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You are invited to join the #100wikidays challenge, and create a new Wikipedia article every day for 100 days. This new challenge was started by Wikipedian Vassia Atanassova. Photo by Vassia Atanassova, freely licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Do you think you can commit to doing something, anything, for 100 days? Wikipedian Vassia Atanassova would like you to take the #100wikidays challenge, and commit to creating a new Wikipedia article every day for 100 days.

An active editor on the Bulgarian Wikipedia, Atanassova started this challenge earlier this year, to engage more people to contribute on Wikimedia projects. She came up with this idea after coming across a viral movement known as the #100happydays challenge, in which people commit to being happy for a 100 days straight (which she tried, but failed to achieve, like the 71% of participants in this challenge).

She recalls the time when she discussed the decline in editor participation rates with other Wikipedians, towards the end of 2014:

“It occurred to me that while I had often taken part in discussions about the measures that need to be taken for improving the user experience and atmosphere, I had gradually become one of the victims of [declining editor participation],” she told us.

So she came up with the #100wikidays challenge for herself, with a goal of creating one new article every day in Bulgarian Wikipedia for the next 100 days.

“I felt that I was in debt to my Wiki community, to Wikipedia, which has given me much more than I can ever give to it,” said Atanassova. “I remembered the #100happydays challenge, and it occurred to me that the right challenge for me was something like #100wikidays.”

Atanassova first began editing Wikipedia articles around 2006, about mathematical curves, biographies of mathematicians,and other notable people – painters, opera singers, poets, Nobel prize winners. Later she moved onto writing articles and uploading photos she took, about the historical places and museums she’d been in Bulgaria and abroad.

Atanassova’s involvement with the Bulgarian Wikipedia runs deep. She has been contributing to Wikipedia constantly, both virtually and in real life.

She published several research reports and presentations on the use of Wikipedia — and even lectured a course at the university that she attended, in a course called “Wikipedia and WikiTechnologies,” where Wikipedia was the core subject of study. In addition, she worked with other volunteers to become a part of many GLAM projects with several Bulgarian institutions (GLAM stands for “galleries, libraries, archives, and museums” and is a popular Wikipedia initiative that helps cultural institutions share their resources with the world.)

Atanassova has now completed her personal #100wikidays challenge, which went from January 16, to April 25, 2015, improving and diversifying content on Bulgarian Wikipedia.

And a small movement is apparently growing around this idea, as nearly 42 people have signed up for the challenge, in about 20 other language versions of Wikipedia.

“#100wikidays is not a competition between editors, it is something between you and [yourself],” she points out.

The rules are fairly strict: the participating individual should create one article per day for 100 consecutive days, without cheating or making excuses for missing days.

“I have been asked several times why these rules have to be so strict,” she said. “The answer is simple: if you decide to call it ‘a challenge’, it needs to be something hard to do, a difficult task or problem, provoking you to reach your limits, and make [difficult] choices.”

She likens it to climbing a mountain. You don’t compete with the mountain by climbing it, you compete with yourself and your own limitations.

“Some people are probably afraid that missing a day would mean that they have shamefully failed the challenge,” she added. “No, I wouldn’t advise anyone to feel like that. I have told many times so far: starting #100wikidays is a completely personal decision, and it is likewise a completely personal decision whether you have failed it.”

So why is it important for her to commit to the #100wikidays challenge even after she has written more than 1,000 articles? The answer for this Wikipedian is rather simple: she loves making her individual contribution to our ever-growing global encyclopedia. And she gets excited when she sees a stub she started turn into a thoroughly developed article — or when she receives a comment from a user who benefited from her contributions.

For Atanassova,“Wikipedia has turned into a really significant source of happiness.”

Join the challenge!

Profiled by Yoona Ha, Assistant Storyteller intern, Wikimedia Foundation
Interview by Victor Grigas, Storyteller, Wikimedia Foundation


Interview transcript

Here is a transcript of our email interview with Vassia Atanassova:

  • Can you tell us a bit about who you are and where you come from?

I am Vassia Atanassova, User:Spiritia, Bulgarian, editor in Bulgarian Wikipedia and some of the sister projects since mid 2006.

  • How did you get involved with Wikipedia / Wikimedia?

For about two years, 2004–2006, I was mainly a reader (erh, consumer :) ) of the English Wikipedia before I discovered the Edit button, and worked out Wikipedia was not created by – as I presumed by then – academicians and professors, but people like me, and back then I had just completed my bachelor degree. I invested some time reading rules, help pages, old discussions, before I finally decided that this is my place: I am in, and I am in forever.

