Wikidata: A growing community behind open data


Wikidata is an open, multilingual, free, linked, collaborative and structured knowledge base operated by Wikimedia Foundation. Since its launch in the year 2012, it has been garnering enough support among the open data community. With its very permissive CC0 licence, it is also becoming a growing hub of linked data.

Just last week, Wikidata celebrated its 5th birthday. Several events were held across the world with the key event WikidataCon 2017 held in Berlin on October 28 and 29. The event attracted Wikidata users and contributors across the world, with two keynotes focusing on linked data and data visualisation.

Lydia Pintscher, product manager of Wikidata gave the state of the Wikidata project during its fifth birthday celebrations. Wikidata is being increasingly used in a number of infoboxes (rectangular boxes on the right side of Wikipedia articles showing key information). Another major project called ArticlePlaceHolder is now integrated with search engines. However, for any collaborative projects, quality and verifiability of information plays an important role. Hence, the contributors were once again reminded of the role of references to statements added on Wikidata. Going forward in this direction, it is possible that signed statements may be introduced on Wikidata, where institutions uploading the data to Wikidata may be able to sign these statements.

Many GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum) organizations, including Europeana and National Library of Wales presented their work during Wikidatacon. Another major work, Wikicite was presented by Dario Taraborelli, Lydia Pintscher and Daniel Mietchen. Dario stated that Wikidata has vision, technology, community, scale and independence for building the sum of structured knowledge. Daniel Mietchen mentioned that 9.8 million items related to publications constitute 26% of Wikidata. Lydia mentioned one major challenge is to incorporate different types of publication (beyond just scientific articles).

Digital preservation is another major area where Wikidata is being currently used. Katherine Thornton of Yale University Library stressed how Wikidata can be used to ensure long-term access to legacy softwares. Finally during the research meetup late evening, several Wikidata users and contributors discussed on the future of Wikidata. Discussion on independent Wikibase instances (Wikibase is the software behind Wikidata).

Michael Kreil on the second day impressed the audience with data visualizations, but pointed out that data cleaning is indeed a major task behind these visualisations. A long discussed project is the use of structured data in Wikidata commons, also referred to as Structured Commons. Its key advantage being a major improvement in search, especially multilingual search. Another major project in the pipeline is the inclusion of Wiktionary data to Wikidata, but licensing issues need to be resolved.

Wikidata is celebrating its 5 years with 3 billion edits. A great achievement for a project that started recently. Yet there is still a ‘long way to go for a truly multilingual semantic web’, says Lucie-Aimée Kaffe in the concluding talk on Languages in Wikidata. Next WikidataCon will be celebrated in 2019 in Berlin. Next year’s Wikidata celebrations will be done by the communities around the world. Only the coming years may tell how Wikidata, a revolutionary attempt in structured open data will evolve.

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