West Coast Wikipedian at Large
New Zealand’s roving Wikipedian, Dr Mike Dickison, is set for another trip around the West Coast to help improve the coverage of the region’s tourism sites on Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia is a window to the world, and every place’s public face,” Dickison said.
Wikipedia is the 7th most visited website in the world, and the only non-profit in the top 10. Wikipedia articles are in the first few search results of any topic, if not the first result.
Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and the articles are written by volunteers.
“Despite the lack of an editorial board, the coverage is usually very accurate, sometimes amazingly so, and there are teams of volunteers and software ‘bots’ that check the articles for accuracy and swiftly remove vandalism.”
Research shows Wikipedia edits can boost visitor nights
A study called ‘Wikipedia Matters’, from Collegio Carlo Alberto in Turin, Italy, and ZEW in Mannheim, Germany found Wikipedia edits can have a significant impact on tourism.
Researchers randomly selected cities across Spain for targeted improvements to their Wikipedia pages, adding high quality photos and a few paragraphs of information on their history and local attractions.
The study found that “a well-targeted two-paragraph improvement of Wikipedia may lead to a 9% increase in tourists’ overnight visits.”
New Zealand’s Wikipedian at Large
During 2018/2019, Dickison spent a year as New Zealand Wikipedian at Large, supported by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation in the USA.
He travelled from North Cape to Bluff, working with museums, research organisations, and libraries, and gave dozens of talks and hands-on editing workshops. However, he didn’t manage to visit the West Coast during that time.
“Several people from the West Coast pointed this out to me, and suggested I come explore and write about it for Wikipedia.”
Local economic development agency Development West Coast (DWC) funded Dickison to undertake a West Coast Wikipedian at Large Project in 2020 with a particular focus on tourism.
“I ended up spending six weeks travelling from Westport through to Fox Glacier taking photographs, researching local history, and improving Wikipedia articles. And while I was doing that I realised I had never properly visited the West Coast at all,” Dickison said.
“I grew up in Christchurch, and the Coast was the place you went for summer holidays – but it was quickly clear that I'd barely ever left the main highway.
“The West Coast is full of hidden corners, and secret treasures, and beautiful stretches of wild country that most New Zealanders don’t ever appreciate.”
Moving to Hokitika
After the project Dickison was offered an 18-month contract as a Digital Librarian at Westland District Library and moved to Hokitika.
“Since getting here I've realised the great advantages of a cool little town like Hoki; friendly people, great cost of living and pace of life, and on your back doorstep the wondrous natural world of the West Coast.
“Now that high-speed fibre has been rolled out the whole length of the Coast it's become very feasible for someone internet-based to move from the city to Westport or Hokitika and keep running their business, with much lower overheads. And in these days of enforced working from home, people have realised that turning up to the office each day is no way to live.
“I'm very lucky that I'm two blocks from the beach and when I'm on my computer I can hear the waves crashing and look out on a sunny garden (it really is much sunnier here than legend would have you believe).
“I can take my lunch ten minutes down the road to Lake Mahināpua and eat my sandwiches looking at kōtuku. Where else in the country – in the world? – can you have that sort of lifestyle?”
West Coast Wikipedian at Large 2
DWC has funded Dickison for another ten-week Wikipedian at Large project to focus on Punakaiki, Karamea, Lake Brunner, and the Haast area, adding photos to Wikipedia articles and creating new ones about attractions like the Inland Pack Track and Lake Ellery.
DWC chief executive Heath Milne said having Dickison on the West Coast presents a great opportunity to increase our region’s presence on Wikipedia.
“With borders reopening it’s really important how we present the West Coast to the outside world, and Wikipedia provides a powerful tool that is unparalleled in its scale and reach.”
Dickison already has 10 volunteer Wikipedia editors signed up to help, based in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Golden Bay.
He is looking forward to highlighting some of the hidden corners of the region to visitors and the rest of the world.
"The Wikipedia article about Punakaiki was basically just about the Pancake Rocks. But there's lots more to the area than that. I've just spent two days photographing all the points and bays along that part of State Highway 6, and we've created articles about the Truman Track, Bullock Creek, and the Ballroom Overhang.
“If people can see photos of the bush and the coast, and read about Punakaiki's history, they'll be more tempted to stay a night rather than just pull over to look at the rocks."
TVNZ Breakfast interview
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