Since then, I have been constantly contributing to Wikimedia in many different ways: patrolling, administrating, translating and adapting local help pages, translating and localizing the MediaWiki software, organizing wiki meetings, outreach activities in various IT conferences, in traditional and online media. I have exploited my personal academic contacts, and initiated and mentored many university wiki projects. Alone and in co-authorship, I have published several research publications and conference presentations on the use of Wikipedia and wiki technologies in education. During my PhD studies, I was even allowed to lecture my own university elective course titled “Wikipedia and Wiki Technologies” for students in IT specialities, where Wikipedia was the core object of study. Together with fellow volunteers, I’ve been in the organization of most of the GLAM collaborations with institutions like the Bulgarian State Archives, the Sofia Zoo, and recently with the Balkani Wildlife Society and the Philippopolis Numismatic Society.

If you think this is too much dedication for a single person, you must be aware of one thing. In relatively small communities like our Bulgarian Wikipedia, we have all the problems of big wikis for solving, too. And we also are willing to start locally all the interesting projects which are otherwise well maintained in global wikis. But since we are fewer people, we need to be much more versatile and engage in a variety of projects at a time.

  • What kinds of things do you typically like to write about or do with Wikipedia / Wikimedia?

Years ago, I started with articles about mathematical curves, biographies of mathematicians and other notable people – painters, opera singers, poets, Nobel prize winners. I also love writing articles about the places where I have been – in Bulgaria and abroad – historical places, natural phenomena, museums, and I often accompany these articles with personal free photography.

  • Are there any particular things you have edited in the past that you are particularly proud of?

I have written more than 1000 articles but I can’t really outline particular articles that I’m proud of. Instead of proud, I prefer being happy.

I’m happy whenever a stub, which I have started, has been further developed and updated by other editors. I’m happy whenever I can illustrate an existing article with my photography, or with content, digitized within the collaboration with the Bulgarian Archives. I’m happy when I hear someone commenting that they have learned something useful from Wikipedia, and especially when this thing happens to be written by me. I’m happy when a media uses my photos, and makes appropriate attribution to the source “Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons”. In this way, for me, Wikipedia has turned into a really significant source of happiness.

  • Can you tell us about 100 wikidays? What is it? How did it get started? What’s your involvement and how can people get involved?

You probably know about the #100happydays challenge. You might have seen some of your friends in Facebook or Tumblr, who have challenged themselves to find reasons to find happiness in life for 100 days in a row. I attempted this challenge, starting in May 2014. Following the rules of the challenge, I was posting in my blog and in Facebook pictures about things that made me happy. After the 10th day, however, I missed a day, I tried to catch-up two days later, but the magic was over, and I announced it a fail.

Happiness however is difficult to define. For me, enriching my native web space with accessible and reliable information, freely sharing my knowledge with virtually every person on the planet, changing the world for the better… I’m so happy I have been part of all this for more than 8 years. But 8 years is long time. And during these years, I have suffered all possible forms of wiki burnout. I had times in 2013, when I even *enjoyed* the time spent on completing my PhD studies and research, and preparing my thesis: i couldn’t think of a better and more valid reason to stay offwiki. :-)

In one moment, in the end of December 2014, when I was taking stock of the passing year, it occurred to me that while I had often taken part in discussions about the lowering levels of editors’ retention and the measures that needed to be taken for improving the user experience and atmosphere, I have gradually become one of the victims of this disease. I felt that I was in debt to my wiki community, to Wikipedia, which has given me much more than I can ever give to it. I remembered about the failed challenge #100happydays, and it occurred to me that the right challenge for me was something like #100wikidays.

100wikidays is mainly a challenge to myself to create in Bulgarian Wikipedia at least one new article daily, one hundred days in a row. It has also become challenge to almost 42 other people in about 20 other language versions of Wikipedia. And to anyone else who feels challenged. #100wikidays is not a competition between editors, it is something between you and … you.

I decided for myself that creating new articles should not become excuse for not doing the rest of the maintenance like recent changes patrolling, deleting vandalisms, editing existing articles, uploading free photos to Commons, outreach of Wikimedia projects in traditional and social media, GLAM collaborations, and all possible sorts of wiki things that I have started or I am about to start. Of course, these articles should be in line with all rules for verifiability against reliable sources, neutral point of view, encyclopaedic phrasing, and technical things like appropriate links, templates, categories and interwikis.

More notably, the trick of the challenge are the rules, stating no missed days, and no catch-ups. One article every day, no excuses accepted. I have been asked several times, why these rules have to be so strict. And the answer is simple. You can call #100wikidays ‘a project’, you can call it ‘an initiative’, you can give it any name you like. But if you decide to call it ‘a challenge’, it needs to be something hard to do, a difficult task or problem, provoking you to reach your limits, and make choices.

It’s like climbing a mountain: you don’t compete with the mountain, you compete with yourself. But if you happen to stumble and fall, you just stand up and carry on walking.

