Wikipedia Edit-a-thon to study contributor demographics

The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon will gather data to look at which demographics edit the online encyclopedia. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

If knowledge is power, then the power over knowledge is a great responsibility. 

Today, USF School of Information students Peter Cannon and James Scholz will host a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in which students can group-edit the popular online encyclopedia. After the three-hour editing session, Cannon and Scholz will gather data from students to document their experience.

“There’s two things that are going on here,” Cannon said. “One is the research paper, the research plan that we’re doing, and the other thing is solely concerned with Wikipedia itself —and that is conducting this Edit-a-thon to improve the project.” 

Cannon and Scholz said the event will not only improve the site, but they also hope the data amassed from their study can be used to figure out larger, more important issues plaguing Wikipedia than poor punctuation. 

Specifically, Cannon and Scholz said they will look at such trends as regular contributors leaving Wikipedia and why an estimated 90 percent of its editors are male. 

“More females than males do drop out before the first year has passed by with their editing,” Scholz said. 

He noted a reason why both genders leave might be because “veteran editors can be kind of clubby and exclusive.” 

The ability to be “clubby” is due to Wikipedia becoming like a social media site, said both Cannon and Scholz.  

Users have their own profile page and inbox where they can talk to other editors from around the globe and collaborate on editing and new articles. 

For example, Cannon created the page for librarian Clara Breed and was assisted by another editor. The page then went on to be a Wikipedia featured article. 

Cannon said these moments of working together and producing important work is what makes editing Wikipedia and these Edit-a-thons enjoyable.

Participants can edit a little or a lot, but either way, they are still contributing to one of the world’s largest databases just by adding a sentence or two that was not previously there. 

Scholz and Cannon said this can create lasting memories once users get through the cliquey editors who argue about who can write what, spelling and grammar, among other topics.

“Overall, it’s very positive, very fun, even to the point of being addictive,” Scholz said. “We want to further that collaborative atmosphere and also help to make the experience fun for new users, and to let the users know that you have a community that’s there for you to help you through the experience.” 

The Wikipedia Edit-a-thon will be today from 11 a.m. to
2 p.m. in room 209 at the Library or remotely through Google Hangouts. Students from all majors are welcome to participate and can choose to edit articles pertaining to their own majors or interests.