Learning patterns/Following Wikipedia policies in gender gap events
What problem does this solve?
Some articles created during gender gap-bridging edit-a-thons have been deleted for notability and verifiability issue, resulting in discouragement for newly registered editors. This problem has two layers of explanation:
A) Participants are not well-aware of the Wikipedia policies.
B) Reliable sources that can be considered reliable for a topic worth working on is extremely limited due to historical bias.
The solutions stated below may be applied beyond the gender gap bridging events.
What is the solution?
The table below is a brief summary of approaches you may take as an event organizer to ensure that...
- The articles created during your gender gap bridging events are in line with the Wikipedia guidelines, and that
- the event still serves its purpose of raising awareness in the gender bias in Wikipedia and in our knowledge society.
More explanation is below the table.
|Timeline||Tackling low awareness of Wikipedia policies||Tackling historical knowledge bias (reflecting on sources availability)|
|On the day(s)||
Things to do while planning (pre-event)
A fundamental way to avoid notability and verifiability issues in articles to be created is to have experienced Wikipedians review and approve the topics and sources that would be used. In a gender gap bridging event this is even more crucial as the resources are already more rare and difficult to find.
It will be a plus if the team can reach out to experts, librarians, and institution partners who may have resources that are not freely-accessible or in digital forms.
- Ideally, the number of topics should be more than the number of participants in order for editors to choose the ones they are interested in working on.
- Although a number of topics and sources should be prepared by the organizers, participants should be allowed (and encouraged) to explore their own topics of interests. However, a clear rule should be stated on the event page/social media posts that participants who wish to work on their chosen topics should submit their idea and plan of retrieving reliable sources to the organizers before the event.
- Each topic should have at least 3 reliable references prepared, and have evidence that its notability is not temporary.
|“||(I)t was about female scientists that do not have coverage online; my article got marked as speedy deletion because the reference was few. I feel a bit discouraged and I feel that if you put it up there a bit longer maybe there will be more editors contributing to it, to build on it... But instead it was deleted... I feel like I didn’t change anything.||”|
|— Female Wikipedian|
Although this method hasn't been put into practice, there has been the idea of negotiating with local language Wikipedia admins to extend the existence of gender gap bridging articles. Resources of women-related topics are already limited compared to other subjects, and many contributors of the articles are first-time (female) editors joining through edit-a-thons and other gender gap bridging sessions. We would like to ask the admins to allow temporary exceptions of postponing speedy deletion:
- To allow participants to follow up (or attend a follow up event) and polish their work
- To allow more time for reliable sources to be found and digitized
As the best practice, we want to encourage participants to have some knowledge of the Wikipedia guidelines before they choose their topics and resources. Instead of simply providing URLs to the participants and ask them to read through, this can be done more efficiently through email reminders where each day we feature one important policy to explain in a short email. A small and fun short quiz can also be given before the event to "test" the participants' familiarity of the guidelines.
Things to do on the event day(s)
Again, we cannot stress enough the importance of explaining the Wikipedia guidelines and policies to (new) editors. Instead of rushing into the technical part of editing (which can be much easily and quickly explained through hands-on tutorials and cheatsheets), we encourage organizers to actually spend some time explaining the rules, their importance, and consequences of violation. In sessions with a smaller size audience (below 20), I find it helpful to do some interactive games with the participants to help them understand the policies. For example, multiple choice questions with small prizes are very effective; showing a newspaper paragraph and ask participants to paraphrase it (when explaining copyright violation) is also a good activity. Below are a list of activities to explain the important policies:
- Multiple choice question with prize or small punishment (such as standing up if you are wrong)
- Showing a newspaper paragraph and pick a few participants to paraphrase it
- "Find the mistake(s)" - showing a paragraph with mistakes and ask participants to point out what should be corrected
- "To cite or not to cite" - Prepare a mix of reliable and unreliable sources and write one on each small card. Hand one card to each participant and ask them to group themselves into "reliable," "unreliable," and "debatable." Reveal the answers at the end.
Often time when checking with participants' progress during the event, we focus more on formatting and language. More attention should be pay to the notability of the topics and the verifiability of its sources. Ask the participants why (s)he chose the topic and where they got the statements from.
|“||People will realize how Wikipedia can be just repeating the bias in the real world. So even at the end when someone’s article got deleted, it gets people thinking, not just discouraged, and that is a good thing||”|
|— Gender Gap bridging event organizers|
Unfortunately, it is a fact that our history of knowledge creating has been male-centric. Topics that are considered "notable" and sources deemed "reliable" may not always be in line with women's interest or favor. An important discussion to hold during a gender gap bridging event (and other events of course) is how the free and open knowledge can still be under the shadow of the historical hegemony and patriarchy. Here is few questions to start the discussion:
- From the policies/guidelines you learned just now, do you think any of them can be disadvantageous for women-related topics?
- Where can one find "reliable" resources on women-related topics? (Brainstorm)
- What will you do if an article you created got deleted because of notability/verifiability issue?
- What will happen if most women are not participating in knowledge creation in the digital era?
Things to do after the event is done (post-event)
While staying in touch with the participants is extremely important, double checking the articles they have created can be very helpful too. Organizers can put the pages on their watchlist to track the changes of the articles created by participants.
- If an article is deleted/reverted: check the reasons of deletion/reversion and see if it is debatable. In either case, try to contact the participant(s) who created the page and indicate the issue behind. Provide some advice and encouragement.
- If an article is expanded by the participant after the event: Post on the participant's talk page to show appreciation of their continuous efforts. Ensure them that their ongoing contribution has been recognized and noticed.
- If an article is expanded by others: Contact the participant who created the page and let them know that people have decided to expand on the topic, which is a great recognition of their work. Encourage them to keep on editing and creating pages.
It is true that sources on women-related topics are hard to find. Although creating/editing on Wikipedia is a good way to preserve the knowledge, it is also very important to collect and preserve the original sources for others who might find it helpful. For sources that are in archives and have passed the copyright duration, it can be helpful to re-license them under free licences and make them available online, such as through Wikisource.