Submissions:2021/Edit-a-thons in the time of COVID: Lessons learned during 18 months of online editing events

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2021.


Edit-a-thons in the time of COVID: Lessons learned during 18 months of online editing events


Global & Local

Type of session:



At the start of the pandemic, the fate of in-person edit-a-thons was in question. Live, in-person edit-a-thons are often attended by inexperienced editors who tend to require on-demand support as well as staff from institutional partners or organizations looking for guidance on acceptable ways to incorporate their knowledge and collections into Wikipedia without violating the conflict of interest policy. Initially, it seemed that the same level of social interaction, editor assistance, and content creation would be impossible to achieve in a virtual environment. It is now evident that successful virtual edit-a-thons are possible. Furthermore, it is quite likely that a hybrid edit-a-thon model consisting of both in-person and virtual events may be the best way forward as it could possibly result in increased both editor and content diversity.

Since March of 2020, Wikimedia DC has helped to facilitate over 45 virtual Wikipedia edit-a-thons. Institutional partners for these events have included The White House Gender Policy Council, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Adapting the in-person edit-a-thon model to a virtual one presented a variety of challenges. These challenges included: 1) generating buy-in from institutional partners while they, too, were re-evaluating their own capacities, 2) managing online conferencing platforms across audiences with varying experience levels, and 3) training new editors while not being able to provide the traditional means of support. After nearly a year-and-a-half of online edit-a-thons, we have found that with proper planning and flexibility, the success of the in-person edit-a-thon can be replicated, and possibly even enhanced, online.

During this session, Ariel Cetrone, Wikimedia DC's Institutional Partnerships Manager, will share lessons learned as well as best practices for both maintaining effective partnerships and engaging audiences during virtual edit-a-thons as well as a vision for the future of virtual editing events.

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Ariel Cetrone

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:

Ariel Cetrone (WMDC)

Affiliated organization(s):

Wikimedia DC

Estimated time:

20 minutes

Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:

No. I have presented on best practices for edit-a-thons in the past, but only in regards to in-person events

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)