Wikimedia blog

News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement


Using social media to engage Wikipedia readers and editors in China

This post is available in 3 languages: English  • 简体中文 正體中文


Addis Wang’s postcard project

Wikipedia editor Addis Wang has developed an approach to spreading awareness of Wikipedia in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He and several collaborators use an account on Weibo–a Twitter-like social media platform that is the 7th highest trafficked website in China–to promote both Wikipedia’s content and its global community to Chinese readers.

This is no small challenge. For the 20 percent of the world’s population that live in the People’s Republic of China, Wikipedia is a distant runner-up to Baidu-Baike, a for-profit Chinese encyclopedia that hosts 6.7 million articles. Like Wikipedia, Baidu is collaboratively written. But its policies on content licensing, censorship and review are not as open as Wikipedia’s (Wikipedians have also noted that several of its articles are copied from English Wikipedia without attribution).

Baidu’s dominance may be due in part to Wikipedia’s limited availability in the PRC in past years. The domain could not be visited normally in Mainland China from 2005-2008. Today Wikipedia is approximately the 150th-most trafficked domain in China (according to comScore, Wikimedia projects are the 5th most-visited globally; according to Alexa, Baidu is the most-visited site in China). Many Chinese citizens aren’t even aware that Wikipedia exists in their language, which obviously makes contribution more difficult.

Addis’ idea, which is funded by a Wikimedia Foundation Individual Engagement Grant, aims to tackle these problems using social media to reach China’s huge online audience. Weibo is an ideal platform for giving people a taste of what Wikipedia has to offer. “In Chinese you can fit a lot more information into 140 characters than you can in English,” says Wang. And like Twitter, Weibo allows users to upload images. In April 2013, Wang and his colleagues began posting abstracts for a different Wikipedia article every day through their dedicated Weibo account.


Wikipedians go to Open Help Conference

Ocaasi, Valeriej, and the wub sprinting at Open Help Conference 2013

What do thoughtful, well-designed, engaging community help systems look like for Wikipedia? What do our help systems have in common with other open source projects, and how do they differ?

In June the Wikimedia Foundation sent a team of four Wikimedians to the Open Help Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio to find out. Ocaasi, the wub, Valeriej, and Seeeko spent a week speaking and listening to helpers from open source projects like Mozilla, Ubuntu, GNOME, WordPress, Drupal and RedHat.

Over two days of talks and three days of work sprints, attendees explored and improved a wide set of systems for helping contributors and growing communities of users and helpers. The WordPress team embarked on a large project to decouple their help pages for developers from their help pages for users. Jorge Castro of Ubuntu considered the ways that different kinds of communication tools support different kinds of conversations online: forums facilitating water-cooler discussion, Q&A boards that promote sharing answers efficiently, mailing lists with their ongoing arguments about top-vs-bottom posting. The Gnome crew grappled with the decision of whether improving an ever-growing number of existing pages was better than just starting fresh with new pages. Mozilla’s Janet Swisher shared how she gathers contributors together in “doc sprints” (edit-a-thons for documentation) to collaboratively write help documentation and build community connections. Michael Verdi spoke about Mozilla’s “Army of Awesome,” which helps hundreds of Firefox users per day on Twitter.

Team Wikimedia was excited to learn about the challenges that these other open source projects also face. As Wikipedians, we have coordinated edit-a-thons, organized help documentation to better support different types of users, set up a Q&A forum with wikimarkup, and answered many OTRS emails; we also appreciate the work that goes into well-orchestrated help systems. The results of these explorations at Open Help for Wikimedia projects include the development of a few new documents to support the thoughtful design and growth of Wikipedia and MediaWiki’s help systems.

The wub and Ocaasi focused on the Help Project, the WikiProject that creates and organizes thousands of help pages on English Wikipedia. Starting with a talk titled “Wikipedia:Too much documentation,” the wub addressed Wikipedia’s ballooning number of help pages and the lack of consistency between them. As a 2012 Wikimedia Community Fellow, the wub had already spent time redesigning the most-used pages in the help system, but his learnings from that effort had not yet been distilled into a clear statement of design principles to help guide future volunteers.

