Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wikipedia and TAT

Back in February 2003, I started to create articles on the provinces of Thailand, beginning with Surat Thani. I soon realized that it'll be a lot of work to collect good information for all the 75 articles, I set up a WikiProject, hoping to get other Wikipedians join in the effort. However it stayed to be mainly a one-man project, so it took till end of 2003 to have at least a short article for each province. And quite a lot articles basically are the same still then, only improved gradually since then. Especially those of the less-visited Isan provinces are really quite short, as there were only few online or offline sources about it available to me. But they are still much better than the incredible number of one-sentence articles called "stub" for similar entities of other less-popular countries than Thailand. Now the Tourist Authority of Thailand discovered the unhappy state of these articles and decided to help out.

Their press release stating that (among other things) they want to improve the article on Wikipedia and Wikitravel (which are even more in need of good contents) does not go much into detail about their plans yet.
WIKI Mission for Thailand Tourism Project

To edit and improve information about Thai tourism on
and to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date. Students and faculty members at Chulalongkorn University and Rangsit University will be responsible for editing and improving the English version of these online encyclopedias.
This brevity caused some sarcastic or worried comments - the Bangkok Post at least in their online version called TAT the "Corrections Authority". Also both Bangkok Pundit and FACT are quite worried that this would mean that any criticism in the articles will be deleted, and they'll abuse Wikipedia to do propaganda for Thailand. To add to the confusion, apparently a school or university teacher in Thailand just started their class to edit Wikipedia, as some province articles received loads of edits of text which sounds like from a tourism brochure, and all my attempts to contact with any of these editors failed so far. Given that press release and these edits came at the same time, I thought it was TAT who already started and are on the direct way into a public relations disaster. I've then sent a rather worried email to them, especially as I have so far only read quite negative comments on TAT, e.g. Richard Barrow complains about TAT not being any cooperative.

But in fact it turned out that TAT has nothing to do with these edits, but in fact they just started their WikiMission and are still in the planning phase, a big press conference on it is planned for later this year. They invited any interested Wikipedia to join in their planning, and as their main target are the above mentioned province article I of course offered my help. If done properly, then this WikiMission could become something fruitful for both Wikipedia and TAT. Especially having some of the high-quality photos which TAT has in their stock under a free license would help greatly, there are still many of the less-visited provinces having no photos at all on Wikipedia Commons. Let's see what will happen.

1 comment:

Richard Barrow said...

After I saw the press release last week I wrote to the TAT again appealing for help with information about tourist attractions in Thailand. In particular I wanted dates of festivals as their websites are sadly neglected and out-of-date.

I was intrigued by this press release because for the first time it looked like the TAT were going to take the power of the Internet seriously. In the past they spent millions of dollars on print advertisements which were only seen during a brief period of time. Positive articles on the Internet remain there forever and don't cost them a penny. I have always said they should help us help them.

Surprisingly I received a quick reply from them. It is of course early days but I am hopeful that the TAT have now turned a corner in their marketing campaigns.