WikiWomen's History Month wrap up
The first WikiWomen's History Month event was held during the month of March, 2012. This event brought together new and experienced Wikipedians around the world to collaborate offline and online to improve coverage related to women's history on Wikipedia and encourage the participation of women editors in projects. WWHM was coordinated by various Wikipedians, specifically Pharos and Sarah Stierch, the latter who serves as a Wikimedia Foundation Community Fellow focusing on closing the gender gap of Wikipedia. The event pulled inspiration from the Wikipedia Loves Libraries events.
This wrap-up will cover the planning process, event successes, lessons learned, and ideas on how to improve this event concept for future execution, on a broader level.
WikiWomen's History Month development
In the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom, March is Women's History Month. In order to tap into the energy of the month, Pharos and Sarah Stierch coordinated to create a Wikipedia presence and recruit participants to develop offline edit-a-thons and meetups, and to also encourage WikiProject's to focus on women's history for the month. As President of Wikimedia New York City, Pharos reached out to contacts to encourage edit-a-thon events, and Stierch reached out via regional and international mailing lists, and by posting calls for participation on Wikiproject pages. A number of volunteers stepped up, with nine offline events and thirteen WikiProject events taking place.
A total of eight in-person events took place during WikiWomen's History Month. In-person events are a great way to not only bring together experienced editors, but, to also bring new editors together for an offline, social, fun experience. It's also a known fact that many newer editors might not edit outside of the social editing experience, so having events like this are a really powerful tool to engage new editors and inspire them to participate, with support. The success of the events from this past month have provided wonderful feedback, and we hope that further events will continue throughout the year.
March 8, 2012 - Warsaw, Poland
March 17, 2012 - San Francisco, California
The Wikimedia Foundation held an event at their office in San Francisco, California. The five hour event drew over 30 attendees with a large proportion of new women editors. The event had stemmed from Sarah Stierch's post to the Bay Area Wikimedians mailing list, and a group of around 6 people planned the event via email. While the subject generally focused on women's history, it also tapped into local history, art and sociology. The event was promoted by way of social media, EventBrite, local Wikipedians and by on-Wikipedia invitation of regional Wikipedians. They also encouraged that participants bring friends and family members, including children, who enjoyed a child-friendly environment. Extra laptops were provided for those without, and various areas of the event space were used for specific focus areas of editing - creating new accounts, copyediting, subject editing, etc. Experienced editors provided support when needed and giveaways of Wikimedia swag was provided. Participants were also given printed out copies of articles to be worked on, as well as information on joining the regional mailing list and visiting online support resources like the Teahouse. The organizers hope that next time they will be able to bring out more experienced editors in order to support new editors who need more personal attention. The encouragement of parents to bring their children will be stressed in the future, with the potential for a babysitting service to be provided. They also intend on having a more explicit break time to encourage mixing and mingling of participants. A total of approximately 12 new accounts were created, 22 articles were improved and 11 new articles were written. A more detailed reflections page is available here.
March 23, 2012 - Canberra, Australia
Canberra, Australia based Wikipedian LauraHale organized a meetup at the Hawker International Softball Centre to take photographs of Australia's national women's softball team who played Japan's national women's team, interview and do original research related to the players for Wikinews, and enjoy the softball game. Three participants attended, twenty four images were taken, five articles for Wikinews were written about the game, including interviews, and 18 Wikipedia articles were created or expanded.
March 24, 2012 - Girona, Spain
In Girona, Spain, Kippelboy facilitated an event at Figueres. The edit-a-thon focused around the life of Catalonian artist Ángeles Santos Torroella. Eight people came together, consisting of five women and three men, and two online participants. Out of the eight participants, one new editor made an account, and one participant was a museum professional who provided "offline" support to the editors. The event produced 14 newly created and updated articles, including translated articles. The majority of the participants had less than 100 edits, until they attended the event. Kippleboy wrote a blog about the event. Press in the recent Catalan newspaper is here.
March 25, 2012 - India
Netha Hussain organized the India WikiWomen Edit-a-thon via Google Hangout, allowing participants to collaborate from across the country. A two hour event, eight participants registered to attend, with four participated. All of the participants were experienced editors. The event started with with the editors introducing themselves via Google Hangout, and a discussion on how to improve the focus article of the event, about Indian activist and poet Sarojini Naidu. In total, participants added approximately 20 new references, two new sections about Naidu's life, career and poetry, and pictures to Commons of Naidu. This event was a great opportunity to experience collaborative editing in a new way: through a Google Hangout/Sykpe process.
March 27, 2012 - Boston, Massachusetts
Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science hosted an event which was sponsored by the Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists at Simmons College, whom promoted the event on their website. The event was organized by Dominic, the former Wikipedian in Residence at the National Archives and Records Administration. The event sought to engage women within the GSLIS community (which is rather female dominated) and to teach the skill of editing Wikipedia, while focusing on subjects related to Simmons history and content on the WWHM to-do list. Eleven participants attended, with three new editors making accounts. One new article was created and eight were expanded.
