A Women's History Month edit-a-thon
Wiki4Climate opening session group photo - a week-long online edit-a-thon in November 2020.
Edit-a-thons can also be online: Screenshot of a virtual workroom for an online edit-a-thon on SDG topics in September 2020.

This is a guide for how (and why) to run a Wikiversity "edit-a-thon" to create collaboratively Open Educational Resources. An edit-a-thon can be:

  1. (Time Date Location) a scheduled time where people edit Wikiversity learning resource together, during a face-to-face meeting or online connected with video conferencing or a mix of both with regional meetings points
  2. (Topic Selection) typically focused on a specific topic, such as science or women's history;
  3. (Learn to Edit - Support Learners) a way to give newcomers an insight into how Open Educational Resources can be create, improved or expanded in Wikiversity.

Edit-a-thons improve the Wikiversity and can be a great way to help new Wikiversity authors learn to edit, improve or create new Open Educational Resources. This is quite different from large conferences such as Wikimania, which often have multiple speakers or panels about a huge variety of topics. An edit-a-thon is also unlike a regular meetup, which tends to be without a single goal and/or for socializing. In other words: an edit-a-thon is like a hackathon for Wiki editors. In the context of Wikiversity the collaborative editing has the objective to create domain specific OER.

Support for Edit-a-thon Organizers edit

If you are planing a edit-a-thon the following training session may support in developing your own edit-a-thons or other editing events in Wikiversity.

Running Edit-a-thons and other Editing Events

Target Groups edit

  • (Teachers) People that are working as teachers in a specific domain and want to work collaboratively on Open Educational Resources in Wikiversity in a specific language
  • (Domain Experts) People that are content or domain experts in a specific domain and that want to update Open Educational Resources to the current State Of The Art (SOTA).
  • (Translators) People that are working as teachers in a specific domain speaking two different languages and want to create missing Open Educational Resources in other languages. Often the translation is combined with the adaption of the learning resources to other social and cultural contexts, e.g. by choosing comprehensive examples of images e.g. from a European context to Asian context of the learning resource or content that can be used for Capacity Building.
  • (Interdisciplinary Teams) Bringing together people from different domains that want to work on Open Educational Resources that link those different domain (e.g. Music and Computer Science and work on supporting musician with digital tools like Online Music Jam with Open Source tools or Space and Global Health combining Space Technology and the application in Global Health domain).

Why run an edit-a-thon? edit

Giants in the field of Women in the Arts group photograph
A good combination of subject, food and mood made an edit-a-thon at the Museum of Modern Art co-sponsored by New York University a very satisfying event
  1. It helps build the Open Educational Resources for learning and Capacity Building
  2. It provides access to topic experts involved in teaching and learning, and to offline source materials for building the OER
  3. It builds relationships in the community in a face-to-face (F2F) meeting and between different local and regional meeting points
  4. It encourages editors to learn from each other, and by doing
  5. It entices people to become new authors for Wikiversity learning resources
  6. It helps new Wikiversity editors to contribute to existing OER build new OER for uncovered topics
  7. It's fun to collaboratively build OER!

There may be other benefits, such as promoting OER in general for cultural and educational institutions such as universities, colleges, schools, pre-school or even non-formal education, but it doesn't need to be more complicated than the reasons above.

Important: You should be aware of Wikipedia's conflict of interest (COI) guideline, which covers employees of an institution editing that institution's article. Also please check the Wikipedia:Advocacy essay as recommendation, which is intended to supplement the SOAP and NPOV pages.

What you should have beforehand edit

An edit-a-thon at the British Library.

Clear goals edit

Define a clear set of goals in terms of what general group of articles you want to work on and who you want to attend. This can be a broad topic, like climate change or items in the collection of a museum that are subject of a learning environment about the cultural topic. Newcomers participating in a Edit-a-thon event often feel most comfortable with either

  • a topic in which they have some degree of interest or
  • a very simple activity, like copyediting or wikifying.

This is helpful due to the fact, that some technical learning curve is addressed in the Edit-a-thon and the domain is not really a challenges for the participants. Be prepared with a list of things that need work or attention. Even if that isn't what gets worked on, it can help generate ideas.

