Archives Hackathon Wants to Make Wikipedia Even Better

Eric Risberg/AP File Photo

Everyone’s invited to the Open Government WikiHack later this month.

What could the power of the tens of thousands of government data sets do for Wikipedia? That’s what the Open Government WikiHack aims to find out.

Participants will try to find interesting data sets and come up with ways to incorporate that information into Wikipedia entries. There are a few challenges: The data must be free to use, with limited or no restrictions, and it can’t be dumped into a Wikipedia page but instead has to be incorporated into prose entries written from a neutral perspective.

If the data inspires any genius new ideas or revelations, you’ll have to do something else with those. Wikipedia is not a place for “original research.” In fact, all the encyclopedia’s rules and etiquette will be followed at the hackathon, where numerous “experienced Wikipedians” will be on hand to help find appropriate uses for the new data.

Hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration and Wikimedia DC, an official affiliate of the online encyclopedia, the hackathon will take place in Washington during the last weekend of September.

Organizers are calling for coders and noncoders alike. You’ve never contributed to the online encyclopedia? “Everyone is welcome to participate,” the hosts say, "even if you are not an experienced programmer or Wikipedia editor. In fact, we are happy to help get your Wikipedia account set up—just ask!”

The federal government has in the past few years released tens of thousands of data sets to the public to create new apps and provide new ways to help citizens make informed decisions -- ideally, driving innovation and economic growth along the way.

Find out more here.