Wikipedia:How to run an edit-a-thon
|This page in a nutshell: An edit-a-thon is a special type of meetup to improve the encyclopedia. It is usually focused on a specific encyclopedic topic, and is a great way to attract new Wikipedians.|
This is a guide for how (and why) to run a Wikipedia "edit-a-thon". An edit-a-thon can be:
- a scheduled time where people edit Wikipedia together, offline and/or online;
- typically focused on a specific topic, such as science or women's history;
- a way to give newcomers an insight into how Wikipedia works.
Edit-a-thons improve the encyclopedia and can be a great way to help new Wikipedians learn to edit. This is quite different from 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).
- A training session on how to develop editathons and other editing events can be taken on the Programs and Events Dashboard.
Why run an edit-a-thon?
- It helps build the encyclopedia
- It provides access to topic experts, and to offline source materials
- It builds relationships in the community
- It encourages editors to learn from each other, and by doing
- It entices people to become new Wikipedians
- It helps new Wikipedians to contribute
- 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.
Important: You should be aware of Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) guideline, which covers employees of an institution editing that institution's article. Also please check the Wikipedia:Advocacy essay; while not a Wikipedia policy or guideline itself, it is intended to supplement the WP:SOAP and WP:NPOV pages.
What you should have beforehand
Define a clear set of goals in terms of what general group of articles you want to work on and who you want to attend. This can be a broad topic, like women's history or items in the collection of a museum, or you can target a specific backlog. Newcomers often feel most comfortable with either a topic in which they have some degree of interest and a very simple activity, like copyediting or wikifying.
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.
When determining the date, time, and venue for an edit-a-thon, keep the following in mind.
Find out how many people your venue can hold and limit the number of signups to that number. Alternatively, guess how many attendees you'll have and try to find a venue that will accommodate that many. It's simple with half a dozen participants, while hundreds can be successful given the right planning.
Participants must have reliable access to the internet, preferably strong wifi. This is important, as Wikipedia skills are best learned by live editing. Usually venues are chosen that can provide access, but some chapters have portable wifi hotspots to ensure connections anywhere.
If the venue has computers, consider the following when deciding on how to incorporate them into your event:
- Which accounts/passwords do attendees need to access the computers? Does anything need to be done in advance?
- Which browser is used, and does it play nicely with Wikipedia?
- Can people connect cameras and memory card readers? Do the computers have image editing software?
If participants will be bringing devices, consider:
- Does the venue have wifi? Can it cope with the expected number of users?
- Which accounts or passwords do you need to access wifi?
- If the wifi has a single password, post a sign with the details and check that you can see the sign from the farthest 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.
- Can people use power sockets? Do you need extension cables?
Drinks and food will encourage people to stick around for longer than they might otherwise and provide an opportunity to take a break and talk with other editors. Make sure water is available.
Especially when edit-a-thons are hosted within cultural institutions, attending the event may not be as simple as coming in. 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:
- If the only way in is to text or call you, warn them to bring a mobile phone and put a Wikipedia sign outside with a phone number .
- Assign someone other than the presenter to answer the phone and let people in.
- Find out if your venue is wheelchair accessible or has a hearing loop and put those details on your event page.
Real life or online?
Is it easier/safer/cheaper to run your editathon online rather than in real life? Post-Covid, more and more editathons are being delivered via Zoom or similar meeting platforms. Consider how you will send out invites, manage the platform whilst training is being delivered. You may need to appoint colleagues to manage the delivery platform and deal with chat queries, unexpected attendees, etc. Check if a subscription is needed to have meetings of a suitable length. Ensure you familiarise yourself with the practicalities of the online meeting platform well in advance of your event.
Recruit active Wikipedia editors and research experts
Edit-a-thons go most smoothly when experienced editors are there to help new editors. One-on-one coaching is ideal, and one longtime Wikipedian per 10 attendees is a bare minimum. Coaches should also apply in advance for Wikipedia:IP block exemption and Wikipedia:Event coordinator, to be ready for problems that may arise. Connecting with a local Wikimedia affiliate or chapter provides access to support, expertise and promotion.
It can also help to include people who aren't experienced with Wikipedia, but are good at teaching information literacy. Librarians, for example, can teach about finding reliable sources and help build Wikipedia experience at libraries.
Determine how to create user accounts
Within a 24-hour period, only six Wikipedia accounts can be created via a single IP address. If there's a chance you'll have more than six new editors at your edit-a-thon, you'll want to have a plan for how they'll create accounts. As of 2019, this limit does not apply to event account creations that are run through the Programs and Events Dashboard, unless you will be manually flagging your attendees as "confirmed".
You can do one or more of the following:
- Encourage new editors to create their account before they arrive;
- Recruit an event coordinator to (remotely or in-person) help at your event; or
- Request an exception to the limit for your IP address at least a week in advance.
