This post was written by Doug Taylor, Wikimedia UK volunteer
It all started in January when Dave Robertson, who works at Barclays Technology, emailed Jimmy Wales with an idea to get his colleagues at Barclays editing Wikipedia. Not just that, but he wanted to get more women involved in editing – and it would be a global event involving Barclays sites word-wide.
Jimbo was encouraging, even as he was warning of the dangers of editing on topics where a conflict of interest could occur. He introduced Dave to Jon Davies, CEO of Wikimedia UK, who asked me if I’d be interested in helping them out. I have no connection with Barclays and the ideas ticked all the boxes for me: finding new editors; engaging more women; a global reach; and plenty of scope for training.
So a few phone calls later I paid a visit the technology centre at Knutsford to meet Dave, Sarah Firth, Carol Morris, and the rest of the folks who were putting their efforts into the project. I soon grasped that Barclays has a staff development programme that encourages their staff to broaden their perspective, take on new skills and develop abilities like collaboration and research. The concept of global Wikipedia editathon ticked all those boxes for them as well, so we set to work in creating a structure for a large event that would span the globe on Thursday12 June.
I was very pleasantly surprised by the rapid response to my enquiry to WMF legal for permission to use Wikimedia trademarks for the internal publicity. Kudos to Andrei Voinigescu for giving me a positive reply within 10 hours!
I was keen to get editors registered and it turns out that’s a good idea from Barclays side as well. They were concerned with the possibility of somebody anonymously editing from the Barclays site and causing problems on Wikipedia with a consequent bad press for them. Having everyone who would take part register an account gave us some assurance that we could correlate edits with any problems that might occur.
I was also determined to make sure that editors would not go into the day “cold” so I proposed a series of sessions leading up to the editathon where we could spread the message about Wikipedia, teach the basics of editing and try to mitigate the steep learning curve of polices, conventions and conflicts that acts as such a huge barrier to becoming a Wikipedia editor. The first result was a launch day where I gave a presentation to interested staff at Knutsford and a video was made to advertise the event. This was followed by an in-person training session where I took about a dozen staff through a training session on basic editing.
It soon became apparent that the idea had taken off and a lot of interest was growing in Singapore, India, Lithuania and the USA and I wanted to encourage as many sites as possible to become self-sufficient, so finding active Wikimedians locally was sensible. Jon Davies knew a contact in India, Pranav Curumsey, and I put Arun and the Barclays team in India in contact with him. It took a little bit longer for the States, but Asaf Bartov at WMF suggested the NYC Chapter, and Newyorkbrad put me in contact with Richard Knipfel, who was able to liaise with Miles Dolphin at Barclays in NY.
Barclays uses WebEx for conferencing, and it was suggested I might like to use it to do training sessions for the far-flung new editors. I miss the feedback I would get from face-to-face training, but it seemed an interesting challenge. So sitting at home at 9 am in the morning. I connected via video and audio links to about sixty potential editors from Singapore and India and shared my browser with them. An hour later, I was reasonably confident that I’d managed to get across the main points of basic editing. Later that same day I repeated the exercise for around 40 participants from Lithuania and the East coast of the USA. By the time of the editathon, I’d done eight of those sessions covering ‘basic editing’, ‘more advanced topics’, and ‘what to write on Wikipedia’.
On the day, the preparation paid off. Harry Mitchell and Dan Haigh joined us for the event at the Barclays Technology Centre Radbooke, near Knutsford, and worked all day giving advice and encouragement to the new editors there. Around the world we had had 460 registrations of interest; around half of them showed up and edited on the day. There were 472 “saves” and 378 articles edited or created across 18 different language Wikipedias from 12 different Barclays sites. The topics edited ranged from ABBA to Zeng Jenlian.
I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who made the day a success. I’m convinced that the format works and that Wikimedia can forge links with commercial entities with the right sort of benefits for each. I’m now looking forward to a follow-up event at Barclays sometime soon.