Leveraging Wikidata for Wikipedia

We have spent time on this blog discussing some useful ways Wikidata can take advantage of Wikipedia’s data. In this post we’re going to spend some time exploring how Wikipedia can use Wikidata’s data. We will explore some ways Wikipedia can integrate Wikidata into articles, templates, and some other useful tools.

Before we jump into all of that, it’s important to remember that there are more than 300 different language versions of Wikipedia, all governed by their own language community. Wikidata is also its own community. This means that the rules and guidelines that all of these projects follow can differ from one another. One way they do differ is what you are and are not allowed to do with Wikidata’s data. So the resources I’ll be sharing may be activated on some versions of Wikipedia, they may not, and they may change in the near future. I will also include some resources where you can see why or why Wikidata not allowed on Wikipedia (yet).

On to the most important part of the post: you can call (in the sense of use) various values and relationships from Wikidata onto any other Wiki-page (Wikipedia and any other Wikimedia projects). This is exciting because one value, like a city’s population, can be updated in Wikidata, and with that one edit, it will cascade across all language versions of Wikipedia. This has the potential to make data consistency better across Wikipedias, and it also makes updating all Wikipedias as easy as one edit in Wikidata.

Margaret Sanger's infobox
Margaret Sanger’s infobox

A specific example of this is the Wikidata Bridge project. The aim of the Bridge project is to use power infoboxes with data from Wikidata. Some language versions of Wikipedia, like Catalan, already have this feature turned on. In English Wikipedia, the use of this tool is not widespread yet due to concerns about data quality on Wikidata. Either way, the implications of this kind of resource will be far reaching.

There are other projects that have been leveraging Wikidata for years. The beloved WikiProject Women in Red relies on Wikidata to generate lists of women who do not yet have Wikipedia articles on English Wikipedia. Women in Red uses hundreds of Wikidata queries to generate and organize these lists of women from all the other language versions of Wikipedia. The query results are presented as tables on the Redlist index page (note: WD stands for Wikidata list) using a tool called Listeria. Listeria is a Wikidata tool that takes Wikidata query results and displays them as a table on a Wiki page. This is a powerful tool because the lists are dynamic — updated frequently if not in real time — and you can pull in customized slices of data thanks to the query service. This is one way Women in Red is able to take advantage of Wikidata’s vast dataset to advance an urgent cause on Wikipedia.

One more way Wikipedia is leveraging Wikidata is through citations. As you know, citations are central to Wikipedia articles. What you may not know is that you can import citations to Wikipedia using resource identifiers like DOIs, PMIDs, ISBNs (instead of a title, the source is represented as a unique number — this helps avoid ambiguity and confusion). Now you can also do this with Wikidata Q-ids to do the same thing. If an article exists on Wikidata, you can insert any Q-id into the “automatic” citation menu when you are editing with Wikipedia’s Visual Editor and it will generate a citation in a Wikipedia article. This is convenient, but it also comes with the added benefit of the Wikidata items being queryable. As more Wikipedia articles include citations represented in Wikidata, we will soon be able to query any number of Wikidata variables — gender gap, ethnicity, location — in the context of Wikipedia references.

We’re just scratching the surface of what Wikipedia will be able to do with Wikidata. Returning to what I described at the beginning of this post, Wikipedia will be able to call any snippet (or enormous data set) from Wikidata soon. This will have a huge impact on the community and change the nature of a lot of the workflows on Wikipedia and Wikidata. Ideally it will improve quality, representation, and how we can evaluate data on all projects. Catch a glimpse of these new features appearing by keeping an eye on what appears here. This particular page tracks any template on English Wikipedia that uses data from Wikidata. You can expect this list to grow and grow over the next few years.

It’s exciting to think of the potential of all of these new tools. To learn more about Wikidata and Wikipedia, follow this link to find more information about our Wikipedia and Wikidata courses.

This post expands on a presentation its author Will Kent, together with Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, gave to the LD4 Wikidata Affinity Group in June 2022.

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