On Sun, Dec 18, 2011 at 10:25 PM, Nitika <> wrote:
Hi Srikanth & everyone else,

This is a really good question and one that I've been thinking about and working on as we look at outreach in general.

>From my discussions with various editors and my observing and participating in outreach sessions, I think the biggest challenge when we do outreach is "why to contribute".  Of course, "how to edit" is essential - but unless someone believes there is a strong enough reason to participate, it's unlikely they're going to get involved or stay involved after a couple of exploratory edits.  From my conversations and readings, the motivators of existing editors are any or a combination (or variants) of "promoting free knowledge" or "sharing knowledge in general" or "improving education" or "passion for their languages" or "interest in a particular subject (e.g. astronomy or railways or butterflies.)  However, my opinion is that it is relatively complex to convey these in an initial outreach session.  It's best to motivate and train and support potential newbies to join the movement and community - and allow them to discover for themselves what is the inspiration for them (especially because it is likely to be unique to that individual.)

Personally, i think there are a number of really compelling answers to the "What's in it for me?" question - and I do want to share my take on it.  I'm dividing my answer into students and faculty/institutions.  (The tone I'm using is what can be used when actually answering the question.)  These answers are a little clinical and conceptual but I've found they work - and I believe they will provide an adequate incentive to try and learn a little bit more about editing and to hopefully become regular editors.

Academia - Students

  1. It improves your writing skills.  Writing skills are essential when you move ahead in life either to do further studies or to work.  Our education system (unfortunately) doesn't adequately teach writing skills and we all struggle when we have to write a formal report or research paper.  When you move into the working world, you'll find that you can be as good as you are at your work but unless you are able to write those written reports properly, you'll always find it hard to succeed.
  2. It will help your critical thinking.  Concepts like Neutral Point of View (which you will sometimes see in Wikipedia being referred to as NPOV) help you see all sides of a story.  In your future careers, you need to consider the pros and cons of anything - because only that way will you be a better professional.  If you're into software, look at the article on waterfall development model and how it looks at pros and cons.  If you're in economics, look at the article on the Euro bailout and see how it looks at all the multiple complex issues involved.  Very little in life is purely good or totally evil; we need to be neutral and consider all sides.  You will find this incredibly useful in both your personal and professional lives. This thinking will help you decide who to vote for in elections or which version of Lok Pal you support or which IPL team to follow!  This thinking will help you understand your subjects even better.
  3. It'll strengthen your research skills.  Editing a wikipedia article requires you to do a lot of referencing (or what wikipedia sometimes calls "citations".)  This means you need to look beyond just the wikipedia article and research online references and also go into that forgotten room called the library and look up books or journal.  This is a skill you cannot live without if you are writing a thesis or working on a research project.
  4. It teaches you how to collaborate!   Editing wikipedia is magical.  You add some content and someone from some other part of the class or school or town or country or somewhere else in the world adds a little bit more and makes your contribution that much better.  The days of sitting alone under a tree and having an apple fall on your head and discovering gravity are over.  In today's world, we will need to collaborate to achieve anything.  If you're into biotechnology, you might be based in Hyderabad but the team you are part of might have someone in Scotland or Brazil- from a different culture and with a different accent - but you need to work together.  Wikipedia helps you learn how to collaborate!
  5. It gives you a global audience of - literally, thousands!  If you submit a class report, the maximum audience is 2; 1 being you and 1 being your teacher.  After your paper is marked, it will normally be thrown away.  If you edit a wikipedia article, it is there *forever* and the audience can be any number from the 500 million who read wikipedia every month!  You can show your article to you mother and grandfather and friends!  If you upload pictures to Wikimedia Commons, you will have an audience so much bigger than the 500 friends on Facebook who will see it.  So many more can see your talents and appreciate your work!
  6. It'll boost your chances in admissions or scholarships or placements.  Imagine if you are a mechanical engineer and you are one of 100 students in your batch applying for jobs with the best engineering companies who come to campus.  Everyone is likely to submit a resume saying they are the greatest engineer ever born - but it's difficult for any one to stand out and shine.  If you were to put a line in your resume that you have edited 5 articles on heating and cooling systems, there is a very high probability that this would jump out at the recruitment team of the companies and the will actually read your article (if they haven't already.)
  7. It can be so much fun!  You can make new friends - from all over the world.. You can write about subjects that you are interested in (whether it is movies or your hometown or sarees or mythology  or cricket or whatever!) It think it is really important that we drive this message as passionately as we can because this is something that can resonate so loud and for so long!

Academia - Faculty & Education Institutions

  1. Students with all the above result in much more motivated classes.  One thing that teachers constantly say is that they one thing they want is engaged students.  I've had teachers tell me that if they are in a class and they see their students involved and trying to learn and active, it is the best thing that can happen to them - and the rest of their day goes well!
  2. It improves your individual and college's academic reputation.  In the Indian context where there is relatively lower emphasis on academic research papers by faculty members, supporting your students on Wikipedia articles helps you (rightfully) claim that you contributed to these articles.  That increases your academic standing and helps attract better students and faculty and partnerships and recruiting companies.
  3. It supports the advancement of education - for students in your class and colleges and around the world.  You have devoted your lives to education and this is a great way of promoting it.

I wanted to share my perspectives because I really believe that the "why" needs to be addressed.

Thanks for starting a great message thread, Srikanth.


On 18-Dec-2011, at 1:37 AM, Srikanth Ramakrishnan wrote:

Subha, most of those bullies are editors with zero constructive edits
or IP based vandals. Sadly.
Erik, yes, I consider Giving to Wiki as giving back to Society. Thanks
for the links. Time to read during my month long Wiki break.
Ravi, Bala told me that physical outreach programs had very poor
success rates. I concur with him.
Prad, I agree. That's how Manish and I became friends. But still
doesn't explain how to get new guys.

Srikanth Ramakrishnan.
Wikipedia Coimbatore Meetup on December 10th.

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