The history of the World War One inevitably attracts a great deal of attention and interest, especially on Wikipedia. That’s why Wikimedia UK and JISC teamed up for our first WWI edit-a-thon at the British Library last month.
The editathon brought together academic experts and editors of Wikipedia (Wikipedians) to create and improve Wikipedia articles on WWI. The aim of the event was to increase coverage and make the information as accurate, consistent, wide-ranging and up-to-date as possible, as well as building bridges between Wikipedian and academic communities.
The Wikipedia page about World War Oneattracts approximately 7.3 million page views per year – 597,945 for the month of June 2012 alone. Other key articles attract impressive numbers of readers, such as the Treaty of Versailles(114,190, ~1.4m/year) and the Battle of the Somme(56,071, ~680k/year).
JISC note in their blog post about the event: “With so many students and researchers increasingly using Wikipedia to, at the very least, inform further research, the need for improved accuracy is a pressing issue.”
The event resulted in 33 new or improved articles. This was just a start, as the process raised a debate about the content itself and the wider issue of academic engagement with Wikipedia and its educational and research benefits.
Chris Keating, Wikimedia UK trustee and World War One project lead, said:
“When the centenary of World War One begins in just two years’ time, hundreds of thousands of people will use Wikipedia’s coverage of the war as the beginning of their personal journeys of commemoration and remembrance. It’s important that Wikipedia’s coverage of the subject is as good as possible.”
“I’m very pleased that we are working with JISC on this project. Both the academic community and the volunteers who edit Wikipedia are in their own ways absolutely committed to the pursuit of knowledge. Bringing the two communities together can help demystify Wikipedia to people who work in higher education, while helping improve Wikipedia articles which form a lasting resource for students at all levels.”
As successful as the event was, it’s just a beginning. The legacy of this event is more than accurate content on a key topic – which in itself shouldn’t be under-estimated – but wider academic engagement with Wikipedia, which can establish a model for the future.