Long Several Weeks and an Editathon

What a long several weeks! It’s been a while since my last post, and the last couple weeks have been a good case study of grad school chaos: I was catching up with school activities outside my internship with the Blake Archive, creating a syllabus for a competitive graduate teaching opportunity for next semester, grading a pile of papers for the writing classes I am teaching this semester,  running an Editathon (for more information see the event page on Wikipedia) and preparing to help a professor using Wikipedia in his classroom.  Oh, the life of academics! A lot happened in the past several weeks, and I don’t think I can adequately cover all of it. Instead, I thought I would spend today’s post highlighting what Editathons are, reporting on the editathon that I held here at K-State and discussing opportunities offer both for GLAM-Wiki activities and for collaboration among non-Wikimedia communities.

What is an editathon?

One of the biggest parts of successful GLAM-Wiki Activities tends to be live in-person events that encourage people to contribute to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects called Editathons. Generally, at these events, a group of Wikipedians alongside some inexperienced volunteers come together to contribute to materials relavent to GLAMs on the various projects. I first experienced events like these in the U.K. when I lived there in 2011, and, subsequently in the D.C. area, I participated in several more events, as the local community got its foot in the door with the vast number of GLAMs in the city, especially the Smithsonian. Generally, these editathons allow organizations to access the Wikimedia volunteer community in a more personal and interactive setting, something that they are more familiar with as curators of institutions distributing public knowledge. Moreover, the GLAM institution that host the editathon gets an opportunity to promote both their materials, by asking Wikimedians to edit articles about them, and reward the volunteers through food and exposure to the collection and its behind the scenes workinga. In 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on an editathon I attended at the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art, and the video really captured the enthusiasm held by the, then, Wikipedian-in-Residence, Sarah Stierch, Sarah Snyder, a big advocate for the D.C. area Wikimedia community, volunteer participants, and a younger version of myself. I like that the video captures both the energy and the focus of GLAM institutions when they hold these events. For information and materials to help run editathons check out the tutorials at editathon.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_to_run_an_edit-a-thon

Editathon at the Beach Museum

On October 11th, the Beach hosted an editathon related to William Blake. It provided an interesting experience for me, because it offered both a different approach to edithatons and created a radically new experience for the Beach Museum. One of the biggest hurdles for me this semester is corralling volunteers to contribute to the Blake Activities. Online volunteers aren’t too hard to find: on English Wikipedia, there are few Blake related contributors that have been producing a fair amount of Blake content. However, throughout Eastern Kansas their are hardly any regular Wikimedia projects contributors: maybe 6 including myself. Also, the Beach museum wanted to hold the event on a Friday because of staffing and the weekly schedule. Many of the Wikimedians couldn’t attend because of the work week. Thus for the editathon, I ended up having drew on people from my network in the English department instead of the typical volunteer community these events: experienced Wikipedians.

The event turned out smaller then expected (8 attendees instead of an expected 12 or so); as is often the case with academic communities, many people constantly have many things they are doing and a number of RSVPs had other things come up. However, for an event that didn’t draw many experienced Wikipedians, we got a fair amount done. Beyond teaching 5 new editors how to edit Wikipedia and Wikisource, the volunteers got a chance to learn more about Blake’s works and contributed to both Wikipedia and the Wikisource. Wikisource is a sister project to Wikipedia which creates e-book transcriptions of public domain books. We made some good progress on transcribing Benjamin Heath Malkin’s A Father’s memoirs of his child (we could still use more help at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Index:Father%27s_memoirs_of_his_child.djvu ). Though not radically productive for a 4 hour period, the event proved a success within the limits on the situation: training people to make contributions on Wikimedia projects can take time, and to get 5 people actually making changes within characterizes a big success; and, this is the first volunteer event at the Beach Museum, besides the use of docents, that actively involved people creating information related to the mission. Since, I haven’t seen any activity on Wikimedia projects from the volunteer, it demonstrates that academics only have so much time to contribute and then may or may not come back as regular contributors. Generally, though the event provided a foundational experience for the community here, the Beach museum and create a model for future events!

Thinking about the event as Cross Organizational Collaboration

With my internship I also want to facilitate conversation and collaboration amongst different academic groups that exist on the K-State campus to create public knowledge.The edithaton offered just that opportunity: we improved Blake related materials to meet the goals of the Blake Archive, while giving the Beach Museum a sample of what it means to host volunteers and see what running such an event would look like. Beside direct outcomes, it allowed for a meeting between Dr. Mark Crosby, my sponsor at the Blake Archive, and Addrianne Russell, our sponsor from the Beach. Dr. Crosby teaches a digital humanities class in the Spring. In the class, Crosby will require his students to contribute to a similar event focused largely on the interests of the Beach. Moreover, by training digital humanities students in Wikipedia ahead of time, the event will be more focused on contributions and collaboration!

Whats coming up

As, I have been promising for a while, there are some more statistical sets that I would like to explore as an extension of my earlier discussion of stats. Furthermore, I just got a copy of William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media by Roger Whitson and Jason Whittaker from Inter-Library Loan. Both Mark Crosby, and myself are planning to review the book, and I would love to reflect on it here in light of my project.  Hopefully I can those blog posts out with a more timely manner this time!

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