WikiWorld comic: "Redshirt"

WikiWorld is a weekly comic, carried by the Signpost, that highlights a few of the fascinating but little-known articles in the vast Wikipedia archives. The text for each comic is excerpted from one or more existing Wikipedia articles. WikiWorld offers visual interpretations on a wide range of topics: offbeat cultural references and personality profiles, obscure moments in history and unlikely slices of everyday life - as well as "mainstream" subjects with humorous potential.

Cartoonist Greg Williams developed the WikiWorld project in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation, and is releasing the comics under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license for use on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

Williams works as a visual journalist for The Tampa Tribune, a daily newspaper in Tampa, Florida. He also has worked as an illustrator and designer at newspapers in Dubuque, Iowa, and Dayton, Ohio. The Signpost interviewed Williams this week:

How long have you been drawing comics? How long have you been in the newspaper industry?

I started drawing comic strips in grade school, on whatever scraps of paper I could find. Some of my earliest comics, in fact, were drawn on the inside of ripped-open envelopes from insurance companies. (Not quite as inspiring as Abraham Lincoln ciphering with chunks of charcoal on a wooden shovel, I know.)

For several years, I contributed weekly comic strips and editorial cartoons to my college newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. After graduating, I had the good fortune to continue producing cartoons and caricatures as part of my first newspaper job, at the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa. I have worked as a newspaper designer and illustrator ever since.

What first got you involved in Wikipedia?

While developing a comic-strip feature for The Tampa Tribune, I came across a Wikipedia article that seemed ideally suited to a cartoon-style adaptation. I contacted the Wikimedia Foundation, to ask about the legality of using Wikipedia text as the basis for a single installment of my proposed comic - and, as the result of subsequent discussions, refined the basic concept for a separate WikiWorld strip.

What are your future plans with WikiWorld and your other works?

Much like the ever-changing logo design on Google's search page, I am hopeful that the WikiWorld comic strip will come to be seen as a fun and informative destination for regular users of Wikipedia.

Is there anything else you want to say about yourself or your works?

During the past year, I have been inspired by several artists who chose to make their work freely available on the Web: animator Scott Bateman ("Bateman 365") and singer/songwriter Jonathan Coulton ("Code Monkey"). Their commitment to creative expression - and to the free exchange of ideas - provided the spark that led me to Wikipedia.

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The strip is fun and the draughtmanship great – looking forward to future issues!  Once Greg has amassed a number of strips, maybe something on the Main Page might link to one at random...?  Best wishes, David Kernow (talk) 05:45, 12 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]
That would tend to violate our policies on self-references- the same reason why they can't be linked from the articles they mention. But since the Signpost inherently includes self-references as a community newspaper, it's fine here. Ral315 (talk) 06:26, 12 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I don't think these cartoons are any different (in principle) from the "Did you know..." section. The cartoons pick some small interesting thing and invite people to read further into an article they would never have read otherwise - yet without having any pretension that they are documenting something deep and important. The biggest problem with them from a perspective of front-page use is that they are very hard indeed to edit - and it (presumably) takes Greg a good deal of effort to produce them. It's hard to have a proper review process under those circumstances. If Greg makes a mistake - or the article he based his cartoon on is found to be in error (quite likely when an obscure article gets a lot of exposure) - then we're either faced with fixing the cartoon (tricky - it's not just text) - or rejecting it (which is a HUGE waste of Greg's time). This makes these problematic for the front page where we can't tolerate errors. But I strongly believe that having something like this would be good for attracting new readers to Wikipedia and it's well worth the effort to find a way to use this valuable resource. Also - given the large number of people here on Wikipedia - I bet we have lots of other artistic types who could contribute work like this if there was a decent forum for displaying it. SteveBaker 14:47, 12 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]

Booyah! It's great to see that the usual row gave excellent results and that the issues raised with WikiWorld appear to have been resolved. I didn't realize that the Village Signpost had lacked this until I saw it here. --Kizor 15:19, 12 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]

I'll be happy to correct any errors that might somehow make their way into the comics. And, of course, if the error originates in the article I've adapted, it easily can be fixed in the article itself - where it really matters. My view of the comics is similar to SteveBaker's: They are intended to invite readers to explore articles they otherwise wouldn't have known about, in a fun and informative manner. If they are viewed in this manner - as promotional elements with a limited lifespan - then the issue of editing the comics becomes less critical. They're meant to be a "snapshot in time," the same as any future printed version of Wikipedia. Cheers! --Greg Williams 15:40, 12 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]
Also, I should take this opportunity to express my thanks to Michael Snow and Ral315 for giving WikiWorld a home. --Greg Williams 15:44, 12 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]
I think the comics should be under the GFDL. See commons:Image talk:Redshirt comic.jpg#License. Superm401 - Talk 00:04, 19 December 2006 (UTC)[reply]


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