It took me years to go from casual Wikipedia editor to active Wikipedia editor. There were so many things that kept me from becoming an active editor, but there were just as many things that helped me shift into the new role. First, what do I mean by active editor. There are thousands of registered accounts in Wikipedia, but most people don’t remain active. They have a metric to define if you are active or not: 5 edits a month. They consider any editor who makes 5 edits a month to be an active editor.
When I was done with my own Wikipedia research, I wanted to find a way to do Wikipedia events to get more people involved in editing. The key was an event called an edit-a-thon. Basically, a bunch of people get together and work on certain types of entries. New editors are trained on how to edit. Experienced editors work and mentor new editors. I planned an event on campus, promoted it, and nobody showed up. While I waited, I spent my time editing an entry. It took me 3 hours to do just a little bit of work. It was discouraging, but I realized there wasn’t a foundation for me to build on.
A year after my failed edit-a-thon, I met Win, another local librarian, interested in planning them. I shared my experience with her, but knew that between the two of us, we could probably do better. Not only because we could share the tasks of planning, but because we had different communities for promotion. I just felt like this time I should experience an edit-a-thon as a participant. As we chatted more, Win shared some events with me. I think if I had not met Win, I would probably still be spinning my wheels regarding editing Wikipedia and a few other things that have evolved from our collaborations.
In the summer of 2014 I went to New York for two conferences. At one I came up with the idea that is now my first novel, Modern Persuasion. At the other, my entire Wikipedia editing experience changed. Needless to say, that summer remains a huge milestone in my life. I went to the Wikipedia conference, WikiCon, as a researcher and left as an editor. I met other Wikipedians, learned about other projects, saw how editing had evolved in the last few years, and began to understand the issues they had to address next. I got to participate in my first, very rough, edit-a-thon. I came back to Lowell with a plan in place, but I still wasn’t an active editor.
Win and I spent six months planning a series of 4 edit-a-thons focusing on Lowell History. The big shift in my editing activity started here. As we ran the edit-a-thons, we did our own editing. By the end I had a collection of entries I had invested my time in. I had entries I wanted to pay attention to. I started watching Wikipedia, specifically those entries, more often.
The more I participated in the edit-a-thons and the conferences, the more questions I had. The more questions I had, the more experience I wanted to get. The more experience I had, the more there was for me to learn about. Then there were the work related projects. To support classes, I needed to know what they would be working on. I started setting challenges like this year’s 30 Days of Wikipedia. The point was to get me in the habit of editing more often. It worked. I typically check Wikipedia every day.
Now that editing is a habit, I am trying to figure out what comes next.
What questions do you have about editing Wikipedia? Tell me in the comments!