Grants:IEG/Senior Citizens Write Wikipedia/Midpoint
Welcome to this project's midpoint report! This report shares progress and learnings from the Individual Engagement Grantee's first 3 months.
In a few short sentences or bullet points, give the main highlights of what happened with your project so far.
- After preparations during the summer, we started regular courses of Wikipedia editing. At the moment, there are three courses running in parallel (8 hours per week in total).
- Two "classes" of "graduates" have gone through the elementary course (10-12 hours) and most of these are interested in attending the follow-up course and continue writing.
- We keep advertizing the project as much as possible - by attending a festival, organizing a wider-audience lecture, writing articles for media, visiting Third-Age universities, sending out e-mails and distributing leaflets.
Methods and activities
How have you setup your project, and what work has been completed so far?
- A long-term collaboration with the Municipal Library of Prague and the Elpida association (the organizer of Elpida Center for senior citizens) was established.
- A collaboration with the "Third-Age University" of Faculty of Arts, Charles University, as well as several senior clubs, is maintained and used to advertise our courses.
- Three regular courses were started at the end of September (beginning of October)
- Tuesday course in the Municipal Library of Prague, regularly attended by 7 participants
- Thursday course in the Municipal Library of Prague (in Smichov district), first with no participants, now with about 3-5 participants
- Monday and Wednesday course in the Elpida center, successfully absolved by 7 participants, new round of workshops has already started with a lower interest (which, on the other hand, gives the former participants an opportunity to attend these courses again and develop their abilities (they are interested)
- We requested a design of a logo, to be done by volunteers at a crowd-sourcing website, we also work on a design of specialized leaflets, etc.
- Based on our experience, we work on a concise step-by-step guideline on various topics (how to register, how to add a link, how to add an image, how to start a sandbox, how to copy a finished article from sandbox to the main space)
- We took part in the Fresh Senior festival, speaking to dozens of potential participants
- We organized a lecture given by Professor Jan Sokol, a public figure who supports our program.
- We experiment with Facebook advertising - a boosted post advertising the project was posted on the Czech Wikipedia Facebook page, with a targeting on the age group of 55-65+, living in Prague. Results of this campaign will be summarized in the final report.
Describe how you've setup your experiment or pilot, sharing your key focuses so far and including links to any background research or past learning that has guided your decisions. List and describe the activities you've undertaken as part of your project to this point.
- A lot of the experience was learned from our "sister" program, Students Write Wikipedia.
- A report of German "Silberwissen" project also proved to be valuable - we learned that the courses should be attended by people skilled in PC/Internet.
What are the results of your project or any experiments you’ve worked on so far?
- 14 people finished (absolved) our elementary training in October. Apart from mastering the basics of editing, they all started a personal sandbox and a user page, where they described their field of interest on Wikipedia. Some of them showed an interest in patrolling recent changes, some started writing their own articles (usually in their own sandbox).
- All participants can be tracked using the Education extension here and analyzed with Wikimetrics.
- In October, our participants created 26 pages in total (but only 1 in main namespace thus far), 398 edits (but only 87 in main namespace) and added 63 819 Bytes in total.
- One wider-audience lecture was organized (a talk given by professor Jan Sokol)
- An article was published on the Senior Citizens Write Wikipedia program on the Czech Broadcasting website
- We are developing a scheme to create a database of "retired professors", a target group of highly educated senior citizens. E-mails written by our befriended professors will be sent out to their colleagues, asking them to send them to their colleagues, eventually creating a collection of retired professors. These will either be summoned to a meeting where Wikipedia would be taught or a specialized external expert system would be developed to engage them in reviewing Wikipedia entries. We are discussing this with our Wikimedian colleagues from abroad, more information should be known until the end of the year.
Please take some time to update the table in your project finances page. Check that you’ve listed all approved and actual expenditures as instructed. If there are differences between the planned and actual use of funds, please use the column provided there to explain them.
|Expense||Approved amount||Actual funds spent||Difference|
|Promotional materials||36800 CZK||2235 CZK|
|Computer lab||55000 CZK||0 CZK (pending)|
|Project management||66000 CZK||22000 CZK|
|Travel||1000 CZK||0 CZK|
|Phone||1200 CZK||0 CZK|
|Total||160000 CZK||24235 CZK|
Our transparent account can be monitored here.
