|This page in a nutshell: An edit-a-thon is a special type of meetup to improve the encyclopedia. It is usually focused on a specific encyclopedic topic, and is a great way to attract new Wikipedians.|
This is a guide for how (and why) to run a Wikipedia "edit-a-thon". An edit-a-thon can be ...
- a scheduled time where people edit Wikipedia together, whether offline, online, or a mix of both;
- typically focused on a specific topic, such as science or women's history;
- a way to give newcomers an insight into how Wikipedia works.
Edit-a-thons improve the encyclopedia and can be a great way to help new Wikipedians learn to edit. This is quite different from large conferences such as Wikimania, which often have multiple speakers or panels about a huge variety of topics. An edit-a-thon is also unlike a regular meetup, which tends to be without a single goal and/or for socializing. In other words: an edit-a-thon is like a hackathon for Wikipedians (and definitely not like a telethon).
- A training session on how to develop editathons and other editing events can be taken on the Programs and Events Dashboard.
Why run an edit-a-thon?
- It helps build the encyclopedia
- It builds relationships in the community
- It is an opportunity for editors to learn from each other
- It can entice people to become new Wikipedians
- It can help new Wikipedians to contribute
- It is an opportunity to improve the quality of Wikipedia by accessing offline materials and experts
- It's fun!
There may be other benefits, such as promoting Wikipedia in cultural institutions such as libraries or museums, but it doesn't need to be more complicated than the reasons above.
Important: You should be aware of Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) guideline, which covers employees of an institution editing that institution's article. Also please check the Wikipedia:Advocacy essay; while not a Wikipedia policy or guideline itself, it is intended to supplement the WP:SOAP and WP:NPOV pages.
What you should have beforehand
Define a clear set of goals in terms of what general group of articles you want to work on and who you want to attend. This can be a broad topic, like women's history or items in the collection of a museum, or you can target a specific backlog. Newcomers often feel most comfortable with either a topic in which they have some degree of interest and a very simple activity, like copyediting or wikifying.
Be prepared with a list of things that need work or attention. Even if that isn't what gets worked on, it can help generate ideas.
When determining the date, time, and venue for an edit-a-thon, keep the following in mind.
Find out how many people your venue can hold and limit the number of signups to that number. Alternatively, guess how many attendees you'll have and try to find a venue that will accommodate that many. It's simple with half a dozen participants, while hundreds can be successful given the right planning.
Participants must have reliable access to the internet, preferably strong wifi. This is important, as Wikipedia skills are best learned by live editing. Usually venues are chosen that can provide access, but some chapters have portable wifi hotspots to ensure connections anywhere.
If the venue has computers, consider the following when deciding on how to incorporate them into your event:
- What accounts/passwords do attendees need to access the computers? Does anything need to be done in advance?
- What browser is used, and does it play nicely with Wikipedia?
- Can people connect cameras and memory card readers? Do the computers have image editing software?
If participants will be bringing devices, consider:
- Does the venue have wifi? Can it cope with the expected number of users?
- What accounts or passwords do you need to access wifi?
- If the wifi has a single password, post a sign with the details and check that you can see the sign from the farthest point of the room.
- If the wifi requires you to have individual accounts, then have slips of paper and hand them out to each person as they arrive.
- Can people use power sockets? Do you need extension cables?
Drinks and food will encourage people to stick around for longer than they might otherwise and provide an opportunity to take a break and talk with other editors.
Especially when edit-a-thons are hosted within cultural institutions, attending the event may not be as simple as coming in. Find out what the access arrangements are for the venue. Ideally you want people to turn up on time and be able to get in without disrupting your event. But there will be latecomers. If the venue has receptionists then introduce yourself and make sure they know what to tell people who ask for the Wikipedia event (if you have bling then offer the receptionist a badge, biro or beermat). If people are going to have to phone you to be let in:
- If the only way in is to text or call you, warn them to bring a mobile phone and put a Wikipedia sign outside with a phone number .
- Assign someone other than the presenter to answer the phone and let people in.
- Find out if your venue is wheelchair accessible or has a hearing loop and put those details on your event page.
Recruit active Wikipedia editors and research experts
Edit-a-thons go most smoothly when experienced editors are there to help new editors. One-on-one coaching is ideal, and one longtime Wikipedian per 10 attendees is a bare minimum. Coaches should also apply in advance for Wikipedia:IP block exemption and Wikipedia:Event coordinator, to be ready for problems that may arise. Connecting with a local Wikimedia affiliate or chapter provides access to support, expertise and promotion.
