What problem does this solve?
Wikimedia projects depend on getting expert engagement and participation. Academic conferences are centers for expertise in a field, and are attractive targets for outreach when Wikimedians wish to recruit contributors who have expertise. A problem is that Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects historically have a dubious reputation among experts, academics, universities, and research centers. Experts and academics have their own needs and concerns which Wikimedia contributors would have to address to start a conversation about collaboration.
What is the solution?
Wikimedia contributors traditionally have presented in-person Wikipedia editing events as a way to do outreach to potential new users. The Wikimedia community has tested this way of outreach in many settings including at academic conferences. Hosting an editing event is a fine option if a Wiki expert is ready to present and if the conference is willing to provide a space for the workshop.
Things to consider
- Talking about wiki can be challenging. Consider getting advice from someone experienced first.
- Hosting wiki events can be challenging. Again, consider getting advice from someone experienced first.
- When visiting any in-group, it helps to have the support of an insider. For anyone presenting Wikipedia at an academic conference, seek to get the support of some other conference attendees and experts in advance.
When to use
In 2016 the Wiki Education Foundation managed a project called Year of Science in which they sought to present Wikipedia at academic conferences in the United States. Their presentation schedule included the following conferences:
- American Society of Plant Biologists Annual Meeting, July 2016
- The Allied Genetics Conference, July 2016
- Botany 2016, August 2016
- Joint Statistics Meeting, August 2016
- MathFest, August 2016
- Ecological Society of America Conference, August 2016
- American Chemical Society Fall Meeting, August 2016
- Puente Community College Program workshop, October 2016
- National Women Studies Association annual meeting, November 2016
- American Anthropological Association annual meeting, November 2016
- American Geophysical Union annual meeting, December 2016
- American Historical Association annual meeting, January 2017
- Linguistic Society of America annual meeting, January 2017
- American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, February 2017
- National Women's Studies Association Regional Meeting, March 2017
- Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences annual meeting, March 2017
- Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference, March 2017
- American Society for Environmental History conference, March 2017
- American Chemical Society Spring Meeting, April 2017
- Association for Women in Mathematics Research Symposium, April 2017
- American Society of Plant Biologists annual meeting, June 2017
There is no quick way to summarize the experiences which everyone had at these events. However, the overall project demonstrated that Wikimedia contributors can request and receive presentation space at conferences, space to do editing workshops, and opportunities to give talks to audiences which are curious. To encourage other organizations to do similar outreach at science conferences, the Year of Science team produced "Crowdsourcing Expertise: A Working Guide for Organizing a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at a Science Conference" as a guide both for organizers to be confident in proposing a Wikipedia-focused conference presentation and for conference organizers to feel more sure about hosting one.
- "Crowdsourcing Expertise: A Working Guide for Organizing a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at a Science Conference" (PDF). Science Sandbox. Simons Foundation. 2017.