Sunday, February 28, 2010

How #wikipedia can benefit from the work done in the library world

The OCLC has a system called viaf that links "authority files" from several national libraries. By combining their files, they make research easier and cheaper. Effectively they give people a number and disambiguate people to their number.

You will find references on the German language Wikipedia to these PND or Personennamendatei numbers on one in three of the person related articles like this featured article about Abraham Lincoln.

Among the many national libraries who participate in the viaf project is the Library of Congress and the National Library of Australia. This makes it likely that for many of the relevant USA and Australian people there will be a record. When we include the numbers that identify people to viaf in our articles, we achieve several things.
  • we make further research easier for our readers
  • we have an additional aid in disambiguating people for our interwiki links
  • we provide a hook to compare articles on living persons that may help in the fight against vandalism
More info about normalised data can be had in this (German) article.
This data has a really nice application on the toolserver ... it helps you find information on other websites that use the person numbers.
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