Learning patterns/Make use of mistakes on Wikipedia
What problem does this solve?
In general, we encourage new people to edit Wikipedia, even if it’s just correcting a typo. Who knows - once they clicked the save button for the first time (and all worked fine), this could be an important initiation to their careers as Wikipedians. The threshold is overcome.
There are several outreach events at which the attendees don’t expect that they are supposed to edit Wikipedia, let alone that they know where and what their first edit shall be. One example is a Wikipedia booth at a conference or at a fair. We inform the visitors about the simplicity of Wikipedia editing just by talking to them about a minute and perhaps by handing them flyers about Wikipedia editing. How can we use this short amount of time to make them edit Wikipedia on-site? This would be the best way to make our point - and to improve Wikipedia on the fly.
What is the solution?
What you need is:
- A computer with internet access. A large showy computer screen makes it easier for others to watch; subsequently the bystanders also dare to participate more likely.
- At least two guides who invite and accompany the visitors of your event to Wikipedia editing. One guide can continue to talk to the visitor somewhere else after the action is done, while another guide can proceed to the next visitor at the computer.
- Prepared lists of Wikipedia articles with minor mistakes which can be corrected quickly. It’s the guide’s job to open such an article, to show the mistake and to explain to the visitor how to correct it. The visitor does the correction with his own hands (not as a logged-in user; creating a Wikipedia account could take too much time. This can be done after the action if the visitor really wishes to do so - don’t force people to create an account if they don’t want to).
Some of the minor mistakes in Wikipedia articles you can look for when you’re preparing your lists:
- obvious misspellings of words (e.g. “chnage” instead of “change”) - don’t make it too difficult (e.g. “transmocrification” instead of “transmogrification”), it’s not a spelling test.
- clearly wrong or missing punctuation marks; again, it’s not a grammar test, stick to the easy ones.
- for the brave: missing images in articles. Of course you should know that there is a suitable image on Wikimedia Commons which waits to get used in the article.
The are two ways to find articles with such mistakes: randomly or more systematically. Randomly means e.g. by the “random article” function. By reading carefully, you will find articles with minor mistakes rather quickly. A more systematic approach could focus on a certain topic. If your information stand is about Wiki Loves Earth, then check Wikipedia articles about nature.
The least you can do after your visitor corrected an article is a) to thank him or her for improving Wikipedia and b) to kindly ask him or her to do the same the next time he or she spots a similar mistake while using Wikipedia as a reader.
Things to consider
- Prepare the lists of articles shortly before you need them. Otherwise any Wikipedian might have corrected the mistakes you found earlier on in the meantime.
- Perhaps there are already lists of articles needing minor improvements in your Wikipedia, e. g. de:Benutzer:Aka/viele Tippfehler about typos in the German-language Wikipedia. Before you rely on them, check if they provide correct data (this is especially the case with lists by bots) and if they have enough entries (which might change from day to day).
When to use
- At stands at fairs, conferences or similar events where you promote Wikipedia in general or Wikipedia-related projects.
- The concept is also adaptable to lectures and presentations - as a way of activating your listeners.