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Grants:PEG/Smallbones/Congressional Cemetery QRpedia Project/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Project and Event grant approved in FY 2011-12 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
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Did you comply with the requirements specified by WMF in the grant agreement?



  1. Posted 60 QRpedia codes at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. during the last week of June 2012. About 4 (very hot) hours placing the codes, and about 4 hours driving that I would have done anyway. About the same for the pilot project (before I applied for the grant), and a couple of hours e-mailing, writing, searching for the garden markers on-line.
  2. Edited the Wikipedia article on en:Congressional Cemetery and many of the articles linked to by the QR codes. Created the article en:List of burials and cenotaphs at the Congressional Cemetery. About 20 hours total.
  3. Created an outreach page giving basic information and soliciting contributions (e.g. which articles to link) at [1]
  4. Took about a dozen photographs of the Cemetery and uploaded them to Commons. The Category:Congressional_Cemetery increased in size from about 10 photos to about 106 now, with most of the increase likely resulting from this project. An hour for my contribution.
  5. Helped the DC chapter put out a blog posting on the project on "The world’s largest outdoor encyclopedia is in DC" Wikimedia DC blog post. About an hour
  6. Organized a tour of the Cemetery during Wikimania for about 30 participants. About 2 hours organizing, 2 hours travelling to and taking the tour. Another 2 hours getting home and recovering from the heavy rainstorm that closely followed the tour!
  7. An Open Street Map activity was held the following Saturday (I did not participate)
  8. Was interviewed on TV for QR codes at Congressional Cemetery, Channel 7 ABC WJLA in Washington, July 17, 2012. 2 hours including travel.
  9. Gathered the number of QR codes scanned from QRpedia. 2 hours

If I include everything listed above that's 52 hours - but that's probably an overestimate.

Project goal and measures of success[edit]

Project goal[edit]

  • To create the “world’s largest outdoor encyclopedia of American history” at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, a National Historic Landmark, by posting 60 QR codes that link, via a smart phone and QRpedia, to Wikipedia articles in the preferred language of the smart phone’s owner.
    • Successfully completed as described under "Activities" above.
  • To create a model of outdoor QR code use in the U.S. so that other organizations, including other cemeteries on the National Register of Historic Places, local history societies, and outdoor art groups can evaluate the use of QR codes for their own needs.
    • The project or model is nearly complete, but to consider this part to be successful I will have to write-up the results and post a "Manual", likely at Wikiproject talk:QR codes on the English version of Wikipedia, to be completed before January 1, 2013

Measures of success[edit]

  • Number of QR code scans of the Congressional Cemetery articles, available directly from QRpedia. It is also likely that there will be a spillover effect and the total number of non-scanned page views will increase.
    • described in detail below, but it is clear that there was no spillover effect to non-scanned page views.
  • Time to failure for the laminated QR codes (expected to be much greater than 3 months). This can be gathered by direct inspection, as well as from the QRpedia data. Similarly the number of garden markers that need to be replaced can be counted.
    • The codes are still being scanned, so no apparent deterioration of the garden markers and QR codes, even following Hurricane Sandy. Will visit in person in the Spring.
  • Increase in the quantity of Congressional Cemetery linked articles and photographs in the Commons Category:Congressional Cemetery.
    • Photos increased from about 10 to about 106. Clearly successful. Page links to the Congressional Cemetery article - no effect.
  • The number of articles printed on the project in the press.
    • Could have done a lot better. No outside news articles were recorded from searching Google News, perhaps in part because searches on "Congressional Cemetery" were overwhelmed by results of the "Congressional Golf Tournament" held at the same time the blog was released. The TV news broadcast on Ch. 7 likely makes up for a lot of this however.
  • And most importantly, the number of similar projects that follow suit next summer.
    • this will have to wait until next Summer.

Measured outcomes are given above, except for the first measure of success.

I've checked the statistics on how many times the codes were scanned from the start of the pilot until Nov. 8 The total is approximately 475 scans. This isn't as many as I expected, but in its own small way is respectable.

Of this total, the code for Leonard Matlovich accounts for 85 scans, J.Q. Adams - 35, J.P. Sousa - 23, Clyde Tolson - 23, J.Edgar Hoover - 22, and Tom Lantos - 22, or about 44% of the total for just these six codes.

There are a couple of themes among codes, the most obvious is that these 6 are all along walkways in the cemetery. H.S. Fox, a British ambassador on the main path across from JQ Adams had 13 scans, but Mathew Brady - much better known, but not on the main path, had only 9. At least half of the people in this list could be considered fairly well-known and somewhat controversial, but not extremely well-known.

Analysis of the numbers[edit]

There was a clear uptick in scanning in late October, likely related to Halloween activities, which I hadn't expected. The large majority of codes had less than 10 scans. There were 5 scans on November 4, so the laminated codes survived Hurricane Sandy. Surprisingly, these scans helped identify a cemetery event, which was very evident in the overall page views for the Congressional Cemetery article. Rebecca Roberts reported that there was a special activity that day. Though not a large activity, it was attended by young families and under-30s.

