QR codes at the heart of Monmouthpedia

monmouthpedia

An interesting experiment gets its official launch this weekend when Monmouthpedia formally kicks off today.

The Welsh town of Monmouth is the focus of this Wikipedia project that aims to create physical connections between places throughout the town, and events in its history, with respective content on Wikipedia.

According to the description on Wikipedia:

[...] The project aims to cover every single notable place, person, artefact, plant, animal and other things in Monmouth in as many languages as possible, but with a special focus on Welsh. This is a different scale of wiki-project. The project is jointly funded by Monmouthshire County Council and Wikimedia UK. Monmouthshire County Council intend to install free town wide Wi-Fi for the project.

What this means in practice is that when you visit Monmouth – a town with a rich history as this Monmouthpedia infographic illustrates – you’ll encounter visual clues everywhere that let you know that detailed information about the thing on which the clue is attached is available on Wikipedia.

The ways in which the clues will be displayed are many:

    • Larger ceramic or metal plaques for places exposed to the elements for articles specific to Monmouth.
    • Smaller plastic, ceramic or metal plaques for labelling objects non specific to Monmouth, e.g. for use in the Flora and Fauna guide.
    • Labels for use inside buildings, e.g. for objects in museums.
    • Glass stickers in the windows of shops to give information on their professions.
    • In addition there will be information posters, signs, notice boards and leaflets to help people contribute and stay informed.

And the visual clues themselves? QR codes.

monmouthpediaqrshirehall

If you have a smartphone and a QR code-scanning app (for Android smartphones, a good one is Barcode Scanner), you just scan the code and the relevant Wikipedia page will open on your device. As free wifi-fi will blanket Monmouth, no worries about connectivity costs.

What’s especially clever is that the page you get on your mobile device can be in any one of about 25 languages. Here’s how that works:

When a user scans a QRpedia QR code on their mobile device, the device decodes the QR code into a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) using the domain name “qrwp.org” and whose path (final part) is the title of a Wikipedia article, and sends a request for the article specified in the URL to the QRpedia web server. It also transmits the language setting of the device.

The QRpedia server then uses Wikipedia’s API to determine whether there is a version of the specified Wikipedia article in the language used by the device, and if so, returns it in a mobile-friendly format. If there is no version of the article available in the preferred language, then the QRpedia server offers a choice of the available languages, or a Google translation.

In this way, one QRcode can deliver the same article in many languages, even when the museum is unable to make its own translations. QRpedia also records usage statistics.

That’s what I call imagination.

If you’re interested in how this grand experiment will develop – Monmouth has been dubbed “The world’s first Wikipedia town” – keep an eye on the website and the blog. You can also connect on Twitter: @MonmouthpediA. Follow the hashtag #MonmouthpediA.

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