During the Open Help sprint days, the team updated the Help Project’s pages to better engage helpers. Ocaasi and the wub crafted a best practices guideline for improving Wikipedia’s help pages. In clear and simple language, the guidelines set goals like “focus on users and use case,” “keep pages simple,” and “make navigation clear and apparent.” The wub also developed quality and importance scales and templates for assessing help pages mapped to the guidelines. In the coming weeks, the Help Project will start a regular collaboration drive to increase participation, beginning with assessing all help pages according to the criteria developed in the sprints.

Another area the team focused on was the Teahouse, Wikipedia’s many-to-many support space for new editors. In their talk, “Can Help Be Fun? Wikipedia Experiments with social help,” Seeeko and Ocaasi introduced a collection of techniques for creating supportive spaces that build community in playful ways. They emphasized playful design, surfacing people, the power of invitation, a welcoming tone, social mobility, and acknowledgement as important elements for a “Fun is serious business” approach that has worked well for the Teahouse. They also noted that this approach has influenced the Grants:IdeaLab and an upcoming grant-funded game The Wikipedia Adventure.

Seeeko and Ocaasi applied many of these principles to a new Teahouse document that sets out design guidelines for contributors aiming to make improvements to the Teahouse. The guidelines distill goals and practices that have made the Teahouse successful from the start, like “build for new editors” and “show recent activity,” and encourage volunteers to make data-driven decisions to grow the project and keep with its spirit. Valeriej and Seeko also paired up to improve the workflow for requesting and creating new features in the Teahouse. Playing with the theme of a wishing well that users might find in the Teahouse garden, they defined attributes and workflows for “wishing” and “granting wishes” (requesting and developing features), they created a build plan, and they worked on a module to make identifying key information easier. The Teahouse’s new Wishing Well is the initial result of that work.

Valeriej also devoted time to considering improvements to help contributors who are new to MediaWiki. Focusing on a Starter Kit, she decided to begin with a survey of MediaWiki contributors to determine the effectiveness of the project’s current help documentation. She plans to use the results of the survey to refine and focus the documents used to orient new contributors to MediaWiki over the coming months.

The team was inspired by learning from other open source communities and it hopes that gathering together to improve the design of our own community’s help systems will encourage more efforts like it. Travel for three of the team members was funded by the Participation Support Program. Wikimedians looking to share wiki-learning by participating at conferences or other convenings like this one are encouraged to apply.

(Many thanks to WordPress attendee Siobhan McKeown for blogging her amazing notes from the talks!)

Siko Bouterse, Seeeko, Wikimedia Foundation
Jake Orlowitz, Ocaasi, Wikipedia editor

Documenting the Eurovision Song Contest 2013 for Wikimedia

This post is available in 4 languages: English 7% • Svenska 100%Deutsch 7% • 中文 100%


I got an idea in May, 2012, as the Eurovision Song Contest was ending and Loreen had just been named the 2012 winner, with her song Euphoria. Because Loreen represented Sweden, the 2013 contest would be held in my country. This would create an exciting opportunity for me and Wikipedia, because my home is in Gothenburg, and I could take really good photos for the Wikimedia Commons database.

Loreen after she won in 2012.

Photo: Vugarİbadov

Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported.

Eurovision Song Contest is well documented on Wikipedia. The contest was started in 1956, and currently has Wikipedia articles in 91 languages[1], many including information on artists and their songs, statistics, voting history, the rules and points awarded. My idea started here because there are not many photos and the quality varies; occasionally someone sitting in the audience at the show manages to take a photo with their phone, but there were not many quality images. Using the CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, anyone would be free to copy, distribute and edit my photos, as long as I am attributed and new versions of the photos have the same license.

The most common use of photos on Wikimedia Commons is in Wikipedia articles, and photos enhance the articles. My goal was to make it possible to have really good, professional photos of every artist in the Eurovision Song Contest 2013. Newspapers, magazines, websites and other media outlets that did not send a photographer to Malmö could also use my photos from the database.

