Hacking History 3.0: Writing History One Wikipedia Page At A Time

Jessica Knapp and Krista McCracken 

Image of a woman yelling with the word [edit] For the past two years we have hosted a Canada Wide Wikipedia Edit-a-thon for Canadian history. This national event has encouraged folks from across Canada to join us in editing Canadian history content on Wikipedia. As of 21 August 2013, there were 113,554 articles on Wikipedia relating to Canada, a mere 1.92% of the articles on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a place so many Canadians turn to for information but there are so many parts of Canadian History that are not covered on Wikipedia. 

Creating new articles and improving existing content on Wikipedia has the potential to impact what the general public knows about historical events, improves learning experiences, and shapes historical narratives.

As historians and educators, we have skills that can be directly applied to editing Wikipedia. We know how to write clearly and concisely, we know how to do solid secondary source research, and we know how to build citations. All of these skills can be used to improve Wikipedia content.

On October 23, 2019 we will be hosting the third annual Canada Wide Canadian History edit-a-thon. We’re inviting folks from throughout Canada to join us in editing Canadian history content on Wikipedia. 

What is an Edit-a-Thon?

Wikipedia edit-a-thons are planned events (essentially hackathons or content creation blitzes) aimed at improving content on Wikipedia. These events are often related to specific themes, topics, and goals. In the case of our event we’re focusing on content related to Canadian history – be that national, regional, or local history.

Edit-a-thons can be in-person events or completely virtual and anyone is welcome to participate. For this event we are welcoming participants to gather at regional host sites or to join us virtually. A list of physical hosts will be available on the Wikipedia Outreach Dashboard and the Facebook event

How Can You Participate?

Below is a list of different ways you can participate in this event. You can also fill out our Google form to receive more information about the participation options and to be connected with other edit-a-thon participants.

  • Hosts: These are people who can help facilitate a physical space for experts, contributors, editors, and translators to meet on October 23, 2019. This space can be in a classroom, museum, archive, or library. It should be a place that would be open to the public on this day, have a strong wifi connection, outlets, and comfortable seating. 
  • Wiki editing experts: If you have experience contributing to Wikipedia, we could use your expertise! Whether you’re into history or not, the more experts able to answer random questions on-site and online the better! You can provide editing support in-person at a regional event or by supporting folks virtually on our event Slack channel.   
  • Contributors/Editors: No experience necessary! From footnotes to copyediting there is something for you. You don’t have to start an article from scratch to participate!
  • Translators: Wikipedia articles can be available in many different languages or just one. If you write more than one language, this role might be for you.

What if I’ve Never Edited Wikipedia Before?

Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We are building in support for first time editors. You can:

  • Check out these webinars that deal with the technical side of editing Wikipedia:
  • Join the Facebook event and ask questions in the discussion section.
  • Use the #editCDNhist hashtag on Twitter to ask questions and connect with other event participants.
  • Join the #editCDNhist Slack channel for support before and during the event. This channel will be monitored throughout the edit-a-thon by experienced editors who can provide suggestions if you get stuck. 

I’m an Educator, How Can I Involve My Class?

Classes are welcome to participate in this edit-a-thon. Prior to the day of the event we suggest you have your students do the following tasks:

  1. Create a Wikipedia account.
  2. If you are unfamiliar with editing Wikipedia work through a Wikipedia Tutorial, the Wikipedia Adventure, or the Wikipedia training modules
  3. Sign-up for the #EditCDNHist event using the Outreach Dashboard.
  4. Pick an article to create or an article to improve. Do some background reading and research on the article topic before class so you are reading to edit during class.
  5. For information on how to develop an assignment around Wikipedia and for instructor tips tracking student contributions to Wikipedia check out the Wiki Education Foundation
  6. Consider using Wiki Education step by step editing tutorials to introduce Wikipedia to the class.
  7. Encourage your students to setup Wikipedia accounts prior to the event date. ikipedia currently limits the number of accounts that can be created in a 24-hour period from a single IP to six. Setting up accounts beforehand can help get around this. You can also apply to have the IP Account Creation Cap temporarily lifted during the event so don’t run into any problems the day of your edit-a-thon.

October 23, 2019 is going to be a great day filled with historians expanding Canadian History content on Wikipedia. We’re building a supportive editing community for this event and we hope this blog post will inspire folks to join us.

Jessica Knapp (She/Her) is a public history consultant currently based in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal, unceded territory stewarded by the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation. Jessica specializes in heritage project management, communications, and audience development.   

Krista McCracken (They/Them) lives and works on Robinson-Huron treaty territory, in the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe and Métis. Krista is a Researcher/Curator at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre and an editor of Activehistory.ca.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Blog posts published before October  28, 2018 are licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.

Please note: ActiveHistory.ca encourages comment and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments submitted under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.