Today we’re talking about Wikipedia, finding images online, and sourcing talks/podcasts to support lectures and presentations. All of which has made me feel old, in so many ways. More on that as we work through the tasks associated with the things.
Wikipedia was founded in 2001, and it was already a go to source of information for undergraduates by the time I was doing my PhD: If I had a pound for every time I said “Wikipedia is not a legitimate source”… Things have moved on a great deal since then: Wikipedia has a veritable army of people volunteering their time to contribute articles, format, edit, group, link and any number of other tasks that need doing. The site has had its ups and downs: a particular issue is, of course, related to this army. Some take what they are doing seriously, some less so. I was talking to someone once who said that they went into the Generation X article and made some changes (including adding a paragraph on Generation X-wing) and that it took six months for all the spurious edits to be tracked down. The task for this thing asked us to dig into Wikipedia, so I took the opportunity to look at the “Talk” and “History” tabs, to see if I could find any evidence for this intellectual graffiti. In the event, this article is one of the more popular ones, and it so there is a lot of discussion and a lot of edits have been made over a number of years. In 17 years, Wikipedia has come a long way – but I still wanted use it as a primary source.
Onwards to Thing 10: Images. Last week we were asked to find a suitable image to illustrate a post on copyright and creative commons. This week, we’ve been asked to dig a little deeper and look at Flickr and Pinterest in more detail, together with some other photo/media repositories. Whilst you can use Flickr without signing up, a lot of functionality requires an account. This means signing up, and it also requires a yahoo email address (unless I’ve misunderstood, which is possible). I will be honest and say that this put me into grumpy old man mode. Pinterest frequently has this effect on me too: there are a number of images that have come up on searches, but they are linked to Pinterest, which immediately triggers a “sign up to explore further prompt”, which I usually feel to be extremely irritating.
Thing 11: Finding Presentations and Podcasts. I only had a very quick go at this due to a lack of time. I can remember someone rhapsodising about TED talks several years ago, and I’ve been meaning to watch one for ages. Having finally been pushed into it for this task, I confess to being rather disappointed. Perhaps the ones I found weren’t representative. Perhaps I just happened to find a poor example. Perhaps I’ve just missed the point of TED talks. I won’t give details on specific TED talks, but whilst I’d always understood them to be essentially opinion pieces, I was surprised at how this came across. It was funny, deliberately so, but belittled certain issues – there was a lack of thoughtfulness and balance which I was surprised at – I would struggle to justify putting a clip into a presentation.
So that’s it for this week – three things that have made me feel old. Next week we’re looking at creating and sharing information.
Whilst you are here, a quick plug for the work of Project Gutenberg, and in particular the Distributed Proofreaders. The reason that I mention this, is that, a lot like Wikipedia, it is dependent on the generosity of volunteers giving up some time to help. PG is an online repository of some 56, 000 ebooks. Many of these have been scanned from out of print source documents which have gone out of copyright. Proofreaders are required to look at the scanned documents and remove artifacts and to make sure that it is all formatted properly. There are three rounds of proofreading, and two or more people look at the document, in each round. If you are a researcher, or indeed any kind of writer, it is worth signing up: not only do you get to see some truly fascinating books, but you get the opportunity to practice looking for mistakes. Whilst I’ve been too busy lately. I’ve put in a few hundred hours of effort in the past and have felt that it has really helped me as an editor.