I applied for photo accreditation and, at first, my application was denied because the Head of Delegation saw me as a fan and not as a serious photographer. Then some members of Wikimedia Sverige managed to explain my intentions and the purpose of my application. When I was finally approved, it meant that I had the same rights as all the other 1700 photographers and journalists at the contest.

Emmelie de Forest after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2013.

Photo: Albin Olsson

License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported

It has been an amazing week, and a very successful project. I took thousands of photos and right now over 500 are uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. They are categorized under: contestants, countries, rehearsals and/or press conferences. All of them are also under the category Photos taken by Albin Olsson during the Eurovision Song Contest 2013. There are close-ups of almost all of the artists, photos of the artists performing their songs on stage, and also videos I filmed.

The 2013 Eurovision Song contest winner was Emmelie de Forest, from Denmark, with her song “Only Teardrops.” My photograph of de Forest has already been used in 36 different languages on Wikipedia, including Japanese and Chinese.

Since non-freely licensed material is not permitted on Wikimedia Commons, I couldn’t upload the songs or videos containing the songs, but I filmed more than 32 clips where 12 of the artists present themselves. All in English, but 11 of them in at least one other language (you can find the videos in the commons category Videos from Eurovision Song Contest 2013 and I might add a few more). It feels really cool that the Wikipedia articles don’t just have a nice photo at the top of their infoboxes, but a short video too.


The Wikimedia train rolls through Poland this summer

This post is available in 3 languages: English 7% • Polski 100%Español 7%


Wikiexpedtion logo

Wikiexpedtion logo

A Polish national railways class EU07

Wikimedia Polska, the Polish Wikimedia Chapter, is about to organize a Railways Expedition in collaboration with the Polish Railways Company. The photography expedition is devoted to train infrastructure in Poland and will give participants unprecedented access to sites they wouldn’t otherwise see so closely.

Polish Railways has offered the opportunity to teach Wikipedians to navigate the railway premises, after which they will receive ID cards entitling them to enter and photograph objects normally inaccessible to the public. Polish Railways will provide us with free monthly railway tickets for all participants and special passes to legally enter and photograph rail tracks, workshops, rail yards, cargo railway stations and museums belonging to Polish Railways. Wikimedia Polska will cover the costs of accommodation and food (travel to Poland is not covered).

We are looking for people interested in this form of Wikiexpedition. We want to form 2-3 person teams, with Polish-speaking leaders and participants from other countries. We’d like to underscore the fact that you will not need to speak Polish to participate; we’re happy to help you navigate the language. Teams would be moving independently, both in terms of time and location. We think it would be useful to organize several teams that could work in different areas of Poland. The Wikiexpedtion will take place this summer, sometime between June and September, 2013.

If you want to join the railways expedition, just add yourself to the list on the Wikimedia Polska wiki. Basically, the only requirements are that you a) have an obsession with trains and railways and b) that you are excited to spend around a week (or more) traveling in slow trains that stop at all manner of tiny stations around Poland.

Tomas Ganicz, Wikimedia Polska


Have a question about Wikipedia? Ask a WikiWoman on January 17!

Wikipedian Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz will participate in the first ever Ask a WikiWoman event on January 17

“What’s it like to be a Wikipedian?”

“How did you get started editing?”

“How do you make an account on Wikipedia?”

“How do you upload a photo on Commons?”

…those are just some of the many questions that people often ask those of us who edit Wikipedia and contribute to its sister projects. Do you have questions similar to these that you’ve always wanted to ask a Wikipedian?

Well now your chance. WikiWoman Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz will be answering your questions by participating in the first Ask a WikiWoman online event.

On Thursday, January 17, the WikiWomen’s Collaborative will host Ask a WikiWoman via their Twitter! Participants from around the world will have a chance to ask Adrianne, a Wikipedian since 2004, anything about Wikipedia. The event will take place from 10 AM PST (18:00) until 5:00 PM PST (01:00) via the @WikiWomen Twitter.

How do I ask a question?

To participate, you have to have a Twitter account. Twitter is free to join if you aren’t a member yet. After logging in to your Twitter account, ask your question and include hashtag #askawikiwoman in your question. Adrianne will then answer your question!

