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I signed up to be curator for the (@femedtech) twitter account for the 11-22 Feb 2019 slot. I thought it might be useful to have an activity or theme to focus on and the idea of trying to organise an online asynchronous distributed Wikipedia- editathon came about. I have enjoyed taking part in previous wikipedia editing events and wanted to get more experience.

The idea was to offer an opportunity for individuals to work individually and together over the two weeks to create and add to Wikipedia articles. The aim was also to add information and sources on overlooked and underrepresented people with important and critical contributions.

The two weeks turned into a very collaborative effort, as people with a lot more experience that me, eg. Dr Sharon Flynn set up the event page and editors from the Wiki Project Women in Red offered links and resources to add. I added resources for ‘how to edit’ on the events page so that less experienced participants had a place to start.

A screenshot of a tweet conversation

Frances Bell, Julia Hengstler and Lou Mycroft were also very active in both supporting others, sharing their experiences and creating lots of discussion.

screenshot of tweet comments about editing Wikipedia

Later, following a suggestion by Julia, Sharon also set up a dashboard to see the amount of work done during the ‘editathon’. Something I had no knowledge or experience with so that was really useful to learn about.

I tried to do a few different things:

The activity prompted me to read more hooks [always a good thing], and adding references and short summaries was an easy way to contribute that felt like you were actually making a difference.

The challenges of sources when writing for Wikipedia

I just want to think-out-loud about my attempt to write a ‘biography’ entry. The person I, somewhat randomly picked, was Yukako Uchinaga.

The draft submission was declined by a Wikipedia editor with comments around the style and the sources used:

“…this is a press release, not an encyclopedia article. First give her bio, including birth date and place, all degrees with date, title of her thesis. List her most cited publications, if any. Describe what she did at IBM, with a reliable source. Her speeches at forum are not encyclopedic content”

I don’t necessarily disagree with all the comments. It was definitely a challenge to find sources for the life and career of Yukako Uchinaga but what I found in the public domain seemed to suggest she is indeed a notable person with impressive achievements. For example, being awarded the ‘Prime Minister’s Commendation for Efforts Toward the Formation of a Gender-Equal Society’ and being the founder of Japan Women’s Innovative Network (J-WIN), a non-profit organization that promotes diversity in the workplace.

However, many of the sources are from non-academic sources, such as business news and forums or indeed Yukako Uchinaga’s long-time employer IBM. And I readily confess to not really having any ideas for how to get information on the title of her thesis from 1971 from University of Tokyo or even how to find out when she was born so that I can create a more traditional biographic encyclopedic entry. I suspect there may be Japanese sources that could help with this but I don’t read Japanese; I also wonder what would happen if I did find some, would they be accepted?

The email declining the article had a number of useful looking links to get support from and I have since then added an additional source but I don’t think it will ever be a traditional entry in the encyclopedic sense ‘required’. I am not sure what alternative formats might be a better fit for information like this?

There has, of course, recently been a number of instances [I am not saying this is one] where Wikipedia gatekeeping have been highlighted as reinforcing societal biases, see a recent article analysing the case of Clarice Phelps, whose page was deleted

Anyway, the activity left me with lots to ponder about sources, what knowledge counts, limitations of English, the importance of Open Access, and page formats. I am certainly not done with editing Wikipedia and have more activities planned.

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