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Tiny Welsh Burg Paints the Town Wiki

By Erika Morphy
May 21, 2012 9:47 AM PT

Monmouth, Wales, has become the first "Wikipedia town," making it an area of international interest as it informally redubbed itself "Monmouthpedia."

Tiny Welsh Burg Paints the Town Wiki

The Saturday event was attended by 70 to 75 people, project leader John Cummings told TechNewsWorld -- a sizable group for the area.

That day, some 1,100 QR codes that Cummings, volunteers and city officials had placed on various points of interest around the town went live. The codes connect people to Wikipedia pages providing information about the item. The end goal of the project is to cover every single notable place, person, artifact, flora and fauna in the town in this manner.

The pages will display in the default language the user's smartphone is set to.

Wikimedia UK, the nonprofit that promotes Wikipedia and other wiki projects, partnered with the town of Monmouth and local government body Monmouthshire County Council on the project.

The idea grew out of a small project Wikimedia UK had been working on for a local government that also used QR codes to connect to Wikipedia, Cummings said.

"I thought, why not wire an entire town in this way?" he said. Cummings picked Monmouth because he grew up there and because it was small enough to be doable.

Free WiFi

One drawback to the Monmouth choice is the cellular reception there, which Cummings admits can be spotty. The town installed a WiFi hub in its center and is in the process of placing repeaters throughout the town to spread the signal further.

"This will be rolling out over the next couple of months," Cummings said.

A Boost in Tourism

Beyond being a curiosity, city officials are hoping the project will generate tangible benefits. Tourism is an important revenue source for Monmouth.

The average tourist in Wales spends approximately Pounds 42 (or US$66.4) per day, noted Cummings, pointing to a UK government study.

"Much of course, depends on how many people actually come here to see the project," he said.

Growing Interest

Certainly the past weekend's events have piqued interest, if activity on Wikipedia can be used as a gauge. Has there been a bump in traffic?

"My goodness yes, very much so," Stevie Benton, a UK-based Wikipedia spokesperson, told TechNewsWorld. Since its official announcement Friday, the project's page has received 10,000 visits.

"The level of exposure to the town has been immense," Benton said.

A Texas Wikipedia Town?

The news has prompted other towns and cities around the world to consider undertaking a similar project.

"We are getting interest from all over. We have received inquiries from a couple of towns in Norway, some in England, France, Scotland and more towns in Wales," said Benton

Wikipedia also received an inquiry from a town in the U.S., although he declined to name it. "I will tell you it is a town in Texas."

Inquiries will likely grow if Monmouth is able to demonstrate a measurable benefit from its project, Benton said. "This is pure speculation, but early indications of the project suggest it could also lead to direct investment."

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