The first generation of Wikipedia Ambassadors participated in a survey when the Public Policy Initiative wrapped up this summer. More than 80 respondents (over half of the 2010-2011 Ambassadors!) provided input about their experiences and how to improve the program. Many Wikimedia Foundation blog followers are probably familiar with the Initiative’s development of the Ambassador Program to open Wikipedia to the academic community. Ambassadors come in two flavors: Campus Ambassadors, who provide a face for Wikipedia on university campuses, and Online Ambassadors, who support the new student editors on wiki as they make their first contributions.
While both Campus and Online Ambassadors identified their role as helping newcomers, their motivations diverged. Online Ambassadors were strongly motivated by helping newcomers, and Campus Ambassadors were strongly motivated by increasing Wikipedia credibility and use on university campuses. Both Campus and Online Ambassadors felt responsible first to the students they were working with and second to the Wikipedia community. Ambassadors agreed on the Public Policy Initiative outcomes:
- Wikipedia content improved.
- Use of Wikipedia as a teaching tool increased.
- Ambassadors provided support for college-educated newcomers.
- There was an increase of Wikipedia’s credibility among academia.
Through the survey, many Ambassadors shared their most memorable experiences in the program. Some of the highlights include:
- “I showed a student how to check the page view statistics. Hundreds of people had seen his article since he created it. What an immediate impact he had! He was blown away.”
- “For me it was an honor to have a student participant who was also a US Congressman and to help improve his Wikipedia article.”
- “My favorite story is of a non-traditional age student telling me that her son’s 8th grade teacher told the class not to use Wikipedia because it can not be trusted. Our student told her son what she had learned about neutral-voice and verifiability and community scholarship. At the end of the semester her son told her that his middle-school teacher now says it’s okay to use Wikipedia as a place to start looking for information… I sure would like to know what that 8th grader told his teacher about his Mom’s academic Wikipedia experience.”
Research Analyst, Public Policy Initiative