What problem does this solve?
Most edit-a-thon participants are newcomers, so much of the time is devoted to training and assistance, and not much is accomplished for all the time and effort involved. The current edit-a-thon model is an uneasy hybrid of training workshop and content creation: they are often advertised as a way to improve equity and get better coverage of a group or subject but newcomers can spend a whole day learning how to edit, and end up with just a few sentences in Wikipedia to show for it. Many never edit again.
What is the solution?
We've tried a format we call a Wikiblitz: a short event focussed on improving just one article, where experienced Wikimedians are partnered with subject experts. Work begins immediately. There is no Wikipedia training, and subject experts concentrate on correcting text, coming up with references, and donating photographs.
Things to consider
- No projection screen is needed, so the event can be run anywhere with WiFi: a pub or cafe is good.
- It could be useful to have a large piece of paper tacked up to the wall to help with coordination: divide up the article, put peoples names beside sections, and let them cross off what's been completed.
- To avoid edit conflicts, different sections can be assigned to different groups.
- Subject experts can also write directly into a shared Google document, which can handle multiple simultaneous writers. Wikipedians can transfer text from the Google doc, format it, and incorporate references properly.
When to use
We had a situation where we needed to improve Wikipedia coverage of one thing: a disease called kauri dieback, which was an urgent environmental problem in New Zealand, but which had only just had a Wikipedia article created. At a public meeting, a panel of scientists spoke to the public about kauri dieback; afterwards, we approached them and asked if they would "come to the pub" and help improve the article. We also approached Wikipedia editors we knew from previous events and invited them too. After an evening's work (at the cost of a round of drinks) the article was almost doubled in size, with several photos and 25 references added.
The Wikiblitz model works where there is a clear and pressing need to improve an article, experienced Wikipedians to call on, and enough experts present. The significant improvements that can be made by so many people all focussed on a single task can be very rewarding.
- "The kauri dieback muddle shows officials ignore Wikipedia at their peril" (The Spinoff, 9 Dec 2017)