Wikipedian at Large on the West Coast

DWC has brought New Zealand’s ‘Wikipedian at Large’, Dr Mike Dickison, to the West Coast.

“Wikipedia is a window to the world, and every place’s public face,” says Mike Dickison, who spent a year travelling New Zealand as the world's first 'Wikipedian at Large', supported by the US Wikimedia Foundation.

Dickison is currently running free workshops across the West Coast to train people to become Wikipedia editors and showing tourism operators how the online encyclopaedia can help their business. With a team of remote volunteers, he is also working with heritage organisations, galleries, libraries, and museums to boost the West Coast's Wikipedia presence.

Wikipedia is the 8th most visited website in the world. Wikipedia articles are regularly in the top search results for any topic. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and the articles are written by volunteers; currently, about 250,000 dedicated editors (Wikipedians) around the world.

“Despite the lack of an editorial board, Wikipedia's coverage is usually very accurate, sometimes amazingly so. There are teams of volunteers and software ‘bots’ that check the articles for accuracy and remove vandalism within a few minutes. Since it was launched in 2001, Wikipedia has been a great example of the power of collaboration and crowdsourcing,” he says.

But according to Dickison, New Zealand has a Wikipedia problem. “Our volunteer editor community is quite small. So in almost every area – towns, national parks, artists, endangered species – Wikipedia's coverage is much poorer than a similar place, person, or thing in the UK or the USA.

“For example, Lyme Regis is a seaside town in Dorset which is popular with fossil hunters. It has similar tourist numbers to Fox Glacier. But the article on the town Fox Glacier is only 150 words long, while the Lyme Regis article is 2600 words.

“The article on the Glacier itself is only about 400 words, and is dominated by coverage of fatal accidents! That's ridiculous for a world-class attraction. I can't imagine someone planning a trip to the West Coast and Googling the famous Fox Glacier wanting to stay and explore the area based on that.”

DWC marketing and communications officer Aaron Rees says having Dr Dickison on the Coast presents a great opportunity to increase our region’s presence on Wikipedia.
“In partnership with our district libraries, we will be holding several workshops across the region for the public, as well as sperate workshops for our tourism and hospitality operators to help them leverage Wiki to boost their online presence,” says Mr Rees.

Dickison says while Wikipedia itself is not a marketing tool, there are different projects businesses can work with, such as the online travel guidebook Wikivoyage and the image library Wikimedia Commons. “Anything we do to improve the depth and breadth of the Coast's coverage will have direct and indirect payoffs. We can all contribute, and there are thousands of volunteers around the world wanting to help."

Wiki Workshop