Learning patterns/How to make a multi-day editathon?
What problem does this solve?
Traditionally, Wikipedia editing marathons (‘editathons’) last from 6 to 8 hours in a single day. Amical Wikimedia was the first chapter to make a 32-hour editathon in Barcelona, Spain. We at Wikimedia Mexico, along with Museo Soumaya (Soumaya Museum), decided to try and organize an even longer editathon, without hurries to leave home and continue writing and editing at a distance. There are several conditions necessary to organize such a party, which is why we’ve shared here some of the lessons learned from two editathons, one lasting 42 hours in 2014 and one lasting 62 hours in 2015.
What is the solution?
Edit a lot, sleep even more
- Museo Soumaya became the host of the first editathon lasting 42 hours, it was our temporary shelter, so we arrived with luggage, sleeping bags and camping tents. We slept in a room dedicated to children’s books and activities and we showered in the bathrooms reserved for the museum’s security staff. Our main plan was the following: to supervise that every hour there are editions, with several subjects divided among the museum staff so that they could help us. Every museum researcher had a schedule assigned to help editors and a name badge indicating their areas of expertise within the larger themes of art. Every hour we made sure that there was at least one edit to reach our goal.
- Our first (long) editathon taught us that during Saturday and Sunday we had few editors awake, only those with highest stamina who were also the most exhausted at the end of the experience. This is why for the second editathon we planned to divide time in 4-hour shifts with two people responsible for making at least one edit per hour each, as well as fielding questions and generally making sure the editathon ran smoothly. These shifts were assigned weeks in advance. We agreed that no one should be assigned two consecutive shifts, although some people opted to do so.
- We slept and showered at a nearby hotel to ensure editors would be able to continue their activities normally. The most important thing is to have a team of well-rested editors.
- During both events, even with the measures taken for the second editathon, we found that the most critical hours are between 4 and 7 AM, when tiredness is at a maximum for the shift “guards”. This is something to have in mind.
Make it fun, really fun
An experience like this is good for strengthening friendships and build trust, even beyond Wikimedia. The experience must be focused in editing, but also in having fun and being relaxed. We had help from the museum staff and so we were able to provide an ample programme of activities that directly helped editors and left them with knowledge. Among these activities we had introductory workshops to art, guided visits, ‘theatrical’ visits and access to exclusive archives and areas in the museum. In our first editathon, we also had visits to the Inbursa Aquarium and the UnoTV studios, both nearby the museum. During the second editathon, besides the usual programme, we organized a late-night FIFA 2016 tournament
These spaces are a great opportunity to have immersive experiences between the participant communities. The wiki community has access to the backstage of a museum, its inner workings and their daily routine; and the museum community has the opportunity to learn about Wikipedia and its neighbor projects during several hours. The learning dialogue in both experiences becomes enrichened by dedicating a whole day to free knowledge. In our second editathon, we had some time for the museum and wiki staff to make joint reviews on articles in order to correct mistakes, form and overall information.
Work with drafts
In both experiences, curating the contents took between one and three months, during which we decided on what to edit prepared documents to support edits on critical themes and compiled physical sources for our references.
Add more challenges
During our second editathon, the goal that lasted 62 hours achieved its goal of 105 new articles in Spanish Wikipedia within the first 40 hours. We had 24 more hours to spend and Wikipedians eager to write more so we decided to do something we had never done before. For the first time in a Wikimedia Mexico event we contemplated translations from Spanish to English, Portuguese and Catalan, when the usual process is in reverse. We also edited on Wikidata and the museum donated high quality images to Commons
It’s about the content, but even more about the community
Our proposed goals were rather conservative because we didn’t want to impose an excessive challenge on the community that would obstruct social interactions, dialogues, learning and fun. It is possible that the numerical results could have been twice as large, but that would have left us with less time for other important aspects in a volunteer-driven community like ours: talk extensively about Wikipedia and the contents that we was working, meet and recognize others as a part of the same mission, strong friendship and good vibes between community, criticize the others work and teach them how can be improved, share with others about personal passions (books, videogames, movies) and increase quantity and quality of personal relationships outside the wiki environment.
Things to consider
- Food. We had food and drink at all times, including vegan options; snacks, soft drinks, tap water and hot food so as to keep energy and morale up. Even though we had pre-determined breakfast, lunch and dinner times, besides having snacks at all times, we organized shifts for eating so as to never stop editing and avoid leaving only one person as the sole responsible for all activities. These were additional spaces for social interactions besides editing.
- T-shirts. Matching clothes serves several purposes: we identify ourselves as a community, as a single team and we signalled ourselves to the public as the people who could help and answer their questions.
- Gifts. A physical recognition to our participants motivates them to create. Usually Museo Soumaya award a symbolic gift to the largest number of edits or the longest continuous shift
- Have experimented editors. Content curation is made with help from the museum staff, but the Wikipedia format and style requires experienced editors to correct style, use references and notes, add categories and several other ‘behind the scenes’ activities. This prevents having our articles and contributions flagged by other editors who are not participating in the event
- Notify the Wikipedia community. This is important to make editors and bureaucrats aware of our actions, to ‘raise their good faith’ in our edits and more open to helping us
- Do not get frustrated with unmet goals. One of our goals at the second editathon (perhaps too complex) was to transcript several documents to Wikisources; however we didn’t have the digital versions of these documents ready in time for us to meet this goal, and so we decided to focus on Wikipedia/data editing. However, many other archives are available as digitized images on Commons so in a future date they can be transcripted and available as primary, free and open sources.
- Report on Wikimedia blog
- Organization page on Spanish Wikipedia
- Video: Alfonso Miranda, head of Museo Soumaya, talks about his experience on editathon
- Video: Paulina Sánchez, Wikimedia Mexico volunteer, talks about his experience on editathon