Hacking History 2.0: Wikipedia As Education And Public Engagement

Woman yelling Edit.

Jessica Knapp and I are pleased to announce that we will be holding the second annual Canada Wide Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for Canadian history on October 24, 2018.  We’ve written about the logistics of the event, how you can become involved, and how classrooms can participate over at the Unwritten Histories blog.  Many thanks to Andrea Eidinger for her support and for sharing her virtual space with us.

Know you want to participate? Check out the Hacking History Facebook event or signup using the Wikipedia Outreach Dashboard.

Canada Wide Wikipedia Edit-A-thon Reflection

Women yelling "[Edit] Cdnhist on green and purple background

It’s been a bit over a week since the Canada wide Wikipedia edit-a-thon that was organized by Jessica Knapp and myself.  As the dust has settled I’ve thought a bit about how the event went and ways in which future events could be improved.

Event Successes

I was thrilled with the level of participation we saw throughout the course of the event.  When we came up with the idea we had no idea who would participate or how much interest there would be from the Canadian historical community.  It was great to see people participating from across Canada and from so many different backgrounds. The event resulted in 12.9K words being added to Wikipedia, 259 total edits being completed, over 36 editors contributing, and 60 articles being edited.  It was also fantastic to see participation happening across Canada by university students, faculty, community groups, and high school students.  I was also presently surprised by the number of regional hosts that volunteered without explicit outreach from Jessica or I.

During the event organization stages Danielle Robichaud suggested using the Programs and Events Dashboard.  For anyone organizing an event in the future I would highly recommend using this platform to setup the event.  I might eliminate the use of the Wikipedia meetup page in future events and just opt for using the Dashboard.  Not everyone who participated signed into the Dashboard, but using it allowed us a much easier way to capture stats for the event then manually tracking everyone’s contributions.

I also had my undergraduate public history class participate in this event as part of their coursework.  I couldn’t be happier with how this in-class activity went.  The students were engaged and actively editing.  A few created new pages but a lot of the work that was being done was adding citations and cleaning up existing text. We also had a lot of interesting discussions around authority, who has the power to create history and what different people think is ‘important’ history.  I’d definitely consider using Wikipedia editing again in the classroom and would encourage instructors to use the Wiki Education resources to build assignments, track classroom participation, and provide resources to their students.

Food For Thought

I think it would be great to have more class groups involved in this type of event.  In order to facilitate that involvement I think doing outreach to specific faculty and teachers earlier would be beneficial.  For the case of faculty doing this outreach prior to them developing the syllabus for their class might be best. I think also providing faculty with suggestion of how to setup their classroom activities would be hugely helpful.  Similarly, reminding local hosts that they can apply to have the IP Account Creation Cap temporarily lifted during the event can help make things go smoother on the day of the edit-a-thon.

We created a Slack channel for this event in case anyone needed one-on-one support during the event.  Though a good way to provide that chat functionally the channel wasn’t used and could likely not be bothered with in future cases.  The #EditCdnHist hashtag on twitter worked well for promoting the event and also for facilitating some day of discussion.

Building in a couple of people to help with event follow-up and article cleanup is crucial.  For this year’s event I’ve been slowly working on this.  This follow-up involves things like reviewing the draft articles that were created, improving the articles that were created by new editors, and fixing formatting.  In some cases this work has been slightly hampered by some editors not signing into the Dashboard and having to spend some additional time search out what they worked on.

Did you participate in the #EditCdnHist event?  How was your experience? What could be done to make future events more successful?