Occupy QR Codes

I was tweeted an interesting link the other day – We Don’t Make Demands. They have a set of posters for the “Occupy Movement” which incorporate QRpedia codes.

These posters were designed by participants at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. They are in the public domain. You are welcome to print them out and post them in your own location.

Occupy QR Poster
See all the posters.

I love this use of QRpedia – but I have two minor suggestions.
QR codes work best with some whitespace around them, so:

  1. Move the QR code away from the margin – so it won’t get covered by tape etc.
  2. The call to action – “Learn More At Wikipedia” – should be slightly further away from the main body of the code.

Other than that – very impressive.


I took a walk through the OccupyLSX encampment at St Pauls. I have to say, the QR codes on display weren’t as impressive as the above posters.

More Resources

There are a range of Occupy QR codes out there. Some work really well, some don’t. Take a look at:
Occupy Syracuse QR.
Occupy Austin QR.
Occupy Las Vegas QR.
Occupy Davis QR.
And finally, Occupy Legoland.

QRpedia and Images

One of the great things about QR codes is they have built in error correction. This means if the code gets damaged or dirty, it can still be scanned.

This means we can add images into the QR code to make it look prettier without negatively affecting the code’s usability.

Niteesh Yadav has created some QR portraits which feature famous faces superimposed on a QR code. I’m not overly convinced by the quality of the images nor the size of the codes – he uses a QR code containing a mini-biography.

So, I decided to create a QRpedia code featuring an embedded image.

Che QR

This is the QRpedia code which links to the article on Che Guevara. I picked Che because of the iconic monochrome image of him fits in well with the black and white nature of the codes.

This was created by using a QR code with the highest level of error correction. I then cut out the centre square and replaced it with the image of Che.

This leads to all sorts of creative possibilities.

@ I'm imagining a periodic table poster with a QRpedia code for each element, with its symbol in the centre / @
Andy Mabbett

Using the Wikipedia API, it should be possible to extract an image from an article and automagically add it into a generated image.

Certainly something to think about for QRpedia 2.0!

QRpedia in the news

A quick round up of QRpedia in the news:

The New Media Consortium has produced a report entitled Technology Outlook: UK Tertiary Education.

The full report (PDF) specifically mentions QRpedia Codes as “smart objects” and predicts a time-to-Adoption of four to five years. I think we can do it sooner than that, though!
The report is CC-BY and well worth reading.

One of our friend in Indianapolis, Angie Mcnew, was interviewed by the radio station WFYI (mp3).

We now have our own Wikipedia entry – in 8 languages – which was recently featured on the Wikipedia homepage.

Finally, Álex Hinojo was interviewed in EL PAÍS.

Things are ticking along nicely. I hope to make a announcement about a significant new installation next week…

QRpedia – Dealing With Missing Entries

QRpedia is designed to offer a single QR code which points to the same article in multiple languages.

The most common question about QRpedia is “What does it do if the article doesn’t exist in my language?”

Consider the following example…

  • A French user is in a German museum.
  • They scan a code – which points to de.qrwp/Nelahozeves
  • Unfortunately, Wikipedia doesn’t have the “Nelahozeves” article in French
  • What should QRpedia do?


This has been a matter for much debate in the QRpedia team. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on the subject.

As we see it, our choices are…

  1. 404 – Tell the user that the page doesn’t exist.
  2. Wrong Language – Show the French user the German page
  3. Choice of Language – Show the French user a choice of German, English, Dutch, etc.
  4. Smart Search – Search French Wikipedia for the term, display the results to the user.
  5. Latin – Omnis intelligit Latinum. Si non sunt barbarus!

At the moment, we do the smart search. In this case, we point to the French Wikipedia search for Nelahozeves – which has a couple of relevant results.

This isn’t ideal. Often there are no suitable results – especially as we are searching French Wikipedia for a German word or phrase.

So – over to you. What should we do? Please leave your comments and suggestions.

QRpedia Updates

We’re getting a few more museums lined up with QRpedia – and busy working on new features. I just wanted to update you on some interesting developments.

