QRpedia in Russia

The “Wiki Loves Monuments” project in Russia has been featured on Russian TV. Check out the QRpedia codes!

Russian QRpedia TV

You can see all the articles (and their QRpedia codes) – there is also a list of articles which need translating.

QRpedia’s Name

There is some confusion about QRpedia’s name.

@ please answer me, QRpedia = QR + wikipedia or QR + encyclopedia? I need it as a prooflink for [[ru:QRpedia]].

The answer is very simple. The “pedia” isn’t from “Encyclopedia”. It isn’t from “Wikipedia”. It’s an acronym.

  • P – Potentially
  • E – Every
  • D – Device
  • I  - Interlanguage
  • A – Access

The “QR”, of course, standing for “Quick Response”.

I hope that clears up the matter ;-)

QRpedia – Dealing With Minority Languages

Humans have devised hundreds of thousands of languages with which to express themselves. Some, like Cornish are on the verge of extinction. Others, like Catalan and Welsh, are only used by a small number of speakers. Some, like New Norse, are created for political purposes.

All these languages are valuable and hugely important to their communities. Many have Wikipedia version written in their language.

Unfortunately, very few phones support these languages.

Phone showing list of languages

This poses a problem for QRpedia. They way the system works is this:

  1. Read the phone’s language
  2. Look for a suitable translation in Wikipedia
  3. Return the correct article
  4. If a translation doesn’t exist, return a list of available articles

Suppose The National Library of Wales has a QRpedia code for the Black Book of Carmarthen.
A Welsh speaker will probably wish to go to the Welsh version of the article.
However, their phone does not support the Welsh language (unless it is a Samsung S5600) and is set to English.

QRpedia, therefore, redirects them to the English version and doesn’t give them a chance to read in their native language.

This is a problem we have faced with both Catalan and Norwegian.


Catalan faces the very same problem as Welsh does in the previous theoretical example. Many people speak it but, because it’s rare for a phone to support it, their phones are set to Spanish.

This was how we solved the problem:

  • If the QRpedia code was for a Catalan page (ca.wikipedia)…
  • If the phone’s language is Catalan (CA) take them to the Catalan Wikipedia.
  • If the phone’s language is Spanish (ES) take them to a language choice screen – they can then select between Spanish, Catalan, or any other available language.
  • If the phone’s language is anything else (say EN) take them to the article in their language.

QRpedia doesn’t store the user’s language choice – so the user has to choose every time the scan which language they want.

The reasons we don’t store the language choice is that it would be very hard to undo if the user made a mistake, or ever wanted to change their language.


The Norwegians have two languages – Bokm%C3%A5l and Nynorsk.

The standard language codes are NB and NN. However, most phones only support NB – with the language header of NB-NO.
To complicate matters, the NB Wikiedia is located at NO.wikipedia!

So, after much discussion with some Norwegians, I discovered that comparatively few people read NN. So, we came up with the following fix.

  • If the phone’s language is Bokm%C3%A5l (NB-NO) take them to the NO Wikipedia.
  • If the phone’s language is Nynorsk (NN-NO) take them to the NN Wikipedia.

However, very few phones support NN (none have ever used QRpedia) so I’m not sure if this is the correct approach.


There are lots of other languages with Wikipedia supports, but which aren’t well supported on phones. Wikipedia is available in nearly 300 different languages – from Scots and Simple English to Esperanto and Latin. Although, curiously, there’s no separate Wikipedia for British English – or other regional English variants, nor is there one in Klingon

The Future

So, what should QRpedia do in the future? How should it handle all the thousands of languages in conjunction with the hundreds of Wikipedia languages?

That’s where you come in.

If you’ve got a good idea on how we handle your favourite language – drop a comment on this blog.

If you’re a coder, QRpedia is open-source. Check out the code and leave a comment, or raise a bug.

We need your help to determine what we do next.

Jimmy Wales ♥ QRpedia

You know Jimmy Wales, right? He’s the guy co-founded Wikipedia – and, possibly, its most prominent face.

So, a few days ago, he popped down to The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to see the work the museum is doing with its Wikipedian in Residence – Lori Philips.

What else did he do while he was there? Why, scanned some QRpedia codes!

J Wales TCM 002

J Wales TCM 013

ASP 4574

You can see all the photos of his visit on Wikimedia Commons.

My highly placed sources tell me that Mr Wales was highly impressed with the work the museum had done, and loved their innovative use of QRpedia.

