Posts Tagged ‘wikipedia’


Google Scholar Citations & Wikipedia Initiative

November 20, 2011

I started a temporary job this week, at the University of Cincinnati Classics Library. It was sudden, and is temporary, because it followed the unexpected death of David Ball, the longtime Circulation Supervisor there, and PhD of that department, whom I knew slightly during our overlap in the Blegen in 2000. He is and will continue to be much missed.

In my experience the first week of a new job one is either left alone and bored for long periods while training is being organized, or one is run off one’s feet.  Guess which last week was for me? There’s also some “work for hire” language in the temp agency paperwork that makes me uncomfortable, so I’ll be blogging exclusively on my own time, which has many other demands on it already, such as 3rd grade spelling homework.  Two quick notes, though:

Following swiftly on the heels of the Bing Scholar outreach into Arts and Humanities, Google has opened up its “Citations” program to all comers.  What this means is you can sign up to manage a page for yourself as a Google Scholar author, verify that scholarly works Google Scholar identifies as by you are actually by you, and link out to a web site (hmm, following on Chuck Jones’s post about the prevalence of full-text papers in Institutional Repositories and desirability of an index thereto, why not link to a place scholars can download .pdfs of your work?)  There are also the beginnings of citation metrics, a feature Microsoft Academic Search is also developing, both as a challenge to the most commonly used metrics in (subscription-based) Science Citation Index at Web of Science.

Here’s a link to my citations page, if you want to see what it looks like.  Obviously if your name is as uncommon as mine, you’re probably easily findable in Google Scholar anyway, but if you share a name with many scholars in many fields, Google Scholar Citations is a great way to make your work more easily findable amidst the mass of Karen Joneses out there.

On another topic, I sadly neglected to note who brought to my attention the American Sociological Association’s call for a Wikipedia Initiative among scholars in that field.  Hat tip to somebody, probably Chuck Jones or David Meadows!  The essay linked above can be boiled down to: Think Wikipedia stinks for sociology? Well, people are going to keep using it, so why not make it better?  Gabriel Bodard bruited the idea of a Classics Wikipedia Hack Day on Twitter a while back, but enthusiasm was somewhat limited.  I myself was a bit daunted when I set out to be a one-woman Wikipedia Classics Hacker, and wrote about some reasons why.  But I still think it would be valuable, and one might even argue that it’s necessary, for scholars to improve Wikipedia articles in their fields. I just can’t quite see yet how to make it happen, and I hope the Sociologists find a good way forward with this.


Dipping my toes into Wikipedia

April 7, 2011

I have talked a lot about the inevitability that students and the general public will turn to Wikipedia as a first resort for information about the ancient world.  But I’d never actually edited a Wikipedia entry.  Then @palaeofuturist (Gabriel Bodard) issued a challenge on Twitter:

How about a #classics #wikipedia hack day? Ask every classicist: “What’s the worst thing about classics coverage in wikipedia?” Then fix it!

I’m not sure how to make a lot of classical scholars edit Wikipedia – though I do like the  idea of a workshop in a department to introduce the concept and provide some basic training.  But I am sure how to make myself edit Wikipedia – sign up and do it.

So I did.  The first step is easy – creating an account is painless and requires only a username and password, not even an email address.  I used my real name – I don’t plan to get into any Wikipedia flame wars, I hope!

Since the discovery of an early-period Linear B tablet at Iklaina has been in the news this week, I thought I’d check to see if this new information had yet been added to the Wikipedia entry on Linear B.  The answer was barely – an added-on sentence in the Chronology section, not integrated into the article as a whole.

So, I prepared to edit the entry.

And then I got stuck before I even began, overwhelmed by the infelicities of the article and deciding on what ought to be covered and how it should be covered better – and I am by no means a specialist in Linear B!  THIS is why scholars don’t spend their time improving Wikipedia entries – it’s actually far harder to edit an article built in layers over years by many people than it is to write an article from scratch. And with the possibility that my edits would simply be reverted by possessive former editors of the article (hypothesized as one reason women are less likely to edit Wikipedia than men), I was doubly daunted.

I’m honestly not sure how to go forward.  I’m really interested in the way I’m feeling about this, but not yet able to articulate it well.  Crowdsourcing is complicated, I guess because the people who make up the crowd are complicated.