  • QRpedia was presented by Roger at Wikimania – it seemed to go down a storm!
  • The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis are adding more QR codes. A lovely blog from Lori about seeing people scan the codes.
  • A bug in Wikipedia has been fixed. This means that detection of mobile now happens at Wikipedia’s front-end.
  • The British Museum are stepping up their engagement with Wikipedia. There’s an interesting quote about QRpedia from Matthew Cock

    Cock says there can be benefits in relation to the use of QR (quick response) code technology, when a QR reader on a mobile device links to a QR code on a label by an object in a gallery or museum.

    “Not only does the link take you to the Wikipedia page for that object, but it also reads which language your phone is set at and takes you to the correct language version,” he explains.

    QR technology has been tested in museums, including the Derby Museum, but he says the British Museum would not pursue its use unless the code directed the user to the museum’s own web pages.

A few more top-secret events in the pipeline – watch this space!

Tales of two smart phones: or how one woman made an impression on a Scottish Museum

A guest blog by marianne@bamkin.org.uk

The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh has QR codes in some places. Level 6 to be exact. This is the story of what happened when I tried to use those QR codes last week. The article in The Guardian gave explicit  instructions of how to access the information linked to the QR code. First you have to go on to the website “Tales of Things.com” to download an app that allows you to scan and read the codes. I did that quite successfully the night before the visit, and tested out the technology from a QR code on the screen on my son’s computer. Oh, did I mention? I was staying with my son and using his wi-fi. (this becomes relevant later). The result was an interesting link about the Hillman Imp with a video, and an advert from the 1950’s or 60’s, whenever the Imp was created. not that I am old enough to remember that. (Well, Ok I do remember that one of my school friend’s dad had a Hillman Imp.)
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QRpedia Demo at Mobile Monday

I love going to Mobile Monday London – it’s a great meeting place for those of us in the mobile industry. It’s also one of the few spaces which holds the equivalent of an “Open Mic” night.
momo logo
MoMoLo’s Spring Demo Night was crowded with great entrants. So much so that each of us had only three minutes to present! That’s quite tight. I’m used to 15-30 minutes. I’m not sure how, but I managed to distil the QRpedia pitch down.

QRpedia was received warmly by the crowd. Massive thanks to the ever-patient Liz for recording it.

Don’t just take my word for it – here’s a sample of tweets from the evening.

Fantastic demo at #momolo from @ for QRpedia.org. He's slapped up a QR code in the British Musem.
Lisa Devaney

#qrpedia is an awesome idea and implementation! #momolo
Sebastian Brannstrom

Great presentation on QRpedia by @ Looking forward to seeing lots of QR codes in museums #momolo
James Nash

I love qrpedia. Simple but very useful hack. :) #MoMoLo
David Maria Zverina

#momolo loved @ 's QRPEDIA this has 2 b the way 2 go 4 any right thinking museum who wants to connect with a wider aufjagst - 8/10
Michael Ohajuru

I enjoyed the mobile app demo night at #MomoLo tonight. Best of show: Threedomphone, Smart Wifi (already on my G2), QRPedia, & Mindings.
Jenifer Hanen

Love the simplicity of @ QRcode > language detection > article on appropriate language wikipedia. Instant localised info.
Tony Kennick

We also had a lovely write up from Ged Carrol

QRpedia was less of a business and more of a duh why hadn’t anyone else thought of putting QRcodes more effectively with Wikipedia.

So, onwards and upwards. I’ll be getting in contact with the journalists who approached me to see if we can get some favourable press. I’m also talking to people who might be able to sponsor free WiFi in museums to reduce the cost for international tourists.

Any questions – drop them in the comments box.

QRator – QR Codes in the Petrie Museum

As promised earlier this week, I popped over to London’s Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology to take a look at what they’re doing with QR codes.
iPad QRator
The staff were very friendly and quite happy to chat about their experiences with the codes. I’d like to thank them for taking the time to talk to me about the installation – and for letting me photograph the exhibits.

About The Museum

The Petrie is one of London’s smallest museums. Nestled within UCL, small but perfectly formed, it contains a fascinating array of ancient Egyptian artefacts.
It also held one of my all-time favourite events last year – Sci-Fi and Ancient Egypt. I think it’s the only time I’ve wandered round a museum reading about the inspiration for StarGate while listening to The Pyramids of Mars play in the background. Let’s just say, I’m predisposed to love this museum.