Determine logistics edit

When determining the date, time, and venue for an edit-a-thon, keep the following in mind.

Size edit

Find out how many people your venue can hold and limit the number of signups to that number. Alternatively, guess how many attendees you'll have and try to find a venue that will accommodate that many. It's simple with half a dozen participants, while hundreds can be successful given the right planning.

Internet access edit

Museum of Modern Art; laptops are easier but smaller screens can do.

Participants must have reliable access to the internet, preferably strong wifi. This is important, as Wiki skills are best learned by live editing. Usually venues are chosen that can provide access, but some chapters have portable wifi hotspots to ensure connections anywhere.

Simultaneous Editing edit

Assign groups to specific pages of the learning resource so the conflicts of versions due to simultaneous editing can be reduced

Computers edit

If the venue has computers, consider the following when deciding on how to incorporate them into your event:

  • Which accounts/passwords do attendees need to access the computers? Does anything need to be done in advance?
  • Which browser is used, and does it play nicely with MediaWiki i.e. the Wiki software running Wikiversity and Wikipedia?
  • Can people connect cameras, USB thumb drives and memory card readers? Do the computers have image editing software?

If participants will be bringing devices, consider:

  • Does the venue have wifi? Can it cope with the expected number of users?
  • Which accounts or passwords do you need to access wifi?
    • If the wifi has a single password, post a sign with the details and check that you can see the sign from the farthest point of the room.
    • If the wifi requires you to have individual accounts, then have slips of paper and hand them out to each person as they arrive.
  • Can people use power sockets? Do you need extension cables?

Open Educational Resources for GLAM edit

For an institution such as a GLAM (Gallery, Library, Archive, or Museum) a learning path through the institution can be designed with corresponding learning resources in Wikiversity e.g. path through a museum can be designed with special learning topic for a exhibited objects in the museum.

Geo-located OER edit

Geo-located Open Educational Resources addresses a specific geo-location. E.g. a lake, a forrest, a river, ... and assigns the learning resources with references to that geo-location, e.g. birds that can be spotted in a forrest. For an edit-a-thon it is recommended to visit jointly the geo-location with a specific observation tasks to identify possible topics that refer to these identified learning topics.

Refreshments edit

Drinks and food will encourage people to stick around for longer than they might otherwise and provide an opportunity to take a break and talk with other editors. Make sure water is available.

Access edit

Especially when edit-a-thons are hosted within cultural institutions, attending the event may not be as simple as coming in. Find out what the access arrangements are for the venue. Ideally you want people to turn up on time and be able to get in without disrupting your event. But there will be latecomers. If the venue has receptionists then introduce yourself and make sure they know what to tell people who ask for the Wikipedia event (if you have bling then offer the receptionist a badge, biro or beermat). If people are going to have to phone you to be let in:

  1. If the only way in is to text or call you, warn them to bring a mobile phone and put a Wikipedia sign outside with a phone number .
  2. Assign someone other than the presenter to answer the phone and let people in.
  3. Find out if your venue is wheelchair accessible or has a hearing loop and put those details on your event page.

Recruit active Wikiversity editors and research experts edit

Edit-a-thons go most smoothly when experienced Wikiversity editors are there to help new editors:

  • for technical guidance and
  • support in the design of learning resources (this differs from structure of an Edit-a-thon for Wikipedia content.
  • type of learning activities that you want to incorporate in the Wikiversity learning resources,
  • select Open Source tools or Open Source frameworks that may support the author in create media elements (audio samples of instrument for a learning resource about musical instruments)
  • provide an introduction for licensing information
  • you might want to prepare a few images, diagrams from WikiCommons that the authors might find helpful for creating new learning resources in Wikiversity

One-on-one coaching is ideal, and one longtime Wikiversity editor per 10 attendees is a bare maximum, that can be handle by a single expert.

Train the Coaches edit

Coaches should also be trained in advance to be ready for problems that may arise. So performing capacity building for the trainers might help in creating a positive collaborative experience to the participants. It is recommended that

  • prospective coaches have joined at least one edit-a-thon as participant before.
  • identify if coaches need special support skills e.g. help participants with the editing mathematical expressions.
  • ...