Some people are probably afraid that missing a day would mean that they have shamefully failed the challenge. No, I wouldn’t advise anyone to feel like that. I have told many times so far: don’t forget to enjoy it. Keep calm and carry on. Starting #100wikidays is a completely personal decision, and it is likewise a completely personal decision whether you have failed it. If you decide that you failed it after one missed day, you fail it; if you decide that you don’t fail it, you don’t. It’s so simple. And this is why, the last rule, added later by another challengee, which I completely agree with: use your common sense, and ignore all the rules if they prevent you from enriching Wikipedia and enjoying the #100wikidays.

For those of you, who decide to take the challenge, I’d encourage you to list your name and daily contributions in the Meta page https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/100wikidays It can be really disciplining to know that others may follow your progress, and really rewarding to see that you are not alone. One more reason behind this common page is that it can give you ideas about what to write today, if you haven’t made up your mind. I have seen other #100wikidays editors write certain articles in the Ukrainian, Latvian or Hebrew Wikipedia, and I have thought, ‘Wow, what an interesting topic, we don’t have that article in Bulgarian, I’ll be the one to create it!’ And when someone else gets inspired from an article from your list, it’s even more rewarding. :-)

About the other people in the challenge

Of all the people in challenge, 42 right now, I personally know 12. All the rest joined as a result of the viral nature of liking, commenting and sharing in Facebook, in the dedicated FB group and the Meta page (both created one month after the beginning of the challenge when there were already 5 contributors — in Bulgarian, Hebrew and Ukrainian Wikipedia). In the beginning I only announced my challenge and the daily articles on my Facebook wall, willing to make more people from my friends circle form a positive association with Wikipedia, and read (well developed) content from Wikipedia, as well as potentially attract some new editors. For me, #100wikidays proved to be a good example that social networks are not only distractors of attention, but can tip us of some good new ideas (100happydays –> 100wikidays) and can be roped into serving a good and inspiring Wikimedian cause.

In the first about 20 days, I was alone, but getting more and more attention and support from friends. Then the first follower appeared, VladislavNedelev, a student of mine from the “Wikipedia and Wiki Technologies” course, who became a devoted Wikimedian and real life friend. He, like other followers afterwards, made an adaptation of the rules: he made in advance the proviso that he’s only writing his 100wikidays’ articles when he is in his town of residence, skipping the days when he’s travelling. Later, other similar adaptations appeared like #10wikidays of my friend and fellow wiki-educator Justine, and #10wikiweeks of Anna. I’m happy to say that Justine, Anna and me are not the only women in the challenge: two of the earliest followers were Ata and Antanana from Ukrainian Wikipedia, who were among the core organizers of the wonderful Central and Eastern Europe Wikimedia Meeting in December 2014. It was thanks to them that the first blog publication about the challenge appeared. I think there are at least two more girls from the followers whom I don’t personally know. :)

Probably, the most important moment for the progress of the challenge, was when Asaf succumbed to it. He was the reason that #100wikidays became so viral and so global. In the Hebrew Wikipedia, he is writing only biography articles about notable women, who often didn’t timely receive the recognition they deserved. Another editor, who contributes with such articles is Petar in Bulgarian Wikipedia, who formulated it nicely as: “If she were a man, this article wouldn’t be missing”. :-)

Since we’re discussing and sharing in Facebook, and reporting the progress of our articles in the Meta page, we often inspire each other to create the same articles in different languages. Such cross-wiki creation of articles proved to be quite common, for instance, Bulgarian / Hebrew, Hebrew / Ukrainian, Ukrainian / Bulgarian, Bulgarian / Latvian, Latvian / Ukrainian, Ukrainian / Arabic, Hindi / Punjabi, Bulgarian / Esperanto. There are even article topics that got translated into three languages at a time, like “Diana Abgar” in Bulgarian / Ukrainian / Hebrew, or “Luigi Ademollo” in Bulgarian / Ukrainian / Arabic , or “Manolis Glezos” in Esperanto / Arabic / Punjabi, or “Penelope Delta” in Hebrew / Esperanto / Punjabi.

What’s next…

Different people in the challenge have suggested different things for doing after the end of the challenge. There was the advise to start improving and extending what we created as new articles during these 100 days. I personally thought about focusing on either the help and policy pages, which in BG WP also need attention and dedication, or on uploading some personal photography to Wikimedia Commons, sort of a #100commonsdays. Right now, I’m still working on fixing my sleeping pattern, which got well deranged during the last three months :-) But since it is such a joyful and rewarding experience, I guess that I will again repeat it by the end of the year, and have already started making the list of the articles which didn’t make it in the first round of 100 days, but will probably make it in the second. :-)