of high, medium, or low importance and quality. These criteria are meant to serve as starting points; we want you to edit and improve them as more case studies are evaluated and added. Each criteria that is not met comes with suggested edits to improve existing case studies.
What you can do now:
- Visit the revamped Case Studies wiki!
- Evaluate a Case Study
- Improve a Case Study by adding relevant data, updating old information, or editing the prose so that it sparkles
- Translate the new instructions. See the Portuguese translation of the evaluations page as an example.
- And as always, add your CC story or one you’re familiar with
The goal of the new features is to encourage better quality and contribution. Please use and help us improve them!No Comments »
Earlier this week, Facebook announced its launch of community pages, pages based on topics of interest to the community that are not maintained by a single author. Single author pages include band or company pages that intend to promote that band or company. Instead, community pages are based on the concept of “shared knowledge” that underlies Wikipedia. Community pages integrate Wikipedia content which retains the Creative Commons license.
For example, check out the community page for Cooking. The page has directly imported CC BY-SA licensed content from the Wikipedia entry on Cooking. All links to Wikipedia are retained, including direct links to edit the information. At the bottom of the page, the source of content is explicitly stated with links to the CC BY-SA license and history of the article:
For more information on how Wikipedia is integrated into community pages, check out Facebook’s FAQ on Community pages and an email from Wikimedia Foundation’s Head of Business Development, Kul Takanao Wadhwa:
Wikipedia articles on Facebook will further increase the reach of free knowledge on the internet. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users, and now more than 70% of their traffic is coming from outside of the US. Our hope is that many Facebook users (if they are not already) will also be inclined to join the large community of Wikipedia contributors. Facebook will follow the free licenses (CC-BY-SA) and help us find more ways people can share knowledge. Furthermore, we will be looking at other ways that both parties can cooperate in the future.
It’s worth noting privacy concerns about they way Facebook has connected community pages to user profiles — these concerns have nothing to do with the reuse of Wikipedia content.17 Comments »
First, there’s an education landing page prominently linked from our home page. Its goal is to quickly introduce our site visitors to the vast number and range of Open Educational Resources (OER) available for use as well as the role of Creative Commons licenses in enabling OER to reach its potential. We’ll be testing various iterations of this page in the coming months as well as add further assets (e.g., video) to make it an effective introduction to OER for the general public.
The landing page also features a number of links for anyone who wants to learn more about OER & CC and/or wants to contribute their own knowledge. Most of those links point to the OER Portal/Project on our wiki. Our goal for this section is for our community to add useful information about OER as well as help curate this information. Ultimately, we hope processes for curating such information (e.g., a rating system for OER case studies) will develop, looking at the Wikipedia WikiProjects as an inspiration. Please dive in and help, from small corrective edits to designing and documenting curation processes.
These new resources are in-line with the education plans we posted about at the end of January. Watch here for more!No Comments »
Wikipedia also wrapped up a wildly successful fundraiser at the end of the year. See below for Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’ thank you letter to the community, reproduced in full under CC BY-SA, the license Wikipedia and other Wikimedia sites migrated to last June. Note “support our friends” at the end — it is a great honor for CC to be in such esteemed company!
Wow. What can I say? Thank you.No Comments »
We’ve just ended the most successful fundraiser in our history, $7.5 million USD raised in less than 8 weeks.
Incredible. But I’m not surprised.
In 2001, I took a bet on people, and you’ve never let me down.
You have created the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled: 14 million encyclopedia articles in 270 languages, still growing and getting better every day. You have supported, funded and protected it.
Advertising doesn’t pay for Wikipedia. You do. Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website on earth – 340 million people last month – and we run our servers and pay our lean staff entirely with donations.
Your donations keep Wikipedia free to use and free of ads. Your donations keep spreading free access to knowledge all across the earth.
Thank you for everything you give to make Wikipedia a reality. I’ve been inspired by your comments, and feel privileged to witness your passion for Wikipedia.
- “When I’m at a loss for answers in life, you are always here to rescue me!” – Lauren Sierra
- “To my 6-year-old son, Wikipedia is a wonderful window into the world’s knowledge.” – Pilgrim Beart
- “Wikipedia é muito importante para todos. É uma conquista da humanidade.” – Fernando Borba
- “Wikipedia is all about fulfilling one simple need: immediate access to high quality information on any topic you can think of. That is why I’m glad to support it.” – Joao Nunes
It’s an amazing story. There’s nothing else like it.