It can also help to include people who aren't experienced with Wikipedia, but are good at teaching information literacy. Librarians, for example, can teach about finding reliable sources and help build Wikipedia experience at libraries.
Determine how to create user accounts
Within a 24-hour period, only six Wikipedia accounts can be created via single IP address. If there's a chance you'll have more than six new editors at your edit-a-thon, you'll want to have a plan for how they'll create accounts.
You can do one or more of the following:
- Encourage new editors to create their account before they arrive;
- Recruit an event coordinator to (remotely or in-person) help at your event; or
- Request an exception to the limit for your IP address a least a week in advance.
- Remember the limit applies per wiki, so if you have more than six newbies try starting some of them at Commons, bonus points for running multi lingual editathons and encouraging people to create an account on the language version of Wikipedia where they are going to edit.
- While the mobile site isn't something many can successfully use for editing, if people can get a signal they can create an account on their mobile; then use it on a PC.
Provide a way for people to find details and sign up to attend
Write an event page. This is especially useful to recruit insiders to help. A subpage of Wikipedia:Meetup is easiest, but there are other options depending on the location and topic of your event. For an institution such as a gallery, library, archive, or museum, a subpage of WP:GLAM may be appropriate. If you are aiming this at newbies don't confuse them with a sign up page on a different wiki such as a chapter wiki, especially if that requires a different account to be created.
Providing a way for people to sign up outside of Wikipedia will be more inviting to new editors. Asking people who may have never edited before to navigate a meetup wiki page presents a Catch-22 where they have to edit a page filled with wiki markup in order to learn how to edit wiki markup. Good secondary alternatives are free tools such as Eventbrite, Meetup.com, or even a Facebook event.
Have appropriate forms for data collection afterwards
If you plan to report statistics on participant activity. There are two main ways to do this:
- Using Wikimetrics – to use this tool you you need record participants' usernames and use appropriate forms to get their consent for you to collect data about their activity.
- Using the Programs and Events Dashboard (currently in Beta) – contributors join events, and through joining those events, can be tracked for their contributions during a window of time.
Ways to advertise an edit-a-thon
With enough helpers and enough space you can have "stations" for different activities, like getting on the Wifi and creating an account. In smaller spaces it is better to decide which volunteers will do which things and have them go to the participants.
Although everyone is usually welcome at an edit-a-thon, invitations and publicity help encourage participation. Consider who will be most interested in attending (is the event intended for mostly experienced Wikipedians? Medical professionals? Women who haven't edited before? Some combination?), and where they're most likely to be. Then, tailor your outreach to the audience(s) you're trying to reach.
In rough order of effectiveness...
- Geographically-specific software notice; these invite existing editors via their watchlist. Aim for people within two hours travel.
- Ask people to help promote it to their friends and colleagues. Social connections are your friend.
- Email relevant mailing lists (which may not always be a Wikimedia list! University departments, professional associations, and other groups can be good places to reach potential editors) (Remember that informing an email list is useful not just for potential attendees, but for letting others know of your activities which may inspire them.)
- Contact editors who have self identified as being in the area.
- Ask for help and participation from relevant WikiProjects, if a project exists.
- Suggest a tidbit in the Signpost, Wikipedia's online newsletter.
- Talk about it on social media, if that's your thing.
- Write a blog post. If you don't have one, ask someone who has an active blog in Planet Wikimedia. (Yes, that includes the Wikimedia Foundation blog! You can draft a proposed Wikimedia Foundation blog post here.)
For the benefit of online participants, make clear the time zone in which the event will take place.
Tip: For a great registration URL link to use in your advertisements, go to your Wikipedia event page while signed out and click "Create account." The URL now in your browser will automatically direct people to your event page after they create their account.
During an edit-a-thon
Food at an edit-a-thon = encyclopedia fuel
- Welcome people, find them a seat, tell them where the toilets and fire escapes are.
- Keep in mind that whatever their experience level, editors will likely come with a set of interests. Ask them, and try to direct them to any related work that needs doing.
- Unless everyone knows each other or there are dozens, you can start with a round of introductions. Nametags help, and experienced editors can wear a special sticker or color or otherwise mark themselves. At a minimum get all the trainers/helpers to stand up so people know whom to ask for help.
