Grants:TPS/Futureimperfect/ Free Minds free People and IDEC 2013/Report

Event name: IDEC 2013

Description of your participation: Wikimedia was listed as a main sponsor of the event, along with 11 other groups like AERO (the Alternative Education Resource Organization), Nuestra Escuela, School Reform Initiative, and YES!, all of whom had tables at the event. Our table was in the main hall of the conference, and each day we interacted with dozens of people from around the world. We handed out literature from the Wikimedia education thing as well as materials we have created.

We had some short interactions with at least 200 of the 500 conference-goers, which mostly involved saying a few words and handing out some materials. Other people (50-100) stayed to talk for longer, and we were able to do hands-on editing demonstrations. We also heard people’s stories about trying to edit Wikipedia in the past. (As we’ve found before, many people had been discouraged by a hostile climate that did not seem to value their participation.) We talked to people about the culture of Wikipedia and encouraged people to join and help to transform the Wikipedia community.

What lessons were learned that could help others in similar events? The banner was a great way to attract attention and start conversations. Often people wanted to come up and ask provocative questions like: ‘But can you really trust information you find on Wikipedia?’ They were often pleasantly surprised to find that we were reasonable and non-dogmatic. People appreciated that we talked about ways that Wikipedia could change for the better, and projects like Countering Systemic Bias.

We were able to set up more chairs around the table at our booth to encourage people to sit down and look at Wikipedia in greater depth. Usually we passed our one computer around and looked at it as a group. Having another computer or two at the ready might have encouraged people to stay for longer, create accounts, etc.

We were very grateful for the support that we got, but because our request for lodging was denied, we drove over an hour into the mountains each evening to camp and drove over an hour each morning to get back in time to set up our table. This significantly limited the amount that we could network with people. In fact, on the last night we did stay in town and go out with people from the conference. Several people came up to us at the bar and asked great questions, saying they had been intimidated to go up to the table during the day. We had to go back to the car to get the rest of our literature! I believe that if we had been able to stay in the dorms we would have broken the ice with more people who would have visited the table the next day.

On the positive side, since some of the material we had were several pages long, we made a binder with one copy of each and asked people to request copies, so that we could make only as many as people really wanted.

What impact did your participation have on the Wikimedia Mission goals of Increased Reach, Increased Quality, Increased Credibility, Increased and Diversified Participation? The conference was attended by people from at least 6 continents (we didn’t meet anyone from Antarctica, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there). As proponents of democratic education, IDEC attendees tend to be motivated critical thinkers who are likely to share ideas with students and colleagues.

We gave materials on using Wikipedia in college classes to around a dozen professors and a handful of college students and high school teachers.

We didn’t focus on direct editing as most people did not have computers at the ready; we were operating a booth and mostly had conversations and little demonstrations. (We did some demonstration edits at articles such as Yodeling, which we were fortuitously asked to copyedit.)

After talking to us at the conference, Blogger Emily Gray wrote a nice post about Wikipedia using a brochure we distributed. Generally speaking, we talked to a diverse group of influential people who brought back ideas about Wikipedia to their home communities.

As mentioned earlier, we fielded concerns about the systemic biases in Wikipedia. We heard people’s complaints about attempting to edit and meeting hostility. Many of the people who brought these concerns to us seemed relieved to be met with understanding and suggestions for moving forward rather than defensiveness. We believe that some of these people, who took the time to attempt edits in the past, will find renewed faith in the collaborative process and will try again to improve the encyclopedia. These are valuable participants with important knowledge who we hope will become regular editors.

We also distributed our printed materials to libraries (of all kinds: public, private, & academic) that we encountered on the way to and from the conference. We visited over 75 libraries in 14 states. Some librarians stuck to the institutional hardline against Wikipedia, but others were quite enthusiastic and wanted to make copies of the pamphlets to hand out to interested library patrons.

Detail of expenditures: $400 USD-- table registration at IDEC $100 USD-- Banner which reads "Can Wikipedia Democratize Knowledge?" $185 USD-- printing of "hot to edit wikipedia" pamphlets and materials for teachers and professors on how to use wikipedia in their classrooms.

Amount underspent/left-over (please specify currency): $0.00