Sunday, October 20, 2013

ada lovelace wikipedia edit-a-thon at brown: a recap

Ada Lovelace Day 2013 has come and gone. I'm proud to have co-organized an extremely successful Wikipedia edit-a-thon this year at my alma mater, Brown University, on October 15th. As with the similar event I led at Harvard last year, the aim was to increase the participation of female editors on Wikipedia while simultaneously giving new visibility to important women in the STEM fields on one of the most popular encyclopedias in the world. I dare say we achieved these goals, and then some.

All told, about 40 people attended in person, while another 25-30 participants contributed remotely via the Web. We began accepting contributions a week prior to the event and allowed folks to add their final edits through the 18th. In total, we added 20 new Wikipedia articles, mostly biographies on individual women in the STEM fields. These included mathematician and computer scientist Sibyl Rock, archaeologist Blanche Wheeler Williams, electrical engineer Ingeborg Hochmair, and neuropathologist Ann McKee. Nearly 70 additional articles—again, mainly bios—were also added to, cleaned up, or otherwise improved. Three of the new articles (Hochmair, Rock, and Williams) were accepted to Wikipedia's front-page "Did You Know?" area. This is a phenomenal result for a single edit-a-thon! (Full list of articles created/improved.)

This year's event was co-organized by my friend and former undergraduate advisor, Anne-Fausto Sterling, whom I had the pleasure of teaching how to edit Wikipedia earlier this summer. Through her efforts, and the efforts of Brown's Science and Technology Studies Program; Science Center; and Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, we were able to round up some impressive national and international press prior to and after the event. This couldn't have happened without the assistance of the Brown University news office, and especially David Orenstein. Thanks to their press release, dozens of media outlets featured our edit-a-thon as part of Ada Lovelace Day. We also garnered thousands of tweets, posts, and comments through social media. For a visual summary, including photos, tweets, and write-ups, check out our colorful Storify recap. Here, also, is a representative list of some original articles that covered our event:

Al Jazeera America | A Mighty Girl | Associated Press | The Atlantic | BoingBoing | Boston Globe | Business Week | Brown Daily Herald | Bust | Chronicle of Higher Education | Campus Technology | CJAD 800 News Radio (Montreal) | Daily Dot | Fast Company | FayerWayer (Spanish) | Feministing | Geek Exchange | Il Fatto Quotidiano (Italian) | Jezebel | Linkiesta (Italian) | LiveScience | The Mary Sue | New York | New Yorker | New York Times | PBS | Policy Mic | The Scientist | Silicon Angle | Slate | Southern California Public Radio (@ 1:29:40) | Slate | Slate France (French) | Washington Post | World Science Festival

The edit-a-thon itself went off without a hitch, and it was truly incredible to see so many students, faculty, staff, and even a few out-of-town visitors who made the trek to join us in Pembroke Hall. Many folks came in knowing not a lick of Wikipedia markup language. Others were experienced Wikimedians who worked on their own articles but also helped others through the afternoon and evening. In addition to presentations from Anne and myself, we were fortunate to have Michael Umbricht, the curator at Brown's historic Ladd Observatory, speak to the group about Wikipedia's GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) efforts, including a project he spearheaded at the Ladd very recently.

I'm honestly not sure what I could possibly do to top the outcome of this edit-a-thon for next year's Ada Lovelace Day... That is a huge testament to everyone who helped out! Thank you again to all who spread the word about the importance of recognizing women's contributions to the STEM fields; who volunteered to do the gritty work of adding and improving Wikipedia articles; or who played a role behind the scenes. That includes, I might add, folks like Suw Charman-Anderson, who began Ada Lovelace Day, and Sarah Stierch, Emily Temple-Wood, and Gobonobo, who have done so much in recent years to promote women on the pages of Wikipedia. You all made this edit-a-thon a gargantuan success!


  1. Woo hoo! That is such great news that it went so well and got so much good press. Well done, Maia.

  2. Wow Maia, on several fronts an amazing success! Truly a model for the rest of us. Looking forward to contributing to the next event.


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