Learning by Editing

Every edit-a-thon needs snacks.

I took part in my fourth MIT Libraries hosted Wikipedia edit-a-thon yesterday! It was a node event for the Art+Feminism themed events happening all over the world. I loved being a part of a larger community of editors; there is something comforting in knowing that you are not alone in your editing pursuits. And of course it is great to be in a room with a group of editors who are willing to help and learn from each other. I always learn something new about editing Wikipedia and about history at these events. At edit-a-thons there is always a tug between getting to know the people there, and focusing on the editing.

During the session I worked on two articles – a draft for Alisa Wells, a photographer who lived and worked in Rochester, New York and experimented with multiple exposures and found glass-plate negatives, and also Ghisha Koenig – a political left-wing artist who created sculptures of people at work in industrial settings.

The editors, busy editing

There were about 20 people who came in during the edit-a-thon, that includes library colleagues, New England Wikimedians, and MIT and other college students. Some stayed for almost the entire time, others dropped in to ask a question and then left. I think art is so important, that is it hard for me to believe there is so much art history missing from Wikipedia. It is great because it is an opportunity to get people that wouldn’t think they would be good editors to start engaging, because if they don’t get it online, no one else will.


A related thing I wanted to briefly write about was an HR training session I went to a little over a week ago on preparing and delivering presentations. It was almost a full day workshop and included a lot of general advice on making presentations. There was also a lot of interactive parts and it was a stressful session for me because of this. We had to actually present twice during the day, the first an extended introduction, the second a presentation we came up with during the workshop. By the end, I had a nice little 3 minute presentation on the intersection of archives and Wikipedia. Here is a draft of that presentation.

With over nine billion page views per month the English Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in the world. It has over four million articles and over 900 new articles are created every day.

Because it is often one of the first places researchers go for information, archivists and other information professionals should be looking for ways to use Wikipedia both for outreach and community engagement. This article will address ways that archivists can interact with Wikipedia to promote collections, engage researchers, and making meaningful contributions to the largest encyclopedia in the world.

Archivists can promote collections by adding links to archival collections and online resources such as finding aids. Adding links that connect Wikipedia to our collection material will ensure a broader audience knows about our resources. This enriches the content of Wikipedia and is a great form of outreach for the archives.

We can engage users through archives sponsored edit-a-thons. These events bring in a variety of patrons – those who are active Wikipedians and may not know much about the archives, and also those that may know about the archives, but are new to Wikipedia. It is an opportunity to connect with the attendees and learn about their interests, and they in turn can learn about the archives and the important work that archivists do. Unlocking a  connection between a person, a collection, and Wikipedia is the ultimate goal. The three work together for a common goal – sharing information about a historic person, place, or event with a broad audience.

One key to making successful edits on Wikipedia is understanding the rules that Wikipedia editors follow and expect others to follow. To create meaningful edits it is important to understand the rules of Wikipedia. This is an active community and we want to adhere to their rules when making edits. Some of the rules to know are what makes a subject notable, no original research, neutral point of view, and conflict of interest.


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