Wikipedia:How to run an edit-a-thon

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This is a guide for how (and why) to run a Wikipedia "edit-a-thon". An edit-a-thon is...

  1. a scheduled time where people edit Wikipedia together, whether offline, online, or a mix of both;
  2. typically focused on a specific topic, such as science or women's history;
  3. a way to recruit new Wikipedians and teach them how to contribute.

Edit-a-thons improve the encyclopedia and can be a great way to help new Wikipedians learn to edit. This is quite different than 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.)

Why run an edit-a-thon?[edit]

  1. It helps build the encyclopedia
  2. It builds relationships in the community
  3. It is an opportunity for editors to learn from each other
  4. It can convince people to become new Wikipedians
  5. It can help new Wikipedians to contribute
  6. It is an opportunity to improve the quality of Wikipedia by accessing offline materials and experts
  7. 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.

What you should have beforehand[edit]

An edit-a-thon at the British Library.
  • A project page for your edit-a-thon. A subpage of Wikipedia:Meetup is the easiest choice, but there are other options depending on the location and topic of your event. If it's at an institution such as a gallery, library, archive, or museum, a subpage of WP:GLAM may be appropriate. In any case, the important thing here is that having documentation on Wikipedia itself is a must-have for a really successful edit-a-thon.
  • A date, time, and a venue. This venue should be reasonably accessible to participants and must have reliable wifi. This is vital otherwise your participants will not be able to connect to edit Wikipedia (some chapters such as Wikimedia UK have portable WiFi hotspots which make it possible to run events in venues without WiFi). Providing drinks and food will encourage people to stick around for longer than they might otherwise and provides an opportunity to take a break and talk with other editors.
  • A way for people to sign up to attend. This is usually on the Wikipedia project page itself, but it is extremely important to keep in mind that if you want new editors to attend, you must have an alternative method for signing up. 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,, or even a Facebook event.
  • Venue details
    • Size: find out how many people your venue can hold and limit the number of signups to that number.
    • Access: 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:
    1. If the only way in is to text or call you, warn them to bring a mobile phone
    2. Put a sign on the outside door that says Wikipedia and a number that they can call.
    3. Assign someone other than the presenter to answer the phone and let people in.
    4. Find out if your venue is wheelchair accessible or has a hearing loop and put those details on your event page.
  • Define a clear set of goals, in terms of what general group of articles you would like to work on and who you want to attend. This can be as broad as an overarching topic, like women's history or items in the collection of a museum, or you can target a specific backlog. People who have never edited before often feel most comfortable with either: A) a topic which they have some degree of interest in and B) a very simple activity, like copyediting or wikifying.
  • User account creation strategy
    1. If a lot of new editors are going to be creating new accounts then an exception to the account creation limit of 6 per 24 hours can be requested. It helps if you encourage new editors to create accounts in advance.
    2. If you are going to have a lot of new editors then it is useful to ask an administrator to set some of their accounts as confirmed users. This means that they don't have to do a capcha when they add an external link such as a reference, it also bypasses one of the automated defences against vandals, by making your editathon look less like a class full of schoolchildren who have decided to "experiment" on wikipedia.
    3. Note: You should be aware of Wikipedia's conflict of interest guideline, which covers employees of an institution editing that institution's article.
  • Internet access. If the WiFi has a password pin up a sign with the details and check that you can see the sign from the furthest 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.

Ways to advertise an edit-a-thon[edit]

If you have enough helpers, and plenty of space it can be a good idea to have "stations" for different activities, like getting on the Wifi and creating an account. If space is restricted 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...

  • Ask people to help promote it to their friends and colleagues. Social pressure is your friend.
  • Use a software notice; the more geographically-specific the better. Aim for a people within two hours travel.
  • 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 the relevant WikiProject, 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! Bug this person about that.)

For the benefit of online participants, make clear the time zone in which the event will take place.

During an edit-a-thon[edit]

Food at an edit-a-thon = encyclopedia fuel

  • Welcome people, find them a seat, tell them where the toilets are and what to do if there is a fire.
  • Keep in mind that whatever their experience level, editors will likely come with a set of things in which they are interested. Asking them what their interests are is the easiest way to try and direct them to work that needs doing on the project.
  • 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.
  • Unless everyone knows each other, it can be good to start with a round of introductions. Nametags don't hurt either, especially if there are only a handful of experienced editors around to answer questions. At a minimum get all the trainers/helpers to stand up so people know who to ask for help.
  • If you expect more than a handful of people and, particularly, if people 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.
  • Try to have an appropriate ratio of experienced editors to newbies. One longtime Wikipedian per 10 attendees is probably the absolute minimum, and one-on-one collaboration is always the best.
  • 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.
  • Having 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; keeping a very small group in the same space even if they work on different things can make things more fun.
  • Make sure new editors know where to go to ask for help before the event is over (AKA the Help Desk or Village Pump, etc.). 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[edit]

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 Signpost talking about who attended, what got done, and how it went generally.

List of edit-a-thons in English language or in English speaking countries[edit]

Following please find, in chronological order, a list of edit-a-thons organized in English language or in English speaking countries, including some others in non-English-speaking countries or regions.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]