Czech expert Wikipedians help newcomers through Wikiclub and Wikiporadna

A safety net for aspiring Wikipedians, a place to meet people who share an interest in Wikipedia, a way to pass on the experience. This is what Wikiclub and Wikiporadna bring to the table. Come and find out more about them.

Members of Wikimedia Czech Republic involved in the preparation of the (then) Wikipedia Club at the Prague Municipal Library, Aktron, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wikiclub as an opportunity to bring the digital hobby into the real world

Wikiclub is a meeting place for Wikipedians and people who might not call themselves Wikipedians, but who are interested in Wikipedia and want to learn how to get involved. Visitors to the Wikiclub often come with a specific request for advice, but they can also use the time to work independently in the company of other people with the same interest.

It’s an opportunity to bring the digital hobby into the real world and make new friends. The role of the mentor who runs the meetup doesn’t always have to be up to the volunteer, Wikipedians are sometimes there to give advice to each other. Students, teachers, and the public, young and old, those with no previous experience as well as seasoned Wikipedians can participate.

The largest proportion of visitors to the Wikiclub are seniors

The first Wikiclub was created in March 2016 in Brno to help students (Students Write Wikipedia) who were writing Wikipedia as part of their school work. Currently, Wikipedians meet weekly at the Municipal Library in Prague, Mariánské náměstí.

In 2021, due to the pandemic, there were only 18 Wikiclub meetings with 30 unique visitors. The vast majority of the attendees (71%) were seniors who learned to edit as part of the Seniors Write Wikipedia course. We are delighted that for many seniors the course is not the end of their Wikipedia work and they are happy to take the opportunity to further develop and improve their editing skills.

Wikiclub manages to find the core of the problem and guide newcomers

We asked perhaps the most knowledgeable person – Wikipedian Vojtěch Veselý, who has been running the Wikiclub once a week as a volunteer since 2016 – about his experience.

Vojtěch Veselý at the Wikiconference Pardubice 2019, Marie Čcheidzeová, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

„Lots of people learn to edit Wikipedia on their own and don’t need help, but most people struggle at the beginning and find that their contributions are not accepted by the community, unknowingly break the rules, or struggle with the technical side of things. This sometimes leads to unnecessary misunderstandings or conflicts between experienced Wikipedians and newcomers,“ Vojtěch says.

He adds that more experienced Wikipedians often laboriously correct articles after newcomers, sometimes in a sincere but futile attempt to advise them to avoid further trouble. In an online environment, such interactions tend to be time-consuming and impersonal, and often lead nowhere. Moreover, these so-called patrollers who check articles are few in number, time-strapped, and do not have the time and energy to work patiently with newcomers.

„The advantage of Wikiclub is that one face-to-face meeting can replace ten emails, and most of the time you can really get to the heart of the problem and get the newcomer moving in the right direction.“

Wikiporadna is something of a pandemic virtue of necessity

Wikiporadna was created in response to the pandemic situation and was originally intended to be a sort of replacement for the defunct Wikiclubs. It combines the benefits of meeting in person at a Wikiclub with easy accessibility from the comfort of home. It is a one-on-one online video consultation, which is arranged individually by the interested person and the mentor. However, Wikiporadna has been a success and we would like to see it continue to run alongside the Wikiclub.

Wikiporadna is also run by experienced volunteer Wikipedians, we currently have 2 active Wikipedians and are looking for more to join the team.

As Vojtěch Veselý himself says: „I always get a good feeling when I see participants editing and creating valuable content thanks to Wikiclub. I think that if it weren’t for the personal contact with Wikiclub and Wikiporadna volunteers, many newcomers would give up editing, which would be a shame.“

Wikiclub and Wikiporadna are also a follow-up activity for many graduates of the Seniors Write Wikipedia courses. They provide them with support, motivation, and the opportunity to socialise.

Wikiporadna is an easily accessible rescue for newcomers

Unlike Zdeněk, Pavlína Havlová prefers to consult online one-on-one. She found out about Wikiporadna when she clicked on the „I need help“ link on Wikipedia.

„I wanted to create a new password and had no idea how the process worked. During a half-hour consultation, I learned everything I needed to know – how to set up a password and how to format it. I also got an idea of the more complicated steps, such as how to upload a photo.“

Pavlína feels that without Wikiporadna, she would have found this information too, but it would have taken her a disproportionately longer time to get it into final form. The more complex formatting, which is easy with keyboard shortcuts, would probably not have been possible without consultation.

Are you like a fish in water on Wikipedia? Help others not to drown

„As we are often contacted by people contributing to Wikipedia with specific complaints or requests, the Wikiclub and Wikiradio are essential to us. They allow us to refer them directly to the help of active Wikipedians, which is especially important for companies or celebrities who constantly come across promotional article recommendations. If these services did not exist, we would not have the capacity to help these people understand what they can expect from Wikipedia. That’s why I hope we will be able to find more mentors for the team,“ says Klára Joklová, Executive Director of Wikimedia ČR.

We hope to inspire as many experienced Wikipedians as possible to help newcomers. As you can see, it’s of great value and helps expand the volunteer community.

You can also check out more information about Wikiclub and Wikiporadna (Czech only).

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