If you’d like to get started with QRpedia – visit the main site to get started.
It’s free, fast, and fantastic!

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!

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.

QRpedia – Results from First Trial at Derby Museum

Wow! What a day! I headed over to Derby Museum for the Wikipedia “Backstage Pass” event.
Presenting in Derby

I was invited there to talk about QRpedia and how it can improve visitor engagement in GLAM – Galleries Libraries Archives Museums.

After the introductions, I had a quick wander around the museum – where I found the first set of QRpedia codes! I was, as this video will attest, very excited!

I’ll place the slides and video of the talk on the web once they’re ready. In the meantime, here’s what I learned from the day.

Lessons Learned

Not everything went perfectly with our first public trial – that’s to be expected. So here are the top tips that we discovered from the day

Too tall

I couldn’t help but laugh as a young boy struggled to scan the code right at the top of this exhibit.
Tall Exhibit
While watching him jump up and down was hilarious – there’s a serious point about accessibility. Not everyone can reach as high as the code was placed – especially wheelchair users. It might be worth having some guidelines around code placement.

Too small

Some of the codes were printed quite small. My original intention was to have postcard sized QR codes – large enough to easily see and for several people to scan at once.
What I hadn’t figured on was the lack of space in the exhibits and the sheer number of codes that would be there. Here’s a snap from one of the display cases, I’ve highlighted the codes.
Small QR Codes
They were just about scanable – but I still think printing them larger will make it easier to scan. It’s especially important if the code is behind glass and visitors can’t get close to them.

Too Much Glare

With the light from the exhibits, the laminate on the QR codes, and the glass cases, there was a lot of glare. Luckily the QR codes were all scanable thanks to the error-correction built in. I think it’s probably best not to laminate the codes – keep them as matt as possible.

Unexpected Usage

One thing I hadn’t counted on was the creative uses to which the codes can be put. For example, one of the most famous paintings in Derby Museum was on loan. Rather than just put up a regular sign, they’d put up a QRpedia code so that visitors could still see the painting and read all about its history. Brilliant!
Painting on loan
Whenever you create a project, don’t be surprised if people put it to a use that you had never envisioned.

Code Design

As well as the technical aspects of code design – making them large enough and with sufficient border space – there are some practical considerations.
Without any human-readable identification, it’s hard for museum staff to place the codes accurately! A big pile of QR codes are easy to mix up – and finding which code goes with which exhibit can be tricky.

Too wobbly

Rather embarrassingly, I tried to demonstrate how easy it is to scan in QR codes using a code printed on a free-standing poster. The breeze in the room was sufficient to cause the poster to billow back-and-forth meaning my camera couldn’t focus on it. QRpedia codes must be afixed to something solid for best results.

The Language Issue

What do you do if an article isn’t available in the visitor’s preferred language?
My initial suggestion was not met with universal acclaim.

Hey, it’s not my fault they don’t teach Latin any more!
The suggestions which came out of the discussion were…

  • Default to the article in the language of the museum.
  • Redirect the visitor to the Mobile Wikipedia homepage in their preferred language – then they can search for something similar.
  • QRpedia should look through the article and try to find something similar in the visitor’s language.
  • Present a screen showing all the available languages for that article. Let the user choose which language to read. This is what QRpedia does currently.

There are no easy answers – I guess we’ll have to do some trials to see what people prefer. Any suggestions welcomed!


Bane of web developers everywhere. The accursed IE6 is still in use in museums who can’t afford to upgrade their computers. QRpedia.org only works in modern browsers. So we’re going to have to do some redesigning to make sure that everyone can use the service.

…And Finally

After an amazing day, we retired to the The Old Silk Mill pub. There, I found my new favourite stout – Spire’s Sgt Pepper. Made with ground black pepper. it provided the perfect end to a perfect day.
Sgt Pepper Stout
Thanks to everyone who made the day such a success – especially the gloriously bearded Andy Mabbett, the hugely entertaining Richard Mackney, Wikimedia’s Andrew Turvey for his kind offer of help, the knowledgeable Hannah Fox, Nick Moyes for all his hard work during the day, the BBC’s Mark Ansell for interviewing me about QRpedia, Marrianne Bamkin for pointing me back towards the station, and – of course – Roger Bamkin without whom none of this would have happened.

A special thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Derby Museum for making us feel so welcome – and for allowing us to pepper their exhibits with our QR codes.

Today Derby – tomorrow the world!