People Power – making the internet better!

Last week we co-hosted our first wikithon. That’s a workshop where anyone, including digital dinosaurs like me, can learn how and go on to actually edit Wikipedia – one of the world’s most popular websites! It was a revelation, not just for the individual achievement but for the collective action – with each keystroke we made the internet better: this is People Power in action.

To me, People Power is where folk come together to make a difference. So our wikithon was off to a good start on that front as we co-hosted it with two amazing partners. Please step forward WES (Women’s Engineering Society) + The Wellcome Collection…

Our fab partners: wikimedian Alice and the ladies from WES!

Women’s Engineering Society (the inspiration)

This year WES is celebrating 100 years of supporting and inspiring women in engineering. I first learnt about them and the incredible stories in their archives whilst planning 2018’s Extraordinary Women theme. So when they came to us about plans for their centenary we were delighted to jump aboard. Particularly when a key part of those plans was running a series of wikithons to highlight the stories of these extraordinary women on a global platform!

The Wellcome Collection (the wiki talent)

Dr Alice White is ‘wikimedian in residence’ at the amazing Wellcome Collection, which hosted our first wikithon. As a wikimedian, Alice is a wiz at all things ‘wiki’, very handy for the rest of us that are complete beginners! She led us by the hand to see how powerful Wikipedia is as a website, and how we can each help make it better by adding or simply checking content. From the simplest edit to correct a typo, to creating a whole new biographical profile, it all helps.

People Power in action (how we made the internet better)

Wikipedia is the 5th most visited website on the internet. It’s increasingly our go-to look up for information. (Go on, hands up, how many of us have checked a name after nodding along blindly when someone mentions it in a meeting?) It can be edited by ANYONE, but its growing community of dedicated contributors check, add, and remove information to maintain its quality.

So Wikipedia is truly the people’s encyclopaedia and an example of People Power as we all share our knowledge. However, there are flaws, one is that there is a significant imbalance in the content – in 2016 only 17% of biography articles on England’s version of Wikipedia were of women (in Wales it is more 50:50). But as we all have the power to edit, we have the power to change this.

Adding our first lady to the map - Laura Annie WIlson, from Leeds.

In a few hours, 11 editors at our first wikithon:

  • Published 5 new articles
  • Improved 19 articles
  • Increased the number of women on the map of engineers born in the UK, particularly for regions outside London!

What next?

Heritage Open Days is all about sharing our stories with the wider world. So we’re keen to run more wikithons to connect people with information to a platform with global reach where they can be appreciated by so many more people. Watch this space as our plans develop, and for more information on the WES wikis follow them @WEScentenary

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