As of today I am done with 3 out of 4 Wikipedia edit-a-thons. I didn’t say anything after the January one because it was still too early to make any judgements. The thing is, this has been one of the snowiest winters ever for Massachusetts. There were weeks in the past month when I was at work 1 day a week. While some things could be done at home, many could not. The snow started the day before the January edit-a-thon and the it finally seems to be calming down now that the February edit-a-thon has happened. We have book-ended more than 111 inches of snow in Lowell. It is crazy.
With that in mind, here is a comparison of the 3 events so far.
- December: 8 people
- January: 7 people
- February: 5 people
2) New vs. Experienced Editors
- December: all 8 of us were experienced editors
- January: 5 of us were experienced editors, 1 new person created an account, 1 new person worked anonymously
- February: 3 of us were experienced editors with account, 1 of us was the same anonymous user, 1 new person created an account
3) General Public vs. Students
- December: all of us were general public
- January: 4 of us were general public and 2 were students
- February: 4 of us were general public and 1 was a student
4) Local vs. State/Region
- December: 5 of 8 were not local
- January: 2 of 7 were not local
- February: all 5 of us were local
- The students who attended all have experience editing and extensive resumes within Wikipedia
- In December members of the New England Wikipedia community attended, they have not come to the subsequent ones even though invited.
- We are getting a good mix of men to women, but more women are coming.
- Training has been best done one on one rather than as a large group.
- We have realized that 6 hours may be too much time. By hour 4 people get tired and want to go.
- Once a month may be too often to run these.
- Only a few people came to more than one session and, other than the coordinators, nobody has come to all three.
We are getting the hang of running them, that is the easy part. It is the promotion and getting bodies. At this last one we made a local contact who is interested in their being more done in the city to support these efforts. We talked about how people think Wikipedia is a possible promotional tool. It may mean some headway in future events like this. The key is to also connect this to campus. There is some interest in Wikipedia on campus and I am pretty sure I can be a leader in growing that as well as in shifting it to action (classes working in Wikipedia, teaching students research and writing using Wikipedia, etc.)
The problem is, none of these are our goals. We wanted to train 20 people to edit Wikipedia. So far we have trained 3 people. Yes, those of us with experience are learning new things. Yes, the local entries are improved, but we are realizing that our goal may have been too big. We even thought we had lowered expectations. I am beginning to really see how our difficulty with promotion and outreach is directly connected to this goal of 20 new editors. It’s hard to set goals like this with any program. Our group may be getting smaller, but local participation increases with each event.
The fact remains, it is still too early to decide if this is going to be a failure or a success. It is time for us to think about how this could be a success even if it fails with our officially stated goal. For now, I have to focus on building interest for our final session. Hopefully the snow has stopped for a while and I can focus on what has to get done before the end of March.
What do you think about the success of failure of the edit-a-thons so far?