Videowiki is a Wikimedia project that allows groups of editors to collaboratively write a script for a video followed by the automatic generation of the video based on the script. It works similarly to the way Wikipedia editors write articles together. To produce a video, editors link to Wikimedia Commons photos and videos right within the script. VideoWiki volunteers have produced 24 videos in English since the project's start in 2018. The existing videos are all on medical topics.
The WikiProject addresses issues including the difficulty of collaboratively editing videos, updating videos based on consensus, attribution, and translation.
Do we really need videos on Wikipedia?
Wikipedia's community of medical editors and various academic sources report that Wikipedia is the single most popular source of health information. The VideoWiki team believes that increasing the accessibility of Wikipedia's content will better inform the large audience which seeks information from Wikipedia. Adding video to Wikipedia might appear to be a cosmetic change to a reader in the developed world, but for many in developing nations, video is an essential part of accessibility. In India, for instance, illiteracy runs at 25% and video has a greater presence as an information source. Taking the maxim that "the medium is the message", Wikimedia projects demonstrate respect by responding to audience demand with content in the popular format those demographics prefer. To make Wikipedia widely available in India — to truly let every single human being freely share in the sum of all knowledge — including information through video is required.
YouTube is often the first stop for those seeking information, but it struggles with fringe content. YouTube itself uses Wikipedia as part of its quality control process, which is one way that high quality Wikipedia content increases the quality of other sources. Wikipedia in general is more transparent and has a better reputation for reliability. Video on Wikipedia is an opportunity to provide an alternative which is both reliable and balanced.
Education saves lives
The same populations which have challenges accessing Wikipedia are also disproportionately affected by diseases that can be prevented through education. They also make greater use of informal healthcare providers, who are in equal need of guidance. These providers may not have formal education or be able to critically appraise health care information. Neonatal hypothermia, diarrheal diseases, and pneumonia all cause childhood death, which could be prevented by the distribution of high quality information. One sobering example is that only 1 in 5 children under 5 years of age in India receives oral rehydration therapy when affected by diarrhea. Wikimedia Medicine is scheduled at Wikimania 2019 to present the Wikipedia's efforts to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by promoting education to reduce childhood deaths by 30 million and maternal mortality by 66%. Although quality education is relevant to all 17 SDGs, SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and 4 (Quality Education) are most connected to VideoWiki's goal to save lives.
At WikiProject Videowiki, contributors match scripted text with media from Commons including video, GIFs, and static images. The product is a Videowiki script built within the Wikipedia namespace. The script has sections defined by headers after the model of a Wikipedia article, which means that just as in Wikipedia, editors can edit a sentence, a subtopic, or the entire script as they choose. The VideoWiki platform reads the text and shows the media listed within the section. At every new header the video transitions to the next subtopic. A text-to-speech engine (TTS) dubs in narration by default, but anyone may also overdub a video by uploading an audio file to Commons. The TTS service currently supports 5 languages but has modules to potentially support 21 languages. Once edited to the satisfaction of the community, the video can be compiled and uploaded to Commons as a WEBM file, where article editors can choose whether or not to add it to a written article. The all-on-Wikipedia process leaves VideoWiki videos subject to the same merciless editing as any other content on the Wikimedia platform. Just as written articles become more nuanced and readable with time, so should videos when scripts and visuals are supported by the pillars of Wikipedia.
All of the problems we see on English language video websites, including creating information in error, passing on misinformation, advertising, and charlatanism can be worse on non-English sites. A reliable voice in a transparent medium can improve quality of information and trust in the source. VideoWiki's design allows rapid translation in the same way English language propagates articles which the community at WikiProject Medicine develops. Translation task force members, or anyone else for that matter, can translate and move scripts to non-English language pages for TTS engines to recreate as videos. Since Wikipedia supports 301 languages (far more than TTS engines), overdubbing can also be done for non-TTS supported scripts.
Contributing to UN Sustainable Development Goals
Wikipedia has been proven to be a useful complement to traditional textbooks for knowledge transfer to medical students. Since 2007 we have grown Wikipedia's medical content to over 220 thousand articles, in 281 languages and supported by 2.3 million references. The next major underserved demographic to serve with greater accessibility is the 50% of the world's population with limited Internet access and the 15% who have challenges reading. Getting life saving information into the last mile in a format and language people can understand is critical if Wikipedia is to best support the UN SDGs.
The primary focus of VideoWiki over 2018–2019 has been creating a collaborative, all-on-Wikipedia video editing platform. With the platform now designed and supported by the pillars of Wikipedia, the next need is to improve the quality of videos. To that end, the VideoWiki team hopes to grow the community that will rally around the application of wiki values to video production to:
- Mercilessly create, edit, and improve existing scripts.
- Upload a greater variety of video content to Commons.
- Translate existing videos to the 301 languages supported.
- Take VideoWiki videos to other WikiProjects for consideration and improvement.
At Wikimania 2019, where the theme is "Wikimedia and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals", let us focus our efforts on reaching the world's most vulnerable people by bringing Wikipedia's content into the last mile.
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