On 9 March 2018, HK Libraries Connect hosted a Wikipedia edit-a-thon in support of Art+Feminism. We put in a collective effort to improve Wikipedia pages on topics that have been neglected. One nice surprise was the attendance of two volunteers from the proposed Wikimedia User Group Hong Kong, who provided a great deal of helpful advice!
Below, two of the participants in our mentoring programme share about the experience. Carlee and Chris identified an article about the famous Hong Kong painter Fang Zhaoling. Before they started, the entire article had just one reference. Worse still, the link to that one reference was broken! Using reliable sources accessed via HKBU Library, they worked together on improving it.
The Edit-a-thon was a whole new experience for me, it is very interesting to do something like this, knowing that I can contribute to the world’s knowledge. Before participating in this event, I did not really know that editing Wikipedia is a serious task that needs to be approached carefully. For many years, lecturers told us to not use Wikipedia as the reference of our assignments, because the sources are unreliable. Many Wikipedia pages do not have many citations to support them.
The page of Fang Zhaoling that Chris and I edited this time is a typical example. There is a huge difference after we added five good references for the entry. During the whole event, I learned a lot about how to use the editing function on the Wikipedia and received help from two Wikipedia editing experts, gaining knowledge about the procedures and inner-workings behind Wikipedia.
The greatest thing is that after the event, we could see the total amount of work we contributed as a team. In the future, we will still try our best to do more reference enrichment and article editing. Even though adding a new page is very challenging and will have to go through a Wikipedia approval process, I would definitely try to add a new page by myself in the future.
The most memorable moment for me was when we stumbled across the information about the Bronze Bauhinia Star that Fang was awarded in 2003. We came across this titbit as a result of a search we had done for the artist’s name in the South China Morning Post database. It was great to be able to add a new piece of information and a new section to the article.
Although we were able to add several good references, the article definitely still needs work in my opinion. The entire “Personal life” section has no supporting citations at all. Carlee and I were reluctant to remove it, because that would mean we would be deleting about half of the article. It really surprises me that the person that added it would completely neglect to indicate where they had gotten the information from. This illustrates that the common criticism of Wikipedia articles being potentially low-quality and lacking authority is sometimes true.
Overall, I found this to be a fascinating experience that really helped me to better understand how this ubiquitous resource functions. No matter your opinion of it, Wikipedia is a major source of information for millions of people around the world, and it is thus vital for librarians as information professionals to try and develop a deeper understanding of it.