Total page views for October 2012 and 2011 were quite close at about 3400 each month - which suggests that the re-writing of the article and posting the codes has done very little to increase readership. However, the new article "List_of_burials_and_cenotaphs_at_the_Congressional_Cemetery" has about 130 page views per month.

I will likely reposition many of the markers to the main paths (and selecting different articles of course) next spring at essentially no cost. Learning from the gathered stats and repositioning the markers is something any QR code project of this type can do. I may replace the laminated codes with some made from a new product "digital synthetic paper" (see http://www.fusiondigitalpaper.com/ ), which is essentially long lived waterproof plastic paper, that can be printed on or xeroxed just like ordinary paper (e.g. 1 copy at a reasonable price), or invest $30 for a home laminating kit - so learning on weatherproofing will be ongoing as well.

I briefly got to see one unexpected set of data. Though I can't quote exact numbers or costs, the Cemetery has a similar cell phone and marker program. The marker is similar in size and shape to the ones I used, just a bit fancier. A sign on the marker directs viewers to call in to a phone number for more information, where a recorded message gives the story of the site. Since a smart-phone is not needed to call in, this method is available to more people than the QR codes. I estimate from the figures I saw on this program's usage that there was about 10% more usage for this program than the QR code program. The structure of the responses were very similar, with about half of the calls being for about 10% of the sites. The costs for the call-in program, I estimate are much higher for the Cemetery. To start, the markers will cost the same or more, but the voice recordings must also be scripted, dictated, and recorded. There are essentially no ongoing costs for the QR code program, but the call-in program likely requires a monthly telephone line charge. The information for a QR code marker can be updated simply by updating the Wikipedia article, whereas updating the recording might be difficult or clumsy.

I've also briefly examined some stats on the number of scans from other Wikipedia QR code projects. These stats are available on the talk page of each article that is marked with Wikiproject QR. It may be comparing apples to oranges, as different projects have different goals and different opportunities. I'll just comment that, even though this project was designed to be very inexpensive, the number of code scans appears to be very similar per code posted for the projects I examined.

Lessons learned[edit]

What lessons were learned that may help others succeed in similar projects?

1. An inexpensive QR code project can be easily undertaken, with a cost of less than $7 per code posted.

2. Even very simple and inexpensive laminated codes will last for over 6 months, replacement will be extremely low cost when needed.

3. Since QR codes are available to only a few people, generally in only 1 location, they are not a way to increase overall pageviews (as should have been expected), but they can attract a specific audience (often unexpected) and provide a special type of Wikipedia experience.

4. Feedback from QRpedia stats can be used to identify which codes are not being scanned, so that they may be repositioned. The number of scanned codes depends on placement - stick to spots by the walkways!

5. Publicity campaigns need to be planned out in some detail

6. Scheduled events can have an impact of the number of codes scanned.

What impact did the project have on WMF mission goals of Increased Reach, Increased Quality, Increased Credibility, Increased and Diversified Participation?

While a $400 project cannot be expected to have a major impact on the WMF mission goals, a marginally positive impact is likely for all of the above goals.

  1. Cemetery tourists, likely under-represented among current Wikipedians, were exposed to Wikipedia.
  2. Organized groups of history buffs and historical societies, who have organized tours of the cemetery, were exposed to Wikipedia.
  3. An increase in the number and quality of Congressional Cemetery photographs was noted.
  4. The Congressional Cemetery article was improved, and an associated List of burials and cenotaphs was created.
  5. Wikipedia appeared in a positive news story on Washington DC television connected to a well-known and respected historical site.

The likely impact, however, will be only noticeable if this project serves as a model for other groups, e.g. local historical societies (non-Wikipedian) or small Wikiprojects, who can learn how to provide quick, easy, and inexpensive informative signage by connecting to Wikipedia through QR codes. Great oaks from little acorns grow, even if many acorns fall by the wayside or are eaten by squirrels. This acorn has sprouted and may take root. We'll see how it grows next year.

Reporting and documentation of expenditures[edit]

Documentation of expenditures has been received by WMF.

Did you send WMF documentation of all expenses paid for with grant funds?

Yes, exactly as proposed

Details of expenditures:

I did not include gas or mileage in the expenses since I'd planned to travel to DC in any case. Not keeping strict track of all minor expenses resulted in my submitting estimates that were 5-10% too low.

Will you be requesting re-allocation of remaining grant funding?

Will you be returning unused funds to the Wikimedia Foundation?

  • All funds were spent as planned, none will be returned or reallocated

Additional requests and related proposals[edit]

Will you be requesting an extension or were you granted an extension? Please link to related grant proposals here:

I will likely not request any additional funds for this type of project. Rather, I would like them to become self-supporting: rather than have non-Wikipedians go through the documentation here, spend the time and effort (and a few $100 of their own) on actually doing the projects.

At most I might tell groups that they can come here or another small-grants program and get half the costs.

Or perhaps, I might ask this program for enough money to buy 100 garden markers, and I place them a few at a time in reasonable spots, or "sell" them at cost to groups who will put up their own QR codes. I would then take the proceeds of the "sale" and buy new garden markers in large lot sizes to continue the program. Sounds like a documentation nightmare though - reason enough not to do it.

Did you have fun?[edit]

  • Absolutely, you can bet your bippy on it!