Who is Adrianne Wadewitz?

Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz, aka User:Wadewitz, has been a Wikipedian since 2004. She’s a “feminist, scholar, educator, and digital humanist,” and has a deep passion for empowering women to contribute to Wikipedia and for helping to provide women around the world with access to free knowledge. As an educator, she has participated in the Wikipedia Education Program, where she has used Wikipedia in the class room as a learning tool since 2011. With a PhD in English Literature from Indiana University, Adrianne has channeled her passion for literature into her Wikipedia contributions. She was a leading force in bringing articles about Mary Wollstonecraft and the life of Jane Austen to Featured Article status, making them some of the finest articles on English Wikipedia.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the first “Ask a WikiWoman” event,” she said. “Nothing quite demystifies Wikipedia and encourages people to participate as a real person who can answer questions about this strange and wonderful website. I’m a Wikipedian. Ask me anything.”

And we hope you will do just that – ask a WikiWoman anything. We’ll see you on Twitter on Thursday, January 17!

Sarah Stierch, Wikimedia Community Fellow

A simultaneous Spanish Wikipedia editathon from two continents

This post is available in 3 languages:
Español Catalan •  Català Catalan • English English


In Wikimedia México, we have had success partnering with groups and initiatives that share our values of freedom and the commons. One of those initiatives is Procommons Mexico Lab, a project supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), where our member Alan Lazalde works.

Recently, we developed the idea to conduct an editathon at the Spanish Cultural Center in México, and we welcomed the cooperation of Wikimedia España as our partner in the first editing marathon between two Spanish-speaking countries. This was also an important demonstration of work between members of Iberocoop — an initiative of Wikimedia chapters that share Iberoamerican cultural heritage. The members of the Mexican and Spanish Wikimedia chapters had already talked months ago about doing common projects because of our shared history.

The editathon at the Centro Cultural de España en México

For the members of the Mexico chapter, we had the opportunity to conduct the event at the Spanish Cultural Center in México, an epicenter of cultural activities in Mexico City. I contacted María Sefidari and Santiago Navarro, both members of Wikimedia España, and through our respective channels of communication and social media, we publicized the event to gain more participants, both in person in Mexico and remotely from people’s homes in Spain.

On Sunday, November 18th, at 10 am, María gave a short greeting vía Skype, and then editors from Wikimedia México and the student club Wikimedia Amoxcalli started writing about topics related to the Spanish Cultural Center in México, adding more information and updating what was already existing on the Spanish Wikipedia. We also wrote about its museum, cultural offices and programs.

Throughout the day, we worked on other  topics related to Spain and Mexico: the Knife rebellion, which happened before the War of Independence between both countries; the Spanish soldier Torcuato Trujillo; contemporary artists like María La Ribot and Magda Donato; and the Spanish Ateneum of México. There was also a translation of a new article to the French Wikipedia by El Caro, and several to Catalan Wikipedia, thanks to GLAM promotor Àlex Hinojo and also to Gustavo Góngora writing from Catalonia.

We coordinated via the IRC channels of both chapters, and kept updating our progress on Facebook and on Twitter with the hashtag #EditMXES. In all, we had event participants in México at the venue and in Guadalajara; participants in Spain from Barcelona, Ferrol, La Seu, Madrid, Palencia, Vila-real and Zamora; and we were joined by the coordinator of Wikimedia Colombia from Bogotá .

By 4 pm, when we ended the editathon, we had written 18 new articles and expanded two more on Spanish Wikipedia. Plus we added seven new articles on Catalan Wikipedia and one new article on French Wikipedia. What had started as an initiative between Wikimedia México and the AECID resulted in a wider collaboration between many countries. We hope to hold more events like this soon.