- If you expect more than a handful of people and, particularly, if they aren't all going to show up at once, consider having someone volunteer to be a "greeter," to welcome people as they arrive and help them get started.
- Take time to help new editors create an account and learn a few editing basics. If there are several new editors at the event, they might like to be grouped together along with an experienced Wikipedian for guidance, so that they can support each other as they get setup.
- Familiarize new editors with Wikipedia's core content policies (neutral point of view, verifiability, no original research) and content guidelines (particularly notability and reliable sources).
- Demonstrate the use of draft space and userspace sandboxes for incomplete articles.
- Demonstrate using the Article Wizard and Articles for Creation to confirm that a new article is appropriate before publishing.
- Creating acceptable new pages is an advanced activity unsuitable for brand new editors. Encourage improving existing Mainspace pages as the best way for new users to learn. It is usually better to expand an existing topic until it's ready to become a spinout page, than to create a dubious stub. Data clearly shows pages created by new users get deleted at a much higher rate than pages created by users with as few as 10 edits over 4 days. Don't set new users up for disappointment as their new page gets speedy tagged or sent to WP:AfD.
New User deletions
Autoconfirmed User deletions
- Experienced editors are comfortable editing with the classic wikitext interface, but that user interface can be challenging for new editors. Consider having new editors use VisualEditor, particularly since it has Citoid (editors only need a URL to generate a full citation, at least for the most common news sources) as of mid-2015.
- There should be consensus among the experienced editors assisting with training that VE's benefits outweigh its disadvantages.
- Experienced editors should have prior experience in VE, so they understand the interface. They should also know where the user guide is located.
- With dozens of newbies, designated spaces for doing and teaching different tasks is a good idea (such as "Creating an account and making your first edit", "Starting a new article", or "Improving existing articles"). Whether that is simply a table per topic or a separate room should depend on the size of the group; no use isolating less than a handful into their own space when a larger group can bring more opportunities for mutual help.
- Make sure new editors know where to go to ask for help before the event is over (e.g., the Help desk or Village pump). It might also be good to have materials such as the Wikipedia:Cheatsheet printed out.
- Take some photos! Even just one group photo at the end is better than nothing.
- If you can get it before the event, hand out some Wikipedia merchandise. If there are many people and not enough t-shirts or other materials, you can raffle them off to be fair and create some fun. Having merchandise as a prize for the most-improved article is also a great motivator.
- If your edit-a-thon is happening purely online, try to have a real-time discussion space where people can ask questions and chat. An IRC channel, group Skype chat, or a Google+ Hangout are about as close to the ease of offline communication as you can get.
- If you have another event planned for the future then make sure you announce it before people start to leave.
What to do afterwards
Giants in the field of Women in the Arts group photograph
- Thank everyone who attended, especially anyone else who helped organize the event (a talk page message works great!).
- Try to get a list of all the articles edited or created, the usernames of participants, and anything else produced at the event.
- Upload event photos to Wikimedia Commons in "Category:Wikimedia editathons" (or a subcategory of that).
- Write a blog post or op-ed for the Wikipedia Signpost talking about who attended, what got done, and how it went overall.
- Send a survey to participants (optional)
List of edit-a-thons in the English language or in English-speaking countries
Below is an incomplete list, in chronological order, of edit-a-thons organized in English language or in English speaking countries, including some others in non-English-speaking countries or regions.
