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A Global Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon for Ada Lovelace Day

21st November 2018
By Suze Kundu

Ada Lovelace Day (ALD), the annual celebration of Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is celebrated on the second Tuesday of October every year. Now in its tenth year, the day aims to highlight the contributions of women to STEM, and widen the range of role models available to be showcased. Given that role models have been shown to play a part in shaping public perception of STEM and the professionals that work within it, this aim has always aligned well with us here at Digital Science.

The day is celebrated by a main event held in London each year. This year the IET once again played host to seven brilliant communicators of science, but a huge part of the day is also the hundreds of events that take place across the world to widen the reach and purpose of the day. Events can take place on or around the day itself. This year, Digital Science’s ALD planning started on Twitter. Katy Alexander, Global Director of Marketing and Communications, and friends from The Zebra Partnership joined forces to create events focusing on increasing the diversity of Wikipedia editors, and in turn, Wikipedia entries. In 2011, only 10% of Wiki contributors were female, and in 2018 only 17% of Wikipedia entries are about women. One way to change that is to empower more women to become Wiki editors, and this is what this band of merry women and inclusive allies set out to do.

It started with a tweet…

Over time, Digital Science and The Zebra Partnership were joined by other organisations championing for greater diversity in STEM, including Girls in Science, Girls Code, Ogunte and STEMettes. Setting up branches in each of their corners of the UK was not enough though. To make the greatest impact, the event went global. Through Twitter and established contacts, Digital Science invited anyone across the world to join the Edit-a-Thon remotely. Having created and shared a handy guide to setting up a hub and getting started on Wikipedia editing, the final result was at least eleven hubs set up across the world, with many other individuals or small groups taking part during the week, uniting under the hashtag #ImproveWikiDiversity.

Map showing the location of our global Digital Science Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon hubs

Events took place during the week of Ada Lovelace Day, in universities, offices, libraries and even in our own offices. Each participant had been sent a comprehensive beginners guide in advance of their event, and each event had at least one experienced Wikimedian who was able to guide new users through some of the processes, building their confidence as their edits accumulated. Overall, over 450 edits were made, many by people that had never edited Wikipedia before.

Wikipedia editors in the New Zealand hub

The STEMettes after their successful Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Imperial College London

Given that one of the goals of the event was to improve confidence in new Wikipedia editors, it was heartwarming to see tweets from people across the world sharing their new achievements.

Success! A new Wikipedia editor celebrates her first published edits at the Stockport hub

It was also wonderful to see people taking part wherever they felt most comfortable and able to log on, whether that was at work during their lunch hour, or at home with a nice glass of wine.

The Cheadle mini-hub arguably had the best uniform

At the end of each guide, there were some recommended next steps. Our aim was not just to create an event within which people would engage with Wikipedia editing. Our aim was to inspire and empower a more diverse range of Wikipedia editors to start their editing journey, and to continue this. We hope that people that took part in our global Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon treat this as a first step into a continued engagement with editing pages of the website. It is hoped that if we run something similar in the future, attendees that were new editors at our Ada Lovelace Day events will return as experienced editors, ready to empower the next tranche of a more diverse editing force, which in turn should lead to a more diverse range of articles, and a better representation of real life.

We would like to thank all the experienced Wikimedians from across the world for their help in facilitating these hubs.

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