Reflections on Our Wikipedia Event

Author: Courtney Johnston, Director

Over the weekend we ran our first Wikipedia event, as part of the international Art+Feminism programme of edit-a-thons. So—how did it go?

Scenes from the edit-a-thon

Scenes from the edit-a-thon

Scenes from the edit-a-thon

Scenes from the edit-a-thon

Scenes from the edit-a-thon

Scenes from the edit-a-thon

TL;DR – Our first Wikipedia edit-a-thon went super well, we wish we’d encouraged people to focus on creating stubs (not full entries) and we’re gathering interest in running a regular event.

On Saturday we ran the New Zealand (slash-Australasian-slash-Oceania) instalment of the international Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon, an event designed to help people new to Wikipedia get past the initial learning curve, and to improve the amount of information about women artists available on the site.

We were overwhelmed by the positive response. We hoped for 10–12 people and we had about 30 over the course of the day. People came from far and wide—from Auckland to Dunedin—and we had wide range of ages and levels of art experience. We even had two men!

Most people came at the start and stayed through to the end (10am to 4pm). We spent the morning going through all the basic roles of Wikipedia, the structure of pages, and things like formatting, and then the afternoon editing pages.

Here are some of the products of the group’s labours, pages that were created or enhanced:

Jacqueline Fahey
Doris Lusk
Louise Henderson
Margaret Stoddart
Judy Millar
Lisa Reihana
Olivia Spencer Bower Award
Tylee Cottage Residency
Rachael Rakena
Seraphine Pick
Anne Noble
Robin White
Flora Scales

People took different approaches during the day: some started brand new pages, some added to existing pages. Some researched and added bibliographies to pages. Some researched artists and then passed their drafts on to us to upload. Everyone entered fully into the spirit of the day, and we were delighted to have some experienced Wikipedians there to help out beginners.

Here are a few reflections on the day

Things we did well

We asked the people who RSVPd to create a user name before coming along, as Wikipedia only accepts 6 new user names being created from a single ISP in a day. As it was we still had one person arrive late in the day who we struggled to set up.

We provided stacks and stacks of references, from a great big backrun of Art New Zealand to artist monographs and exhibition catalogues to standard reference books. Not only did they prove very useful for research, but it was also nice to have tactile things to handle during the workshop, and plenty of people just got sucked into a bit of enjoyable reading and learning.

Accidentally, we had the Common Ground festival running at the same time as the workshop, including a event for kids—which was great for people who’d dropped by with family in tow.

We used the Art+Feminism training resources, which were great. And we assembled our own cheat sheet for formatting and referencing and the like, and a template for creating an artist entry.

We provided drinks and snacks throughout the day and a light lunch.

We had some good ideas for pages people could add reasonably swiftly, such as artist residencies.

Bridget gave a tour of Nuku: Symbols of Mana during the afternoon, which broke up the day and also emphasised all the ideas behind the event.

We had amazing support from the team here at The Dowse to run the event.

Things we could have done better

Our wifi network was less than awesome, although we did manage to get everyone on and keep them mostly on for most of the day. We’re working with IT at Council to address this.

We didn’t have enough power sources, and the health and safety aspects of the trailing cords everywhere left a bit to be desired.

We should have emphasised the idea of creating stubs more. We set people up with expectations to write quite lengthy entries, which it was hard to research, write and load in an afternoon. This is the single biggest change we’d make.

We should have encouraged all our experienced editors to come for the afternoon, not the morning.

Next steps

There was a lot of enthusiasm on the day for a regular meet-up. We’re running a survey now to gauge interest and get some ideas about frequency, length, and times of the week. We won’t run formal training sessions at the meet-ups, but we will be there to support newbies and beginners. You also don’t need to be art-focused to come along!

If you’re interested in attending please help us by filling out the survey.

And if you’ve caught the bug, take a look at the list of artists whose pages still need extending or creating! 


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