- Remember the limit applies per wiki, so if you have more than six newbies try starting some of them at Commons; bonus points for running multilingual editathons and encouraging people to create an account on the language version of Wikipedia where they are going to edit.
- While actual editing may be difficult on the mobile site, people who can get a signal can create an account on their mobile; then use it on a PC.
Provide a way to find details and sign up
Write an event page. This is especially useful to recruit insiders to help. A subpage of Wikipedia:Meetup is easiest, but there are other options depending on the location and topic of your event. For an institution such as a gallery, library, archive, or museum, a subpage of WP:GLAM may be appropriate. If you are aiming this at newbies don't confuse them with a sign up page on a different wiki such as a chapter wiki, especially if that requires a different account to be created.
Providing a way for people to sign up outside of Wikipedia will be more inviting to new editors. 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, Meetup.com, or even a Facebook event.
Have appropriate forms for data collection afterwards
This is important if you plan to report statistics on participant activity. There are two main ways to do this:
- Using Wikimetrics – to use this tool you need to record participants' usernames and use appropriate forms to get their consent for you to collect data about their activity.
- Using the Programs and Events Dashboard – contributors join events, and through joining those events, can be tracked for their contributions during a window of time.
You can encourage participants to make a user page, with a notice that they are under your instruction, to help other editors understand.
Ways to advertise an edit-a-thon
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:
- Geographically-specific software notice; these invite existing editors via their watchlist. Aim for people within two hours travel.
- Scheduling an edit-a-thon in conjunction with a well-known event—such as the subject African Americans during Black History Month (February) or of women during Women's History Month (March)—can maximize attendance.
- Ask people to help promote it to their friends and colleagues. Social connections are your friend.
- 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 relevant WikiProjects, 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! You can draft a proposed Wikimedia Foundation blog post here.)
For the benefit of online participants, make clear the time zone in which the event will take place.
Tip: For a great registration URL link to use in your advertisements, go to your Wikipedia event page while signed out and click "Create account". The URL now in your browser will automatically direct people to your event page after they create their account.
During an edit-a-thon
- Welcome people, find them a seat, tell them where the toilets and fire escapes are.
- Keep in mind that whatever their experience level, editors will likely come with a set of interests. Ask them, and try to direct them to any related work that needs doing.
- Unless everyone knows each other or there are dozens, you can start with a round of introductions. Nametags help, and experienced editors can wear a special sticker or color or otherwise mark themselves. At a minimum get all the trainers/helpers to stand up so people know whom to ask for help.
- If you expect more than a handful of people and, particularly, if they 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.
- Make sure all participants have signed-in if necessary, and have access to any WiFi passwords, and are told whether any group training sessions are working in Visual Editor or Source Editor, and in desktop or in mobile view (and how to switch over).
- 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.
- Familiarize new editors with Wikipedia's core content policies (neutral point of view, verifiability, no original research) and content guidelines (particularly notability and reliable sources).
- Demonstrate the use of draft space and userspace sandboxes for incomplete articles.
- Demonstrate using the Article Wizard and Articles for Creation to confirm that a new article is appropriate before publishing.
- Creating acceptable new pages is an advanced activity unsuitable for brand new editors. Encourage improving existing Mainspace pages as the best way for new users to learn. It is usually better to expand an existing topic until it's ready to become a spinout page, than to create a dubious stub. Data clearly shows pages created by new users get deleted at a much higher rate than pages created by users with as few as 10 edits over 4 days. Don't set new users up for disappointment as their new page gets speedy tagged or sent to WP:AfD.
- Experienced editors are comfortable editing with the classic wikitext interface, but that user interface can be challenging for new editors. Suggest new editors use VisualEditor, particularly since it has Citoid (editors only need a URL to generate a full citation, at least for the most common news sources).
- Experienced editors should have prior experience in VE, so they understand the interface. They should also know where the user guide is located.
- With dozens of newbies, 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; no use isolating less than a handful into their own space when a larger group can bring more opportunities for mutual help.
- Make sure new editors know where to go to ask for help before the event is over (e.g., the Help desk or Village pump). 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, Slack, group Skype chat, or a Google Meet 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
- 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 edit-a-thons" (or a subcategory of that).
- Write a blog post or op-ed for the Wikipedia Signpost talking about who attended, what got done, and how it went overall.
- Send a survey to participants (optional)
Selective list of edit-a-thons in the English language or in English-speaking countries
Below is an incomplete list, in reverse chronological order, of edit-a-thons organized in English language or in English speaking countries, including some others in non-English-speaking countries or regions.
- Edit-a-thon on the Outreach wiki
- Art+Feminism Organizing Kit - An editathon organizing kit, that works well for dealing with topics related to WP:Systemic Bias, specifically about underrepresented or minority community
- mw:Wikimedia Research/Showcase#July 2021, about the long-term contributions of campaigns to article improvements