We’ve reached the mid point of the first term of the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative – and we’ve had a lot of excitement and interest so far. Our students are beginning to write their first articles, a handful of which have already been featured in the Did You Know? section of the front page of English Wikipedia. Here’s an update on where we are:
One thing we’ve already learned is that professors are very enthusiastic about working with us to incorporate editing Wikipedia into their classroom. From our initial course announcement, we’ve added five more schools. We have public schools, private schools; large research universities, small liberal arts schools; small classes, large classes; graduate students and undergraduates – all told, we have a diverse set of classes that are improving Wikipedia articles. You can see the full list on the Courses page of our WikiProject (and see below for more information about opportunities for the spring term).
Our students are working on more than 100 articles. Some students are just beginning to select their topics. Others have completed significant work on their articles, either in the mainspace or in article sandboxes (temporary spaces for experimenting with new articles). For an example of what our students are doing, take a look at the Food Quality Protection Act article. It had languished as a stub article since its creation in 2007. Since mid-October of this year, however, a Syracuse University student has researched the Act and significantly improved its Wikipedia coverage, expanding the content of the article and adding photos from Wikimedia Commons (see the diff). The article was featured in the Did You Know? section on the English Wikipedia main page.
One thing you’ll notice if you look through the history of the Food Quality Protection Act article is that several other Wikipedians collaborated with the student during the improvement of the Food Quality Protection Act article. Many of them are part of our Wikipedia Ambassador program. Campus Ambassadors (WP:CAMPUS) work with students in the classrooms on their Wikipedia assignments, including leading in-person sessions that teach students how to edit Wikipedia. The online counterpart to Campus Ambassadors are Online Ambassadors (WP:ONLINE), who serve as online mentors to the students, explaining both the how and the why of Wikipedia-editing. As with everything we’re doing with the Public Policy Initiative, we’re working to make the Ambassador program self-sustaining at the end of our grant, and one of the ways we’re doing that is by making the Ambassador program community-driven. We’ve formed an Ambassador Steering Committee that is thinking through the big questions about the Ambassador program. Committee members include experienced Campus Ambassadors, Online Ambassadors, Wikipedians, and Wikimedia Foundation staff.
We’re also hard at work on a qualitative and quantitative assessment of how we’re actually doing. We’ve created a more detailed assessment scheme that translates article scores into traditional article quality ratings (see the Assessment page of our WikiProject for more information). Several Wikipedians and public policy experts are volunteering to use this new assessment to rate articles within the scope of the Public Policy WikiProject, including articles students have worked on. We’re also hosting the pilot of the new Article Feedback Tool, which offers Wikipedia readers the opportunity to rate articles. The initial results of our data analysis will be released in early 2011.
We’re now in the planning stages for what we want to accomplish in spring 2011. We’ve lined up most of the professors for our spring slots, but we still have the ability to support five more courses that focus on issues related to U.S. public policy. Do you know a professor who teaches a public-policy-related course? Are you interested in being a Wikipedia Ambassador for a local university? Leave a message for our Campus Team Coordinator, Annie Lin, at her Wikipedia talk page.
You’re always welcome to find us in the #wikimedia-outreach IRC channel on freenode as well.
Public Policy Initiative