Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Top 10 Reasons to Encourage More Women Participation in Wikipedia

As an active female Wikipedian I'm quite aware of the gender differences in editors and contributors - as many Wikipedians are and this was before the studies and the front page of the New York Times. However, it took the study and the NYT to make the rest of the world aware and for Wikipedians to finally decide to take action. A Gendergap mailing list was started for Wikipedians to discuss these issues, led by Sue Gardner, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Conversations on the list vary from the gender bias via Wikipedia that take place outside of the US to sexuality articles that are chock full of "pictures of hot chicks" but no men. It's been fascinating, and I'm waiting for the revolution to really heat up - the task forces, the next steps, the outreach. This morning I woke up to a Top 10 list about why more women should participate in Wikipedia by Sandra Ordonez.

Perhaps it will motivate you or someone you know..

1) Improve the quality of information. Information is shaped by perspective, regardless of how NPOV you aim to be, and perspective is shaped by experience. When you experience the world in a certain perspective, you see things that others don't see. A Chinese immigrant in the United States may notice things that a American born may not see, just like it is very likely that a female may notice things their male counterparts don't see.

2) Open doors to more groups. The inclusion of women might have a domino affect, and open doors for other groups, particularly those that are traditionally dis-empowered, such as people of color in the United States. (You can include whatever other group you want here..I can only speak to the US).

3) Improved processes and systems. Collaboration is improved by diversity - everyone in this group (sic: mailing list) knows this. More female participation may result in better collaborative brainstorming and problem solving.

4) Better organization. Studies reveal that women tend to be great multitaskers. IMHO, women are great multitaskers because they also plan their world to be more "efficient" for multitasking. I can totally see a group of women helping improve the organization of Wikipedia's rules, background knowledge, presentation, etc.

5) Stronger community. Reports are also showing that more women than men are on social media. This is because women tend to focus on creating community. A larger, more sophisticated Wikipedian community is so powerful, I'm not even sure how to describe its potential in words. However, it would have the ability to help the projects but bring change worldwide.

6) Better image. Organizations that are ethical are usually favored and respected by society, which increase's an org's success. I am not talking "left vs right," and this is not a philosophical question, it is a public relations one. Talk to any PR practitioner and they can share why this works, and examples of organizations taking this PR strategy. And, at a minimum, I can guarantee it will increase how many women worldwide see the project, which btw are 50% of the world's population.

7) Better parties and possibly more Wikilove! As corny as it sounds, I am quite positive that more women will improve the festivities in any wiki get together, and possibly result in more wikilove :) lolol Why not!! What a perfect place to meet someone that shares your interest, and better parties are usually always welcomed.

8) A better world society. Wikipedia has this ability to affect the world and start revolutions in what seems to be very silent but effective ways. I really believe that the inclusion of women will have amazing revolutionary affects on the world, and make it better. Channeling Jeff Bridges, "information is really power, man." And maybe we have come to take for granted that the world is informed/educated through Wikipedia on a daily basis. This has an effect.

9) It's the right thing to do. Wikipedia has always gone against the grain, even though at times it ruffled society's feathers b/c transparency in knowledge sharing is more important than the agenda of any group. Its part of the free culture movement, dedicated to empowering people worldwide, and has done much in that area. Why wouldn't it come together now to improve on this systematic problem that affects not only the project, but humans at large.

10) Who else is going to do it? No one has the ability to look and tackle this complex issue like Wikipedian community. No other community has the strength in numbers, intellect, and structure to address an issue like this. I guarantee that other groups will embrace any solutions the community finds, b/c its not Wikipedia is not only a pioneer, but its a "best-in-breed" virtual project that comes up with "best-in-breed" solutions.


So there you go! I think it's simply put and rather empowering. But, I've been contributing for years - if I can get a few more women to contribute, I'd be happy.

What are your interests? What do you want to edit in Wikipedia? Have you edited? Do you still?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

How to anger a Wikipedian

As many of you know, I'm an avid Wikipedian. I've been editing since 2006 and contributing well researched and educated articles for quite sometime. I'm almost about to hit my 100th article, and the majority of those have involved the Wikiproject: Public Art.

While watching Super Bowl pre-game and editing an article about a winery in Sonoma (taking a break from public art!) a colleague of mine shared this article with me:

The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely on Wikipedia by Mark E. Moran

She found this article via the professional organization the American Association for State and Local History, who posted it on their Twitter account.

Alright, maybe five or ten years ago this had some validity. Educators historically freaked out when Wikipedia came to light, claiming it was a poor source to cite. But, as many people know, that's not the point of Wikipedia. NO student should "CITE" Wikipedia in any project - Wikipedia is a starting point.

I tried to post to the articles comment section multiple times and kept getting pop up windows to share the article on Facebook every time I hit the submit button. So here is my brief and opinionated idea behind this poorly thought out article:

This article is hilarious. As an active female Wikipedian who is also a student obtaining my Masters in Museum Studies, I'm insulted by this.

Yes, there are jerks who abuse the power that Wikipedia has allowed them, but a large amount of articles are well sourced and are well maintained by good passionate well-educated people.

In my research I often use Wikipedia as a starting place. It is a requirement for articles (if they wish to not be deleted) to have well cited sources in the article page, which provides a great resource for researchers of all backgrounds and levels. The goal is to provide verified information. Wikipedia was never meant to be the number one cited source for anything, it's just a starting place, a place for you to be inspired, to explore more, and to share with the world what you've learned.

I'm also active in task forces that are seeking to expand women's contributions and studies on Wikipedia. Perhaps if you "researched" more on what Wikimedia Foundation is doing to better Wikipedia and the mission you'd think differently. There are also groups dedicated to museum coverage - why would the British Museum or the Children's Museum of Indianapolis entrust a Wikipedian-In-Residence to train their staff about how to use the website, and allow that Wikipedian to share information on selected objects with the world via the website? Obviously these well respected institutions must find something valid about what Wikipedia's doing.

Then there is the Campus Ambassadors program, which has Wikipedia working with universities such as Duke, Georgetown, George Washington University, Indiana University, and many others, to teach students and professors how to edit and utilize the website. I guess it's not trustworthy if GWU and IU are supporting it?

This way of thinking may have had some validity years ago when Wikipedia (now ten years!) first made it's appearance, but, I believe you'll be eating your words, if you aren't already.

It's equally insulting that AASLH would share this with the public. In a time when Wikipedia is celebrating it's 10th anniversary and celebrating its efforts and challenges, people still insult us with outdated articles like this.

I'm really loving the tweets from educators stating that they dock students 10% if they "cite" Wikipedia. I would too! It's like using the Encyclopedia Britannica as your source, you just don't do that. Perhaps you can educate your students on how to utilize the internet better for research, and you wouldn't be having to dock students for their research attempts.

Another colleague just stated that perhaps a clever soul should write a Top 10 on why AASLH folks should contribute to Wikipeida. In a female dominated industry you'd figure it'd be of interest - all that research, why not share it with the world?

What are your thoughts?