Resource Reviews: Mythology Web Sites

November 16, 2010

Undergraduates in entry-level survey classes like Mythology like to Google.  And Googling the name of an ancient mythological figure will certainly bring them results.  Good ones?  That’s more debatable.

Wikipedia, as with all subjects, is variable.  (I have previously posted some general thoughts on Wikipedia on this blog.)  The general article on Greek Mythology has a reasonable number of footnotes, many of them to a 2002 Encylopedia Brittanica article.  It also has sections at the end for primary sources (which link out to Perseus texts) and secondary sources, many of which are good quality scholarly articles and books.   Articles on specific mythological figures, like Hera, are not as good – the level of detail and documentations is inconsistent, there are many facts relayed without footnotes, and the sources listed for further reading are only general ones about classical mythology.  (Adopting and improving Wikipedia articles on classical mythology topics might be a good project for an upper-level or honors class!)

Jenkins discusses two websites covering classical mythology:

Encyclopedia Mythica (Jenkins 903).  This site contains entries by multiple contributors (listed here), including both PhDs and middle school students, but the majority of the work is by Micha F. Lindemans, who Google reveals to be a Dutch web editor; I could not find any academic credentials of his.  The site has been in existence for a long time (2010 marks its 15th anniversary) and is widely linked, but I agree with Jenkins’ evaluation of it as “far inferior to most printed sources.”

Greek Mythology Link (Jenkins 918), by Carlos Parada, a former lecturer in Classics at Lund University, Sweden, began as a outgrowth of his 1993 book, Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology (Jenkins 917), UGA Main Library 6th Floor Folio BL785 .P37 1993.  The site was begun in 1997 and new content is still being added as of fall 2010.  Jenkins is not a fan of the book, but of the web site notes: “Extensive primary source references, images, and genealogical information are the great strengths of this site; ease of use is not.  It is relatively complete and reliable compared to other mythological resources on the web.”  I agree on all counts – it makes good use of primary sources, but navigation is not easy.

Another much-linked web site, not mentioned by Jenkins, is the Theoi Project.   Edited by Aaron J. Atsma of New Zealand, for whom I could find no academic credentials using Google, the site is currently showing “What’s New” as of December 2007.  This site is heavily linked from Wikipedia, and I would guess as a result sees a lot of traffic from undergraduates.  It shares the strengths of the Greek Mythology Link site discussed above, as it also relies heavily on primary sources (in translation, but with accurate scholarly citations) and images.  Entries include information about cults (mostly relying on Pausanias) as well as myths, attributes, and associated personages.  It is slightly opaque to navigate – the pages include many layers of links – but they are cross-referenced well and the site as a whole is searchable.

My previous Resource Review on Mythology discussed LIMC.  Future reviews will cover other print works.

Taken by Tilemahos Efthimiadis, used under a Creative Commons license.


Resource Reviews: Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome

April 30, 2010

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome is a new (2010) work, which we received in Main Reference at UGA in March.   Published by OUP, it is edited by Michael Gagarin of UT Austin and the contributors are well-known scholars.  Its 7 volumes, comprising 3400 pages, aim to be a comprehensive introduction, in English, to classical antiquity.

I was eager to see this set arrive at UGA.  While it has fewer entries than the Oxford Classical Dictionary (OCD), I think it will be of more use to the entry-level undergraduate, who I suspect finds the OCD somewhat terse and tending to assume one already has a solid base of knowledge in the classics.  These multiple-page essays, with bibliography, are  paced to better serve as an introduction to a topic.  The other major competition in the up-to-date general classics encyclopedia is  Brill’s Neue Pauly/Brill’s New Pauly, which unfortunately the UGA library only owns in German (read by precious few undergraduates, and even feared by many graduate students!).  At under $1000, the OEAGR is a steal compared to the New Pauly, which is ca. $400 a volume (and there are 15).

This is a perfect place for undergraduates beginning research projects who need an overview of a new topic and a starting bibliography, and a great alternative to that frenemy of the undergrad, Wikipedia.  It is available in an online version, as part of the Oxford Digital Reference Shelf (to which UGA does not subscribe).

Online reviews of this new work are just beginning to be published, and include:

  • Colin McCaffrey at Philobiblion
  • (I hope to add others as I find them – if you know of any, link in comments!)