- * 2013.02.15 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Civil War - organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum to add and expand articles about American art and artists
- * 2013.03.06 Mount Holyoke College#Library - dedicated to Women's History Month
- * 2013.03.14-15 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Legislative Data Workshop at the Cato institute in Washington, DC
- * 2013.03.22 Fashion edit-a-thon in Stockholm, SE
- * 2013.03.23 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/DC History - History Editathon at the Washington D.C. Historical Society
- * 2013.03.29 Wikipedia:Meetup/Womens History Edit-a-thon - Harvard
- * 2013.03.29 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Women in the Arts2013 - sponsored by the Archives of American Art, of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts
- * 2013.04.01-30 National Contribution Month in Canada
- * 2013.04.14 African Americans in North Carolina edit-a-thon at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- * 2013.04.18 Ethnology edit-a-thon in Rijksmuseum Volkenkunde, Leiden, NL
- * 2013.04.26 Wikipedia:Meetup/globalwomen, a Global Women Wikipedia Write-In #GWWI, part of Rewriting Wikipedia Project
- * 2013.04.29 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Women in the Arts2013,In honor of Women's History Month and with food
- * 2013.05.13 edit-a-thon in Utrecht, NL
- * 2013.05.28 and 2013.05.30 Edit-a-thon at the NIH in collaboration with Wikimedia DC and Wiki Project Med Foundation
- * 2013.05.31 Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at American Library Association Annual, Chicago
- * 2013.06.15 ¡Wikipedia con Sabor Latino! at New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
- * 2013.06.20 Wikipedia:Meetup/Philadelphia/2013 June 20 hosted by Chemical Heritage Foundation
- * 2013.06.21 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Field Notes - Botany Field Books Meetup & Edit-a-thon
- * 2013.07.10 European young researchers network Wikipedia workshop, Oxford, UK editing articles about Sphingolipids
- * 2013.07.19 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/LuceLunder - organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum to add and expand articles about American art and artists
- * 2013.07.25 Women in Science editathon at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK
- * 2013.09.23 Fashion Edit-a-thon in Antwerp, BE
- * 2013.09.27 Wikipedia Edit-a-thon as part of THATCamp Philly, hosted by Chemical Heritage Foundation
- * 2013.10.11 Women in Science edit-a-thon, the Royal Society, London, UK
- * 2013.10.15 Women in Science edit-a-thon for Ada Lovelace Day, University of Oxford, UK supported by the Bodleian Library and the Jisc/Wikimedia UK collaboration
- * 2013.10.15 Wikipedia:Meetup/Ada Lovelace Edit-a-thon 2013 - Brown
- * 2013.10.25 WikiProject: Chicago Edit-a-thon at the Pritzker Military
- * 2013.10.25 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/AAPG Library - Smithsonian Libraries Meetup & Editathon 2013
- * 2013.11.02 Wikipedia "Greenwich Village in the 60s" Edit-a-thon
- * 2013.11.20 Wikipedia/WikiVet Veterinary Science edit-a-thon, the Royal Veterinary College, London, UK supported by the Jisc/Wikimedia UK collaboration
- * 2013.11.25 Women in Science edit-a-thon, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK
- * 2013.12.06 Open History: Queens (NYC) and Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon
- * 2014.02.01 Art and Feminism 2014 Edit-a-Thon
- * 2014.02.12 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/AmericanArt COMM535 - American Art Edit-a-Thon at the Smithsonian American Art Museum
- * 2014.02.26 Wellcome Library edit-a-thon (Medicine, History of Medicine and Medical Humanities), London, UK supported by the Jisc/Wikimedia UK collaboration
- * 2014.02.26 McGill University - Wikipedia edit-a-thon McGill in Montreal, Montreal, QC
- * 2014.03.01 Harlem History Editathon - in New York City
- * 2014.03.08 Innovation Law and Policy Editathon at New York University Law School
- * 2014.03.18 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Women Science - at the Smithsonian Institution Archives
- * 2014.03.30 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Women in the Arts2014
- * 2014.04.04 Women in Jewish History, New York, NY
- * 2014.04.15 tfm edit-a-thon at the Department of Theatre, Film and Media Studies (University of Vienna), Vienna, AT
- * 2014.04.19 Battle of Clontarf Editathon, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
- * 2014.05.10 Wikipedia:Meetup/Wikipedia APA
- * 2014.05.23 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Federal Register - at the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of the Federal Register
- * 2014.06.14 Frederick County History Edit-a-thon, Frederick, Maryland
- * 2014.06.27 Rare Books and Manuscripts Section edit-a-thon, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- * 2014.08.14 Wikibomb working on Australian female scientists at the Australian Academy of Science
- * 2014.08.18 University of Maryland / Chronicling America August 2014 edit-a-thon
- * 2014.10.07 Guggathon on museum architecture at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum.
- * 2014.10.11 Litquake edit-a-thon, San Francisco, CA
- * 2014.10.17 Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/Human Origins
- * 2014.10.21 University of Michigan/Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Social Justice Topics
- * 2014.10.23 Gender Sex Activism Yesterday and Today 2014, Victoria, BC, Canada
- * 2014.11.06 Australia Women of Neuroscience edit-a-thon on Australian female neuroscientists
- * 2014.11.21 UCLA Library / Edit-a-thon open access digital collections
- * 2014.11.22 Fortitude and Frailty: Yorkshire Authors and Newspapers Edit-a-Thon
- * 2014.12.05 Southern Tier history 2014 edit-a-thon, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY