Research:WikiWomen's Collaborative/Final report

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WikiWomen's Collaborative: Final Project Report

The WikiWomen's Collaborative is a social media initiative that seeks to engage and inspire women to edit Wikipedia, Commons, and related projects. It was one of 2 projects piloted as part of Sarah Stierch's 2012 fellowship focused on the gender gap.

This project was inspired by the women's movement of the 19th and 20th century, which brought together women from different backgrounds and worlds to come together to fight for equal rights through collaboration with each other. By bringing together women who edit, and have yet to edit, Wikipedia and related projects, the WikiWomen's Collaborative strives to provide a space where women can be themselves, find support about projects, share, celebrate, and engage one another about their contributions to Wikimedia projects.


This project was originally brainstormed as an off-wiki website for women to socialize, share stories, and learn more about Wikimedia projects. We wanted to provide a place where women could meet one another, discover calls to action to edit, find resources, learn about events, and also find links to social media and blogs based around WikiWomen.

Open source web publishing platform WordPress was considered to be the space in which we'd host a blog, a profile space, links to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and calls to action which would ask visitors to edit and contribute to projects. Then we realized the work needed to launch a new website might not be worth the effort. We would have to spend funds to obtain a domain name and to hire a WordPress designer to build the page. We would need to work through legal issues since this project would be volunteer maintained but created by the Foundation. Volunteers would have to be familiar with WordPress just to make changes to the space. And driving traffic and building community on a whole new website is never easy. These questions and concerns led us to decide to distribute the WikiWomen's Collaborative around the internet where women already are, rather than building a new dedicated website for the project. We decided to create a space that cost little to create and would meet users in the places women are already spending time - Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.

Phase one[edit]

After determining that we would have a social media based campaign and an on-wiki hub to coordinate volunteers, we entered into phase one. Phase one focused on developing the three major components of the WikiWomen's Collaborative: Facebook, Twitter and a blog. We created a series of goals ranging from garnering likes on Facebook and followers on Twitter, to experimenting with calls to action that would have women clicking the edit button. We reached out to female community members and to those interested in improving the gender gap to ask them to volunteer for the Collaborative, as blog writers, translators, and Facebook content creators. These women became our founding volunteers. We also created a space on meta which would serve as the main volunteer coordinating space. Heather Walls designed the WikiWomen's Collaborative logo, which featured the "w" hand gesture from the WikiWomen's Luncheon at Wikimania 2012 and has become a defining symbol of the WikiWomen's movement.

For more information on the outcomes of this phase, see the Phase one report.

Sarah's phase one reflection

I focused all my energy for the month of October on developing the project. It shocked me at how time consuming social media promotion could be - now I know why they hire people to do it full time! Between coordinating blogs, sending out Tweets, creating and timing Facebook posts, and writing emails - the month of October had me living and breathing the Collaborative. After the month was over, I collected the outcomes and learnings from phase one. This included call to action successes, if we met our targets like and follower wise, lessons learned, and future opportunities. The future opportunities would be a key focus for phase two.

Phase two[edit]

File:WWC screenshot.jpg
The new WikiWomen's Collaborative page on meta

Taking the opportunities from phase one, phase two launched during the winter of 2012.


There were two primary objectives with phase two:

  1. experiment with more ways to get new women to edit Wikipedia
  2. make the project volunteer-sustainable


We tried to engage potential new women editors by

  • continuing to experiment with calls to action, including encouraging women to plan editing events around Ada Lovelace Day.
  • holding an online event called Ask a WikiWoman, which took place on Twitter.

We also worked to make the project more sustainable so that it could be volunteer-maintained, by

  • redesigning the main WikiWomen's Collaborative space on meta, to make it more aesthetically-appealing and easier to get involved
  • defining a clearer series of roles for volunteers: Facebook administrators, blog writers, blog coordinators, and translators. These roles come with perks for active volunteers, such as free swag and letters of recommendation, things that we hope will attract long time participants to the project.

Other focuses for this phase included

  • creating a more multilingual community, by conducting outreach to specific active women in the movement and to Chapters.
  • increasing collaboration between the Collaborative and the Wikimedia Foundation Communication team


Increase participation of women who are not yet editing Wikipedia[edit]

  • It's hard to gather metrics on new women editors - We knew that this would be an issue when starting the project, due to privacy concerns, gathering user accounts is always difficult and relying on self-reporting gives small samples.
  • Calls to action usually were more likely to be answered by experienced editors - New or potential editors might say "Oh, thanks for the great resource!" when experienced editors tended to directly respond to calls to action by making edits. This was discovered by tracking the edits made to the pages suggested in calls to action by seeing who edited the page during the time the call to action was posted.
  • New women editors didn't share info about their efforts, unlike experienced editors - One can perhaps assume this is either a difference in "wiki-confidence" levels. When we'd ask people to share their successes or inquire to new editors about their recent efforts, we'd receive responses from experienced editors about their contributions and generally no response from new editors. Experienced editors also made up the bulk of respondents in our survey.
  • New or potential women editors are found on Twitter more than Facebook - It's easier to find women who are potential new editors on Twitter. Twitter users often share comments and thoughts about struggles with editing, reverted edits, frustrations with articles, or comment about the gender gap after reading about it. This was the main reason we chose Twitter for the first online WWC event.
Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz participated in the first #askawikiwoman event in January
  • By tracking hashtags and keywords related to women and Wikipedia one can find new potential editors - Sarah watches a variety of hash tags and keywords - "Wikipedia" "Women" "gender gap" - and follows Twitter users who post or show interest in those subjects. She would also respond to queries, questions and concerns asked by participants via those keywords, creating dialogue.
  • First Twitter event was successful and good learning experience - The first "Ask a WikiWoman" event took place on January 17. Inspired by Ask a Curator Day, Sarah invited Wikipedian Adrianne Wadewitz to answer questions via the @WikiWomen Twitter account. We promoted the event asking Twitter users to ask a question about Wikipedia editing or being a Wikipedia and tagging their tweet with the hashtag #askawikiwoman. The event ran from 10 AM until 5 PM PST. 25 Twitter users participated in the event and 40 questions were asked. You can find the Storify that Wadewitz created here.
  • Keep the event short to maximize participation - 10 AM until 12 PM PST was the most active time, with participation dropping of dramatically starting at 12:30 PM. Early afternoon was a great time because in the United States, the West coast was getting situated to start the date, the East coast was back from lunch, and Europe was home from work.
  • It's important to "feed" the hashtag, encouraging participation We promoted the event via Twitter, Facebook, blog and mailing lists. We also reached out to colleagues and friends in the community to ask them to "feed" the event, by asking their own question with the hashtag and retweeting our tweets. This was a key component of spreading the online word about the event. Sarah and Siko fed questions and then slowly more and more people would start asking questions - from experienced Wikipedians to curious and new potential Wikipedians.
  • Experiment with time zones and languages This event was geared towards a US audience, and the majority of participants were located in the US. In the future it would be good to try focusing the event on India or non-English speaking audiences.
  • Twitter users were interacting with each other and making new "Twitter friends" - WikiWomen Twitter users started replying to questions asked and responding to one another about Wikipedia. This was exciting to see - a community of Wikipedians was being created through Twitter.
  • Facebook is hard to find new potential editors on - due to privacy settings and the friending system that Facebook utilizes, it's almost impossible to "invite" people you don't know to like the Collaborative Facebook page.
  • We have to rely on fans inviting their friends - Sarah would often ask notable WikiWomen to invite their friends to like the page, since women you are connected with might be more prone to editing Wikipedia if you do.
  • The "magic" call to action still remains undiscovered - Continued experiments with calls to action took place throughout the phase. However, no specific call to action appeared to have a major impact on editing or on contributions made by new editors.

Develop the project into a model sustainable by the community[edit]

Netha Hussain is one of our most active volunteers.
  • Meta hub space improvements - We improved the usability of the WWC organizing hub on meta with the help of designer Heather Walls. The hub now features an editable calendar, resources about the gender gap, news coverage about women in the community and a profile section that allows WikiWomen to introduce themselves and share their story.
  • Volunteer roles created and promoted - We created four different roles that community members can volunteer for: Blog writer, blog coordinator, Facebook administrator and translator.
  • Volunteer base remains small - We promoted the new roles and new space to thousands of women via English Wikipedia and social media. We also directly reached out to specific women and to chapters. We have 11 volunteers.
  • Content creation has declined - It remains to be unknown why content creation has declined. It may be because of Sarah's lessening role due to the end of her fellowship, which returns her back to volunteer status and unable to facilitate extensively as she did before. It also may be because or volunteers comprise of mainly students, many who are busy with personal life priorities and other obligations. We have added perks (i.e. letters of recommendation, swag, events) for regular contributors, and hope perhaps this will instigate more contributions.

Create a more multilingual community[edit]

We wanted to create a more multilingual community, as the gender gap is pervasive throughout all language Wikipedias. This remains a challenge, as Sarah is monolingual and the project page remains in English. One blog was created during phase two in two languages (English/Italian). 7 Facebook/Tweets were sent that were multilingual.

  • Meta hub remains only in English - The new space is beautiful and is easier to navigate, however, it's more complex to translate. It remains in English, despite outreach to translation volunteers, and will take more work to localize again.
  • New translator role was created - A new position for volunteers interested primarily in translators was created. We currently have 3 volunteer translators, available to translate 4 languages.
  • Outreach to chapters and international participants - We did extensive outreach to chapters and women that we knew within the international community. Despite outreach, the project still remains primarily English-based.
  • Google Translate can help with translations - Sarah did experiment with translating Facebook posts into other languages with no large problems in the translation. This may be a way for volunteers to create multilingual content, depending on how complex the post may be.

Improve social media collaboration between WikiWomen's Collab and WMF Communications[edit]

WWC uses the Wikimedia Blog for it's WikiWomen blog posts.

By improving WWC's relationship with WMF's Communications team we hope to create a more sustainable project. WMF has a huge follower base on social media, and having WWC promoted via WMF social media channels is important in developing awareness about women's roles in the community - a key component of getting more women involved in projects.

  • Contact with WMF Communications is necessary - A meeting took place between Sarah, Siko and Matthew Roth from WMF Communications. Matthew has been helping proof read blogs and has been our primary Communications contact. WMF is in the process of slowly creating a more sustainable blog process which will provide the community greater access to blogs and the blog process. At this time, Matthew will have to remain as the main WMF contact for getting blogs posted, especially as Sarah becomes a volunteer.
  • Community members seem less likely to reach out to WMF staff - Since the inception of the new roles and production process on the Collaborative meta page, no one has reached out directly to Matthew about pending blogs. It may be that WMF needs to reach out instead, or we need a better method to bridge the gap.
  • WMF continues to struggle to promote the space - Despite attempting to build more awareness about collaborative, we've still seen little promotion from the WMF side. WWC is asked to submit tweets and Facebook posts to socialmedia(_AT_), which often causes delays in sending out promotions and is an extra step that WWC volunteers have yet to proceed with.

Continue to raise numbers of likes and followers[edit]

  • Phase two earned us 118 additional likes on Facebook (506 total) and 139 more Twitter followers (631 total).
Sarah's phase two reflection

Phase two was filled with successes and challenges. I had to cut back my hours as a fellow as I began a new job. We also entered into the holiday season which cut back on time to devote to the project for everyone involved - volunteers, myself, and staff. Despite timing, we made a lot of improvements: a more attractive meta space, new roles making it easier to get involved, an easy to use calendar for events, and a successful event that allowed us to connect with Wikipedians internationally online. Challenges included developing a more multilingual project, finding volunteers with time to devote to the project, and making sure that we remain on WMF's communication radar. I do hope that as my fellowship end and I move back to being a volunteer, women will rally to continue to maintain and engage through the project and that WMF will not forget we exist as a tool for engaging potential and experienced women editors.


Social media statistics[edit]

Metrics as of 26 January 2013.


Facebook Insights have not been working for the WikiWomen's Collaborative for four days, as data becomes available this section will be updated.

  • 506 people like us on Facebook


Since September:

  • 631 Twitter users follow @WikiWomen
  • View the #askawikiwoman Storify created by Adrianne Wadewitz here.

We are unable to gather data on how many times we have been mentioned, tweeted at, favorited, or retweeted due to Twitter archiving and the cost of having to gather that information through services.


  • 19 blog posts written by 15 writers
  • 4 blog posts were multilingual
  • Blog posts received 51 comments

End of project survey[edit]

We knew that gathering metrics would be a challenge to gather regarding the impact that the Collaborative was having on bringing new women editors to Wikimedia projects and if it was bringing increased contributions. We created a survey to allow us to learn more about who the participants were, if the Collaborative was engaging people to participate, and their general thoughts about the project.

  • We promoted this survey through social media and on Wikipedia to over 1,000 people, and it ran for three weeks.
  • The survey had 24 respondents as of January 8, 2012

You can read the entire survey results here.

Result highlights[edit]

Women involved in the Collaborative started editing more after the Collaborative's launch in September.
  • Participants appear to be editing Wikipedia more than they were before the Collaborative launched - Our most exciting results! 13 respondents provided their usernames, and though it is a small sample, analysis shows that those 13 women have been editing Wikipedia more actively after the Collaborative launched in September. While the project might have not attracted as many new editors as we originally hoped, it does appear to support existing women editors in in making more Wikipedia edits over time.
  • Majority of respondents feel more connected, more likely to edit, more excited about the mission, and more aware of how to close the gender gap thanks to the WikiWomen's Collaborative. Majority respondents said they felt:
  • More connected to the Wikimedia community because of the project
  • More likely to edit Wikipedia or related projects because of the project
  • More enthusiastic about mission of Wikimedia because of the project
  • More connected to other women who contribute to projects because of the project
  • More aware about how they can help close the gender gap because of the project
  • Wikipedia and social media are the best tools for getting the word out about the Collaborative - The majority of participants heard about WWC via social media and through our promotion on Wikipedia. Other spaces cited included word of mouth and mailing lists. Despite promotion efforts press did not actively pick up the project until post-survey.
  • Facebook is the most popular Collaborative space followed by Twitter, with Meta trailing. Facebook and Twitter remain more popular spaces to interact with participants, while the meta page was least used, appearing to be used mainly by active volunteers for coordination.
  • Participants read content more than anything else - Majority of respondents read content created by WWC more than any other social media action, such as retweeting Tweets or commenting on Facebook posts. Liking Facebook posts is the second most popular action. This shows how important it is to have quality posts that catch the eye of fans and followers.
  • The blog is an important information tool - It is read by the majority of respondents "occasionally," showing the importance of producing quality blog posts and promoting them.

Key learnings[edit]

It takes a get more women to contribute to Wikimedia.
  • WWC appears to be a good strategy for encouraging and retaining existing WikiWomen from around the world by bringing us together to connect, celebrate our work and share our challenges, find help, and learn more about the importance of participation. This project is a viable social support system that may help retain more women who are already editing.
  • Other strategies are needed to bring in new women editors which the WWC can then help encourage, support, and retain. This project does not appear to be the most effective pipeline to bring brand new women into the movement.
  • Opportunities exist for further research on what aspects of the WWC project most encourage editing by partipants. Responses from a limited sample show that participants have edited more since the project launch, suggesting the importance of supportive community in reducing the gender gap. Is it because women are reminded, thanks to social media, to edit Wikipedia more often via Collaborative posts and Tweets? Is it knowing that having a stronger community of other women means that they feel supported and know they have a safe space to go incase of problems? Is it because the Collaborative has helped showcase the urgency of closing the gap and what each of us can do about it?
  • Social media can bring together people who might not come together on-wiki. Facebook and Twitter have allowed women (who might choose to remain anonymous or be less active on-wiki other than editing articles quietly alone) to come together on the social websites that they use every day. This creates a stronger and more visible community of WikiWomen.
Sarah's closing reflections

The Collaborative can continue to grow and engage as long as volunteers continue to feel passionate about helping to make Wikimedia a more inclusive space. As I step back into my role as a volunteer, it will take myself, and all of you, to help make this an ongoing and sustainable project. Thank you to everyone who has helped to grow and create the space, and I look forward to working with you to keep growing the Collaborative and providing us with our own space.