Here’s the story behind starting a new student organization about Wikipedia.
I’ve been editing Wikipedia since I was 13. It was a young age to start, and naturally I started editing where I was most comfortable: video game articles. Since then, I’ve learned a lot and expanded into all sorts of areas of Wikipedia. Writing articles, image licensing, new page patrol, you name it. What I’ve recently been enjoying most, however, is bringing new editors to Wikipedia and helping out the current ones. My idea is that any one editor can physically only do so much…but an editor who brings in five full-time editors has potentially created the ability to do five times more for Wikipedia than any one editor could ever do on their own.
When I came to Ohio State, I learned about Wikipedia’s Education Program. Here’s the premise: Instead of having students write research papers that land in a recycling bin, why not have students research content that is put to good use in Wikipedia articles? The goal of the Education Program is for Wikipedians to support educators that implement Wikipedia editing into their courses. This is done by providing advice, assistance, and materials.
As part of the program, Wikipedians can sign up to assist courses as “online ambassadors”. At the time (Autumn 2014), I noticed two ongoing courses at Ohio State that were enrolled in Wikipedia’s Education Program: Evolution and City and Regional Planning. I signed up as an ambassador for these courses, and helped answer any questions professors and their students had about editing. As that was happening, the thought came to my mind of bringing together any fellow Ohio State students interested in Wikipedia. This is an idea that I would have barely entertained had I gone to a small school. However, at a college campus of nearly 60,000 students and over 6,000 academic staff, I knew that there had to be students that would be interested. Ohio State has over 1,200 student organizations, and I figured – why not make one about Wikipedia?
Coincidentally around this time, I got a blessing: the head of Ohio State’s Fine Arts Library, Sarah Falls, shot me an email. She had seen me listed as a student ambassador for Ohio State, and brought up the idea of hosting an Art+Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thon here on campus. Due to time constraints, that idea fell through…but it opened the gates for me.
Come spring of 2015, I decided to make my idea a reality and created a student organization called Wikipedia Connection. As long as you can show some tangible interest, Ohio State makes it pretty easy to start a new organization. Luckily, my closest friends were supportive of me and my idea, and were happy to write their names down as interested members of the club. Sarah Falls was also happy to sign on and provide support as our organization’s official advisor.
This club is a fairly unique idea. Not many student organizations have been started with the sole purpose of learning about and editing Wikipedia, but with the size of Ohio State’s campus, this is something I’m confident can work out. In addition to hosting larger edit-a-thons, there are many directions this club can go:
- Hosting weekly or biweekly workshops for students to edit and ask questions.
- Hold periodic presentations on various aspects of Wikipedia.
- Exploring campus and Columbus to take photos to illustrate Wikipedia.
- Work with the university’s libraries and archives to research subjects and upload any public domain material.
As the 2015-16 school year has kicked off, the club has been off to a smooth start. Over 60 students signed up for the club’s mailing list at the student involvement fair at the beginning of the year. We hosted an introductory meeting, along with our very first edit-a-thon earlier this week. My next blog post will be an overview of that edit-a-thon, along with some of the insights I’ve taken from that.