Tips for Planning a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

Quick Links

  1. Planning your Edit-a-Thon
  2. Getting the Word Out
  3. Getting Up to Speed with Wikipedia
  4. During the Edit-a-Thon

Planning Your Edit-a-Thon

Download this toolkit’s planning timeline and planning checklist!

Work with your library’s or institution’s events coordinator or head of communications to select the date and time for your edit-a-thon.

  • Typically, edit-a-thons last for 3-4 hours. Attendees may come and go during this period; it won’t be necessary for them to stay for the whole event.
  • Consider scheduling your edit-a-thon during your library or institution’s most popular hours.
  • Keep an eye on your institutional or local events calendars so that you don’t overlap with other popular events. Or, consider whether or not you might be able to collaborate with other events (i.e., an edit-a-thon focused on local African-American figures might tie in well with Black History Month events. Or, an edit-a-thon dedicated to women or people of color in sports might be a draw leading up to championships or playoffs.)

Choose a space for your edit-a-thon. Computer labs are great, or you can encourage attendees to bring their own laptops or tablets and have the edit-a-thon in your usual event space.

  • Bear in mind the availability of electrical outlets and wifi access.
  • Projected presentations can be helpful for group instruction on editing Wikipedia articles, so you may want to choose a space that can accommodate them.
  • Consider the parking options for your participants. If parking near your event is tricky, provide some guidance on your event meet-up page.

Consider how your edit-a-thon space will be laid out. Some designated areas you might consider are:

  • A registration and welcome table
  • A food and drink table
  • Stations for reference resources/research assistance and Wikipedia editing assistance
  • A secure place for attendees to place their bags if archival or non-circulating material will be present

If you’ll be working with caterers, ask for their catering menus and confirm their catering policies. Many require a catering order to be placed a set number of days before an event or require a minimum order for delivery. Check with them to see if they’ll be able to provide plates, napkins, cups, utensils, etc.

 Draft your colleagues or interested volunteers to help with staffing during the edit-a-thon. You may need people to:

  • give an introductory presentation on Wikipedia editing basics at the start of your edit-a-thon
  • help with one-on-one Wikipedia editing
  • staff food, welcome, and research materials tables
  • take photos or share updates on the edit-a-thon via social media

Getting the Word Out

Create a Wikipedia meet-up page for your edit-a-thon!

  • Create your meet-up page as a subpage of the Wikipedia:Meetup page. To do this:
    1. Find the calendar of scheduled future meetups, and look for the month in which your event will happen.
    2. Edit the list of events for that month.
    3. Copy the formatting of other entries and add your event so it appears in chronological order with the other events. This is where you will create the URL for your meetup page, with the format “Wikipedia:Meetup/[edit-a-thon location]/[edit-a-thon title]”.
    4. After you’ve finished adding your event to the list, save your edit.
    5. When you look at the page, you should see your entry as a link in red text.
    6. Click on the red text. You should see a message telling you that no page with that title exists. Click on the link to create the page.

Consider designating an event-specific hashtag that your attendees can use on social media during the edit-a-thon. Include it in your edit-a-thon publicity.

 Note available technological resources in your publicity. Will computers or laptops be provided or should attendees try to bring their own laptops or tablets (if they have them)?

Consider asking local or student groups organized around topics related to the edit-a-thon to co-sponsor. Make clear requests for assistance (funding, help with publicity, help with Wikipedia editing questions during event, etc.) as part of your outreach to them.

As part of your publicity, ask potential attendees to create a Wikipedia editor account before the edit-a-thon. Wikipedia allows only six new editors to create new accounts from the same location (based on IP address) during a 24-hour period (i.e., if you have more than six people trying to register at your edit-a-thon, their registration attempts may be denied.)

Reach out to WikiProject NC or a local Wikipedia user group like the North Carolina Triangle Wikipedians for advice and for help in spreading the word about your event.

Getting Up to Speed with Wikipedia

Read over this tool-kit’s “Editing Wikipedia: A Primer" webpage for editing how-tos and guidelines.

Emily Jack presenting at a UNC-Chapel Hill edit-a-thon.

Emily Jack presenting at a UNC-Chapel Hill edit-a-thon.

Starting the edit-a-thon with a quick tutorial presentation on how to edit Wikipedia is a good idea. GLAM’s detailed tutorial provides a careful grounding in the concepts you’ll want to cover in your own presentation.

You may also want to have some how-to handouts on hand for editors to continue to refer to.

If you have the capacity, ask colleagues or volunteers who are already familiar with Wikipedia editing to serve as resource people during the edit-a-thon.

  • Another useful tactic is to ask participants who have edited Wikipedia before to wear a colored sticker on their nametags. This can identify experienced Wikipedians to first-timers at the event.

Develop a list of potential article topics that editors might work on during the edit-a-thon. These can be brand-new article topics or pre-existing Wikipedia articles that need expansion.

  • For new article topics, include a one-sentence summary to draw editors’ interest.
  • For pre-existing articles that need to be expanded, include a brief note about what work is needed.
  • Before suggesting a new article topic, determine whether or not it meets Wikipedia’s notability guidelines. Otherwise, an editor’s article could be at risk of being deleted by another Wikipedia editor!
  • Stick to article topics that can be supported by printed materials present in the library or institution’s collections; databases that you can provide access to; or online scholarly resources.
    • Remember that Wikipedia does not allow any original research in its articles. Any information included in an article must come from a reliable, published source. In general, this excludes manuscript material.
    • You may want to consider making bibliographies, pathfinders, or folders of information for each article topic. Include access instructions for any databases or online resources.
  • Around 20 new article topics or pre-existing articles needing work should be enough. Many people will be editing Wikipedia and/or conducting research for the first time, so this will give them enough to get their feet wet.

Come up with a game plan for editors who aren’t able to complete their article during the edit-a-thon. A takeaway handout might include:

  • Notes about how to access available reference resources after the edit-a-thon (if additional research is needed)
  • Your contact information (so the editors can notify you after they’ve completed their articles)

During the Edit-a-Thon

Nametags are a key item for your welcome table. Consider including colored dot stickers, which attendees can use to indicate their level of experience with Wikipedia editing (i.e., red dots = an experienced editor, green dots = a new editor, yellow dots = library staff, etc.). This will make it easy for attendees to locate the help they need!

A white board in use at a Duke University edit-a-thon.

A white board in use at a Duke University edit-a-thon.

A whiteboard or a large flip-pad on an easel can be a fun way to list possible article topics. Attendees can write their names next to the article they’re working on, and cross it off when finished.

Take photos (with attendees’ permission)! A write-up about your edit-a-thon could be good for your library or institution’s newsletter, blog, or social media. You can also use the photos in publicizing your next edit-a-thon.

Share your edit-a-thon’s hashtag (see publicity section) and encourage attendees to tweet or share event photos on Instagram.

  • If your library or institution is heavily involved in social media, you may want to ask one of your colleague volunteers to act as social media monitor, re-sharing any social media activity by your editors.
  • After the event, you’ll be able to pull together the resulting social media activity to share with your administration or board (or as a recap from your own social media).

If you create edit-a-thon recaps, Storify stories, or more, please let SNCA know. (Send an email to education@ncarchivists.org). We can share these on our edit-a-thon case studies page!