Wikipedia is the fifth most visited site on the web, and it’s estimated that over 90% of its editors are men. I have engaged with Wikipedia nearly every day for the past several years, but until a few days I had never made a single Wikipedia edit. Not one.
Women are much less likely to actively create Wikipedia content than men. Does the dearth of female editors mean that everything on Wikipedia is super-sexist? No. But the effects are many: fewer articles on notable women, lower-quality articles about feminist topics, and a general lack of investment by women into a site that is created entirely by its users.
I’m reasonably tech-savvy, and because of my academic research I have quite a bit of specialized knowledge about little-known but important women. Yet I’ve never taken the time to create Wikipedia articles for them. Consequently, I was thrilled to help organize #tooFEW, a Wikipedia edit-a-thon that took place on Saturday at several locations across the United States. In partnership with folks at Scripps College, Duke University, Barnard College, and other locations, we gathered for a day of knowledge-building and Wikipedia editing. Our group in Atlanta included librarians, undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and community members. Our edits spanned from comma splice removal to the creation of brand new articles.
We communicated with many of the long-distance editors via Twitter and a chatroom, asking questions and voicing difficulties. We listed the articles we were trying to improve via a Wikipedia page, and several organizers created a series of terrific guides (some of which are listed at the end of this post).
My edits may have not made a difference to anyone but me. And as with any user-created site, there’s a chance that none of them will stick. Now, though, I have a Wikipedia username, I know how to navigate the editing interface, and I have connected—virtually and in person—with hundreds of other Wikipedia editors who share my interests. I’m much more likely to edit in the future, and I feel a bit more like a steward of Wikipedia than merely a passive consumer of content.
#tooFEW Guides and Commentary
- #tooFEW Wikipedia meetup page
- Jaqueline Wernimont’s guide for #tooFEW editors
- Video guide to editing wiki-steward Adrianne Wadewitz
- Adeline Koh’s ProfHacker post on #tooFEW
- Moya Bailey’s Storify of #tooFEW Twitter posts
- Amanda Gould’s HASTAC page on #tooFEW
- Moya Bailey’s post on the #tooFEW backlash