Iván Martínez, President of Wikimedia México
Translation to English by María Sefidari and translation to Catalan by Santiago Navarro

Writing Malayalam on Wikipedia, just like with pen and paper

Lakshmi Valsalakumari is an IT professional who wants to expand her horizons. She attended the recent Wikimedia Developers Camp in Bangalore and had this story to tell:

A man and a woman working together at a laptop computer

Lakshmi with Santhosh Thottingal, the lead developer of Wikimedia’s font and keyboard tools

I have been an Information Technology professional working with well-known software organizations over the last 15 years. While IT has been keeping me busy, productive and happy, I have also all along harbored an interest in history and the humanities. I have recently decided to pursue these interests full-time, joining a research program at the Centre of Exact Humanities, International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, India.

With my recent shift into academics and research, I have been referencing Wikipedia quite a bit in the last two to three months, and I have been amazed at the sheer magnitude of information found on it. While I have been reading the Wikipedia pages extensively, I had never yet considered editing it, not even in English, the language I reference Wikipedia most in, and the one I use most on computers.

Editing and contributing content in Malayalam, my mother tongue, had not really occurred to me either—Malayalam being a language I hardly used on my computers—until I attended the Bangalore Wikimedia Dev Camp.

I have tried typing Malayalam using my regular browser, but I have not been very happy with the effect. This was not the way I liked to see Malayalam written and rendered, so I had not made any further efforts to write Malayalam online. At the camp, I met Santhosh and Manoj—avid Malayalam Wikipedia contributors—and they persuaded me to give it another shot.

The first step was to download the Meera Unicode font for Malayalam, then to change my default browser to one of those that can render Meera well (I tried out Google Chrome; Firefox was even better, I was told), and then to try out typing Malayalam using the regular English keyboard.

I liked what I saw. When I typed the suggested key combinations, even complicated Malayalam letter combinations were being rendered the way I would have written them using pen and paper. I tried more and more combinations—ta, tha, tta, Ta, tma, thra, tya, zha—and was pleased with the effect. This was fun!

The words "Catalonia" and "Lakshmi" typed in Latin transliteration and in Malayalam letters

Demos of how transliteration keyboards for Malayalam work

Soon, I was creating my first article. I noticed that on the main Wikipedia page, an article on Barcelona mentioned Catalonia as a red link, meaning that no further information was available in the Malayalam Wikipedia on it, whereas there was plenty of information on the same subject in the English Wikipedia. Manoj guided me through the steps as I created my first page in the Malayalam Wikipedia, copied the template information over from the English article and saved the heading, trying to get it right in Malayalam. I viewed my saved efforts, and with a sense of achievement, I went to grab a coffee.

Back online with my coffee, I was surprised to find a message on the article Talk page—someone had already posted a comment on the page I had just saved, chiding me for the lack of content and references. “This will drive away people from Wikipedia,” the post read. “Please ensure I get enough content on the page!”

Man, that was fast! I had no idea people were watching and following Wikipedia edits this closely. Manoj encouraged me to type more, so I returned to my effort. While I was getting comfortable with the typing, I was still grappling for suitable words in Malayalam for the content I was reading in English. Manoj suggested Olam, an online dictionary, and sure enough, I was able to find several of the Malayalam equivalents I was searching for.

And so, I typed on. Again, to my surprise, I found people editing the content and giving helpful suggestions even as I was still typing—one person told me to leave native names as such and not translate those, and another formatted some of the changes. By the end of the day, I had posted a decent amount of info, although there remained much more to be added.

I was happy with my day’s work. I had never imagined that using Malayalam on my computer and editing the Malyalam Wikipedia content would be such a pleasant and enjoyable experience, one that I was actually looking forward to!

Another point I must mention here is the sheer volume of Malayalam content that I have started seeing online, on Wikipedia pages and elsewhere. This must be due to the attention paid to this field of languages, literature and culture online by movements like Wikimedia. In 2005, I remember searching online for a well-known Malayalam lullaby Omanathingalkkidavo by Irayimman Thampi, but could not find anything. I had then resorted to the memories of my immediate relatives to try and pen the forgotten lyrics. Now, when I search for the same, the amount of material that comes up on that lullaby is amazing!