When I heard about their Digital Technology Open Day, I couldn’t resist going along to see what they’d done with QR codes.
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QR Codes In Museums

It seems that all good ideas are invented simultaneously. Calculus was arrived at by both Leibniz and Netwon, Gray and Bell invented the telephone within days of each other, and the electric car is currenly being pursued by many different manufacturers.

Now it looks like sticking QR codes onto museum exhibits is the next big thing!

QRpedia is the venture I’m involved it, but I’ve recently become aware of Edinburgh Museum’s Tales of Things project and the QRator project of UCL.

Now, obviously, I’m biased towards QRpedia – but I wanted to jot down some quick thoughts on where I think QRator and Tales of Things may be going wrong.

Firstly, I’m enormously impressed with the scope of both projects. I don’t mean to denigrate them – I just want to point out how they could be made better.

Tales of Things

ToT has several deeply cool aspects. The ability to watch video and the ability to contribute UGC are two of the highlights. But it does, to my mind, have three serious deficiencies.

Firstly, it requires a proprietary app which only works on Android or iPhone. Got a BlackBerry, Nokia, or Windows Phone? Tough!

The app itself is fairly well thought out – but it’s nothing which couldn’t be done on a mobile website.
ToT App

Which leads me on to the second flaw. What if you can’t install the app?
Scanning the code with any other phone leads the visitor to a non-mobile site!
ToT non-mobile website
To make matters worse, the video is presented in Flash which means it’s inaccessible to most phones and will be hard to stream unless you’ve got excellent mobile coverage.

Although there is a mobile internet signal in the gallery, it may be best to download and install the code reader before you visit the museum.
Tales of a Changing Nation Website

Finally, although they want people to comment on the exhibits, there’s a rather strong barrier to entry.

You’ll also need to register a username and password at www.talesofthings.com in order to submit your comments and memories.
Tales of a Changing Nation Website

Which means, I guess, either do it at home or find a free computer somewhere in the museum. Would it really have been so hard to create a mobile friendly sign up process?


I’ll be popping off to the Petrie Museum this weekend to play with their QR code installation. I’m not sure how or if it’s tied in to Tales of Things – they’re often mentioned together. One thing that strikes me is that it seems to revolves around having iPads located around the museum.

Buying a huge number of iPads feels like it’s an expensive extravagance. Yes, it shows off the exhibit nicely – but is it any better or cheaper than the touchscreen displays museums have had for years? Is there a risk that the iPads might go “wandering off”. Can the codes be scanned by normal phones?

All questions I hope to answer tomorrow!


Of course, it’s unfair of me to criticise QRator and Tales of Thing without subjecting QRpedia to the same treatment.
QRpedia has a number of deficiencies which we hope to address after our initial trials.

  • No social media integration. There’s currently no way to “like” an object on Facebook or share it on Twitter.
  • No video or sound. The Wikipedia page for The Beatles has lots of audio clips – but there are none on the mobile version. In general, there seem to be very few videos on Wikipedia and, because they are OGG formatted, rarely play on mobile.
  • No commenting or other interaction.
  • Museums can’t create their own page – they are reliant on Wikipedia.
  • What to do about the iPad and other tablets? Currently QRpedia only shows the mobile version. Should tablets get taken to the full version? Or are tablet users happy to save the data charges and / or click on to the full versions themselves?

Internet Coverage

I’ve cheekily singled out Edinburgh Museum for potentially having poor coverage – in reality, it’s a problem in many museums. Most were designed before the ascendency of the mobile phone and, as a consequence, often struggle with 3G reception.
Even when they do have signal, it’s expensive for visitors from overseas to roam onto a network and download data.

One solution is free WiFi throughout a museum. Obviously, that’s an expense and has to be carefully managed to avoid abuse – but it would solve a problem common to all three approaches.


Despite my grumblings, I’m really excited to see more QR codes appear in museums. Anything which connects people to education is a great achievement.
I just want to make sure that the solutions which are deployed work well for everyone – no matter how expensive their phone.

QRpedia Presentation at Derby Museum

It’s always an odd experience to watch yourself speak. Everyone – I think – finds the sound of their own voice really odd. I’m no exception!

This is the video from the Derby Museum Backstage Pass where we gave the first public demonstration of QRpedia.

The Video

Video shot by Nick Moyes.

The Slides

All slides are a work in progress. This is a close approximation of what was presented on the day.