Wiki Club- Lessons learned, future goals

Posted on August 6, 2014

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I interpret your regularly scheduled posts on why Archaeologists should embrace Wikipedia (see parts I and II) to bring you some of my recent work with Wikipedia. What follows is not a blue print of how to work with Wikipedia, simply a retelling of what we did so that you may be inspired/learn from my mistakes.

We, me and several people I will mention in due course, have been running monthly editions in Edinburgh. I call it Wiki Club.

First rule of Wiki Club- Anyone can edit the rules of Wiki Club.
Second rule of Wiki Club- Anyone can edit the rules of Wiki balls.
(oh, such a bad wiki joke)

History

In early spring of this year I was working on a project related to ScARF, which is a research framework. For those outside the UK, a research framework is a synthesis of all the knowledge in a certain area and the goals for future research. ScARF is pretty revolutionary in that instead of re-writing a new research framework every 5-10 years and printing it out as a monograph it can just be edited, because it is a wiki. Cutting edge stuff.

I am a little vague on my thought process, this was at the beginning of the year, but I came up with the idea utilizing resources like ScARF, The Proceedings of Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (because they are mostly Open Access! i.e. FREE to read), and other resources to write or improve Wikipedia articles. As I have mentioned in the why-edit-Wikipedia posts this would send visitors to these resources and boost people’s awareness of them. I contacted Jeff Sanders, former ScARF all powerful leader? Supreme Commander? (I can’t remember his title) and Master of Ceremony?, Grand Master? (can’t remember his new title and too lazy to Google it) of DigIt2015, the Year of Scottish Archaeology.

Jeff liked the idea and thought a edithon, were people get together and edit Wikipedia, would make a great event for DigIt2015. It was at that point I realized I knew nothing about editing Wikipedia. So I contacted Pat Hadly, who I had seen give a presentation on Wikipedia (I still remember him discussion dragons and gnomes). Turns out he is also a Wikipedian in Resident in York (check out the program, it’s very cool). He put me in contact with Ally, a Wikipedian in Resident in Scotland, and we scheduled a edithon/training session in April of this year, with both Pat and Ally helping us out.

Some of those conversations took place on Twitter, were Cara Jones saw it and join in. We invited a few other people (Alex and Leigh) and before we knew it we had Wiki Club. There are little more than half a dozen of us and we have been meeting once a month for edithons since April.
Here is a little bit of what I have learned from the experience.

Get Professional Help. Not really, get friends.

Ok, so there are not any professional Wikipedia trainers in Archaeology. But, work with others, it helps a lot. Pat and Ally have been absolutely amazing. I recommend contacting your local Wikipedian is Resident to get them to give your group some help. A person in the room showing you the ropes makes it a lot easier and groups motivate you. In our little group everyone has taken a role in helping plan our meet-ups which has made it very successful (thanks Cara, Jeff, Alex, Leigh, and Q).

Practice, Practice, Practice

We have plans to do a several very large editions i.e. DigIt 2015 event. We were going to just have a single training session and then try to run larger events. Turns out I need a lot more practice to get the hang of it. We have been having our monthly edithons to build up our skills before we try to teach others. I would recommend a similar approach.

The Golden Ratio

Our Wiki Club has found a golden ratio of about 2:1 or 3:1. That is, when we meet-up we spend about 1 hour doing edits to Wikipedia, researching, etc. and at least two hours, sometimes three, yammering on about non-wiki related issues. We also meet in pubs and each others’ flats. It is very informal and fun. This is one of the reasons we meet up every month- an excuse for Archaeologists to get together and have a pint/wine glass(bottle).

People are Interested

Because we started out not having much experience we have not advertised our Wiki Club, at all. Cara found us through a Twitter conversation and several other people have expressed interest too, via Tweets-who might show up next time😉 . It is amazing how quickly it has grown. Advertise your interest and you will be surprised how many people get on board. By the way we will be having another meet-up soon, if you are in the Edinburgh area please join us. You can find out more at our Facebook group.

KISS

One thing Pat suggested, and that has been gold for us, is to pick a subject, not a controversial one, that is somewhat established but needs work. In our case, we have been editing articles on Brochs, see Leckie Broch as some of our work. It helps to have a subject to work on. Else, everyone gets overwhelmed with the millions of articles to edit.

Future Plans

Now that we are getting more comfortable with our Mad Wiki Skills we are planning several larger edithons for next year. As mention, there is DigIt 2015 but also several conferences we are eyeing up to run a workshop/fringe event at to get other Archaeologists involved. Keep an eye out for them in the near future. By the way- you do not need any training to start editing Wikipedia. There are plenty of resources online to help you do it. So don’t be afraid to start today. Our plan is to make it a bit more social and hopefully get other people starting up Wiki Clubs of their own.

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