My heart-felt appreciation to Wikipedia and all its online community members who have made all of this possible. I hope to be part of this movement myself and do my bit toward furthering easy availability of multi-lingual content online

Lakshmi Valsalakumari

The Wikimedia Language Engineering team is developing technologies that make it possible to speakers of all languages to contribute to Wikipedia in their language as easily and naturally as possible. Lakshmi’s story is an example of how these technologies enable people to develop reference and educational content that makes Wikipedia useful to people in the whole world. These technologies are deployed in Wikipedias in most languages of India, and more languages and projects are being added all the time.

Amir E. Aharoni, Software Engineer (Internationalization)

Wikipedia Club Pune celebrates WikiWomen Day

WikiWomen Day participants

Sunday, 28th October 2012, was “WikiWomen Day” in Pune, India. The day brought together women from a variety of educational backgrounds, castes, creeds, religions, and age groups. The purpose of the gathering was to both educate women about the huge gender gap that exists within Wikipedia and to encourage women to contribute.

The workshop was held by “Wikipedia Club Pune” in PAI International Learning Solutions, Azam Campus, Pune, India. The workshop began at 10:00am with approximately 25 attendees. The first session explained the issues surrounding the lack of women editors. This session was an eye-opener for attendees about the huge gender gap within Wikipedia. Next, we offered a “How to get Hands-on on Wikipedia” program. The majority of attendees didn’t know how to edit Wikipedia, therefore, they had to start from scratch with tasks such as creating a username, and learning about Wikipedia policies and guidelines, and its principles, such as the Five Pillars. After a thorough review, we presented the basics of editing.

Later in the afternoon, there was a breakout session where everyone got an opportunity to interact with one another while enjoying a lunch of burgers and soft drinks. Following that, there was Indic language session where attendees were introduced to the multi-lingual aspects of Wikipedia. After that was the “Collaborative Contribution” session where we put our newly acquired skills to work. In this session, we expanded the “Helen Keller” article in Marathi. This page was originally started by an anonymous editor with a single line of text. Within a half hour, the entire page was developed, telling a comprehensive story of her life. This collaborative experience was marvelous and my favorite session of the day. After this session, we distributed participation certificates to everyone and encouraged our motivated attendees to continue editing Wikipedia.

Last but not the least, the workshop ended with the cake-cutting ceremony, which was also the launch for “Wikipedia Summit India 2013,” to be held in January. The Summit will focus on Wikipedia’s gender gap and provide action-oriented workshops focused on closing the gap.

-Ketaki Pole (User:Ketaki Pole)

Learning from Wikipedia

Students regularly use Wikipedia, and so do teachers. Whether we’re looking for information related to a class project, seeking an illustration for a paper, or reading background material so we can better understand an assigned text, free knowledge shared digitally is now a major component of education. Because Wikipedia is such a ubiquitous and influential source of information for my students, I feel quite annoyed when I find gaps in coverage and participation.

Alverno College students use Wikipedia to share information about Milwaukee public art.

Missing information is what initially motivated me to become an editor. I wanted my students to be able to find information easily about public art, about the monuments and sculptures they walk past everyday on campus, in city parks and in their home towns. After writing a few short articles about sculptures I knew well, I realized that trying to fill the gaps myself would be a long, lonely process. Then I realized that my students could help.

Since 2008, I have used Wikipedia regularly in my courses. Working in collaboration with editors involved with WikiProject Public Art and WikiProject Lights Camera Wiki, my students and I have developed hundreds of Wikipedia articles about public artworks, and we’ve created and contributed more than 50 short videos through Wikimedia Commons to illustrate article content.

My deepening involvement with Wikipedia as a movement put me in touch with another gap: gender. Fortunately, my students also help with that. I’ve now introduced close to 100 students to editing Wikipedia, and all of them are women. (One of my students was even previously featured on this blog!)

My students are not typical Wikipedia editors–and not just because of their gender. Many are working women who have returned to school after starting families and careers. Many are graduates of under-funded public school districts that lag in access to digital technology. Many do not have their own computers and rely instead on smartphones and campus labs. While all are familiar with what Wikipedia is, none of them has prior experience editing it, and few have participated in online communities beyond Facebook.

