The Open Book Festival Wiki edit-a-thon on South African Writers

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Blog, Share Your Knowledge | No Comments
The Open Book Festival Wiki edit-a-thon on South African Writers

This is a guest post from Wanjiru Koinange, coordinator at the recent Open Book edit-a-thon that took place in collaboration with Douglas and Theresa at Wikimedia ZA. It was not a WikiAfrica initiative, but has been include on this blog as an example of an initiative that could be replicated across Africa, and beyond.

Cape Town South Africa, Sept 20th 2014

The first thing you saw when you walked into the Fugard Annex for the Open Book edit-a-thon on South African authors, was a massive world map, with tiny beacons blinking over various countries every few seconds. The Wikipedia recent changes map displayed real time edits taking place worldwide. Each tiny blinking light signified that someone in that country had just created or edited a Wikipedia page. On close examination, you would realise that none of these beacons were blinking on the African continent. This would however change over the next few minutes.

There isn’t enough content on Wikipedia about Africa that is being generated on the continent. A greater concern for the organisers of Cape Town’s Open Book festival is the tiny number of South African authors who have Wikipedia pages. This was the reason behind the Open Book Festival edit-a-thon, which culminated on September 20th 2014; to upload as much content as possible on South African authors.

A public call went out in July for individuals to volunteer to edit stubs and create new pages.

‘The response was great! Within a week I had received interest from over thirty individuals, most of whom were UCT students,’ said Wanjiru Koinange, a Kenyan writer who managed the project. ‘Most of these volunteers had no prior experience editing for Wikipedia so we organised a series of workshops which were facilitated by Douglas Scott from Wikimedia South Africa.’

A total of eighteen pages were either edited or created as a result of the edit-a-thon. While the editors were busy uploading their content, a discussion took place on stage about quality and quantity issues around Wikipedia articles, moving onto specifics about South African Literary content and the process behind the whole the edit-a-thon.

Questions were raised about whose responsibility it is to ensure that authors are accurately represented on Wikipedia. Most authors assume that this is something that publisher should be doing. Diane Awerbuck, an acclaimed South African author who was on the panel, admitted that she had no idea who started her Wikipedia page, but this mystery was quickly solved when the editors demonstrated how one could track the history any Wikipedia article.

The contributors spoke of their experience editing Wikipedia.

‘It was great to be able to give my favourite authors the credibility that comes with being on Wikipedia,’ said Liebe Bosch, who contributed to an article on South African Poet, Toni Stuart.

Emma Ruiters, who contributed articles for Imraan Coovadia, Malaika Wa Azania, K Sello Duiker and Chris Van Wyk, echoed Bosch’s sentiments. She added that she had lots of fun during the edit-a-thon, and that the process sharpened her research skills.

‘There are still more pages being uploaded by those who were unable to make it to Cape Town, but offered to work on pages remotely. This is great because we had hoped that the process would carry on after the event and it certainly has.’ Wanjiru added.

You can view, and add to, the articles that were created and expanded here:


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