It can also help to include people who aren't experienced with Wikiversity from the technical point of view, but are good at teaching and design learning environments and capacity building events. This can include teaching about finding reliable sources for citation and scientific reference help build Wikiversity learning resource based on scientific evidence.

Determine how to create user accounts edit

Within a 24-hour period, only six Wikipedia accounts can be created via a single IP address. If there's a chance you'll have more than six new editors at your edit-a-thon, you'll want to have a plan for how they'll create accounts. As of 2019, this limit does not apply to event account creations that are run through the Programs and Events Dashboard, unless you will be manually flagging your attendees as "confirmed".

You can do one or more of the following:

  1. Encourage new editors to create their account before they arrive;
  2. Recruit an event coordinator to (remotely or in-person) help at your event; or
  3. Request an exception to the limit for your IP address at least a week in advance.
  4. Remember the limit applies per wiki, so if you have more than six newbies try starting some of them at Commons; bonus points for running multilingual Edit-a-thons and encouraging people to create an account on the language version of Wikiversity where they are going to edit.
  5. While actual editing may be difficult on the mobile site, people who can get a signal can create an account on their mobile; then use it on a PC.

Provide a way for people to find details and sign up to attend edit

Write an event page. This is especially useful to recruit insiders to help. A subpage of Wikipedia:Meetup is easiest, but there are other options depending on the location and topic of your event. If you are aiming this at newbies don't confuse them with a sign up page on a different wiki such as a chapter wiki, especially if that requires a different account to be created.

Providing a way for people to sign up outside of Wikipedia will be more inviting to new editors. Asking people who may have never edited before to navigate a meetup wiki page presents a Catch-22 where they have to edit a page filled with wiki markup in order to learn how to edit wiki markup. Good secondary alternatives are free tools such as Eventbrite,, or even a Facebook event.

Have appropriate forms for data collection afterwards edit

This is important if you plan to report statistics on participant activity. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Using Wikimetrics – to use this tool you need to record participants' usernames and use appropriate forms to get their consent for you to collect data about their activity.
  • Using the Programs and Events Dashboard – contributors join events, and through joining those events, can be tracked for their contributions during a window of time.

You can encourage participants to make a user page, with a notice that they are under your instruction, to help other editors understand.

Ways to advertise an edit-a-thon edit

With enough helpers and enough space you can have "stations" for different activities, like getting on the Wifi and creating an account. In smaller spaces it is better to decide which volunteers will do which things and have them go to the participants.

Although everyone is usually welcome at an edit-a-thon, invitations and publicity help encourage participation. Consider who will be most interested in attending (is the event intended for mostly experienced Wikipedians? Medical professionals? Women who haven't edited before? Some combination?), and where they're most likely to be. Then, tailor your outreach to the audience(s) you're trying to reach.

In rough order of effectiveness:

  • Geographically-specific software notice; these invite existing editors via their watchlist. Aim for people within two hours travel.
  • Scheduling an edit-a-thon in conjunction with a well-known event—such as the subject African Americans during Black History Month (February) or of women during Women's History Month (March)—can maximize attendance.
  • Ask people to help promote it to their friends and colleagues. Social connections are your friend.
  • Email relevant mailing lists (which may not always be a Wikimedia list! University departments, professional associations, and other groups can be good places to reach potential editors) (Remember that informing an email list is useful not just for potential attendees, but for letting others know of your activities which may inspire them.)
  • Contact editors who have self identified as being in the area.
  • Ask for help and participation from relevant WikiProjects, if a project exists.
  • Suggest a tidbit in the Signpost, Wikipedia's online newsletter.
  • Talk about it on social media, if that's your thing.
  • Write a blog post. If you don't have one, ask someone who has an active blog in Planet Wikimedia. (Yes, that includes the Wikimedia Foundation blog! You can draft a proposed Wikimedia Foundation blog post here.)

For the benefit of online participants, make clear the time zone in which the event will take place.

Tip: For a great registration URL link to use in your advertisements, go to your Wikipedia event page while signed out and click "Create account". The URL now in your browser will automatically direct people to your event page after they create their account.

