Connecting a whole town – Monmouthpedia

Last week I joined the Financial Times Digital Media conference through livestream pinged to the TV in my bedroom via AirPlay. Through the wonders of technology I was able to watch Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’ keynote speech. (If you missed it, you can catch up here by watching eight sessions on demand)

Wikipedia often makes and breaks the news and today I thought I’d highlight Monmouthpedia – the first Wikipedia project to cover a whole town. It is a traditional county town in southeast Wales and I’ve come across it before thanks to Communications Officer at the local council, Helen Reynolds who regularly writes and talks about how they have been using social media to connect their employees and overcome barriers. One example of this is their network of Foster Carers who use Yammer to communicate with each other.

What is it?
Monmouthpedia aims to cover every single notable place, people, artefacts, flora, fauna and other things in Monmouthshire in as many languages as possible.

The town is using QRpedia codes, (a type of bar code a smartphone can read through its camera that takes people to a Wikipedia article). You can download QR readers for free. The council says: “QR codes are extremely useful, as physical signs have no way of displaying the same amount of information and in a potentially huge number of languages”.

Monmouthpedia belongs to and can be contributed to by everyone and involves people from all over the world contributing their time and knowledge. Check out this video to see a overview of what it is and how it works.

This week The Daily Telegraph published an article saying that Jimmy Wales is to become an unpaid adviser to Government departments, helping civil servants develop innovative technology. Monmouthshire council officers have welcomed this news and their Chief Executive, Paul Matthews said: “It’s fantastic that visionary entrepreneurs are willing to share their expertise with the public sector like this. Of course Mr Wales is especially welcome here in Monmouthshire since we are home to the world’s first Wikipedia town”.

How is the council using technology?
Monmouthshire County Council has taken a number of steps to become a more innovative and open authority including encouraging Freedom of Information requests via Twitter, providing free Wifi in the town and adopting the Open Government Licence on its website.

What about internally?
At the start of 2011, the council gave all its employees access to social media to encourage them to talk to the council in an informal way. Check out this link to read what they did and what guidance they gave employees.

I like their approach of challenging 15 ‘what if’ scenarios. I think these will ring true with anyone who has had conversations about introducing social media to their organisation. Read a blog post by Helen to see what they are and her response. They include… what if: all the officers piled onto YouTube at the same time, people started swearing and giving out sensitive data online, if managers discovered their teams were ‘messing around on Facebook all day’.

Have you come across something that you think other internal comms professionals would be interested in reading about? I’m always on the lookout for good case studies and examples of fresh thinking to share. Feel free to comment below or contact me:


  1. @egillies says:

    Love the idea of Monmouthpedia! I really like QRcodes but, does it use GPS as well? I think it would work well as a mobile app that shows notable places etc, in your vicinity, using Google maps.

  2. Roger Bamkin says:

    The QR codes are actually QRpedia codes which are better. It leads to wikipedia mobile which is mobile ready (of course) and it has the clever trick of switching to the language of your choice. Check out this link

    Written by a wiki volunteer in America. Employees of Monmouth can add stuff here too. As can you. And in French or German and its all accessible from the one QR code. There are going to be 1,000 of these in April. Wikimedia UK (who suggested and partner the work) are holding a party to celebrate. Why not contribute? Helen will put you up!

  3. Rachel Miller says:

    Hi Roger, thank you for your comment and explanation. It’s a fascinating project and I like the content in the link – great to be able to translate so quickly! Rachel

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