March 27, 2012 - New York, New York
The Barnard Center for Research on Women hosted an event sponsored by Barnard College which brought together approximately 14 participants. The event was held in the evening, for three hours, on campus and was promoted on both Wikipedia and through the Barnard Center for Research on Women website. The event focused on the history of Barnard College and subjects of women's health, with the encouragement for participants to not feel restrained and to edit on whatever interests them. Library staff was on hand to provide research assistance. Around seven new accounts were created and multiple articles were created, primarily based around women's history and Barnard's role in it, such as the 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality. One struggle they found was how to balance encouraging newer editors to be bold with how to assist editors when their edits were reverted, challenged or changed. Another challenge also stemmed from learning how to balance Wikipedia policies and technical details with the process of actually editing. Barnard staff have confirmed that they will host future events and that everyone enjoyed themselves.
March 30, 2012 - Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C. the Smithsonian Institution Archives Wikipedian in Residence and Wikimedia Foundation Community Fellow, Sarah Stierch, organized She Blinded Me with Science: Smithsonian Women in Science Edit-a-Thon. The event was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and brought together 10 Wikipedians and staff members to edit content related to women scientists who have archival content within SIA. The event was promoted to over 200 Wikipedians from the Washington DC area, on DC area Wikimedia mailing lists, and through the Smithsonian Institution's blog and internal mailing lists. A to-do list was created with women scientists who were selected by staff archivists, and resources were provided on the list for the subjects. In total, five articles were updated or started. The mix of experienced and new editors was really great, as all came together to help each other. A tour was also provided for participants of the Archives, and the event was followed up with a happy hour at a local restaurant. The biggest challenge of the event was handling deletion nominations of two articles upon their posting on Wikipedia, but, the participants, and online community, came together to save the articles and the legacies of the women scientists on Wikipedia. A more detailed case study can be read here.
Various WikiProjects, and individual Wikipedians, coordinated and participated in on-Wikipedia activities related to improving coverage about women's history on Wikipedia. Sarah reached out to all active WikiProjects on English Wikipedia, informing participants on the project talk page that Women's History Month was in March and that activities were being planned on and off-Wikipedia. Some inquiries were met with heated discussion about the role of women within certain fields, such as chemistry. Other projects expressed interest, but did not ultimately collaborate or develop a focus regarding Women's History Month. Projects that successfully collaborated are:
Outcomes and successes
The month of March was a great opportunity for women's history and women's contributions to Wikipedia. Not only was it an important opportunity to encourage women to edit Wikipedia, but, it was a great opportunity for Wikipedians around the world, of all genders, to come together and contribute to the world's largest free encyclopedia. What follows is a general outcome wrap up from the event. A more detailed list of articles and contributions can be seen here.
- New articles created
- Articles expanded
- Portal features
- Did You Know's for March
- Free images uploaded in March
- Wikinews articles
Lessons learned and opportunities
These are lessons learned from Sarah's perspective.
- General lessons learned
- Informing the wider community. I failed to reach out to the broadest base of Wikipedia editors during the planning part of WWHM. While this was primarily due to fellowship and volunteer time resources (I have a set amount of hours I work per week, much which takes up another project, another part-time job and school I am finishing.), I do believe that geonotices could be utilized in the future to encourage volunteer participation for Wikipedians who aren't necessarily on mailing lists (which were used to promote WWHM) or don't participate in projects where the event was announced.
- Improved WMF support. In the future, I would like to make sure that I contact event organizers well in advance to see what type of support that WMF can provide them. This can come in lieu of promoting their event, providing giveaways and documentation. It's also important to let event organizers know that grants are available for these types of events, encouraging grander events and activities. This could help with venue rental, catering, promotion and related opportunities.
- Reach out to organizations Barnard, the Wikimedia Foundation, OCLC, the Ada Initiative, are just a few examples of organizations that sponsored events for the month. Reaching out to more organizations would most likely result in more better organized events. This could include women in tech organizations, feminism organizations, women's history and university programs. This is also nice, because organizations like the Smithsonian and Barnard promoted the event on their own website, adding to the success rate in how many people participated.
- Bringing people together to collaborate - no matter where they are. I'm inspired by India's edit-a-thon, which brought together participants via Google Hangout. I'd love to be able to see how resources like this can be used to be more inclusive of participation and also teach participants a new type of collaboration that blends both offline and on-Wikipedia collaboration processes.
- Provide better training resources. Many edit-a-thons offer the opportunity for new editors to learn how to edit Wikipedia. With events that are hosted by newer Wikipedians (such as Barnard College in New York), it'd be valuable to have quality, well organized training materials for enthusiastic event coordinators to utilize during the training process. Some of these can be provided with help from the community, others may be provided by WMF (handouts, etc.). It also would have been valuable to promote online resources and help spaces such as the Teahouse.
- Online collaboration outreach
- Making connections farther in advance with WikiProjects and keeping in touch: I wish I would have provided WikiProjects with further notice than I did (mid-February) and would have also consistently followed up and provided support before and throughout the event month. While some community members were pro-active and listed themselves on the WWHM page, many kept their collaborations strictly to their project page. Through more follow-up, I may have been able to widen participation.
- A more organized to-do list. I started a to-do list for people to list articles and subjects that needed improvement or coverage. It got underutilized, partially due to my lack of promotion and organization of it. I'd promote it and create a more participatory to-do list that could be attractive and promoted outside of just Wikipedia itself (crowdsourcing!).