Wednesday 21 August 2019

How to run a wikithon

We all know about the traditional lifecycle of Wikis. They start with a blaze of publicity, attract a dozen or so pages, then activity fades inexorably away. It doesn't have to be like this! Try starting with a wikithon

Euro stem cell wikithon, image from wikimedia commons
The Wikithon is a piece of process that can be introduced into your Knowledge Management Framework in order to help with creation of a wiki-based knowledge resource. We know that Knowledge Management needs process as well as technology (as well as roles, as well as governance) and many wikis fail through lack of process. Without a process, they remain as empty pages waiting to be filled.

Enter the Wikithon

What is a Wikithon?

The name "Wikithon" is based on the term "hackathon" (an event in which computer programmers and others collaborate intensively on software projects). So by analogy, a Wikithon is an event in which content owners, community of practice members and others collaborate intensively on creating wiki content. Wikipedia call this an "editathon".

A Wikithon is therefore a special event for creating and editing Wiki content, which may last from a couple of hours to a day or more. The event may be co-located or it may be virtual. As a side benefit, the Wikithon often introduces many new people to the concept of the wiki.

Example Wikithons

There are many Wikithon examples in the public sector, for example the Women in STEM wikithon (one of a series held to increase the representation of women's content in Wikipedia), the annual wikithons at Colombia University to create the content for the WikiCU, or the Wikithon for creating the Making Mobile Gov Wiki, held in a coffee shop in Washington, shown in the video below.

In the private sector, ConocoPhillips has had great success with Wikithons, each of which may create up to 100 pages of new content for the company Wiki.

How to run a Wikithon

You can find advice on wikithons from Wikipedia, some of which is incorporated in teh guidance below. 
  • Agree the topic and scope. Which wiki content do you want to focus on?  It works best if each Wikithon focuses on a small number of defined topics, to give business focus to the event.  The sponsor is likely to be the owner of that topic, perhaps the relevant Community of Practice leader.
  • Decide goals for the event. Do you want to complete the content for a topic? For several topics? Or do you only want to "get started"?
  • Determine the logistics - the date, the time, the number of people expected, the logistics needed in terms of internet access
  • Decide on venues. Even if the wikithon is global, it is good to provide large rooms in your major sites where people can gather to collaborate. Make sure there is excellent connectivity from these sites to the network. Provide computers if necessary, or insist everyone brings a laptop
  • Recruit some experienced wiki editors to provide guidance and coaching
  • Order in some food and other refreshments
  • Advertise the event. Advertise within the community of practice, use your local KM champions to help drum up support, and seek to involve as many people as possible who are working on the topic in question.
  • Provide a way for people to sign up to the event, so you have some idea of the number of people who will turn up physically ( as well as those who will turn up virtually).
  • On the day, try to mix new and experienced users. Have at least one - preferably several - experienced wiki users at each physical site. Make sure new users know where to go to for help
  • Welcome people to the event, share the goals and the scope. Do a round of introductions.
  • Demonstrate how to find the wiki, and how to edit. Explain the "rules of the game"
  • Provide a "sandbox" area for new people to experiment with
  • Have a chat area where online attendees can interact
  • Ask people to bring existing material on their laptops
  • Keep a list of "work that needs to be done" and cross it off as the event progresses
  • Order in some food and other refreshments
  • Make it fun - use prizes, awards, stickers
  • Take photos
  • Hand out t-shirts
  • Afterwards, thank everyone who attended, and summarise all that was achieved on the day.

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