Have you spent your funds according to plan so far? Please briefly describe any major changes to budget or expenditures that you anticipate for the second half of your project.
- We spend less than planned. This will change in the second half of the project - rent of the classrooms will be paid, leaflets will be printed out.
- Not all money reserved for rent (item "Computer lab") will be probably spent, as the Municipal Library lets us organize courses in their premises for free.
- Some changes may occur in the item "Promotion materials" as well because the leaflet campaign has proven less efficient than was hoped. A better graphical design may help, but generally this kind of campaigning probably does not produce great results.
What are the challenges
What challenges or obstacles have you encountered? What will you do differently going forward? Please list these as short bullet points.
- Recruiting the participants - probably the most difficult challenge we face. Handouts and e-mails usually provoke a very limited response. Better results (higher success rate) are achieved by personal communication (e.g. presenting the program at a Third-Age University) but this is more demanding in terms of organization and time management.
- A complicated Wikipedia environment - over time, Wikipedia has become flooded with links and various pages. If our participants need a simple help page, they do not know where to click. There is a myriad of tutorials, help pages, FAQs, discussions, etc. This is too many for some of our participants. Our e-mail support works fairly fine, but is not optimal in the long-term.
- Feeling of hostility - Senior citizens participating in our project may sometimes perceive the environment as hostile. First complications come when trying to register - most of meaningful names are now taken and they need to fill in the data several times before succeeding. This is demotivating. Similarly, the VisualEditor does not work well in some cases.
- Variable abilities of participants within the courses - even though all our participants have experience dealing with computers and Internet, some still occasionally have difficulties. The variable abilities are not the main problem, it is mainly the speed (tempo) of their work that matters. This means that the most talented and quickest participants may become bored and the slower ones may have problems catching up (and end up losing the motivation as well). A solution is an individual attitude towards participants which is, nevertheless, very demanding for the tutor if the number of people in the classroom is high.
What is working well
- Contacting the institutions - basically, we have never met with a negative response. All institutions are exhilarated about the project and try to assist us as much as possible. For instance, we do not have to pay for the rent of the PC room at the Municipal Library and they also assist us with the advertising.
- Usage of the Education extension - it helps us to track every user's activity very easily.
- Finding our participants' field of interest - very often, it proves hard for our participants to find out their area of interest. They like the idea of doing the patrol, but the "recent changes" environment is a bit complex and Wiki markup is needed to understand changes between revisions. So far, categories such as "Articles for wikification" proved to be the most useful. Our participants can fix the wiki links or do any other simple activity - and many of these give very positive feedback about this kind of activities. A limitation is that Czech Wikipedia does not have as good system of flagging problematic articles as is the case of English Wikipedia, for example.
Read also "Learning pattern on training senior citizens"
Next steps and opportunities
What are the next steps and opportunities you’ll be focusing on for the second half of your project? Please list these as short bullet points. If you're considering applying for a 6-month renewal of this IEG at the end of your project, please also mention this here.
- We will continue with regular courses and improve their advertising.
- Some of the regular courses may be reserved for advanced participants. Besides that, free "office hours" will be established at Centre Elpida or at Faculty of Arts, to give opportunity to more experienced participants or those who have already absolved our course. They will have the opportunity to ask about editing Wikipedia and we will try to solve the problems they encounter.
- Thanks to our experience on the pilot program, we may be able to train new volunteers/tutors who could run new courses and upscale the program. We think that courses in middle-sized or smaller cities outside Prague could draw particular attention as Prague already has considerable competition of senior citizen - engaging activities and senior centers. As usual with Wikimedia projects, the biggest problem will be to find volunteers for that. A collaboration with regional libraries might be fruitful but we are not sure how much time the librarians would be willing to devote to this and if they would be able to master Wikipedia in advance.
- A subproject dealing with retired professors will be developed in the upcoming weeks and months.
We consider applying for a 6-month renewal of this IEG, especially if there is a possibility to expand to other cities.
I have to admit I do not find any substantial pleasure in project management and reporting (a feeling of being overwhelmed by deadlines), but I genuinely enjoy the course work. My participants are very concentrated and intrigued (quite different from what I remember from working with young students). They express their gratitude (often "for my patience") both personally and in e-mails and that is immensely motivating for my further work. I feel rewarded when I see our participants editing from their homes, without my leadership.