For the past month DWC has had a roving Wikipedian working on the Coast to improve the region’s profile in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia is increasingly the first port of call for those looking up facts or planning travel. Wikipedia has over six million articles in English, but the volunteer community in New Zealand is quite small so our coverage is often second-rate,” says Dr Mike Dickison.
Recent research has shown that improving an area's presence in Wikipedia can increase tourist stays by 9%, so it is in everyone's interest for the West Coast to have good accurate information and photos available.
Dr Dickison, who previously spent a year as NZ Wikipedian at Large, has spent four weeks working in Westport, Greymouth, and Hokitika, and is about to spend a fortnight in the Glacier Country. He has given presentations for tourism operators explaining what they can and can't do with Wikipedia, and run workshops for heritage organisations like Hokitika Museum and History House to help them make their photo collections available under an open licence. Dr Dickison has also run public Wikipedia trainings to build a base of local volunteers who can keep working on articles independently.
The project has been helped by over a dozen volunteers all over New Zealand and Australia working remotely on West Coast topics. Every day they report on their progress, and every week get a virtual "Postcard from the Coast" in their inbox with ideas and tasks for the weeks to come. The volunteers have created numerous West Coast articles, including articles on the Hokitika Gorge, Hokitika Museum, the Rūnunga Miners' Hall, and Ōkārito Lagoon. An article about the Hokitika Town Clock was featured on Wikipedia's home page for a day attracting thousands of readers.
A major part of the project has been trying to make a good photo gallery available for every West Coast place, person, or institution covered in Wikipedia. The Wikipedian at Large has been taking photographs of every historic building, and working with professional photographers who have generously donated some of their work to the public domain. Stewart Nimmo, Jase Blair, and Charlie Bruning have all supplied photos, and over 725 have been added to the free photo library Wikimedia Commons so far.
Over the next two weeks, the project will improve coverage of the Glacier Country, with Dr Dickison then heading to Reefton.
Participants of the Editing Wikipedia workshop help recently in Hokitika.