The Story of My First Successful Edit-A-Thon

My First Successful Edit-a-thon

A few weeks ago I wrote about my big Wikipedia Edit-a-thon failure.  This week I want to talk about my first successful Edit-a-thon.

My First Successful Edit-a-thon

Meeting Win

There was about a 2 year span between the first and second Edit-a-thon experience.  I was trying to get some traction on campus to simply have bigger conversations.  I wasn’t having much luck with that.  I was gaining some attention on campus for my knowledge about Wikipedia, but it wasn’t translating into action.  That is, until I met Win at an unrelated event.  The moment she told me she wanted to pick my brain about planning an edit-a-thon, I realized I had two choices.  First, I could do what so many people do and focus on the failure as if it can’t be overcome.  Second, I could embrace the opportunity for an interested and willing collaborator.  I picked the second and it is up there on the list of my best professional decisions ever.

Instead of telling Win that I had failed, I told her why I thought I had failed and suggested we try together to do it better next time.  She was coming from a public library and I was coming from an academic library.  It meant we had different communities and different resources.  It also simply meant there was one more person to help with the planning.  Little, in my experience, is better than a second perspective and set of hands.

This was the beginning of not just our planning an edit-a-thon, but a long relationship of collaboration that has taken us to conferences as speakers about Wikipedia and Libraries.  Together we spent 6 months planning a series of 4 edit-a-thons that focused on Lowell History.  We got funding from the Wikimedia foundation to pay for our event needs (food).  We tapped our communities to promote the event to people.  We used our experiences within Wikipedia to find experienced editors to help.  We set realistic goals based on what we knew about these events.  We took advantage of random opportunities to learn more and meet more people.

The actual Edit-a-thons

The first of the four Edit-a-thons was primarily made up of experienced editors.  A few new faces came in, but it was quiet.  Remember, I had nobody except a couple of curious professors come to my first event.  I was the one person editing in a lab with room for over 30 people.  This time, the curious onlookers came into a room with people quietly working.

An edit-a-thon is an event that might be taking place without you realizing it.  It’s quiet, with people simply working on their computers.  Two people may be working together, but there isn’t a lot of chatter, debate, or activity.  It’s an event about giving people space, time, and support to edit Wikipedia.  It’s taking what we do on our own and allowing it to happen with a group.  The most activity, for all 4 events, was when we took a break for lunch and talked about what we were working on.  I spent the first event working on the Milton Bradley entry.

Once a month, for 4 months, we hosted another edit-a-thon.  Attendance transitioned from more experienced editors, to new editors.  By the last event, almost everyone there was a new editor.  With each event, I got more comfortable editing.  I felt more confident as an editor and event planner by the end of the series.

Why Was It Successful?

In the 3 years between my failed edit-a-thon and our first successful edit-a-thon, I spent much of that time learning about what I was doing.  Meeting Win did more than give me a collaborator, it gave me someone who sent me information about conferences and continuing education that I was not aware of.  I went to a tech training workshop in Oregon because she told me about it.  I went to the first of my Wikipedia conference (more on that in another entry) because Win told me about it.  We went to DC together because of that conference.  Modern Persuasion exists because of meeting Win.

I was able to see an edit-a-thon happen.  I took notes about what I liked and what I wanted to do differently.  I was able to talk to other editors, ask questions, get their feedback, and simply meet new people.  I had someone to bounce ideas off of and get input I hadn’t considered.  We simply had greater reach by working together.  I could focus on the academic community and she on the public community.

What has happened since

I tried to do one more on my own a year ago.  It didn’t go well, but most of that was on me.  Things were not in a great place for me to run that edit-a-thon.  Win and I still collaborate.  She has changed jobs and my job is changing its focus.  I am not sure we will plan more edit-a-thons, but we are both somewhat involved in Wikipedia in new ways because of our events.

Next week I will share more about the Wikipedia conferences and how they have shaped me as an editor.  Tell me in the comments, have you ever heard about local edit-a-thons?



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