Getting students started editing Wikipedia is easy, but keeping those students connected to the open knowledge movement as active contributors is more challenging. To participate consistently, students need motivation, opportunity and encouragement. For an initial editing experience, a class project provides the motivation of a focus and deadline, a computer lab offers the opportunity of access and the close-knit community of a classroom provides the structure and encouragement.

Alverno College, where I teach now, contributes a unique support in the form of its innovative ability-based curriculum. At Alverno, students work to develop eight core abilities, including the problem solving skills they need to navigate new technologies and the habits of effective citizenship they need to engage in the “good faith collaboration” that Wikipedia’s norms require. Beyond my classroom at Alverno, students receive support through initiatives like the Wikipedia Education Program, Campus Ambassadors, and the Wikipedia Teahouse.

A few of the women who learned to edit in my classes are barnstar rock stars and I like to think that many more are getting ready to shine. Today, I’m motivated to teach with Wikipedia because I want to learn how to better support women to share their expertise and build community around their intellectual interests. I’m grateful to the organizers of the WikiWomen’s Collaborative for bringing needed attention and resources to the vexing problem of gender inequity among editors. I’m optimistic that this effort will bring me in contact with models to inspire my students to continue editing and fill the gaps. Keeping women active as editors is one important way to create a more welcoming environment within the movement.

Jennifer Geigel Mikulay, Alverno College, Milwaukee

Carleton University hosts its first edit-a-thon, focused on women in science

On September 20, tucked away in a computer lab in the engineering building at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, twelve new Wikipedians learned how to edit Wikipedia. The new editors participated in the Carleton University Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Edit-a-thon, with the goal of adding more content about female scientists on Wikipedia.

Participants at the Carleton University edit-a-thon

Were there not more exciting things to be doing on a Thursday evening in Ottawa? Sure, there were a lot of other fun events that night, but we were doing it because we had heard about the gender gap in Wikipedia, where approximately 9 percent of editors are female. We were doing it because we knew that the women we were writing about were brave trail-blazers who are frequently written out of history, and this was our chance to write these women in to history. We were doing it because we knew that the only way to change the statistics was to become Wikipedia editors ourselves and to encourage our friends to do the same.

The host for the night was the Carleton University branch of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group, and I volunteered as the primary organizer. There was one small glitch: I had never edited Wikipedia before and didn’t know anyone who had. In fact, none of the participants had ever edited Wikipedia before, proof, perhaps, that there were not enough women editing Wikipedia?

I centered the edit-a-thon on a strong belief that we can all participate if we help each other, which is also how I feel about WISE, which focuses on encouraging and supporting women in engineering. We believed the event could also help foster a local community with the goal of encouraging more women to edit Wikipedia. As an inclusive group, however, we also encouraged men to attend, assuming they might also help us write articles about female scientists (one quarter of the attendees were male).

We created 12 new accounts and, after a brief introduction, started to work creating and improving articles. Because none of us was an experienced editor, everyone got into helping each other. There were a lot of exclamations of “oh, how did you do that?” and “why doesn’t this work?” Instead of having one teacher, we were all teachers. We started nine articles and improved two others.

One of the trail-blazing scientists we wrote about was Pearl Kendrick. She helped to bring the vaccine for whooping cough from lab-scale to full-scale production by 1940. Later, upon finding that the version of the vaccine in England was not as effective as the one available in the United States, she worked with the Medical Research Council of Great Britain to help them develop a more successful vaccine.

After a few hours, we all decided to continue working on the articles at home and fell into a discussion around tea and cookies of what we wanted to do in the future. Everyone agreed that we need to have more edit-a-thons. Some felt up to the task of hosting their own, centered on themes that interested them personally. Most of us were excited to show our friends what we had learned and to extend our new found role as teachers beyond our group. I am looking forward to seeing everyone’s articles improve and I’m extremely proud of everyone’s efforts.

Many thanks to everyone who came out for the event, as well as to Carleton University WISE and to Wikimedia Foundation Community Fellow Sarah Stierch for her encouragement.

Audrey Murray, Carleton University WISE