Wikipedia

The fruits of Wikimedia's new GeoData extension.

Get ready for a bewildering wealth of information. Wikipedia is about to start mapping itself.

On Thursday, Wikimedia software engineer Max Semenik announced that the organization has created a GeoData extension that will include a centralized, structured catalog of geo-coordinates for articles.

More than 500,000 Wikipedia articles — approximately 5 percent of the site's content — already contain geographical information, but this new initiative will streamline data storage, enabling programmers to mine and map the data quickly and easily through the API.

There are already maps of Wikipedia data, the best of which are produced by TraceMedia and can be studied here. These interactive maps allow users to sort and view spatial arrangements of information anywhere in the world. Here's New York City (color-coded by word count):

Courtesy TraceMedia.

And here's Washington, D.C.:

Courtesy TraceMedia.

With geographic information stored uniformly across the site, though, the data will be easier to use and more accessible to developers. In the future, for example, Wikipedia will be able to show users which articles nearby are in need of photos, directing contributors towards needed additions.

The first appearance of the new GeoData extension is in a mobile add-on called "Nearby," which shows users a list of nearby Wikipedia entries. (To activate "Nearby," select "Settings" from the drop-down menu on the Wikipedia Mobile site, then activate "Beta" mode, save, and then activate "Here Be Dragons" mode. "Nearby" will appear in the drop-down menu.)

This software is a pretty simple beginning, but it's easy to see how interesting it could get. I asked a few friends to run the site from a few different cities.

Here's where I am in Washington, D.C.:

I didn't even know there was a statue of Don Quixote nearby, let alone a Wikipedia page for that statue.

Here are screenshots from New York City, on the left, and San Francisco, on the right:

You get the idea. It's simple, but it could be a cool way to pass the time while you're waiting for the bus. And this is only the beginning.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    Mapping Where Europe's Population Is Moving, Aging, and Finding Work

    Younger people are fleeing rural areas, migrating northward, and having fewer children. Here’s how that’s changing the region.

  2. Design

    Experimental City: The Sci-Fi Utopia That Never Was

    With solar energy, recycling, computers, and personal mass transit, the 1960s-era Minnesota Experimental City was a prescient and hopeful vision of the urban future. A new documentary tells its story.

  3. Equity

    How a Fart Became Berlin's Weirdest Policing Scandal

    It's taken an incredible amount of resources to get to the bottom of this one.

  4. A man walks his bicycle beside a train in Paris.
    Maps

    Breaking Down the Many Ways Europe's City-Dwellers Get to Work

    One chart shows which cities do best when it comes to biking, walking, or taking public transit to work.

  5. Design

    The Problem With 'Fast-Casual Architecture'

    Washington, D.C., has a huge new waterfront development that’s fun, popular, and easy on the eyes. Is anything wrong with that?