Introductory edit-a-thons

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Browsing Wikipedia together on a shared screen, with open discussion and not too rigid of a plan, can make for a great introductory session.

This page captures an approach to hosting events that are primarily Wikipedia edit-a-thons, but begin with a more structured introductory session. The purpose is to create a space for working together on Wikipedia that is (1) accessible to newcomers to Wikipedia, and (2) enjoyable for longtime Wikipedia content contributors (writers, editors, photographers, programmers, etc.)



This is a model under development by Pete Forsyth and a number of colleagues, and has been tried in several different places: Portland, Oregon; Somerville, Massachusetts; and Oakland, California. I welcome input, especially from those who have contributed to, or participated in, these events!



The event is designed for two main purposes:

  • Help newcomers learn about Wikipedia
  • Give established Wikipedians a chance to work together and network

This page captures what has worked at events that attracted about 15 to 30 people, and lasted between 3 and 5 hours. (Some of the ideas have not actually been tried, but for the most part this reflects how we have run these.)



Sponsoring an edit-a-thon is a great way for an organization to learn about Wikipedia, and express its goodwill toward the project. Specific benefits will vary depending on the sponsor. Some benefits:

  • explore enthusiasm among volunteer base, membership, staff, etc. to improve Wikipedia
  • build ties to Wikimedia volunteers,

To be named as a sponsor, you will be asked to provide one or more of the following; specifics should be discussed and agreed upon ahead of time as much as possible.

  • Provide the space for the event
  • Provide coffee, lunch, snacks
  • Make the introductory presentation
  • Draw a significant number of participants


Editathon at Newnham College, Cambridge, as part of International Women's Day, March 2017.

It will make it easier to attract participants if you have a specific theme; it will help to have a topic to focus on, but of course there is no need for the theme to be rigidly enforced.

Themes can be topic areas on Wikipedia, like "California public policy" or "history of film"; or they can be designed around certain audiences -- for instance, "Wikipedia for journalists" or "Wikipedia for organizations".

In some cases, it will be easy to identify a theme, because one of the sponsors will have a particular interest. In other cases, it may be completely arbitrary. But it's probably better to have one, than to generically advertise a "Wikipedia event" -- so don't be afraid to just make one up!


  • Place a w:en:WP:GEONOTICE so that regular Wikipedians in your region (at the top of their watchlist). Allow a few days for it to get set up and approved.
  • If you have a sponsor organization, they should advertise to their constituency.
  • Inform a local w:en:WP:WIKIPROJECT via its talk page
  • Check w:en:WP:MEETUP and for a local Wikipedian meetup group, and engage however they like -- email,, talk page notice...
  • Seek help from a Wikipedia administrator sending out talk page notices to groups of people who have edited relevant articles

Signup and communications


At an absolute minimum a page should be created at WP:Meetup. Some sort of off-wiki signup should be available as well so that participants who are unfamiliar with Wikipedia can RSVP without having to make an account.

What is needed


Organizers/sponsors should provide:

  • Wireless (open, or be sure to provide username and password!)
  • Projector
  • Coffee
  • Snacks (or lunch)
  • Camera
  • White board or butcher paper
  • Clipboard and pen for sign-in
  • Any spare laptops they can scare up; mice and external keyboards are often appreciated too
  • "Welcome to Wikipedia" brochures or similar; reference materials about Wikipedia for people to read during the event and/or take with them.
  • Reference materials about the topic/theme
  • SWAG and/or prizes: Wikipedia buttons and stickers; optionally, Wikipedia t-shirts, keychains, etc. can make nice prizes. (See "optional wrapup" below.)

Participants should bring:

  • A laptop
  • Any relevant reference materials

During the event


Intro to Wikipedia


The first hour of the event is an introduction. This is conducted by an experienced Wikipedian, and has two main goals: (1) help newcomers understand the history and vision of Wikipedia, and (2) give newcomers an overview of how the MediaWiki software works, so that they have a greater ability to participate in the edit-a-thon that follows.

  • (2 minutes) General introduction of the event (by a sponsor): Why is Wikipedia interesting and worth understanding? What opportunities are envisioned through improving Wikipedia?
  • (2 minutes) Introduction of sponsors and main presenter
  • Tour of a well developed article on a well known subject. Cover the following topics:
    • Basic article structure: lead section, infobox, body, see also, references, external links, categories, navboxes
    • References and sourcing (verifiability)
    • Internal links
    • Neutrality
  • Tour of a more specialized article that shows how Wikipedia can offer something unique
  • Tour of the main links in the header bar:
    • Article
    • Edit
    • View history
    • Talk
  • How to find help: a few pointers about the Wikipedia: and Help: namespaces
  • Brief introduction of experienced Wikipedians (so beginners know who they can ask for help)
  • Suggest that people start thinking about what articles they want to work on. Introduce the whiteboard as a place to write down ideas.

BREAK: Suggest a 10 minute break, but people can and should start working on articles as they wish.

Tips for presenter

  • If you have customized your preferences, create a "demo" account (like w:en:User:Peteforsyth demo) to use during the presentation. (This will also help protect anything you may consider private, e.g. the contents of your watchlist.)
  • Give advance cues about what you are going to explain next; this will help keep things on track when inevitable detailed questions come up.
  • Give people clear cues about how you want to handle questions. I have found it works well to encourage people to ask questions at any time, and expect to take some detours depending what catches people's interest.
  • Do not spend much time on the details of wiki syntax.
  • Ask somebody to take photos during the intro session.
  • If users have difficulty creating new accounts, this page may be useful. (As of this writing, I'm not sure what steps an admin needs to take to act on the request. -Pete (talk))
  • If possible, ask people to create accounts in advance - this gets around the account creation problem, and also gives them some form of engagement with Wikipedia in advance of the session.

During the edit-a-thon

  • When the break is over (maybe 10 to 30 minutes in) ask people to pause and announce to the group anything they have started to get interested in working on. Don't take too long with this, but do try to point anybody who seems lost toward somebody that has an interesting idea.
  • If people are shy about getting started with editing, have them write something about themselves on their user page.
  • Tweet! Facebook! Encourage participants to tweet about the interesting stuff they're working on. Retweet them. This will help build a sense of enthusiasm around the event, and might even draw participants who were on the fence about coming. As the organizer, try to retweet your participants to keep everything tied together. Using a hashtag, such as #wikiathon, is a good idea too.
  • Take photos to use in a followup blog post or wiki page
  • As people are starting to leave, ask them to write the name of any article they have worked on on the white board
  • Take photos of the whiteboard or anything else that might capture useful information
  • Count the number of participants -- it's easy to forget after, and others will be interested in how many people participated!

Optional wrap-up


You may want to have a few closing words. For a longer event, you may find that people simply drift away later in the day, so this may not make sense. But if you do have a closing, here are some ideas:

  • Ask people to recap the work they have done for the group
  • Award one or more prizes (Wikipedia t-shirts or similar) either randomly, or based on the group's input about the "best article improvement" or similar.
  • Discuss next steps: how they are going to continue the article, who is going to blog about the event, where to post photos, when and where to have the next event.


  • Capture names and contact info; photos; list of articles people worked on
  • Send out a note thanking people for coming, and letting them know about future events if relevant
  • Write a blog post about the event (on a sponsor's blog, for the Wikimedia blog, or any other blog that makes sense)
  • Update the event page on Wikipedia