This ‘how to use digital tools to support collaboration’ guide was produced as part of the Digital Skills for Heritage’s Connected Heritage programme.
Wikimedia UK (WMUK) helps cultural heritage organisations to share their materials, histories and collections on Wikipedia and its sister sites; and to upskill their members and volunteers.
We are also focused on so-called ‘content gaps’ on Wiki platforms. On English Wikipedia, we know that fewer than one in five biographies are about women. Racial bias also persists across the platforms. Wiki editors in the United Kingdom tend to be white males. By consciously training more editors from backgrounds underrepresented on Wiki projects and working with all editors to improve the content gaps on Wikipedia, we hope to close those gaps and improve it as a public resource.
Wikimedia UK has a tried and tested method of teaching people to edit Wikipedia and upload images to Wikimedia Commons — these are called Editathons, also known as Wikithons.
Editathons are three to four hour training sessions for people, grouped around a theme and held online. The goals of these Editathons are to:
- Enhance digital skills
- Share information through Wikipedia
Editathons are a good way to get a group together to edit Wikipedia and share information. They work as work-off events or as part of a series. Setting up a recurring series of Editathons gives people time to hone their skills, find information, and dig deeper into Wikipedia, but does take more time to run.
Who participated in the collaboration?
Staff and volunteers of heritage and cultural organisations have a wealth of knowledge to bring to improving Wikipedia. These workshops taught them the skills to do so and empowered them to make their first edits in their areas of expertise. The democratic nature of Wikipedia means that everyone has something to contribute: whether they are a scholarly expert, an engaged amateur, or a newcomer.
Specific areas of knowledge brought to the fore include in-depth curatorial knowledge of collections, such as provenance, cultural importance and audience insight (both public-facing and internal, i.e. volunteers).
Did you need to provide any special support to enable participants to collaborate?
Participants usually have no prior Wiki experience and begin by creating an account, learning how to edit, and making their first small edits in a session.
This guide shows how to prepare for and facilitate an Editathon. While there are self-led resources which explain how to edit that can be shared before an event to help people learn about Wikipedia, all of the skills can be conveyed in the live event itself. If time is limited for in-person/online training, participants can be advised to create a user account in advance of the event, with detailed instructions sent in a pre-work email.
Over 90% of training took place remotely and we have been flexible in our approach to supporting hybrid events with partners as the appetite for in-person events has developed post-lockdown. We provide a training programme that allows us to take participants from ‘zero to hero’: from no previous Wiki knowledge, to editing within an afternoon. We also take time to focus on pastoral care, creating a friendly and relaxed atmosphere to cultivate communal learning and support nervous learners.
Wikipedia and its sister sites are free to read and edit. The Outreach Dashboard, which is used for gathering metrics, is also free.
In keeping with WMUK’s approach, we use free collaboration tools where possible. Our subscription to Qualtrics is subsidised by the Wikimedia Foundation; had this not been available we would have explored free options such as Google Forms. From our project budget we funded an upgraded version of Asana to enable timeline integration. We had access to premium Zoom and Canva accounts.
Asana was useful as a collaborative and open platform for job-share and asynchronous task delegation. It was further useful for referring back to work completed for reporting. The inbuilt subtask feature was also integral for event organisation and granular detail sharing between job-share partners.
Zoom was ubiquitous in our work. Training attempts on Teams were hampered by the fact that Teams is often integrated into institutional systems, and so accessing this as a ‘guest’ limits functionality (e.g. screen sharing) and can often eat into bandwidth. Zoom is institution agnostic and has useful webinar features for participation and breakout rooms for individual support which is often needed in a training session.
We found that Canva was a simple and effective tool for eye-catching and professional materials. We utilised this for publicity graphics such as our information leaflet, which was circulated at Museum Tech and in-person training, as well as forming our project identity and colour scheme for training materials.
We made the decision to focus on bi-monthly Potluck Editathons to encourage potential partner organisations to experience an Editathon before offering them to their networks. A Potluck approach was favoured so that individual organisations could bring relevant materials with them, rather than assigned thematic exercises from us.
- We decided to run each event online, to maximise potential participants.
- We selected regular dates and times, i.e. the first Friday of every second month.
- We set up an Eventbrite for registration, which was circulated to email lists, social media networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook).
- Canva helped us design engaging social media content and to use consistent branding across all our materials.
- We approached so-called ‘warm leads’ (or people who had expressed interest in working with us in the past, but had not actually done so) directly with invitations.
- We spotlighted these upcoming events at our regular webinars.
- At all points we emphasised that this was a low barrier of entry, designed for absolute beginners.
- We established and worked to a checkbox framework of tasks to do, in chronological order.
- We used Asana for managing tasks, responsibilities and deadlines for each event. The paid subscription helped us visualise deadlines in a timeline, which was useful.
- We developed and designed a set of slides that we adapted for each event, changing dates, references and links as needed. These slides have been utilised by team members across WMUK and are an open source for all participants to refer to afterwards.
- We communicated by email with participants prior to the event to remind them of any preparation needed. This was most often a simple account creation, for which we provided guidelines.
- We set up the Wikithons as sessions in the organisational Zoom account.
- We made sure that two trainers were always on hand to allow one trainer to deliver, while the other supported participants in the chat function, and through breakout rooms where necessary, to troubleshoot any issues arising.
- We recorded participant progress via the Wiki Dashboard function, which allowed us to capture metrics of edits, uploads and entries. Once Wiki usernames are added to the dashboard, it automatically measures things like how many edits are made and how many times those pages have been read.
- After each event, we sent participants a personalised thank you on their Wiki user talk page in order to encourage continued participation and engagement with Wiki.
- Along with WMUK, we set up avenues of communication for support after each event such as Slack channels for new editors to get further support, our email and social media handles, and a link to Calendly so people could set up meetings if they wanted to pursue more training.
- We also provided a feedback forum via Qualtrics which allowed people to self-report:
- demographic information to see whether we were reaching our intended audience
- whether/how their digital and information literacy skills might have developed
- whether/how they might continue to edit Wikipedia in future
- this feedback allowed us to engage with audience experience and adapt our training accordingly, where possible.
- We trained over 50 editors, enabling just under 10,000 words to be added to Wiki, alongside 99 articles edited, 4 created, and 47 uploads of open licensed images to Wikimedia Commons.
- In terms of impact, these edits and articles have been viewed over 650,000 times.
- We developed a series of support documents for those wishing to run future Editathons, such as the Hybrid Events Best Practice, and the master To Do List.
- WMUK will continue to deliver regular Potluck events once the project has concluded.
- Many of our 18 partnerships emerged from these events. They worked as a way to introduce people to Wikipedia and improve their digital skills.
- Participation can be unpredictable, and the post-lockdown landscape of online events has included more unpredictability than before.
- Participants come with a range of digital skills and confidence, and bridging the gap within that spectrum can be very challenging.
- Some participants may not have access to a personal laptop which they can bring to an in-person event, and will want to learn how to edit on their phone, which leads to a poor experience.
- Hybrid Events: Best Practice
- To Do List Master
- Dashboard Homepage
- Full Connected Heritage Dashboard(s)
- Connected Heritage Potluck Dashboard(s)
- For further information email: email@example.com
Please attribute as: "How to run an online Wikipedia editathon (2023) by Wikimedia UK supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0