GLAM-Wiki is a Wikimedia-supported initiative that allows various cultural and historic institutions share their resources to produce open-access, and freely-reusable content for the public. Most institutions usually have a Wikimedian in Residence to assist and co-ordinate the project.
The George Wythe Encyclopedia, or ‘Wythepedia’, is another fantastic project by The Wolf Law Library in the U.S. It is a collection of material of the first professor of law in America, including an on-going re-creation of his library, which included many works by law reporters, judges, and barristers from the U.K.
James Kessler’s TFD wiki will be familiar to many in the legal world – it’s an ongoing collaboration between Kessler and readers to work on the printed text in order to chart changes in tax law and incorporate user feedback or suggestions.
Clare says I found the tech challenges intriguing. I present an edited version of the Q&A which we exchanged during the past few weeks.
Q: You mention there is a cost for hosting and support; how do most wiki admins manage that? Do you have any ideas around sponsorship or advertising?
A: Look out for discounts when they are under a web-hosting plan. Most wiki admins have a dedicated person in the relevant IT team, but I’ve got to raise a ticket and depending on the complexity of the issue, possibly escalate it and pay for someone to look at it for me. In terms of future funding, some wikis depend on sponsorship and targeting advertising so this is something to think about.
Q: It’s such a technical process! Why is it so hard to create something so useful when there is software like WordPress for blogs?
A: WordPress is simple because of the popularity of blogs. And because it’s so popular, there’s a lot of money in it! I remember reading an investigative piece a few years ago, which looked at how many of the paid skins/styles for a WordPress blog were recycled or often made by the same person, just under a different name, and still raking in quite a bit of profit.
The opposite is true for wikis, not many are popular, and there’s a lot more work than goes into maintaining it rather than getting something out of it – apart from Wikipedia. I think most people would mention the entertainment wikis such as Minecraft, TV shows, book series, etc as ones they know and use.
Q: Why are you doing this? CPD, for the wider community or just because you can?
A: I think all three – CPD, wider community, and just because I can! I’ve wanted to push myself to properly learn how to code and finish an online course for a while. I needed the motivation and focus to use it for a specific project. I’ve always followed wikis, so for me, it seemed like the logical step for law librarians – how could we all help each other? Pool all our knowledge and hopefully help out a fellow librarian, wherever they are in the world!
Q: Who inspires you? Where did the brainwave come from?
A: The brainwave mainly came from my position as an early career professional in the legal world and I’m interested in the history of everything. From experience, and having conversations with other law librarians, I’m aware there is no such thing as a perfect system of knowledge sharing. But ss law librarians, we hold ourselves to a higher standard, and I don’t think we get enough credit – so the wiki celebrates what we do.
Q:Where do you see it going? Plans for the future?
A: I’m hoping the wiki becomes the go-to place for someone wanting to find out more about a particular jurisdiction, topic, or resource. I also want to give back as much as possible and celebrate the work we do, the knowledge we have, and to support others. For example, bursaries to travel to conferences, attend events, or host hackathon-style events to pick up a new skill.
Q: Incidentally why Trello? I find it simple, user friendly, and used in the right way, an excellent way of keeping track of things
A: I’ve visited a few startups that were using Trello to manage their projects. I wanted digital space to plan the wiki, rather than paper. Trello is more fluid so if I want to change or scrap something, then I can do so quite easily and the UI adapts to that. If I was trying to plan it out on paper, I’d be very wasteful and probably not be able to visualise things as well.