And if you haven’t yet made a contribution to support Wikipedia, it’s not too late. You can still make a gift to support the free and open sharing of knowledge. Just click here.
I also encourage you to support our friends:
- Creative Commons makes it easier for anyone to share and build upon the work of others. Make a donation to Creative Commons.
- The Electronic Frontier Foundation defends the rights of all Internet users. Make a donation to the EFF.
- The Free Software Foundation promotes the development of free software and supports the rights of computers users. Make a donation to the FSF.
Thank you again.
Richard Giles, a social media specialist in Australia who frequently posts and CC licenses photos on Flickr, received a threatening letter from the International Olympic Committee last week, mentioning a set of photos he had taken at the 2008 games in Beijing.
Giles posted a rundown of the story so far on his blog. It is not clear the situation is resolved yet, and initially there was confusion about which photos or licenses are at issue, but there are many worthwhile posts about it to check out, including these:
- Olympics threaten photographer by Mathias Klang (of CC Sweden), who points out in passing that there are now over 120 million CC licensed photos on Flickr — a 20% increase in 6 months.
- Go To The Olympics? Take Photos? Put Them On Flickr? Await Olympic Committee Legal Threat Letter on Techdirt by Mike Masnick.
- International Olympic Committee Goes Copyright (& Trademark) Crazy on The Moderate Voice by Joe Windish.
- Wikipedia and Olympics Committee heading for collision? by Sage Ross, who points out that Giles’ photo(s) likely came to the attention of the IOC indirectly via English Wikipedia, where one of Giles’ photos is currently used in the Usain Bolt article.
Regarding Ross’ post, of course the UK merchant that used the photo in an advertisement that eventually attracted the IOC’s notice may have discovered the photo directly on Flickr as well. In either case, the value of moving to a more liberal license if you want your works to spread is highlighted — Giles’ Usain Bolt photo is under CC Attribution-ShareAlike, while his other Beijing photos are under CC Attribution-NonCommercial.
Whatever the resolution of this particular dispute, there’s no question that the IOC’s attempt to control how photographers use their own photos is symptomatic of the permission culture and tragedy of the anticommons we are facing. Creative Commons can’t directly influence the IOC’s policies, but we’re creating an alternative to ensure a non-gridlocked future of creativity and innovation, an alternative that offers benefits to those who participate in the commons now, and whose successes will change minds. Please support us — we’re in the midst of our 2009 campaign to raise $500,000 to fund this work.
The photo at the top of this post by Richard Giles is not of the Olympics, but does look fun. Note that even such an innocuous photo could be under threat as we move in the direction of a permission economy — building owners attempt to control public photography, why not balloon owners or designers? Give now. ☺5 Comments »
The Software Freedom Law Show, Episode 0×16 contains numerous bits of interest to CC geeks and is well worth a listen. The show’s hosts, Karen Sandler and Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center, discuss among other things:
- How the GFDL turned out suboptimally — a key point is that developing good public licenses is very hard, the the GFDL was one of the very first for software documentation or other non-software works.
- The migration of Wikipedia and sister projects from GFDL to CC BY-SA, successfully completed this June.
- The importance of public license stewardship by mission-driven nonprofits — Bradley Kuhn’s writing on stewardship has been noted previously on this blog.
- The license used for the show itself, which is CC BY-ND.
- A promise to talk about the public domain and specifically CC0 in a future episode. Looking forward to it.
One quick addendum to the show, in which the hosts wonder if CC has a public versioning process. The answer is yes — see a a list of CC blog posts over the course of development of our 3.0 licenses. The next, eventual versioning will be even more public and rigorous, just as the GPLv3 had a development process far more in depth than that of any public software license that preceded it.No Comments »
Wikis Take Manhattan is a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest aimed at illustrating Wikipedia and StreetsWiki articles covering sites and street features in Manhattan and across the five boroughs of New York City.
Scheduled for Saturday, October 10, 2009, this event will be a sequel to the spring 2008 Wikipedia Takes Manhattan (WTM-1) and last fall’s Wikis Take Manhattan (WTM-2) event. Check out the hoppin’ Wikipedia page for full details.
The day will be sponsored by Free Culture @ Columbia, the Columbia University chapter of Students for Free Culture, in cooperation with Free Culture @ NYU, The Open Planning Project, Wikimedia New York City and Wikipedia volunteers.
If you’re attending, make sure to register online here.
All Wikipedians and non-Wikipedians are invited to participate in teams of up to three (no special knowledge is required at all, just a digital camera and a love of the city).No Comments »