During an edit-a-thon edit

Food at an edit-a-thon = encyclopedia fuel

Welcome edit

  • Welcome people, find them a seat, tell them where the toilets and fire escapes are.
  • Keep in mind that whatever their experience level, editors will likely come with a set of interests. Ask them, and try to direct them to any related work that needs doing.
  • Unless everyone knows each other or there are dozens, you can start with a round of introductions. Nametags help, and experienced editors can wear a special sticker or color or otherwise mark themselves. At a minimum get all the trainers/helpers to stand up so people know whom to ask for help.
  • If you expect more than a handful of people and, particularly, if they aren't all going to show up at once, consider having someone volunteer to be a "greeter," to welcome people as they arrive and help them get started.
  • Make sure all participants have signed-in if necessary, and have access to any WiFi passwords, and are told whether any group training sessions are working in Visual Editor or Source Editor, and in desktop or in mobile view (and how to switch over).

Teach edit

  • Take time to help new editors create an account and learn a few editing basics. If there are several new editors at the event, they might like to be grouped together along with an experienced Wikipedian for guidance, so that they can support each other as they get setup.
  • Familiarize new editors with Wikivesity's core content policies (neutral point of view, verifiability) and content guidelines (particularly notability and reliable sources and WikiJournal_of_Medicine and WikiJournal of Science).
  • Demonstrate the use of draft space and userspace sandboxes for incomplete articles.
  • Demonstrate using the Article Wizard and Articles for Creation to confirm that a new article is appropriate before publishing.
  • Creating acceptable new pages is an advanced activity unsuitable for brand new editors. Encourage improving existing Mainspace pages as the best way for new users to learn. It is usually better to expand an existing topic until it's ready to become a spinout page, than to create a dubious stub. Data clearly shows pages created by new users get deleted at a much higher rate than pages created by users with as few as 10 edits over 4 days. Don't set new users up for disappointment as their new page gets speedy tagged or sent to WP:AfD.
New User deletions
Autoconfirmed User deletions
  • Experienced editors are comfortable editing with the classic wikitext interface, but that user interface can be challenging for new editors. Suggest new editors use VisualEditor, particularly since it has Citoid (editors only need a URL to generate a full citation, at least for the most common news sources).
    • Experienced editors should have prior experience in VE, so they understand the interface. They should also know where the user guide is located.
  • With dozens of newbies, designated spaces for doing and teaching different tasks is a good idea (such as "Creating an account and making your first edit", "Starting a new article", or "Improving existing articles"). Whether that is simply a table per topic or a separate room should depend on the size of the group; no use isolating less than a handful into their own space when a larger group can bring more opportunities for mutual help.

Conclude edit

  • Make sure new editors know where to go to ask for help before the event is over (e.g., the Help desk or Village pump). It might also be good to have materials such as the Wikipedia:Cheatsheet printed out.
  • Take some photos! Even just one group photo at the end is better than nothing.
  • If you can get it before the event, hand out some Wikipedia merchandise. If there are many people and not enough t-shirts or other materials, you can raffle them off to be fair and create some fun. Having merchandise as a prize for the most-improved article is also a great motivator.
  • If your edit-a-thon is happening purely online, try to have a real-time discussion space where people can ask questions and chat. An IRC channel, Slack, group Video conferencing are about as close to the ease of offline communication as you can get.
  • If you combine face-to-face meetings and link to other regional meeting points[1]
  • If you have another event planned for the future then make sure you announce it before people start to leave.

What to do afterwards edit

  • Thank everyone who attended, especially anyone else who helped organize the event (a talk page message works great!).
  • Try to get a list of all the articles edited or created, the usernames of participants, and anything else produced at the event.
  • Upload event photos to Wikimedia Commons in "Category:Wikimedia editathons" (or a subcategory of that).
  • Write a blog post or op-ed for the Wikipedia Signpost talking about who attended, what got done, and how it went overall.
  • Send a survey to participants (optional)

See also edit

Planning Academic Edit-a-thons

References edit

  1. Local and Regional Meeting Points (AT6FUI) Action Team Follow Up Initiative (2012) - international connectivity via video conferencing and low carbon foot print with local and regional meeting points - URL: (accessed 2021/03/02)

External links edit

Page Information edit

This page was based on the following wikipedia-source page: